March 13, 2018

"A startup is pitching a mind-uploading service that is '100 percent fatal.'"

MIT Technology Review reports on Nectome.

But wait a minute. Quite aside from the fact that they're going to kill you to do the procedure, the procedure only preserves your body "as a statue of frozen glass" and it's merely a possibility that "someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation." It's just the old "cryonics," with an updated preservation method and the bold innovation of murder. Oh, but it's not murder if they start with a terminally ill patient within the meaning of California’s End of Life Option Act.
“The user experience will be identical to physician-assisted suicide,” [says one of the founders]. “Product-market fit is people believing that it works.”
I understand what he's saying. It doesn't need actually to work. The benefit is realized at the point of entering death with the belief that you are not really dying.

What is the updated preservation method? They kill the patient with a heart-lung machine pumping a "mix of scientific embalming chemicals into the big carotid arteries in their necks." This means they're not trying to save the tissue but only to save the "information that’s present in the brain’s anatomical layout and molecular details."
“If the brain is dead, it’s like your computer is off, but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t there,” says [Ken Hayworth, a neuroscientist who is president of the Brain Preservation Foundation].

A brain connectome is inconceivably complex; a single nerve can connect to 8,000 others, and the brain contains millions of cells. Today, imaging the connections in even a square millimeter of mouse brain is an overwhelming task. “But it may be possible in 100 years,” says Hayworth. “Speaking personally, if I were a facing a terminal illness I would likely choose euthanasia by [this method].”...

Writing in our pages in 2015, the McGill University neuroscientist Michael Hendricks decried the “abjectly false hope” peddled by transhumanists promising resurrection in ways that technology can probably never deliver.

“Burdening future generations with our brain banks is just comically arrogant. Aren’t we leaving them with enough problems?” Hendricks told me this week after reviewing Nectome’s website. “I hope future people are appalled that in the 21st century, the richest and most comfortable people in history spent their money and resources trying to live forever on the backs of their descendants. I mean, it’s a joke, right? They are cartoon bad guys.”
If it's just very rich people buying comical hope and the money goes to people who are doing at least something technological, what's the problem? Is Hendricks worried about ludicrous rich folk, hucksters of false hopes, or people in the future troubled by stockpiled brains? The biggest problem seems to be the danger of taking something seriously that we already know is not serious. But we do that a lot. And there's harm in pointing that out. Product-market fit is people believing that it works.


Michael K said...

There are a few frozen heads around. I think Ted Williams' is one.

JohnAnnArbor said...

That's a really fancy approach to fraud.

buwaya said...

It would be fine if the result is decorative and doesn't take too much room.
But I don't suppose it would be.

Rob said...

A startup to confer immortality should appeal to angel investors.

EDH said...

Kill two birds with one stone?

Bottle that collective "expertise of the building" at the State Department and reduce the payroll at the same time.

StephenFearby said...

Why not just clone yourself?

Last Sunday 60 minutes had a terrific segment from Argentina on successfully cloning champion polo horses. Pertinent excerpt:

"..Lesley Stahl: Do you have any moral problems with cloning a human being?

Alan Meeker: Yes. I disagree with it. I know a good reason, lots of good reasons to clone-- body parts, like hearts and lungs and pancreases, if it could be done in a productive manner, that can save lives. But I've been asked by some of the wealthiest people on planet earth to clone a human being and we--

Lesley Stahl: You have?

Alan Meeker: Absolutely.

Alan Meeker: And the answer is always-- a resounding "no."

Lesley Stahl: Well, they must have a reason.

Alan Meeker: And they won't give it to me.

Lesley Stahl: They don't tell you why?

Alan Meeker: No.

Lesley Stahl: I'm thinking if science can do it, science will do it and maybe one day, you know, they'll be clones and we'll laugh at all the people who were questioning the morality of it now.

Alan Meeker: Someday someone will do it--

Lesley Stahl: Yes.

Alan Meeker: And we will either laugh or we will cry. But I'm not gonna be the one to take that-- that leap.

Lesley Stahl: It could be done today.

Alan Meeker: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: I assumed there'd be a big difference between a horse and a human. Lots of differences.

