Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
×
Businesses

A Startup is Pitching a Mind-Uploading Service That is '100 Percent Fatal' (technologyreview.com) 246

The startup accelerator Y Combinator is known for supporting audacious companies in its popular three-month boot camp. There's never been anything quite like Nectome, though. From a report: Next week, at YC's "demo days," Nectome's cofounder, Robert McIntyre, is going to describe his technology for exquisitely preserving brains in microscopic detail using a high-tech embalming process. Then the MIT graduate will make his business pitch. As it says on his website: "What if we told you we could back up your mind?" So yeah. Nectome is a preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it company. Its chemical solution can keep a body intact for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, as a statue of frozen glass. The idea is that someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation. That way, someone a lot like you, though not exactly you, will smell the flowers again in a data server somewhere.

This story has a grisly twist, though. For Nectome's procedure to work, it's essential that the brain be fresh. The company says its plan is to connect people with terminal illnesses to a heart-lung machine in order to pump its mix of scientific embalming chemicals into the big carotid arteries in their necks while they are still alive (though anesthetized). The company has consulted with lawyers familiar with California's two-year-old End of Life Option Act, which permits doctor-assisted suicide for terminal patients, and believes its service will be legal. The product is "100 percent fatal," says McIntyre. "That is why we are uniquely situated among the Y Combinator companies."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Startup is Pitching a Mind-Uploading Service That is '100 Percent Fatal'

Comments Filter:
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:05PM (#56253699)

    These preserved brains will at some point just be recognized as what they are (medical trash) and be disposed off. It is far to easy to make more humans, nobody will care to revive some fossils that have fallen out of time. That is if the possibility is even there in the first place.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      You might find some historians or anthropologists that would have interest, but I could see them opting to 'resurrect' either brains from people that they can establish documentation-on for being interesting, or else they would only perform the procedure on a few subjects that their budget allows-for in order to see if it's worthwhile.

      Results will either be messed up due to records corruption so they'll get the importance of a given subject wrong and mistakenly resurrect Jonathan Goldsmith, or else the end-

      • by gnick ( 1211984 )

        Results will either be messed up due to records corruption...

        If this was a "mind-uploading service" that wouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately, this seems to be a service where they pickle your brain in hopes that some futurite will, under whatever motivation, magic you back to life.

        OTOH, Gene Wilder may prefer my preserved brain to Abby's.

        • Well sure it's a mind-uploading service. It's just that they've postponed the uploading part until they figure out how to actually do that (or whether it's even possible).

          • by gnick ( 1211984 )

            One question I ask when picking ANY service provider is, "Will they be able to provide this service?" If the answer is, "No," I cease to consider them a service provider. I don't think these guys even have a road map on going from "brain pickling" to "mind uploading."

            • Neither would I, but they're hardly the first to promise something that they may never deliver on. The bigger question than whether they can even do it is what happens when their funding runs out and they shut down all their storage facilities.

              • by gnick ( 1211984 )

                If you run out of funding in 30 years, you've already been paid so toss the brains out. Just like you should have 30 years ago. I'm not only worried about them making the transition to uploading minds, I'm wondering if they can even do what they're promising now. Embalming a body so that there's NO decay after hundreds of years is a pretty big claim. Didn't RTFA to learn about "high-tech embalming," but it must be something special.

            • by gweihir ( 88907 )

              They do not have such a road-map, because it is not known whether it is feasible. At the moment, nobody really knows what constitutes a human being and how a mind works. The closer scientists look the more mysterious it becomes.

              But obviously, like freezing of head and corpses, it is a scam that uses the fear of dying and the lack of scientific understanding people have. (For the second, look at the flat-earthers for an example how low scientific understanding can get in people.)

    • by RatBastard ( 949 )

      Now, some future civilization may need interstellar ramship pilots to seed distant planets with teraforming algae.

    • by clovis ( 4684 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:16PM (#56253797)

      These preserved brains will at some point just be recognized as what they are (medical trash) and be disposed off. It is far to easy to make more humans, nobody will care to revive some fossils that have fallen out of time. That is if the possibility is even there in the first place.

      I don't doubt that our descendants will want to revive some of us for an annual punishment ceremony.

