Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We have a cure to death right here

Ken Hayworth gave an interactive online talk and Q/A in teleXLR8 on How to create a Connectome Observatory of the mouse brain and beyond, on November 13 2011. See the complete report A Connectome Observatory for nanoscale brain imaging on KurzweilAI.

New technologies now permit imaging brain tissue at resolutions approaching 5x5x5nm. voxel size, down to the protein level. “This is more than sufficient resolution to determine all the connectivity and the properties of the synapses that are needed to explain the functionality of the brain circuits,” Ken said.

“In 100 years, if we have the technology to bring someone back, it won’t be in a biological body,” Ken said in a New York Times article last year. “It is these scanning techniques and mind-uploading that, I think, will bring people back. This is a taboo topic in the scientific community. But we have a cure to death right here. Why aren’t we pursuing it?”

In the Q&A, participants compared connectome preservation via the chemical brain preservation techniques proposed by Ken’s Brain Preservation Foundation to cryonics. See the full video of the talk and Q/A below.

Last year I wrote a post on Chemical brain preservation: cryonics for uploaders, also republished by the Cryonics Institute. Excerpt:

This resolution is sufficient to image the smallest brain structures which, according to current scientific knowledge, are the physical substrate of our thoughts, memories, feelings, emotional responses, hopes, dreams and identity. It is important to stress that this can be done with current technology... the information in a chemically preserved brain can be retrieved and run on a different substrate ("mind uploading"). This makes chemical brain preservation a storage technique optimized for future nanoscale scanning, and an ideal form of "cryonics for uploaders". For those who accept scanning the brain and running the information in the scan file on a different substrate as a valid form of identity preservation, chemical brain preservation seems clearly superior to cryopreservation.

After listening to Ken's talk, I am persuaded that the required brain imaging resolution can be achieved NOW with existing technology (and can only improve). So we just need to build operational pipelines for preparation, readout and storage and medical research facilities (and regulations or better absence thereof) able to preserve brains with sufficient accuracy for future readout and personality retrieval.

Ken prefers to discuss brain preservation technology as a scientific research topic instead of speculating on future availability for human patients (see his article on the Alcor Cryonics magazine and Mike Perry's reply). But in response to questions by Mike Perry and myself he said “If there was really a concerted effort to develop brain preservation technology, it would be easy to have highly reliable hospital brain preservation procedures ready to go in any hospital before the end of the decade. It is all a matter of will.”

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that we have a cure to death right here.