“Committed to the goal of archiving your mind”
March 14, 2018 9:14 AM   Subscribe

So yeah. Nectome is a preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it company. Its chemical solution can keep a body intact for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, as a statue of frozen glass. The idea is that someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation. That way, someone a lot like you, though not exactly you, will smell the flowers again in a data server somewhere.
A startup is pitching a mind-uploading service that is “100 percent fatal.” Nectome will preserve your brain, but you have to be euthanized first.

Nectome's technique combines embalming with cryonics. It proved effective at preserving an entire pig brain to the nanometer level, including the connectome—the web of synapses that connect neurons. The idea is to retrieve information that’s present in the brain’s anatomical layout and molecular details, not bring someone back to life. Twenty five people are on the waiting list. Nectome’s storage service is not yet for sale and may not be for several years. Also still lacking is evidence that memories can be found in dead tissue.
Some scientists say brain storage and reanimation is an essentially fraudulent proposition. Writing in our pages in 2015, the McGill University neuroscientist Michael Hendricks decried the “abjectly false hope” peddled by transhumanists promising resurrection in ways that technology can probably never deliver.

“Burdening future generations with our brain banks is just comically arrogant. Aren’t we leaving them with enough problems?” Hendricks told me this week after reviewing Nectome’s website. “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. I mean, it’s a joke, right? They are cartoon bad guys.”
posted by not_the_water (142 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was just going to eat the rich. This seems a bit much.
posted by triage_lazarus at 9:18 AM on March 14, 2018 [18 favorites]


Hmmmm... if I turn off my stereo and carefully store it for years, someone will be able to recover the ZZTop album I was listening to?
posted by njohnson23 at 9:20 AM on March 14, 2018 [21 favorites]


The idea that the Peter Thiels of the world will leave us forever probably is appealing, but let's be honest here: the only customers they'll have are scared, dying people who can't afford it and are willing to try anything they're told will save their life.
posted by Merus at 9:22 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


In the sweet by and by, He shall gather the saints onto San Junipero, and cast the wicked onto White Christmas.
posted by ocschwar at 9:23 AM on March 14, 2018 [35 favorites]


Apparently Sam Altman loves the idea and I heartily suggest he do it as soon as possible.

Hell, everyone who loves the idea - do it now. Don't wait.
posted by GuyZero at 9:24 AM on March 14, 2018 [10 favorites]


Silicon Valley Litch Kings.


I guess if they’ve gotten out of paying taxes getting out of death is the next step
posted by The Whelk at 9:27 AM on March 14, 2018 [23 favorites]


Nectome and I have a fundamental difference of opinion regarding the nature of consciousness. I'm going to die the old-fashioned way, thanks.
posted by kozad at 9:29 AM on March 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


The idea that the Peter Thiels of the world will leave us forever probably is appealing, but let's be honest here: the only customers they'll have are scared, dying people who can't afford it and are willing to try anything they're told will save their life.

Maybe. There is obviously a thick strain of arrogant, profoundly delusional, technocratic à rebours-ism in Silicon Valley, though, and it's my hope that they'll find some customers as a result.

If only for the entertaining, high California gothic longform expose that will appear when Nectome's VC funding dries up, its "journey ends", and the brains of some 22 year old millionaries are unceremoniously wiped from the servers.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:29 AM on March 14, 2018 [17 favorites]


Why don't you go first, techbro.
posted by ourobouros at 9:29 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Your brain, too, can be stored like those cassettes that you really don't want to get rid of even though you haven't owned a tape deck in fifteen years and you're not even sure they'd play if you did, because you have a bunch of emotional attachment to the idea of them still existing even if they're useless. It's not really about the being-alive, I expect, so much as about being able to tell yourself that in some fashion you won't stop existing. Without some proof of being able to read the data back into a person, this is just hoarding.
posted by Sequence at 9:31 AM on March 14, 2018 [22 favorites]


Also this is just a new twist on cryogenic freezing in that they're assuming someone will figure out how to revive the brain someday, somehow.

For now you might just as well bet on Roko's Basilisk
posted by GuyZero at 9:32 AM on March 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


It's hard not to see this as a high-tech version of Pascal's Wager, married to a Ponzi scheme.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:33 AM on March 14, 2018 [18 favorites]


Twenty five people are on the waiting list.

Please tell me Peter Thiel is on the list. Jamie Dimon would be a nice, too. In fact, I hope this takes off and a whole bunch of new gilded age vampires sign up for weird eschatological death cult shit like this.

What I really love about this scenario is that in the very best case your brain gets fully restored and functional - perhaps even in some kind of android body - and then you find out you've become an intellectual anachronistic throwback, little more than a historical curiosity, not unlike a Neanderthal alive today.

