Photo by NICHD
What if you could upload your brain to the cloud?
Your legacy would be archived, your personal triumphs would be remembered by your descendants forever. It may sound like science fiction to live on as a computer program, but it may one day become a reality. Nectome, a new startup founded by two MIT graduates backed by Y Combinator, is “committed to the goal of archiving your mind” by using a “brain banking technique” to “recreate your mind,” according to its website.
There’s just one catch before your mind gets uploaded — you’ll need to be dead first.
That’s because the brains need to stay fresh and the embalming procedure involved with backing up your brain is “100% fatal,” Nectome’s co-founder Robert McIntyre acknowledged.
The science of living forever
There is no current way to retrieve memories from dead brain tissue, but Nectome believes the technology will advance quickly enough to be here within the next 100 years. “Currently, we can preserve the connectomes of animal brains and are working on extending our techniques to human brains in a research context,” Nectome states.
The company has some big-name backers who also believe it could be the company to achieve this scientific feat. Nectome’s work recently won an $80,000 prize for preserving a pig’s brain in microscopic detail. And seeing dollar signs, the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health granted McIntyre a $960,000 federal grant because “we foresee commercial opportunity in offering brain preservation and processing.”
Nectome told MIT Technology Review that it plans to test its high-tech embalming procedure on people with terminal illnesses. After being anesthetized, these clients would be hooked up to a heart-lung machine and have embalming chemicals pumped into their carotid arteries. As part of this plan, the company said it has consulted lawyers knowledgeable with California laws that permit doctor-assisted suicide for terminal patients.
There’s a wait list
Currently, we need to rely on humans to remember us and have our legacies live on. A service like Nectome would outsource that work to a machine. But if you think your memories are worthy of being artificially preserved forever, recognize that not just anyone is going to be able to upload their memories.
Right now, the Nectome service is not available to be publicly bought. You need to have the ability to pay a deposit of $10,000 just to get in line to get your brain embalmed. This number may seem absurdly high for a waiting queue, but in Silicon Valley, where avoiding mortality at all costs is profitable, there is a willing and eager market.
“I assume my brain will be uploaded to the cloud,” said Y Combinator president Sam Altman, who is one of 25 paying customers.