If the idea of living forever appeals to you, then you may be in luck… sort of. There’s a new startup that claims it will be able to upload your brain and save it so your consciousness can live forever. There’s just one unfortunate downside: you’ll have to die before they can upload your brain.
Startup wants to upload your brain
The founder of Nectome, the startup that’s offering to upload your brain for science, explained their “product” to the MIT Technology Review. Nectome is up and running thanks to the well-known startup accelerator Y Combinator, which frequently supports bold efforts such as this startup’s product. Nectome cofounder Robert McIntyre is slated to give a presentation next week at Y Combinator’s Demo Days. He’s going to explain how they’re able to upload a brain, and then he’s going to make his pitch.
Nectome’s product is actually a chemical that’s able to preserve a body for hundreds or even possibly thousands of years like a “statue of frozen glass,” the MIT Technology Review writes. The company expects its chemical to be used to preserve customers’ brains — with the eventual goal being to scan them at some point in the future and then turn them into some kind of computer simulation.
The startup states on its website that it is “committed to the goal of archiving your mind.” It also suggests that its technology will be able to “successfully map and pinpoint a specific memory within your brain … by preserving your connectome.” Nectome describes its mission as being able to “preserve your brain well enough to keep all its memories intact.” Then after uploading your brain, it expects to be able to “digitize this information and use it to recreate your consciousness.” However, it’s unclear whether memories can actually be uploaded from tissue that’s been preserved in such a manner.
Of course, the philosophical reader may question whether, perhaps, an attempt to upload their brain has already been successful, meaning that all of us are just gigabytes on a hard drive somewhere.
You’ll have to pay the ultimate price to upload your brain
Unfortunately, those who find the idea of trying to upload their brains to a server appealing may not be in a hurry to sign up for Nectome’s service. According to McIntyre, the process is “100% fatal” because in order for the procedure to work, the brain that’s being preserved must be fresh, as in, still alive at the time the procedure begins, but dead at the end of it. He said the fact that their product kills its customers makes them “uniquely situated among the Y Combinator companies.”
The company expects to market its product to those who are suffering from terminal illnesses. The idea is to hook customers up to a life support machine while they pump their chemical directly into their carotid arteries in their necks. Of course, they would be under general anesthesia at the time, so they wouldn’t feel anything.
Nectome believes that its product will be legal under California’s physician-assisted suicide law, the End of Life Option Act, which allows patients who are terminally ill to take their own lives with the help of a doctor. The company even has government backing through a grant from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. The startup has already successfully used its product to preserve the brain of a pig, and it won a prize for that work.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a waiting list if you’re interested in trying to upload your brain using the company’s chemical, although it can’t be purchased yet. You’ll have to pay a $10,000 refundable deposit to reserve a spot on the waiting list.