You would essentially wake up as a subhuman in the future. Whatever aspirations or weird ideas you had about being an elite human would be shattered as you struggled to keep up with school children.

At best you'd be a curiosity and viewed with pity - an anachronistic freak filled with atavistic tics, crude and possibly dangerous.

"But wait, I could live like a god in a simulation of my choice of time!" they'll say. Yeah, you'll be living in some nightmarish approximation as seen from their eyes. So, expect lots of brain-breaking historical anomalies like people carrying around old landline telephones like cell phones or other things where things aren't quite right or historically accurate.

Imagine being transported from the actual Italian Renaissance to some minor suburban Ren Faire held in the dustry straw lots of a rural fairgrounds. Your poor mind would just shatter and gibber at the nonsense.
posted by loquacious at 9:34 AM on March 14, 2018 [72 favorites]


This sounds great! Where do I sign other people up?
posted by Servo5678 at 9:34 AM on March 14, 2018 [52 favorites]


The Hendricks quote pretty much sums it all up.
posted by notyou at 9:35 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


the only customers they'll have are scared, dying people who can't afford it and are willing to try anything they're told will save their life.

Hey, it's better than letting those spoiled kids have the money, anyway!

(Semi-seriously, do extremely wealthy children ever turn out well?)
posted by rokusan at 9:35 AM on March 14, 2018


For now you might just as well bet on Roko's Basilisk

I mean... you're not?
posted by rokusan at 9:36 AM on March 14, 2018


It's Don DeLillo's world, we just live in it.
posted by chavenet at 9:37 AM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


In his house at Anaheim, frozen Walt waits dreaming.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:37 AM on March 14, 2018 [36 favorites]


“If the brain is dead, it’s like your computer is off, but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t there,” says Hayworth.

Sure, if the memory is non-volatile. I don't think we can fully promise that about the brain.

Also the impulse to "live" forever seems really dumb to me, particularly when it implies being resurrected in some far-distant, unfamiliar future. Do you want to be Encino Man? Probably not.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:38 AM on March 14, 2018


(Semi-seriously, do extremely wealthy children ever turn out well?)

I've met some, but it involved teaching them what money and work actually was.

I used to have a friend from a very well off Armenian family. On the surface he looked a lot like your average stereotypical LA Armenian bro, down to the shirts, the Audi and the flashy watch.

Until he started talking, then he was just all goofy, excitable NASA-JPL nerd. He also volunteered for the Red Cross and did a fuckton of logistics and emergency planning and infrastructure building.

Somewhere out there is a guy who looks like a rich Armenian dudebro who spends/spent a whole lot of his time prepping LA for a quake or disaster because that's what he could do with his time and skills.
posted by loquacious at 9:41 AM on March 14, 2018 [17 favorites]


I feel like everyone who signs up for this should be given a copy of Reasons and Persons before they commit. I mean, if the technology works (a big if), then the break in consciousness between your analog body and your digital one would be no different than waking from a coma, or even waking from ordinary sleep. But is it?
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:42 AM on March 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


It does seem spectacularly unlikely that anyone preserved this way would ever be reconstituted. (And even if they were it would be a copy, not their original consciousness. *drops can of worms, walks away*) Looking at it the other way around though, something like this could be used as a technological fig leaf to make euthanasia socially acceptable. It's not assisted suicide if there's a chance you could be revived in a few hundred years.
posted by skymt at 9:44 AM on March 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


Silicon Valley Litch Kings.

ZUCKERBERG DOES NOT SERVE, ZUCKERBERG RULES.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:46 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


the only thing that would make this better is if these guys were actually subversive socialist radicals using the apparatus of the rich to destroy the rich and their method of decapitation was by way of G U I L L O T I N E

and also if they just threw the preserved glass brains into the dumpster since you can't recycle garbage
posted by runt at 9:49 AM on March 14, 2018 [31 favorites]


To the compost heap!
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:50 AM on March 14, 2018


you find out you've become an intellectual anachronistic throwback, little more than a historical curiosity, not unlike a Neanderthal alive today.

yeah yeah we've all seen Futurama :P
posted by runt at 9:52 AM on March 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


the only thing that would make this better is if these guys were actually subversive socialist radicals using the apparatus of the rich to destroy the rich and their method of decapitation was by way of G U I L L O T I N E

Honestly, my first thought on reading this this morning was 'I wish I'd thought of a way to convince Silicon Valley techbros let me freeze them to death. Is it really too late?'
posted by mordax at 9:54 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


the richest and most comfortable people in history spent their money and resources trying to live forever on the backs of their descendants. I mean, it’s a joke, right? They are cartoon bad guys.”
Well, yes ... actually ...

If only for the entertaining, high California gothic longform expose that will appear when Nectome's VC funding dries up, its "journey ends", and the brains of some 22 year old millionaries are unceremoniously wiped from the servers.

