Every day, new tech startups seem to pop up from out of nowhere, offering exciting visions of the future. This week, a company called Nectome is raising eyebrows for it's, um, unorthodox business model.
Nectome is a company that asks, "What if we told you we could back up your mind?"
MIT graduate Robert McIntyre founded the company so people can preserve their brains with the hopes that scientists in the future will upload them to a computer and turn their minds into a computer simulation.
"I assume my brain will be uploaded to the cloud,” a successful 32-year-old investor Sam Altman told the MIT Technology Review. Altman, who helped create popular startup incubator Y Combinator, has already signed up on the waiting list—along with 25 other people. The price tag currently sits at $10,000.
So, what are participants risking? Well, everything. McIntyre says the process will be similar to doctor-assisted suicide and explains that the procedure is "100 percent fatal." He adds, "Product-market fit is people believing that it works." Gulp.
People have been preserving their heads and bodies in liquid nitrogen for decades—even Ted Williams has tried it out. But many believe those methods may damage the brain, so Nectome sought to develop a process that could preserve an entire brain to the nanometer level and protect synapses that connect neurons.
Netcome has proven to be successful in the past. It was recently awarded a prize from the Brain Preservation Foundation for preserving a pig brain. Even the president of the foundation, neuroscientist Ken Hayworth, admits that it could be a long time until the technology exists to make brain upload a reality, though. "It may be possible in 100 years," he says. "Speaking personally, if I were a facing a terminal illness I would likely choose euthanasia by [this method]."
Naturally, the whole idea has plenty of skeptics. A neuroscientist from McGill University named Michael Hendricks looked over Netcome's website and commented, "Burdening future generations with our brain banks is just comically arrogant. Aren’t we leaving them with enough problems?"
"I hope future people are appalled that in the 21st century, the richest and most comfortable people in history spent their money and resources trying to live forever on the backs of their descendants," he continued. "I mean, it’s a joke, right? They are cartoon bad guys."
We couldn't have said it better ourselves.