If you’ve ever dreamed of preserving consciousness beyond death and living on in the cloud, a new startup has a brain freeze to sell you. An episode of Black Mirror is now reality.
In the latest case of Silicon Valley chasing immortality, one of Y Combinator’s ventures aims to chemically freeze human brains in order to preserve the neurons and synapses, theoretically also preserving the memories stored there.
For just $10,000, Nectome will embalm your brain, keeping it from decaying for centuries — maybe even a millennia — until its contents can be uploaded.
Attendants at Y Combinator’s Demo Day next week will hear the first pitch from co-founder and MIT graduate Robert McIntyre. As he puts it on his website: “What if we told you we could back up your mind?”
The only downside is that the process will kill you. In order to preserve the brain in microscopic detail, it has to be fresh — really fresh.
The pitch sounds outlandish, but the startup already has 25 paying customers, including investor and Y Combinator president Sam Altman.
Nectome’s plan is to connect terminal patients to life support, put them under with anesthesia, and then fill the body with a chemical embalming cocktail through the carotid arteries while the customer is still alive.
This process is “100% fatal,” according to the founders.
Nectome has already received nearly $1 million in federal funding from the National Institute of Health for the benefits this technology provides to studying the brain and diseases that affect it.
“I assume my brain will be uploaded to the cloud,” 32-year-old investor Altman told MIT Technology Review.
But the company will achieve quite a scientific feat if they can truly deliver on that concept.
“Reanimation or simulation is an abjectly false hope that is beyond the promise of technology and is certainly impossible with the frozen, dead tissue offered by the ‘cryonics’ industry,” McGill University neuroscientist Michael Hendricks wrote in 2015.
In 2016, McIntyre and his team from 21st Century Medicine were the first to successfully preserve every neuron in a rabbit’s brain, winning more than $26,000 from the Brain Preservation Foundation for their achievement.
“We know that it can be stored for centuries and not decay,” McIntyre said at the time. “What if we image the tech we have now, but a million times faster. It’s not absurd.”