A startup wants to upload your brain to a computer via a procedure that its co-founder describes as “100% fatal”. Nectome, currently part of accelerator Y Combinator, is developing an embalming technique that could preserve a brain in microscopic detail. In theory, the mind could be uploaded to a simulated human in the future.
In order for the procedure to work, patients need to be pumped with the embalming chemicals while they are still alive and the brain is fresh. This is why the company plans to work with the terminally ill and carry out the service as part of a euthanasia program.
The startup could change the way we transmit knowledge, suggests co-founder Robert McIntyre. “Right now, when a generation of people die, we lose all their collective wisdom,” he said in an interview with MIT Technology Review. “Your children have to learn from the same mistakes. That was fine for a while, but we get more powerful every generation. The sheer immense potential of what we can do increases, but the wisdom does not.”
However, Nectome recently lost a valuable link to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after the collaboration attracted “sharp criticism” from a host of experts who dismissed the feasibility of the project’s aims. MIT subsequently released an official statement saying that it had severed ties, confirming that neuroscience isn’t advanced enough to understand consciousness or whether brain preservation can maintain all the biomolecules necessary to store memory.
“Fundamentally, the company is based on a proposition that is just false,” one critic, Sten Linnarsson of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told the BBC in April. “[And there's a risk] some people actually kill themselves to donate their brains.”