      • You are far too optimistic to think they would want to flog us only once a year.
      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Ah yes. Nice one. So getting frozen/stored or otherwise revivable is decidedly not a good idea.

      • by bugs2squash ( 1132591 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @06:28PM (#56255415)

        It will work perfectly and in 30 years time the brains will be revived for sale as childrens' toys. Maybe placed inside some kind of earthenware container so the kids can grow chia on top, or set up with an audio output and made to tell stories like a kind of damp version of alexa.

        Maybe it will come with a range of colored hermit-crab like shells or as the controller for a special lego kit with motors and lights.

        It can wonder how long it will be before it winds up where the goldfish went.

    • This is redundant anyway. We're already living in a simulation and death already reboots us into a new infant form. This is would be a simulation within a simulation and in that simulation a copy of us would exist while in the lower level simulation we're carrying on as before.. and what happens when that simulation within the simulation decides to found a company to preserve the consciousnesses of those in the simulation of the simulation?
    • Cryonics, which is a closely connected idea has this same issue. The fundamental method is to use a first-in, last-out ordering for eventual revival. This has two benefits: First, the bodies preserved the latest will be preserved the best (as the technology matures, it is easier to know what will work well and what won't). Second, and this is the important one for your purpose, the very first people to be revived will be people who still have friends and loved ones who want to see them. Those will be people
    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @03:24PM (#56254361)

      I want to be entombed in my glass block, holding a note that says "I know where 100lbs of gold is buried".

      Of course, this means you have to guess what kind of thing will be valuable enough 100 or 1000 years from now for someone to extract your consciousness. You could also try some reverse psychology along the lines of a sign that read "I was frozen believing that God is real. Change my mind".

    • by swell ( 195815 )

      "far to easy to make more humans"

      We've been doing that for a while now. How's it working out? These new humans eat, make noise and shit. It goes on for years. One can only hope they might become productive after two or more decades. Until then, they are far more a burden than a blessing to the commonweal.

      OTOH, a fine brain like that of gweihir is a known quantity, ready to be of value almost immediately upon awakening.

    • These preserved brains will at some point just be recognized as what they are (medical trash) and be disposed off. It is far to easy to make more humans, nobody will care to revive some fossils that have fallen out of time. That is if the possibility is even there in the first place.

      It really depends on the social dynamics of the future and on how you are remembered. Do you really think nobody would want to talk to an accurate simulation of Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, or John D. Rockefeller? Or Shakespeare? Or their own great-great-great grandparents? One day this could be the equivalent of a grade-school family tree project: talk to the simulation of your ancestor.

    • And why would anybody in the future care?

      Aliens.

      Like the end of A.I. Once we go extinct this will be huge for alien historians.

  • Will they manage to get their hands on the preserved head of Ted Williams to make him Patient Zero?

  • For Nectome's procedure to work, it's essential that the brain be fresh.

    Darn.

    • by Jamu ( 852752 )
      How sure are we that Robert McIntyre isn't a zombie. What if this is just some scheme for obtaining fresh, tasty, succulent, brains. Mmmmm, braaaaaaaains. BRAAAAAAAAAINS.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:08PM (#56253717)

    So we are to capture and freeze the state of mind right before death. Often from a slow painful process. We keep this state constant for extended period of time.

    This doesn't sound appealing.

    • If the state doesn't change, it can't experience anything.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Does death sound appealing?

      A person frozen in this state is clearly not conscious. So, you won't be experiencing anything at all. There is no way to see the future, so there is no way to know whether or not the technology to resurrect you from this meat Popsicle will ever exist, let alone will actually be used on you. And assuming that all happens, there is no way to know what your existence will be like.

      But.......the alternative is to just die.

      As I understand, death by natural causes is usually pretty

      • As I understand, death by natural causes is usually pretty slow and horrible.

        It's apparently a popular past-time though, since we're all lined up to it once.

        • As I understand, death by natural causes is usually pretty slow and horrible.

          It's apparently a popular past-time though, since we're all lined up to it once.

          Always makes me think of the Futurama pilot:

          Suicide Booth: Please select mode of death. Quick and painless or slow and horrible.
          Fry: Yeah, I'd like to place a collect call?
          Suicide Booth: You have selected slow and horrible.