Let's plan on saving Joan Didion's brain.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:55 AM on March 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


The unknowns, of course, are substantial. Not only does no one know what consciousness is (so it will be hard to tell if an eventual simulation has any), but it’s also unclear what brain structures and molecular details need to be retained to preserve a memory or a personality. Is it just the synapses, or is it every fleeting molecule? “Ultimately, to answer this question, data is needed,” Boyden says.
Sure, data's great. But we can make a pretty good guess at most of these questions: whatever consciousness is, it's pretty clearly something that physical neurons do as a group, and we have a reasonably good model for what individual neurons do. And if memory depended on every fleeting molecule, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't be far more fragile than it apparently is. "If you could map all the neural connections and gross properties of each neuron, you'd have a brain" is speculative, but it's a lot less crazy than any other model for how a brain works.

This specific technology may well be fundamentally flawed or a poor gamble. Excited hand waving and god-of-the-gaps arguments are not a compelling way to demonstrate that.
posted by eotvos at 9:56 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


let's be honest here: the only customers they'll have are scared, dying people who can't afford it and are willing to try anything they're told will save their life.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't understand why the ones who can't afford it would be customers instead of the ones who can? (or is this just a typo I was trying to read into)

Also, I still don't understand the appeal of consciousness transferal, clones, etc. I don't want some other asshole walking around (or existing in a simulation) with my memories and thought processes! What good does that do me? Maybe this is more comforting when you're terminally ill. I guess if MeFi's still around then I'll let you all know.
posted by ODiV at 10:00 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


wish I'd thought of a way to convince Silicon Valley techbros let me freeze them to death. Is it really too late?'

it's never too late

be the change you want to see in the world
posted by runt at 10:02 AM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


This is exceedingly human - from prehistory to the present rituals surrounding death have promised to aid the deceased's passage into the afterlife.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:08 AM on March 14, 2018 [10 favorites]


THE FUTURE:

Good news, Client #219934, we have woken you up in the glorious new future! It's true, we have reached post-scarcity and menial robots do all our work.

Now for an update: in order to pay off the storage bills and reclamation fee for your new android body, you get to be a janitor robot in our Luxury Space Gay Communist Utopia for the next 3000 years. Here is your mop and badge.

And... scene.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:10 AM on March 14, 2018 [18 favorites]


This is exceedingly human

What else would it be?
posted by octobersurprise at 10:10 AM on March 14, 2018


Cryogenics is a sucker's bet but at least a great artist or writer offers something of interest to people of the future. But businesspeople? Who would willingly restore somebody whose only value is in controlling others?
posted by at by at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


the only thing that would make this better is if these guys were actually subversive socialist radicals using the apparatus of the rich to destroy the rich and their method of decapitation was by way of G U I L L O T I N E

I keep trying to decide how I feel about this, and I think I'm settling on "bemused". Because "FOR SCIENCE" might as well be Boyden's motto, and if he actually believes this is anything more than "get lots of data on mapping the brain", I'll eat my left shoe.

Also he is astoundingly adept at solving the problem of certain people having too much goddamn money.
posted by ultranos at 10:21 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sure, if the memory is non-volatile. I don't think we can fully promise that about the brain.

I mean, doctors already use deep hypothermic circulatory arrest for certain types of surgery that can't be accomplished any other way. Basically, you cool someone's entire body down to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, artificially keep their blood oxygenated and pumping, and wait for all electrical activity in the brain to stop. At that point, the brain is using practically no energy and consuming practically no oxygen, so you can safely stop the patient's heart for half an hour while you fix their aorta or whatever.

That seems to me like pretty good evidence that the important parts of a brain's long-term state are stored in the structure of neurons and neurotransmitters, not in the transient electrical patterns. Unless, I guess, you want to tell every patient who's gone through DHCA that their original actually died on the operating table, and they're just a rebooted clone.

Cryogenics is a sucker's bet but at least a great artist or writer offers something of interest to people of the future. But businesspeople? Who would willingly restore somebody whose only value is in controlling others?

It always baffles and slightly appalls me when I see this kind of comment. Do you think that artists and writers should also be the only ones who get life-saving medical care, because nobody else is valuable enough?
posted by teraflop at 10:25 AM on March 14, 2018 [17 favorites]


What else would it be?

Something inhuman like techbro.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:25 AM on March 14, 2018


I mean, they could be an object lesson to future people why we shouldn't worship past idols (like how people now worship Elon Musk)

future people could be like 'oh no, my idea about Elon was totes wrong, he's actually a total nitwit idealist who definitely needed to get out more and happened to be in the right place, at the right time to tap into a science fictiony zeitgeist and then used his fame and fortune to destroy socially beneficial systems like public transportation and public funding for astronomy'

I mean, they could also get that from an... ebook? brain torrent? whatever format of knowledge transfer the future will widely use but this would be more fun because you could put em in a funhouse zoo
posted by runt at 10:26 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


The only way this would be a more perfect encapsulation of Silicon Valley tech outlook would be if I could only pay for it with Dogecoin.
posted by sgranade at 10:27 AM on March 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


But businesspeople? Who would willingly restore somebody whose only value is in controlling others?

