In March 2018, another demonstration day of the most influential business incubator of Silicon Valley Y Combinator will take place, within the framework of which representatives of various start-ups will make speeches. But one project stands out from the others: Nectome is going to “freeze” the client’s brain and keep all the information that is in it. And then find a way to digitize this data and recreate the human mind.
There are several obstacles – for this the company must kill the client, and ways to load the mind into the cloud still does not exist. MIT Technology Review talked about the project and its prospects with the head of Netcome Robert McIntyre (Robert McIntyre) and well-known neurobiologists.
Nectome in 2016 was founded by several researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Scientists hope to find commercial application of the chemical process of preserving the brain developed by them: during the “freezing” its cells practically turn into glass. This allows you to save the connection – a card of neural connections in the brain.
The startup cooperates with one of the best neuroscientists of MIT and for several years has won two large federal grants – for preserving the brain of a rabbit and a pig.
Several years ago, other companies were already developing cryogenic capsules that should save a person for ages. For example, in Arizona, Alcor Life Extension holds more than 150 bodies and goals, including the famous baseball player Ted Williams. But all these projects are united by the fact that they work with already dead people.
In the case of the Nectome, the startup only needs a “fresh” brain – so it is necessary to actually kill the user during the chemical process. There is no other way out: the company’s founders immediately declared that their product was “100% fatal.” The ability to fully “revive” the brain in the future, too, no, but this does not mean that the human mind in theory can not be “transferred” somewhere else.
Loading the mind
In 2018, Nectome became interested in Y Combinator. His head, Sam Altman, wanted to join the project and someday give freeze to his brain. “I think that later my mind will be loaded into the cloud,” he said.
According to MIT Technology Review, a similar plan exists for the startup creators. One of the goals for the distant future is to learn how to scan a frozen brain and create its computer simulation. Around the same idea, an episode of the series “The Black Mirror” was built, where people’s minds were “sent” to the virtual city of San Junipero at death, in which they could again become young and healthy.
“If the brain is dead, it’s like a computer turned off. But this does not mean that there is no information left in it, “said neuroscientist Ken Hayworth, head of the Brain Conservation Fund. According to him, if it is possible to somehow restore memory and other data from the “frozen” brain, then at least a hundred years. At the same time, there are a lot of unknown factors, for example, until there are technologies that can somehow implement a “mind load”.
McIntyre is confident that all services are absolutely legal, although they end with the death of the user. Startup consulted with lawyers familiar with the laws of California: euthanasia there was legalized in 2015. “For our clients, our process will be equal to suicide with the help of a doctor,” he added.
Therefore, the creators of Nectome plan to talk with the deadly patients so that they voluntarily participate in the project. They will allow them to “pump” themselves with embalming chemicals through the carotid artery, while they are still alive, although they are under anesthesia. In the near future this will not happen – the project will remain in development for at least a few more years.
While the service of saving the brain is not available for purchase. But the company offered potential customers to pay a deposit of 10 thousand dollars and get on the waiting list. At any time you can change your mind and withdraw funds from the project. Altman became one of the depositors.
In February 2018, the creators of Nectome conducted a trial procedure: they received the body of a woman who sacrificed him for science, and began the process of preserving the brain two hours after his death. This was the first demonstration of their “freeze” technology on the human brain: drugs were injected for six hours right in the morgue.
The next step is to apply the procedure on a person ready for euthanasia. But, according to Hayworth, this step will lead to large-scale ethical reasoning. A Critique joined another neuroscientist – Michael Hendricks (Michael Hendricks), who said that the people of the future will be “shocked by the fact that the richest people in the 21st century have tried to live forever with the help of the children.”
If you are like me and think that the “brain load” on the server will happen someday, there is nothing like that. But it may look like you are luring someone to commit suicide in order to save the brain for years. This is a very thin line. Perhaps Nectome already crossed it.