      • Is it Appealing? No, but it is inevitable. Our time on this planet is limited. Artificially extending our lives is really just our own egos getting in the way.
        Lets say this is the future were we can restore such minds. Do we really want to take the minds of people a hundred years ago, who are old and stuck in their ways, have outdated morality and limited world view.

        Please don't translate this as ageism, as the wisdom of older people is valuable. However you taking the years of wisdom learned from a worl

        • If you have the magic tech to raise the dead, you can also have separate real or virtual planets for them to inhabit which will suit their particular outdated desires. And there's certainly no need to give the undead the right to vote on Earth.

    • We are served by organic ghosts, he thought, who, speaking and writing, pass through this our new environment. Watching, wise, physical ghosts from the full-life world, elements of which have become for us invading but agreeable splinters of a substance that pulsates like a former heart.

      - Philip K. Dick, Ubik

  • Yeah, right because we know exactly how the mind works so we are a great authority to decide whether it "survived" this crude process. Like the cryonics fad, but at least this time they should charge you less because they are not promising to run a fridge for you for hundreds of years...

  • That’s wonderful!

  • What's the point? (Score:5, Informative)

    by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:12PM (#56253755) Homepage

    What's the point? You (the person being "backed up") is still dead. There might someday be a copy of you, but you, the you alive right now, the one reading this, is dead. You won't wake up in the future. You won't come back. You will be dead.

    • Re:What's the point? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:19PM (#56253831) Homepage Journal
      If that were true, everytime someone on Star Trek stepped through a transporter they would be dead too.
      • Unless you take a non-materialistic view of the universe and assume consciousness exists outside the body with the brain acting like something of an antenna... they are. They commit suicide each time they use a transporter.
      • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:25PM (#56253893)

        That may very well be true... Who is to say the person who stepped out is not a brand new person?

        The person who was beamed away suffered a death though instant and painless from the dematerialization.

        Then an imposter was materialized who has all the same bodily molecules, but NOT the same immortal soul.....

        • Mind...blown. Cap'n Spock says "May the Force be with you!" before he enters the transporter.
        • That may very well be true... Who is to say the person who stepped out is not a brand new person?

          It's "not" "true". (This is a fictional universe we're talking about here, right?) In the Trek universe, by the time we catch up with them (even on the prequel, Enterprise) they have already gone through the phase of having "transporters" which make a copy and destroy the original. Instead, some fantasy process actually converts the person (or whatever) into a pattern which is transferred from one transporter to the other and then rematerialized. They actually make mention of this in one episode of Enterpri

      • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @03:46PM (#56254515) Homepage

        If that were true, everytime someone on Star Trek stepped through a transporter they would be dead too.

        The problem is that this may happen when you fall asleep. We don't know. I've always called it the "transporter problem" because I came to it from thinking about the transporter in Star Trek. Like you have.

        The issue is that if I made an absolutely perfect replica of me at the molecular level, and assuming consciousness fully resides in the physical flesh (which I believe), then the replica would think he's me. He would not think he's a replica. Therefore, I can be a replica and not know it. I know I'm not because what I just described isn't possible.

        But the issue is that when I go to sleep at night, I lose consciousness. When I awake, it's me again.

        Or is it?

        "I" don't have to survive that. Whoever I am tomorrow will think they're the same person that I am now because they will remember all my experiences (including this one), so there's no reason for the consciousness residing in my brain tomorrow to be the same as today. We literally have no way of knowing how that works.

        This was also very well explored by the movie "Multiplicity", although they added some great comic elements that took it in a different direction.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Therefore, I can be a replica and not know it. I know I'm not because what I just described isn't possible.

          None of us even know if we're in reality or hooked up to the Matrix. Everything you see, hear, smell, taste or touch is converted to electrical impulses, in theory a super advanced civilization could crack the skull open, rewire and we'd be none the wiser. For that matter even the integrity of the brain can't be guaranteed, when I try to remember something how do I know these memories are genuine? Are these feelings and decisions my own? We know hypnosis, drugs, brain damage etc. can cause vast changes, ima

      • by Pascoea ( 968200 )
        +4 interesting for pretending Star Trek isn't fiction? Thus confirming that this is, in fact, still a nerd site.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, I actually value my memories, apart from any issue of qualia. I'd certainly give up a few minutes of conscious life, particularly painful conscious life, in return for my memories being preserved.

