An American Startup company, Nectome, is seeking to upload the brains of individuals using a technique that has already been successfully tried out in rabbits. The preservation of the brain will be carried out through the process of ‘vitrifixation’ in which the brain of individuals will be converted into a form of glass and be preserved so that it can be used later for computer simulation. All this will happen after you have died.
Nectome has already won two awards from the Brain Foundation Preservation in its efforts of preserving the brain. The first award was won in 2016 where the company successfully preserved the rabbit brain and in 2018 where it preserved a pig’s brain.
Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator has already backed up the company and the company’s CEO Sam Altman has already joined the list of 25 people who have already paid $10,000 to have their brain preserved through the process. Speaking with MIT Technology Review, , “I assume my brain will be uploaded to the clouds”.
The Process is Fatal
However, one of the twists of the technology is that for Nectome to carry out the procedure on an individual, then your brain will have to be fresh and the process is 100% fatal. So, this means that you will need to be alive in the process. It is more of euthanasia. According to MIT Technology Review, the company will have to pump a mix of various chemicals into the carotid arteries found in the neck while the individual is alive. After the process, the brain will be preserved in the form of statue glass for a period of more than one hundred or thousands of years.
The brain can also be uploaded to the computer and stored. It can be viewed by the use of an electron microscope. The brain can also be pumped into a robotic soldier that will be used in fighting future wars.
In February 2018, the company trialed the preservation of the brain of an elderly woman 2.5 hours after she had died. One of the founders of the company who is an MIT graduate, Robert McIntyre said that the brain of the woman was one of the best preserved ever regardless of the fact that some of the tissues had already died after the death of the woman.
Is Brain Uploading Possible?
Various people have raised a red flag over the activities of Nectome with some saying that brain uploading process is impossible. Sometime last year, MIT which was associated with the company cut off ties with the company after saying that the company was looking for ways of killing people to upload their brains. MIT connection with Nectome received backlash from a number of neuroscientists across the world who said that the process is impossible.
The neuroscientists argued that the ability to take the brain tissues, retrieve memories and then create consciousness inside a computer was something that was so many decades away and it would not be achieved. Further, they accused the company of using unethical means to carry out its activities since they will have to kill people so that they can preserve their brains.
On their side, Nectome issued a statement saying that there was a miscommunication on the activities of Nectome. They even changed their website slogan from committed to archiving your mind and stated that Nectome is a company that is involved in research through experiments to establish the ways through which the human memory can be advanced.
Is it Legal and Ethical?
Nectome has already consulted with the lawyers as a way of making sure that they are doing everything in accordance with the law. The firm is working with lawyers familiar with the California End of Life Adoption Act that has already been in existence for a period of two years. The act allows for doctor-assisted suicide for the terminal patients.
Human beings have always been looking for ways of leading an eternal life by coming up with ways of cheating . The celebrities and other private citizen are spending resources looking for ways of living an eternal life. Seeking of eternal life by human beings is associated with ancient practice of mummification that was practiced in Egypt. The process was believed to preserve the spirit of the individual who had died.
The Egyptians would wrap the bodies and preserve in the form of a lifelike figure. The ancient Egyptians used other methods such as removing the internal organs or exposing the body to hot dry sun to make sure that the body would not decompose. Through this way, the individual who was mummified would live an eternal life to the next world. The earliest Egyptian mummy dates back to 3300 BC and it is available for display at the British Museum.
The recent form of ‘’ that exists is the use of cryonics technology. Cryonics is the preservation of the human body in low temperatures with the hope that it will be restored back to life in the future. According to the organizations such as Cryonics Institute located in the US, the goal of Cryonics technology is ‘to give people a second chance at life’.
So far, there are over 250 bodies in the US that have been preserved through cryopreservation and there are over 1500 people who have made arrangements to have their bodies cryopreserved after their legal death. The above figures show that indeed people are willing to pay the price so that they can have their bodies preserved.
The cryogenic technology is also a form of business since there are various companies that are using the technology to preserve the bodies of individuals. The process is very expensive and in the US the fee is $200,000 if you want the whole body to be preserved and $80,000 if you need to preserve the head only. In addition, there are only 3 companies in the world that are using the cryogenic technology for the preservation of the human body; the Cryonics Institute of Michigan, Alcor, KrioRus which is based in Russia. One of the oldest de-animated bodies is that of James Bedford who died in 1966 aged 73 due to kidney cancer and offered himself to become the first preserved corpse through the cryogenic technology.
There are also other celebrities who have used the technology to preserve their bodies with the hope that they will be revived in the future. Popular baseball player Ted Williams was cryopreserved in 2002 after aged 83. The same procedure was followed by his son John Henry Williams who died a couple of years after the death of his father.
Other people have also expressed their interest in using cryogenics technology after their death. Larry King a former late-night TV host said that immortality was more appealing than the belief of leading life after death and said that he would prefer to be cryogenically preserved. Talent Judge Simon Cowell has also frequently mentioned that he is willing to pay the price to have his body preserved through cryogenic means. Pop singer Britney Spears has also interest in having her body preserved in ice.
Nectome has already raised $1 million in funding so far which is inclusive of the $120,000 given to the company by Y Combinator. The company also won $960,000 from the US National Institute of Mental Health.
Well, Nectome seems to demonstrate its seriousness with their idea and in January 2018, the pathologist that the company had hired was seen outside Airbnb in Portland, Oregon as he waited to purchase a fresh corpse. The company also said that it will not begin offering the commercial services of the technology before its procedure becomes published in the medical journal. The company predicted that the services of the company will be available in 2021.
One of the downsides that is associated with Nectome is that it has not demonstrated the actual method that it will use to upload the brain that is in storage. However, according to the website of the company, it will demonstrate an uploaded simulation in the year 2024.
There are various ways that human beings are using to establish immortality. Various companies such as Nectome are venturing into the field with the hope of promising human beings an immortal life using their technology. With the number of people who have already joined the wish list of Nectome, then it means that people have hopes that the technology will redefine their way of life so that they will live an eternal life. However, the truth is that technology is disrupting the various aspects of our life. Each day, people are coming up with various technologies that are intended to improve the way of life of people. Whether Nectome is promoting life or destroying life through its technology is something that we will get to know in a short while.