It’s a hard bargain: You might live forever if you go through with Nectome’s brain preservation process, but you’ll have to die first.
Mad scientist startup Nectome has already raised $1 million to explore a method of preserving brains called vitrifixation. As MIT Review explains, it’s a “high-tech embalming process,” a technique also referred to as “aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation.”
It preserves the brain perfectly at a microscopic level, allowing it to be stored for potentially hundreds of years. The big hope, however, is that future scientists may eventually develop technology that can scan the frozen, preserved brains and upload minds into computer simulations, leading to digital immortality.
“Our mission,” Nectome states on their official website, “is to preserve your brain well enough to keep all its memories intact: from that great chapter of your favorite book to the feeling of cold winter air, baking an apple pie, or having dinner with your friends and family. If memories can truly be preserved by a sufficiently good brain banking technique, we believe that within the century it could become feasible to digitize your preserved brain and use that information to recreate your mind.”
That’s a big IF, and there’s also one teeny tiny little problem: The process requires a fresh brain, one that’s more or less okay at the time of preservation. That means anyone who goes through with it will have to die.
(Once again, I’m reminded of Revelation Space and its Alpha-level simulations. You don’t survive the process.)
Well, whether or not the the preserved brains will actually be resurrected in the future is anyone’s guess. Many are skeptical, and there are obviously ethical and even logistical concerns. Nectome doesn’t make any promises, though, and at the moment is only focused on the preservation technique itself.
Will we ever have the tech to upload minds into simulations? How do we effectively store them until we do?
It’s a gambit, to be sure, but one some people are willing to take. Nectome is currently looking for volunteers to join their waiting list, which will only cost test subjects a cool $10,000 deposit, fully refundable.
There’s one other problem I have with the whole thing, though. A scan is a scan — a copy, not a transfer. Even if such brain uploads become possible, the identity that lives on wouldn’t exactly be you, would it?
That’s a philosophical question I’ve seen raised over the years regarding teleportation. Personally, I’m not sure I’d bother, but I can’t say I’m not curious. How about you?