My only regret... is that I have... boneitis.
posted by mhum at 10:30 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Do you think that artists and writers should also be the only ones who get life-saving medical care, because nobody else is valuable enough?

I mean, the exact fucking reverse of this is one of many reasons why our current medical system is so fucked and so many people die so sure, some poor-ass liberal arts people can get this one point over the rich since the rich have gotten many many lifesaving privileges over the rest of us since the beginning of fucking civilization
posted by runt at 10:30 AM on March 14, 2018 [9 favorites]


Silicon Valley Litch Kings

And I was hoping for a Craft Sequence miniseries.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:33 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


This sounds a lot more plausible than most of the other technologies proposed so far from a neurological perspective. There's still A LOT we don't know about how the mind works, but if all the unknowns fall out in just the right ways, this could MAYBE result in something from which the information that makes you you could theoretically be extracted.

Of course, that's just the first step. And, as with any of these "wait until they have the technology to resurrect me" solutions, there are so many things that can go wrong between now and then (including people just deciding not to resurrect you even though they can).

But I honestly feel like criticism of the specific technology is sort of besides the point, because I do think there's a pretty good chance that, at some point in the next couple of hundred years, we develop technologies that provide effective immortality or at least vastly extended life spans.

Perversely, I kind of hope that doesn't happen in my lifetime. Because it's going to be a shitshow.
posted by 256 at 10:42 AM on March 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm most of the way through Altered Carbon on Netflix and can say that transferring one's consciousness indefinitely across generations does not appear to result in lovingkindness.
posted by the sobsister at 10:46 AM on March 14, 2018 [10 favorites]


Sort of reminds me of Zero K by Don DeLillo.
posted by bwvol at 10:49 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am forcefully reminded of Hugo Award-wining story Bridesicle by Will McIntosh: dead women's heads in cryogenic storage are awoken by lonely men who can choose to pay for a woman's full revival.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:54 AM on March 14, 2018 [9 favorites]


can we agree that plenty of artists and writers are terrible human beings and that any of such who believe their beautiful minds need to be frozen so future generations can be afflicted with their genius deserve to have their brain refrigerators unplugged in a midsummer heatwave just as much as the techbros do

dead women's heads in cryogenic storage

give me a content warning if you're going to trigger a Return to Oz flashback, thanks
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:59 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


What else would it be?

Transhuman.

[rim shot]
posted by ryanshepard at 11:02 AM on March 14, 2018


PKD got here a little quicker than I thought.
posted by symbioid at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would certainly like to live indefinitely. However, there is nothing so important about me or my life that a clone of myself with my memories needs to exist in the future. The future is better off with our offspring and students whom we can pass on our knowledge and experience to but have their own memories and experiences.

If there was an evolutionary advantage to replicating exact copies of memories indefinitely, it would have happened biologically.
posted by deanc at 11:26 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


> In the sweet by and by, He shall gather the saints onto San Junipero, and cast the wicked onto White Christmas.

Yeah, holy shit. If some hyper rich guy genuinely believes this could work, he'd better hope no one decides to spin up eight thousand copies of Twitch Plays Sphere 'o' Suffering 6000.
posted by lucidium at 11:27 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


You know, given the appropriate legal environment, a "simulated" human consciousness could make an exceptionally useful slave. Especially if you could alter its clock speed, such that an hour for the poor bastard would only be a second (or a minute) in the real world. For example, I'm a lawyer; imagine forcing my simulated consciousness to produce a brief that would normally take a week - but requires only an hour or two in the "real" world. And you could get even better results with an arbitrarily large number of *copies* of that simulation, working in parallel, tasked with working on different parts of a given brief, or editing/revision, research, etc.

And there are all sorts of ways you could motivate my uploaded consciousness, too. Pain would be one; false implanted memories of payment or consent could be another.

My point is this: Even if the tech worked precisely as advertised, and your uploaded consciousness could reasonably be considered to be "you", rather than a copy, you'd be taking a hell of a chance on the decency of future strangers. And even if your uploaded consciousness is a mere "copy" of the original - I mean, I *like* me, for the most part. I'm not keen on taking such a chance on the future safety of someone exactly like me in every way.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 11:27 AM on March 14, 2018 [18 favorites]


> Do you think that artists and writers should also be the only ones who get life-saving medical care, because nobody else is valuable enough?