      That said, consider the Star Trek transporter. It converts your body to energy, transmits that energy to a different place, and reassembles it. Would you use a machine that did that? Before you answer, note that it's just as reasonable to describe the operation of the device this way: it destroys you and t

      • Re:What's the point? (Score:5, Informative)

        by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdflat.cCHICAGOom minus city> on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:47PM (#56254065) Journal

        The star trek transporter works by measuring a target's impression on spacetime at a subatomic level, and then creating a 4-dimensional hologram of that impression at the destination point. The inverse of that hologram is then applied to the source point, cancelling out the probability of the target being at the source location, while the probability of it being at the destination rises to certainty.

        No disintegration required.

        • "The inverse of that hologram is then applied to the source point, cancelling out the probability of the target being at the source location"

          This part is the desintegration. I understand that the writers of Star Trek didn't want it to mean death, but in reality this would be death.

      • Hmm, "Think Like a Dinosaur" (1995) by James Patrick Kelly borrowed this concept.

    • Yes, but the same is true every time someone on Star Trek used a teleporter. Their current body got disintegrated, and an exact copy of them got created elsewhere. And to be honest, Star Trek doesn't really sound much more fictional than what this company is promising.

      Star Trek aside, the target demographic for this is someone obscenely rich, obscenely narcissistic, and terminally ill. It also helps if they are not devoutly religious, and if they are a complete sucker.

    • What's the point? You (the person being "backed up") is still dead. There might someday be a copy of you, but you, the you alive right now, the one reading this, is dead. You won't wake up in the future. You won't come back. You will be dead.

      But what exactly is the difference between you waking up in the future or an exact copy of you waking up in the future? The copy would have your memories and so the copy would believe itself to be you. How is that any different from the "real" you waking up?

    • by Ed_1024 ( 744566 )
      I am not sure about the physical/philosophical side of it but if a copy of me wakes up the the future *thinking* it is me, then that is good enough.

      After all, that is pretty much what happens when I wake up in the morning, no?
    • What's the point? You (the person being "backed up") is still dead. There might someday be a copy of you, but you, the you alive right now, the one reading this, is dead. You won't wake up in the future. You won't come back. You will be dead.

      We still don't know a lot about consciousness, and your critique assumes a very specific definition of "alive" that we can't validate.

      It may be that this copy is you in exactly the same sense as you're the same person as you were when you went to sleep last night.

    • What's the point? You (the person being "backed up") is still dead. There might someday be a copy of you, but you, the you alive right now, the one reading this, is dead. You won't wake up in the future. You won't come back. You will be dead.

      Yes, but which is preferable? A complete death where you don't come back or a mini-death where your backed up consciousness comes back?

      It sounds like this is not going to be done by people who say, "I want to go skip into the future" but by people who are dying of a terminal illness, and find the idea of coming back as a simulation preferable to ultimate death.

      Death is a big black box where people have all sorts of ideas, but no one can prove one way or the other. I imagine it's comforting to stack your o

    • What's the point? You (the person being "backed up") is still dead. There might someday be a copy of you, but you, the you alive right now, the one reading this, is dead. You won't wake up in the future. You won't come back. You will be dead.

      You are using a very particular definition of you which everyone might not agree with. If* this company can actually copy your mind, this is the ship of Theseus paradox. I would argue that what's more important is the pattern formed by all the particles that make up your body, not the particles themselves. After all, your cells are constantly exchanging particles with the environment, and you aren't the same particles as you were a second ago.

      Moreover, if** a technology can recreate you at the quantum state

    • What's the point? You (the person being "backed up") is still dead. There might someday be a copy of you, but you, the you alive right now, the one reading this, is dead. You won't wake up in the future. You won't come back. You will be dead.

      To paraphrase some AI from a Rudy Rucker book, "What's the problem. It's the same information. It's the information that's important isn't it. That information is you."

    • by vix86 ( 592763 )

      And when you go to sleep tonight, the you today will be dead. And tomorrow when you sleep, the you tomorrow will be dead.

