Startup wants to “backup your brain” but there’s a pretty huge catch

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Nectome claims they’ve researched the legality of what they’re looking to do, considering it is tantamount to assisted suicide, and believe they’re in the clear.

Transhumanism, consciousness transfer, living forever via technology, these have long been dreams that fill the pages of science fiction stories. The ability to take everything that makes someone themselves and move it to a secondary vessel is still very much the stuff of fantasy. Nectome, a new startup with some pretty impressive backing is hoping to preserve your brain in a completely pristine state with the hopes of storing some form of “you” that can, at some point in the future, be loaded as a computer simulation of “you.” There’s one pretty big catch though. In order to perfectly preserve the brain, the process needs to be started while you’re alive. Completing the process will with 100% certainty confirm that you will be dead once it’s complete.

I guess the other big caveat is that there’s no way right now for your pristine brain to be loaded anywhere. So you’ll be dead, and likely won’t be anything other than a brain in a jar for the foreseeable future. The science has, however, attracted a decent sized financial backing by way of a federal grant, as well as a spot in the startup accelerator Y Combinator. Nectome also won an $80,000 USD second prize for perfectly preserving a pig’s brain. As crazy as it may sound, there are also people signing up by way of a $10,000 USD (refundable, should you change your mind) deposit to get your name on the waiting list.

The researchers have tested on a human brain, albeit on one that was already deceased for a few hours. Their results were still pretty impressive considering the delay, but there’s still no way to really do anything with the brain that they’ve preserved. It’ll be sliced up and observed for improvements to their process as well as just seeing exactly how well preserved it is from the system.

A preserved human brain.

Nectome claims they’ve researched the legality of what they’re looking to do, considering it is tantamount to assisted suicide, and believe they’re in the clear:

The company has consulted with lawyers familiar with California’s two-year-old End of Life Option Act, which permits doctor-assisted suicide for terminal patients, and believes its service will be legal. The product is “100 percent fatal,” says McIntyre. “That is why we are uniquely situated among the Y Combinator companies.”

That said, they’re still talking mainly to terminally ill patients for the initial rounds. Sure, the idea of digitizing one’s brain is attractive. I think many of us, if the technology existed, would at least consider the possibility. This isn’t that. This is possibly the first part — preserving a brain — though anything after that is completely absent. There’s not currently any way to do anything with your brain other than look at just how well it’s been preserved.

There’s a possibility that at some point in the future someone will figure out the science, and from there an even smaller possibility that they’d be able to do anything with these preserved brains. There’s what I’d consider to be a significantly higher probability that Nectome will simply go bankrupt, and a medical waste team will be called in to dispose of what are likely little more than research materials.

Be sure to check out the source link below for far, far more information on Nectome and what they’re hoping to do. It’s really pretty interesting in a morbid kind of way. It’s also kind of curious that anybody would even be considering this when there’s no current endgame.

What do you think? Would you want your brain to be preserved even if it meant your death if there were a slight possibility of something possibly happening at some point in the future? Let us know in the comment section below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

  Source: MIT Technology Review
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