Are you Dying to Upload Your Brain?

Cryonics — freezing humans for later revival — has been a staple of science fiction for ages. Maybe you want to be cured of something presently incurable or you just want to see the future. Of course, ignoring the problem of why anyone wants to thaw out a 500-year-old person, no one has a proven technology for thawing out one of these corpsicles. You are essentially betting that science will figure that out sometime before your freezer breaks down. A new startup called Nectome funded by Y Combinator wants to change your thinking about preservation. Instead of freezing they will pump you full of preservatives that preserve your brain including fine structures that scientists currently believe contain your memories.

Nectome’s strategy isn’t to have you revived like in conventional cryonics. They think the technology to do high definition scans of your preserved brain will exist soon. Those scans might allow future scientists to recreate your brain in a simulation. That isn’t really the same as coming back to life, though. At least we don’t imagine it is.

The company bills their process as archiving your brain, although since the process kills you, you are going to need to be legally eligible for euthanasia to take advantage of the process. There is a belief that structures known as connectomes hold your memories and these are preserved using this process. You can watch a TED talk about that subject, below.

Like all of these preservation strategies, there are a lot of unknowns. We aren’t sure that everything necessary persists because we don’t totally understand how the brain works. We also don’t know if anyone will ever figure out how to use these brains to simulate you back into existence. Then there’s the perennial problem of waking up to find yourself enslaved by an evil overlord or that your body is a warship in the service of a totalitarian regime.

For example, there is mounting evidence that your brain could really be a quantum computer. That would explain a lot, but even if it is wrong, there’s no way to know there isn’t something else totally not understood going on in there.

So how about it? Would you let them kill you to preserve your brain? Will anyone bother to boot up a copy of you in the future? If so, why? After all, according to all the smart people, you’ll just wake up to serve our robot overlords. If you just want to stimulate your brain, try DARPA.