      This is the crux of copied/digital immortality, it seems like death in the "now" because you have to lose consciousness to acquire it, but if that's the main issue then sleep must be 'death' as well. I've realized that within this context immortality is less for your benefit and more for the benefit of others, like your loved ones, friends, and maybe the world. If we can ever engineer hum

  • by s_p_oneil ( 795792 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:12PM (#56253759) Homepage

    I for one welcome our new clones of Bob overlords...

    http://bobiverse.wikia.com/wik... [wikia.com]

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:17PM (#56253815) Homepage Journal
    Fortunately for them, my brain can be contained in just 640k of memory.
  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:24PM (#56253887) Homepage Journal

    Do you offer gift certificates? I have a few "special" people on my Christmas list this year.

  • by AnotherAnonymousUser ( 972204 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @02:50PM (#56254097)
    Nice try, zombies. We're on to your business model.
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Yeah. That whole 'soak in a chemical solution' just sounded like marination to me.

  • The assisted suicide law is very predictably being used to exploit the gullible.

    I'll pump my magic chemicals into you and freeze your brain, so you can revived in the future!

    This is nothing but a scam to deprive the families of dying loved ones their inheritance. This dude is going to cheat these people out of their last days and make off with their cash. Way to go libs.

    • Just because it's unlikely to work doesn't automatically make it a scam. If they make an honest effort, and inform people of the real prospects, then it is no scam.

  • by dyfet ( 154716 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2018 @03:03PM (#56254193) Homepage

    Ancient Egypt also had high priests that made a somewhat similar sales pitch...

    • Ancient Egypt also had high priests that made a somewhat similar sales pitch...

      Act now! This is your chance to be in a museum a thousand years from now. Immortality could be yours!"

  • Before you go under the knife and chem drip make sure to bone up on future skills so as to better help you integrate into future society. I have it on good authority the three sea shells will be super important.

  • Offer to post-pile people into the sediment so they become part of the fossil record.

  • There's a scene in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun where the protagonist stumbles into a jumble of perfectly preserved corpses like this in the woods in a far-future declined Earth. There's little reason to believe freezing your head or being plasticized would result in anything more than being a curio in some far flung future, at best.
  • I wonder if they offer gift packages.

  • Abby Normal I believe it was.
  • We're a unique company, we KILL people!

    • That's not really all that unique (cf. Blackwater or xe or whatever they call themselves nowadays).

  • They are offering a 100% money back, satisfaction guarantee. All the person whose brain was uploaded and is unsatisfied with the upload has to do is to walk into the office and sign the refund request form.

  • I need brains for my science project. Lots of brains. And they need to be fresh. Very fresh. And then this happens. Curses!
  • Sounds like someone's been doing a little fantasizing, particularly around the "people will pay a lot for this" part.
  • Hey, if you were going to donate your body to science anyways, why not? It could be a treasure trove for the future anthropologists if they have perfectly fossilized brains from the early 21st century to look at. Depending on how far along neuroscience has come along, they might even be able to read some of your thoughts. It's unlikely that anyone would bother to try to revive you though.

  • A perfectly scanned brain will not work until physics can understand, and thus simulate, the subjective perceptual experience of consciousness.

    Until then it would be a brain without something doing experience-feedback or whatever consciousness does, and would not run anymore than a car without pistons. All physics does not describe how this arises.

    While exactly what conscious does for the brain is debated, almost cretainly it is vital.

    That isn't to say a functioning mind without it couldn't be made, just t

  • Fuck everything about this and double fuck the asshole who came up with it.
  • This sounds like it's more based on scifi than science. They do know that Transcendence, with Pirates of the Caribbean star, Johnny Depp, wasn't a documentary, don't they?
  • This is mummification from ancient Egypt all over again, just at a slightly more detailed level.

    All this can do is preserve the connections between neurons. But that's not all there is to consciousness. Beyond the connectome, there may be 'software' differences within neurons that contribute to consciousness and learning. This technology does not preserve this -- instead, brain DNA degrades and any complexity present there is lost.

    Last year, scientists found a surprising amount of genetic diversity in each

Neutrinos have bad breadth.

Working...