Tech Start-Up Offers to Upload Clients’ Consciousness to Computer
The tech start-up accelerator, Y Combinator, is investing in a company aiming to upload consciousness into a computer simulation at some point in the future when the technology exists. The one catch? You’re guaranteed to die first.
Through a combination of cryonics and embalming the brain, a company called Nectome hopes to posthumously preserve its clients’ brain tissue, under the assumption that uploading our consciousness to a computer is an inevitable future prospect. But in order for this to happen, Nectome must euthanize its clients in the process.
The company, whose slogan reads, “Committed to the goal of archiving your mind,” has recently attracted the attention of silicon valley execs who have become enamored with the prospect of living indefinitely. In addition to receiving blood transfusions from healthy teenagers, older tech luminaries are exploring the possibility that technological advancements could one day lead to immortality. At least for those who can afford it.
Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, said, “I assume my brain will be uploaded to the cloud.”
Altman and other investors have put down a refundable $10,000 deposit, to one day have their brains embalmed and stored, though the company hasn’t been able to prove that memory can be revived from dead brain tissue.
Nectome plans to take advantage of a recent piece of legislation passed in California, known as the End of Life Option Act, which allows for physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. The company is also straightforward with its clients, calling its product “100 percent fatal.”
So why would prospective clients enthusiastically pay for something guaranteed to kill them?
“The user experience will be identical to physician-assisted suicide.” Nectome’s co-founder Robert McIntyre said, “Product-market fit is people believing that it works.”
McIntyre and cofounder Michael McCanna were recently able to acquire the corpse of a woman whose brain they were able to preserve a couple hours after she passed away. They described their process, known as aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation, as “a fancy form of embalming that preserves, not just the outer details, but the inner details.”
The company recently won a significant federal grant for its use of a technique developed by MIT neuroscientist, Edward Boyden, that successfully preserved a pig’s brain, so every synapse could be seen through an electron microscope.
The idea of uploading consciousness, also known as the singularity, has been explored in sci-fi literature and film, including the Matrix and recent episodes of Black Mirror. The concept overlaps with the idea that our reality as we know it, may potentially be a computer simulation. Thought leaders in the tech world, including Elon Musk, said he believes there is a one in billions chance we are living in “base reality,” or a completely organic reality.
Wilhelm Reich — Prophet or Madman?
“My present work began in the realm of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. This led to the discovery of bio-energy in the living organism and atmosphere. It follows new, hitherto unknown functional laws of nature.”
~ Wilhelm Reich
Born in Austria at the close of the 19th century, Wilhelm Reich was the son of a Jewish farmer but was deprived of his heritage by parents who raised their children as “Austrians’” a nationalistic, rather than religious, identity. After a complicated childhood and his parents’ deaths, young Reich joined the Austro-Hungarian army during WWI.
After the war, Reich enrolled in law school at the University of Vienna but switched to medical studies early on. At the time, a renaissance of inquiry into human nature was beginning. After attending a talk by Sigmund Freud, then a lecturer in neurology, Reich took a job at the Freud’s Vienna Ambulatorium, an experimental psychoanalytic clinic, soon earning the role of assistant director. Biographers have referred to Reich as Freud’s wunderkind or his prodigy.