No, I didn't say that. I didn't even imply it.
posted by at by at 11:32 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


... "FOR SCIENCE" might as well be Boyden's motto, and if he actually believes this is anything more than "get lots of data on mapping the brain", I'll eat my left shoe.

I'm guessing this gets it exactly right and I'm guessing that Nectome is fundamentally a really clever way to persuade people to pay to donate their brains to science.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:32 AM on March 14, 2018


Man, you get a lot of weird things that happen when religion becomes uncool but people still kind of want its benefits, that’s all I’m saying.
posted by corb at 11:35 AM on March 14, 2018 [39 favorites]


I am forcefully reminded of Hugo Award-wining story Bridesicle by Will McIntosh: dead women's heads in cryogenic storage are awoken by lonely men who can choose to pay for a woman's full revival.

I was waiting for stuff to run at work and decided to poke this, and I'm now glad this story got posted just because I wouldn't have gotten to read that otherwise, wow.
posted by Sequence at 11:35 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Can I just sign up for the "kill me painlessly" part as I get older. I don't really need or want the brain scan part, just death with dignity.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:41 AM on March 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


You know, given the appropriate legal environment, a "simulated" human consciousness could make an exceptionally useful slave. Especially if you could alter its clock speed, such that an hour for the poor bastard would only be a second (or a minute) in the real world.

Literally an episode of Black Mirror.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:41 AM on March 14, 2018 [9 favorites]


I really can't understand this. I hope to live for many more years but the idea of having my mind preserved eternally is absolutely awful. I would even consider paying for like anti-cryogenics insurance, where I can guarantee my brain is destroyed extra-thoroughly after I die.

The data will be great for science, though.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:46 AM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yeah, uploading your consciousness just means it could be copied and tortured in a simulation for eternity. Gimme a frozen head situation any day.
posted by sonmi at 11:47 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I’m currently seeking funding for my new space exploration startup, B-Ark. We put brilliant minds into “stasis” and send them into space so they can colonize alien worlds. Uh… via the blockchain. Yeah.

For your initial VC investment, we’ll secure a spot on the B-Ark for you and your team today.

(B-Ark not guaranteed to reach any habitable planets. If B-Ark reaches a habitable planet, B-Ark may crash instead of landing safely. Same with non-habitable planets for that matter. Or stars. Anything with a gravity well. No return trips. B-Ark does not accept Cryptocurrency-based investments. Cash only.)
posted by SansPoint at 11:52 AM on March 14, 2018 [8 favorites]


Man, you get a lot of weird things that happen when religion becomes uncool but people still kind of want its benefits, that’s all I’m saying.

A prime example being the Simulated Universe—an idea happily drooled over by countless Dawkins-quoting New Atheist types that if were actually true, would 100% guarantee the existence of a Hellish afterlife (bonus level?) that would be a million times more horrific than anything dreamt up by any earthly religion or cult.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:57 AM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm having trouble finding the Far Side with the janitor tripping over the cord of the cryogenic freezer.
posted by clawsoon at 12:03 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Also, I still don't understand the appeal of consciousness transferal, clones, etc. I don't want some other asshole walking around (or existing in a simulation) with my memories and thought processes! What good does that do me?

Why should I scrimp and sacrifice to put money in a retirement account just so some 65-year-old asshole with my name (and some fraction of my memories and who knows what differences of opinion/attitudes/etc.) can be more comfortable?

If you were destructively copied like this, and the process was repeated 32 times, we'd ask you#33 if they considered themselves the same person as you. They'd have all your memories, including memories of going through this process 32 times and each time waking up, seemingly still themselves. It seems likely they'd say, "Yeah, I'm still me."

If we asked you#33 if they wanted to be copied again when their current body wore out, it seems likely they'd say, "Sure, why not? It's just like going to sleep and waking up again."
posted by straight at 12:06 PM on March 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure if 18-year-old me could have met the me of 2018, 18-year-old me would have tried to change the timeline to avoid becoming me. But I sure wouldn't want to be the person 18-year-old me would try to change me into.
posted by straight at 12:09 PM on March 14, 2018 [8 favorites]


You know, given the appropriate legal environment, a "simulated" human consciousness could make an exceptionally useful slave. Especially if you could alter its clock speed, such that an hour for the poor bastard would only be a second (or a minute) in the real world. For example, I'm a lawyer; imagine forcing my simulated consciousness to produce a brief that would normally take a week - but requires only an hour or two in the "real" world. And you could get even better results with an arbitrarily large number of *copies* of that simulation, working in parallel, tasked with working on different parts of a given brief, or editing/revision, research, etc.

Assuming the hardware would be fast enough to run it in real time in the first place, and we're not talking racks and racks of clustered servers to simulate what can be done with ~1.5 kg of goop.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:11 PM on March 14, 2018


Cryogenics is a sucker's bet but at least a great artist or writer offers something of interest to people of the future. But businesspeople?

