A Silicon Valley billionaire has paid $10,000 (£7,175) to have his brain digitally uploaded to ‘live forever’ – but he’ll have to die first.
Sam Altman is one of 25 people to join a waiting list at startup Nectome that says it will be able to back-up your brain – memories and all – and store it forever.
The downside, however, is that Nectome also says the process is “100% fatal”. In order to live long into the future, subjects have to be killed.
The company is backed by Altman’s Y Combinator, an organisation that identifies and backs new ventures each year in the hope these fledgling firms gain greater exposure and support down the line.
Previous Y Combinator projects include Airbnb and Dropbox.
Nectome co-founder and MIT graduate Robert McIntyre is due to present his idea in person for the first time next week.
He says on his website: “What if we told you we could back up your mind?”
Nectome’s plan is to connect patients to life support, then anaesthetise them, and then fill the body with a chemical embalming cocktail through the arteries while the customer is still alive.
It says the brain needs to be very fresh for the preservation process to work.
“I assume my brain will be uploaded to the cloud,” 32-year-old investor Altman told MIT Technology Review.
The company’s website claims it will be possible, in effect, to freeze the brain – preserve the neurons and synapses, even memories – after they have died.
“Our mission is to preserve your brain well enough to keep all its memories intact: from that great chapter of your favourite book to the feeling of cold winter air, baking an apple pie, or having dinner with your friends and family,” it says.
“If memories can truly be preserved by a sufficiently good brain banking technique, we believe that within the century it could become feasible to digitize your preserved brain and use that information to recreate your mind.”
It says it has already successfully preserved every synaptic structure in a rabbit brain.
The firm has also received a $960,000 (£687,000) grant from the US National Institute of Mental Health.
Unlike cryonics, Nectome is not freezing a body with a view of bringing that person back to life at some stage centuries from now.
It plans to store the brain’s memories as fully as possible. Whether the patients will be “conscious” or able to think and feel decades from now is a $10,000 question…