Nectome, a brain preservation startup, is making headlines these days with a ballsy proposal – to upload your mind, rendering your spirit immortal, in an Altered Carbon sort of way where personalities are stored digitally. The only caveat? The technique is right now “100 percent fatal.”
Nectome isn’t at the point where it can digitize your mind and store your conscience on a stack that can be later transferred into a new body. Rather, they’re proposing to preserve your brain in microscopic detail for decades to come, when the technology is advanced enough to take it from there and fulfill those Sci-Fi dreams.
The company has a recipe for a chemical solution that can keep a body intact for centuries, maybe millennia. The only problem is the brain is trickier to preserve than other body parts and for their process to work, they need the brain to be fresh. Nectome believes it can make the first step towards backing up your mind by convincing people with terminal illnesses to connect to a heart-lung machine. In doing so, they could transfer their chemicals into the carotid arteries, prompting the embalming process, while the person is still alive.
Although it would happen with general anesthesia, the process would be “100 percent fatal” so they’d need an End of Life Option Act signed (according to Californian law). This would permit doctor-assisted suicide for terminal patients such as the Nectome volunteers without having legal repercussions for the startup.
The ethical dilemma presented here is, perhaps, obvious. By promoting this service, aren’t they really enticing people towards suicide with the promise of a second life? Worse, they might be making false promises as right now, there is no proof that memories remain in dead tissue and it’s not clear which brain structures and molecular details need to be saved to preserve someone’s personality.
Nonetheless, the startup is backed up by a top neuroscientist at MIT who is currently working with them and has received a big federal grant to continue their research. The company has also started inviting interested parties to join a waiting list for a $10,000 deposit.
What do you think – are risks like these normal for technology and science to progress? Or should we find other, safer ways to achieve the ultimate goal – immortality?