I'll be honest, it would be pretty funny if someone like Thiel or Musk did go into long-term cryogenics, only to be revived in 3018 to find themselves instantly the stupidest, most backwards person on the entire planet, constantly bewildered and frightened by everything and everyone, possessing only skills so out of date as to be useless, and generally providing no value to anyone other than ancient historians and people who wanted to gawk at the new village idiots.
posted by Copronymus at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


If we asked you#33 if they wanted to be copied again when their current body wore out, it seems likely they'd say, "Sure, why not? It's just like going to sleep and waking up again."

Of course, #33 is still going to be dead, whatever misconception they might have had.

I kind of prefer the way we're doing it now: make someone new, and let them shape their own life from scratch.
posted by pipeski at 12:14 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


One of the great comforts in my life was rejecting the idea of a personal afterlife. All of my grandparents died hard in different ways. Preserving the state of their last days (or years) strikes me as an exercise in sadism, and I don't have faith that those days can be edited away to the creation of a mythological ideal self. I find the metaphysics that the end to suffering involves an end to the historically (and thus medically) constructed impermanent self to be comforting in comparison.

I'm not certain that transhumanism really offers an afterlife worth living.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:16 PM on March 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


If you were destructively copied like this, and the process was repeated 32 times, we'd ask you#33 if they considered themselves the same person as you. They'd have all your memories, including memories of going through this process 32 times and each time waking up, seemingly still themselves. It seems likely they'd say, "Yeah, I'm still me."

I'm frequently wrong about things, so a copied me also being wrong seems like no big surprise.

If we asked you#33 if they wanted to be copied again when their current body wore out, it seems likely they'd say, "Sure, why not? It's just like going to sleep and waking up again."

If we then pull back the curtain and show #33 the process of previous clones being fed, conscious and screaming, into the EZ-juicer part of the "destructive cloning" process, do you think he'd change his mind?
posted by ODiV at 12:17 PM on March 14, 2018


That seems kind of wasteful actually. Maybe we could use the originals as slave labour until they wear out completely.

(Having said that, that's gotta be a novel or short story already.)
posted by ODiV at 12:23 PM on March 14, 2018


In the distant future won’t our ancestors be more interested in the reanimating of digital facsimiles of their own friend’s and family, rather than some dorks from centuries in the past?

I get that a handful would be research projects, but once the tech were established why waste resources on souls long dead? Do they think historians will have no other options for filling in the blanks? (Failing a data apocalypse historians in the future may find themselves swimming in petabytes of contemporary video.)

I suspect most future people would want punted to the front of the line more pressing concerns, like a child whose bio-body was chomped up by a robo-roto last Tuesday, or another wave of heroic soldiers from the alien wars.

Not some dandy from the 21st century with a terminal disease.
posted by Construction Concern at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'll be honest, it would be pretty funny if someone like Thiel or Musk did go into long-term cryogenics, only to be revived in 3018 to find themselves instantly the stupidest, most backwards person on the entire planet, constantly bewildered and frightened by everything and everyone, possessing only skills so out of date as to be useless, and generally providing no value to anyone other than ancient historians and people who wanted to gawk at the new village idiots.

It might be sort of like if someone jumped into the later parts of a thread, without living through the previous comments and therefore lacking the common knowledge and experience of the thread, and ended up making pretty much the same comment as someone else already had. ;)
posted by overglow at 12:30 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


This specific technology may well be fundamentally flawed or a poor gamble. Excited hand waving and god-of-the-gaps arguments are not a compelling way to demonstrate that.

No one has made a "God of the gaps" argument
posted by thelonius at 12:31 PM on March 14, 2018


Return to Oz flashbacks

Ozma of Oz did it first! Princess Langwidere, 1907

A Langwidere compromise would be suitable for the techbros, I think. All those frozen heads, but only one can use the body at a time.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:34 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Only if I get to be the Wesley Snipes character.
posted by gucci mane at 12:40 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


you get a lot of weird things that happen when religion becomes uncool but people still kind of want its benefits, that’s all I’m saying.


Seems to me this is missing the *other half* of a belief in a variable afterlife -- believing that you should act, in this life, well enough to be granted the nicer afterlife.

We'd still have to persuade Thiel et alia that they weren't already obviously what every society ever would want to have more of, which might be tricky.
posted by clew at 12:42 PM on March 14, 2018


You know, given the appropriate legal environment, a "simulated" human consciousness could make an exceptionally useful slave.

In order to keep a virtually resurrected mind stable enough to do useful work, you would probably have to simulate a body for it to occupy, plus a stimulating, high-fidelity environment for the body to live in. All that simulation would get computationally expensive even before you started running it faster than real time.