Alan Meeker: Surprisingly little. Yeah. Surprisingly little.
Asked if the technique could also be applied to humans, the answer was yes...but we wouldn't do that for ethical reasons."

But for the right price, ethical scruples can frequently be overcome:

"Dear Quote Investigator: There is a famous story about sex and money that I have heard in myriad variations. A man asks a woman if she would be willing to sleep with him if he pays her an exorbitant sum. She replies affirmatively. He then names a paltry amount and asks if she would still be willing to sleep with him for the revised fee. The woman is greatly offended and replies as follows:

She: What kind of woman do you think I am?

He: We’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling over the price..."

mccullough said...

Wasn’t this the plot of the movie Freejack with Emilio Estevez, Anthony Hopkins, Mick Jagger, and Rene Russo?

gg6 said...

"...It doesn't need actually to work. The benefit is realized at the point of entering death with the belief that you are not really dying..."
Hey….isn’t this the same thing that Religion promises?!?!...Hmmm.
I'm so confused, now, I almost want to die....

n.n said...

Planned Immortality

D said...

Dont see it catching on until they can successfully market it as 110% fatal.
Its human nature to want a little more than the standard.

Luke Lea said...

"The benefit is realized at the point of entering death with the belief that you are not really dying." Ok, but what happens next? I mean what does it actually feel like when you die? I lot of people say it doesn't feel like anything. But I think they mean what does it feel like after you are dead. What about in the moment of disintegration, or in this case I guess you would call it in the moment of irreversible crystallization? To say you won't feel it may not be true. How powerful might that moment be? Might it feel good? Might it feel bad? Might it depend on how guilty you are? We don't really know because that is the great undiscovered country from which no traveller returns. Personally I think the uncertainty is what makes this the best of all possible worlds -- or at least maybe. Thoughts of an old man.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Maybe the climate scientists could do this. They could be awoken in the future, when their services are desperately needed to save a hot and drowning world. The future needs them more than we do!

Lewis Wetzel said...

So here's what you do.
Steal a million dollars & hide it.
Have yourself "crystallized," and you are legally dead. Can't touch you.
When you are revived, spend the money!
It's really that simple!
I can see a lot of people doing this.

Mark Jones said...

I don't think it will work. There might be a technique, someday, that lets you do this--but it isn't there yet. If ever.

And frankly, even if I *knew* it worked, I don't care. Because a copy of me is not me. *I* am still dead. Oh, sure, the copy of me that remembers my life and knows what I knew, and may think of itself as me, may be very grateful that I created it. But I'm still dead. I think my self is inextricably bound up in my physical brain.

Altered Carbon and other novels/shows/movies that posit the transfer of identity from one body to another like pouring water from one glass into another are entertaining...but that's all.

William said...

The church doesn't promise resurrection but the sure and certain hope of resurrection. Cyronics give you the wobbly and uncertain hope of resurrection. Well, that's something.......My next big lifestyle change will be death. I see very little to recommend it, but there are fates worse than nothingness. Better than nothing I've been assured is a high standard. It's certainly better than eternal damnation. You could go further and do worse,....Human life is such a weird and improbable event that it does give one hope that maybe there's some more weird and improbable stuff after you die. Unlikely, but the very fact of our existence is proof that strange and marvelous events happen in the cosmos.

Colin said...

Regardless of whether these immortality ideas even work, I've always thought the weakness is considering just who is going to pay to resurrect someone. Let alone getting them back up to speed in such a radically advanced world. Makes me wonder just how much it would cost to educate a caveman with a 4 year degree...

Bob Boyd said...

Why would the people of the future even bother with these brains?

Ron said...

I've always thought the Baseball Hall Of Fame should put Ted's Head* in one of those clear balls with the electricity streaming to the sides such that if you touch a side a spark rises to meet your finger, Ted's eyes open, and there's a pre-recorded nugget of Ted Wisdom that echoes through the space.... Dramatic, no?

*Ted Williams, of course

The Godfather said...

So you walk up to the Pearly Gates and introduce yourself to St. Peter. He looks in this really big book and finds your name. Sorry, he says, you can't come in. Why not? you ask. Because you aren't dead. They've scanned your brain and stored it, and if the technology is ever perfected, they're going to revivify you. Right now, you're on hold. But, but, but! you say. It's an experimental procedure that may not work! You can't just keep me waiting out here forever! And Peter says, Can't we? But you could try the Other Place. They're a lot less particular there.

