Update on Angela Thornton’s Impact Grant Activities

Update on Angela Thornton’s Impact Grant Activities

The Horizon CDT offers the Creating Our Lives in Data CDT students funding to undertake impact activities alongside their PhD research. Angela Thornton, a member of the 2019 cohort, was successful in her application for an Impact Activity Small Grant to run alongside her PhD in March 2023 and an Impact Activity Large Grant post doctorate, in December 2023.

Angela’s research explores the futuristic concept of mind uploading. Although this possibility may seem speculative, it is supported by ongoing research into whole-brain emulation or “reverse engineering” the brain.

Angela has created the website Afterlives which explores mind uploading. Here participants can experience both utopian and dystopian futures once their characters’ minds are uploaded when their physical bodies die. This storytelling website is simple to use, simply accessible, and has shown to be both engaging and thought-provoking. Statistics and participant testimonies support the impact Angela’s research is having on awareness, understanding and engagement on this topic.

The website experience is the result of Angela’s collaboration with 12 participants on the mind uploading journey, which began in 2020. After reporting that the preliminary results were positive, Angela used the Horizon CDT impact award to bring on 40 additional participants initially.

The larger grant recruited an additional 85 participants to address limitations in terms of age – since older individuals were underrepresented – and ethnicity since most were white and although black participants were a substantial minority, there was little participation from other ethnicities. The updated sample now increases the proportion of older participants and significantly increases the proportion of mixed and other ethnicities with white participants now accounting for 27% of the total rather than almost two-thirds.

The results confirm and strengthen previous findings that the website has achieved its objectives and continues to be an effective and thought-provoking method for global public engagement. As one participant commented the study “can help us really think about, reflect on what it means to be human on a more personal level”.

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