Unless we hit a hard wall in terms of the work that machine learning can take on, I think it would almost always be more efficient to train up the future equivalent of a neural net to write your legal briefs. A sufficiently robust algorithm would work at the required speed without the overhead of maintaining a sensorium and a coherent psychology.

(It's possible, of course, that whatever person or system is running these simulations would prize the "slavery" part of the equation over the "efficiency" part. Sometimes it seems more realistic to pray that technology won't progress than to hope we can use it wisely.)
posted by Iridic at 12:43 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


What I really love about this scenario is that in the very best case your brain gets fully restored and functional - perhaps even in some kind of android body - and then you find out you've become an intellectual anachronistic throwback, little more than a historical curiosity, not unlike a Neanderthal alive today.

You would essentially wake up as a subhuman in the future. Whatever aspirations or weird ideas you had about being an elite human would be shattered as you struggled to keep up with school children.

At best you'd be a curiosity and viewed with pity - an anachronistic freak filled with atavistic tics, crude and possibly dangerous.


And once the Revivals start stumbling around the streets blasted with future shock, their best case scenario is that a Spider will still find room in a black heart for sympathy..
posted by FatherDagon at 12:47 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


I get that a handful would be research projects, but once the tech were established why waste resources on souls long dead?

You'd need some really advanced technology to do this at all. The dangerous ground between "Can't do it at all" and "Can do it and have plenty of resources to do it for anyone" seems pretty narrow. It's hard to imagine a civilization that could do this but is so poor that reviving people would be a burden, or so poor that they'd have a need for ancient enslaved minds.

A civilization where this technology is trivial and teenagers revive and torture ancient corpsicles for the fun of it seems like a more believable danger.
posted by straight at 12:49 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


the silly valley techbro assholes who fall for this one somehow find out that the way that their brains were recorded was akin to a Jaz drive that nobody really uses and is so obsolete it's better to not bother

Oh, you know SOMEONE will bother to try, just to do it for curiosity or for Science or to prove it can be done. Like the century+ old wax audio recordings that are finally being digitized and are extremely cool. But would you really want your brain recorded if the eventual playback was the personhood / consciousness equivalent of sounding like this?
posted by nicebookrack at 12:49 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also this is just a new twist on cryogenic freezing in that they're assuming someone will figure out how to revive the brain someday, somehow.

And that future people would have the resources or desire to revive ancient brains. I get the scientific curiousity aspect of it, but would anyone in this day and age desire to resurrect a bunch of shitty 17th century landlords or colonizers?

Anyway, I hope Elizabeth Holmes is involved with this somehow. That would be the icing on the, er, cake.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:53 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


what could possibly go wrong?
posted by supermedusa at 12:54 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I already feel like I can't keep up and I've been here the whole time.
Also, several of those Black Mirror episodes will change your answer from "Sure, why not" to "Nope, uh uh, no, no thanks, pass".
posted by BoscosMom at 1:04 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


someone will figure out how to revive the brain someday

More likely: about 75 years from now, three stoned demolition workers in bright orange polyacrylonitrile overalls will be whipping semi-thawed brains against a brick wall in an alley for lulz.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:12 PM on March 14, 2018 [8 favorites]


Seems to me this is missing the *other half* of a belief in a variable afterlife -- believing that you should act, in this life, well enough to be granted the nicer afterlife.

I mean, that element is still there -- it's just that 'well enough' means 'in such a way that allows you to accrue sufficient financial means.' And this interpretation of 'well enough' is surely nothing new, though literally being able to buy your way into an afterlife perhaps throws things into starker relief for us.
posted by halation at 1:18 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Buying your way into the afterlife = 21st century indulgences.
posted by andraste at 1:30 PM on March 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


why on earth does anybody think that replicating the brain is sufficient to replicate a person? we are embodied beings - the brain is not separable from the body (though it does seem the body doesn't require higher brain functions to get along if air, food, and water are supplied)
posted by kokaku at 1:41 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


What actually bums me out about this is that this is pretty remarkable technology - and they got a million dollar federal grant to develop it under the auspices of making a tool for use in studying brain diseases. Now that is a badly needed thing that could have dramatic benefit for actual living people. But then they turned around and decided the public good wasn't as attractive as VC funding. What happened to the Jonas Salks of the world?
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:45 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


why on earth does anybody think that replicating the brain is sufficient to replicate a person? we are embodied beings - the brain is not separable from the body

ok but have you ever heard of Descartes
posted by runt at 2:04 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


What I think is completely hilarious about this whole cryonics/consciousness storage thing is that somehow it is most ardently pursued and promoted by people who hold themselves out to be "rationalists".
posted by Sublimity at 2:10 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


ok but have you ever heard of Descartes

This guy?
posted by thelonius at 2:17 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


hi, it's me, Brad Chuzzleshorts, welcome back to another fine hour of How to Bait a Philosophy Major
posted by runt at 2:24 PM on March 14, 2018 [16 favorites]


In the distant future won’t our ancestors be more interested in the reanimating of digital facsimiles of their own friend’s and family, rather than some dorks from centuries in the past?