Bay Area Guy said...

Funny, I was once put into a cryonically induced, spatio-neurological trance, where motor-function skills were suspended in anatomical abeyance.

It happened after receiving my first blow job in 10th Grade.

Black Bellamy said...

So yeah, you die and your immortal soul leaves your mortal vessel. You become united with God, you become one with the universe, you reach Nirvana, or you are reborn. All those choices are free, unlike some kind of fancy and deadly ice maker. They are also certain, because there is no holding back, there is no halfway trip to the afterlife. The way I see it, you’re taking an awful chance with the freezer. You can wake up fine if everything works out, make a lot of money on the lecture circuit, or you can be a twitching moron that future people put in a glass cage and make fun of. And you could be missing your soul. You think God is going to be all like sure Tommy, you can go right back? You can’t leave Nirvana. Now what of your soulless avatar? Is it you?If you are reincarnated, can you exist in your new state at the same time your shell walks the earth?

When they hook up those giant jumper cables to your thawed meat pile and jolt your brain into action, is that spark going to be even remotely the same as when enough of your cells divided to become neurons and started talking to each other? We already know what happens due to the Frankenstein historical documents. Imagine waking up only to be hunted down, except this time with robot dogs and lasers instead of pitchforks.

Logic and economics suggest a surrender to religion. I mean yeah, you should still support cryonics research because that sort of stuff can help with putting people in some super low metabolic state until they can get medical help, but if you’re thinking this is some kind of Buck Rogers solution to outwait death I think you’re setting yourself up for having your head examined literally, which would be my figurative suggestion prior.

Yancey Ward said...

Shows like Altered Carbon and Black Mirror have made me question the wisdom of a digital copy life of yourself. The finality of death is almost like a safeguard against an existence of horror.

Curious George said...

Lesley Stahl: I assumed there'd be a big difference between a horse and a human. Lots of differences.

Not if you're cloning John Kerry. Except the horse of course would not have served in Vietnam.

Yancey Ward said...

I think there is more than can go wrong with a human clone that you might easily notice versus a horse. Think about it- if a cloned horse had fairly serious brain problems, how easily could you notice it?

becauseIdbefired said...

OK, let's say it works. Great. Now your "human" essence can exist for 100 million years. I wonder what life will look like 100M years from now. It's been on an exponential curve since, well, for four billion years according to the futurists. So, in 100M years, you will be a gnat among men. Not even that, more like a bacteria among men.

Or maybe you think the life of a gnat is OK? Have you read Anne Rice? After living several centuries, the Vampires are bored. Bored even of the blood sucking, and all they have to do is step out into the sunlight, but they are too cowardly to do it. OK, great. The life of the incredibly bored person. I think eventually that person would put themselves into long sleeping, and after a few hundred million years of "being yourself" when they awoke, would simply think "God, I'm still alive."

Sorry, there is no escaping the darwinian realities, folks! Maybe you think you can evolve! I wonder how much essence is left in the transition from ape to man. Or bacteria to man.

Bagoh20 once said something very interesting, that he would prefer to be a dead explorer from the 18th century US, or something like that. I don't understand that at all.

I say, life is for the living. Find out the meaning as best you can, and live it up!

For me, it's writing meaningless posts like this!!! =) Go Ann (- the heavy handed authoritarianism that comes up from time to time).

พีรดา สายแสง said...

Thanks for letting me have a comment.

Sharc 65 said...


What's the point? Very Thai-spammy.

mtrobertslaw said...

These guys need to sign up for Philosophy 101. As confirmed materialists, they equate the brain with the mind. And they uncritically believe this is true.

PB said...

They're not "uploading" anything. Let the law suits begin before some gullible fool is murdered.

Lucien said...

Bay Area Guy:
That’s a really slick way of bragging that you got a BJ in tenth grade. Was the other person in tenth grade too?

If so,she had talent.

Jeff Hall said...

FINALLY a gift idea for your hard-to-please relatives. The free market delivers again.

whswhs said...

Setting aside the technological difficulties, it seems that the people who would buy this can't understand the difference between survival and reproduction.