And now for some news from the world of Technology Beyond Good Sense.
According to George Dvorsky at Futurism, scientists at MIT and 21st Century Medicine have developed a new mammalian brain preservation technique that makes it possible to save the information stored within the structure of the brain—memories, for example, or sensory data—after the death of brain tissue. The technique, called Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation (ASC), has so far been tested on rabbits and pigs, and is promising enough to have earned its developers a research grant which would help them take the first steps toward long-term human brain biostasis.
Though the scientists hasten to add that they are nowhere near that point now, but results of their studies have been independently verified and published in the scientific journal Cryobiology. One of the scientists, Robert McIntyre of MIT, has gone so far as to establish a private company with the stated goal of developing a technology
to preserve your brain well enough to keep all its memories intact: from that great chapter of your favorite book to the feeling of cold winter air, baking an apple pie, or having dinner with your friends and family. We believe that within the current century it will be feasible to digitize this information and use it to recreate your consciousness.
Am I the only one who finds this a little creepy? Especially when you learn the ASC technique doesn’t actually preserve the brain itself, but turns the thing into a kind of “plasticized object,” an object, we can only hope, retains the relevant information contained in the grey matter it, um, replaces during the cryogenic process.
Dvorsky puts it this way:
For those of you thinking this is a path towards immortality, you may be in for a profound disappointment. Technical hurdles aside, the ASC approach doesn’t guarantee a continuity of consciousness. As mentioned, [euthanasia to preserve the brain before death by terminal illness} is a form of destructive preservation, where biological matter is basically transmutated into a temporary storage device. While your memories and personality stand a chance of revival, your seat of consciousness will likely be obliterated for all time. Brain preservation in this manner is thus a form of suicide, but with knowledge that a digital “copy” of you may live to see another day.
Okay, wow. You can replicate your personality and memories, but not your actual consciousness? And where, exactly, does that consciousness reside? Certainly not in the brain tissue, if I remember my Sunday school lessons correctly. (And I think Buddha, Muhammed, the Taoists, priests and shamans of multiple faiths and even some wiccans would agree with those lessons.) And what good is retaining your memories and personality, if your consciousness is somewhere else?
Of course, plot bunnies are hopping all over my consciousness at this point. The simplest and most obvious use of this technology would be military (or should I say military intelligence). Your spy dies in the field? No problem! Just “download” his brain to get that vital information! Combine this tech with cloning and you’ve got any number of copies of James Bond—all dispensable.
A frightening idea. And, now one that is ultimately possible.
Information for this post taken from “New Brain Preservation Techniques could be a Path to Mind Uploading, by George Dvorsky, Futurism, March 14, 2018, https://gizmodo.com/new-brain-preservation-technique-could-be-a-path-to-min-1823741147