Here’s an outline of a talk I will give at WorldFuture 2012, the World Future Society’s annual conference, in Toronto, July 27-29th, 2012. If you are a foresight professional or a futures enthusiast, I hope to see you there.
Chemical Brain Preservation: How to Live “Forever”
At present, roughly 57 million unique and precious human beings die every year, or 155,000 people every day. The memories and identities in their brains are permanently lost at present, but may not be in the near future. Chemical brain preservation is a technique that a growing number of neuroscientists believe may inexpensively preserve our memories and identity when we die, eventually for less than $10,000 per person in the developed world, and less than $3,000 per person in the developing world. Chemically preserved brains can be stored at room temperature in cemeteries, in contract storage, or even in private homes. Our organization, the Brain Preservation Foundation (brainpreservation.org), is offering a $100,000 prize to the first scientific team to demonstrate that the entire synaptic connectivity (“connectome”) of mammalian brains, where neuroscientists believe our memories and identities reside, can be perfectly preserved using these low-cost chemical techniques.
There is growing evidence that chemically preserved brains can be “read” in the future, analogous to the way a computer hard drive is read today, so that memories, and even the complete identities of the preserved individuals can eventually be restored, using low-cost and fully automated preserving, slicing, imaging and computerized reconstructing techniques. Such techniques are already being used to scan and upload the connectomes of very small animal brains (zebrafish, soon flies) today.
Amazingly, given the accelerating rate of technological advance, a person whose brain is preserved in 2020 might “return” to the world, most likely in a computer form, as early as 2060, while their loved ones and some of their friends are still alive. We will discuss this astonishing technology and some of its social, political, and personal implications. Will 1% of any society ever choose low-cost chemical brain preservation, once it becomes available? Would you do it? If not, why not? We’ll explore group opinions and preferences, and likely scenarios for the next decade and beyond.