One day in the future, we might be able to upload our minds into a computer network. CC0 Creative Commons

In the future we might be able to upload our memories directly onto a hard drive or transplant them into a new body so our consciousness can achieve immortality.

It is currently the stuff of science-fiction but technology could reach that point one day. However, it’s way more difficult than it sounds — if we’re going to think of the brain like a computer, it’s the most complicated computer around. And the human mind is still full of mystery.

BBC Earth Lab explores the subject in a new video (below), describing how something as basic as creating a map of the brain, which would be necessary if we want to understand and manipulate its function, requires scientists to plot out the billions of neurons that form the organ’s communication network.

“And it doesn’t stop at the brain either,” video host Dom Burgess says. “To capture all the inputs and outputs, we’d need to incorporate the connections to the spinal cord, sensory receptors all over the body and muscle cells too. … It’s likely that the only way we’ll be able to create such a detailed map is by taking paper-thin slices and scanning them one at a time. And yet, because we don’t know exactly what causes our consciousness, this still might not be enough.”

The human brain contains a tremendous amount of data packed into a small place, so unlocking it would also require having a tremendous amount of digital storage space. And minds living in a digital space could be vulnerable to the same kinds of attacks and power failures that other sensitive data experience today.

If all goes well, Burgess paints an image of a future in which people can download information directly into their minds or otherwise upgrade their consciousness: “Life as we know it may become the most tedious part of living.”