Literally a Michel Houellebecq novel (I don't recommend it)
posted by grandiloquiet at 2:33 PM on March 14, 2018


kokaku: however, it looks like human consciousness can be preserved if we chop various bits off the body other than the brain. (Limb amputations, organ removal/transplantation—we've got pretty good empirical evidence that consciousness is localized in one particular lump of reticulated greasy headmeat.)

I occasionally ask myself if I'd ever be tempted by cryonic suspension or something like this. And I tend to think "huh, maybe—if I was terminally ill and at the stage of going into hospice/end-of-life care, and if I could do it without leaving my surviving family members penniless, and, and ..."

... And then I remember: humans are social animals, and I'm part of a greater society, and let's just wait a moment and ask what if it worked, what if I wake up in the 23rd century and the locals have painstakingly pieced my mind back together and installed it in a shiny new body—what do I do next? Because everybody I know has died, all my property has long since been dispersed, my works are almost certainly forgotten because they're of no interest outside the historical context of their origin, and I've missed out on decades or centuries of societal change, and I am profoundly alone.

This doesn't sound like an escape from death to me. On the contrary: it sounds like the opposite.
posted by cstross at 3:03 PM on March 14, 2018 [20 favorites]


If you were destructively copied like this, and the process was repeated 32 times, we'd ask you#33 if they considered themselves the same person as you. They'd have all your memories, including memories of going through this process 32 times and each time waking up, seemingly still themselves. It seems likely they'd say, "Yeah, I'm still me."

I'm pretty confident that Me33, sharing as he does all my knowledge and memories, would reply, "Well, I'm a nearly perfect copy (of a copy of a copy...), but the original is dead."

If we asked you#33 if they wanted to be copied again when their current body wore out, it seems likely they'd say, "Sure, why not? It's just like going to sleep and waking up again."

Me33: /shrug If you want to. It doesn't matter to me, since I'll be dead.
posted by The Tensor at 3:09 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


If materialistic monism is too reductionist a basis for your philosophy of mind; if you believe you have an immortal soul; if you do not believe that your mind can be, on another conceptual level, understood as a phenomenon emerging from your brain: Well. You are probably not the target audience.

If some terminal illness picked the time for you to make your bet; if you don't give a shit about money; if you think at least this would be a neat way to go, and hey, who the hell knows: You may be the target audience, and it won't take that many of you to make something happen. I can kind of see it.

But remember there are some frozen heads floating in liquid nitrogen somewhere that are going to be rendered obsolete by this immortality scheme... which is more than likely what will happen to you in turn.

But I'd say that, if it ever becomes possible, the first batch of people who get preserved in any useful way will *definitely* be restored. Just imagine if we could wake up someone frozen 100 or 1000 years ago? People would be dying to talk to them. Not even talking about historians or anthropologists; just imagine the reality show...
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 3:23 PM on March 14, 2018


Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't understand why the ones who can't afford it would be customers instead of the ones who can? (or is this just a typo I was trying to read into)
No typo: their customer base is going to be 90% people with inoperable cancers and genetic diseases doing GoFundMes, not Silicon Valley types. This is what happens with every other place that offer cryogenics.
posted by Merus at 3:46 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've missed out on decades or centuries of societal change, and I am profoundly alone.

This doesn't sound like an escape from death to me. On the contrary: it sounds like the opposite.


Let's be honest: it sounds like a Stanisław Lem book because it is.
posted by GuyZero at 3:47 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


ok but have you ever heard of Descartes

I think?
posted by Barack Spinoza at 3:47 PM on March 14, 2018 [9 favorites]


At long last, my dream of being reborn as a hip new JavaScript framework is nearly a reality.
posted by hexaflexagon at 3:49 PM on March 14, 2018 [6 favorites]


Years ago I read the YA scifi novels The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson and Skinned AKA Frozen by Robin Wasserman, memorable mostly in contrast because I read them back to back and they have the same basic plot (teen girl killed in accident has her brain digitally copied into cyborg body) but take that plot in profoundly different philosophical directions. I found Skinned more willing to approach the grimmer social implications for a digitized human but Adoration in general better written. Adoration in particular haunted me with its description of digitally copied brains that, to maintain all possible data, are kept active and "awake" in computer memory, whirring away on hard drives while sanity erodes from the total isolation and sensory deprivation.

TL;DR only copy my brain if I'm going to be 100% unconscious for the entire storage process please and thank you
posted by nicebookrack at 3:55 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


What actually bums me out about this is that this is pretty remarkable technology - and they got a million dollar federal grant to develop it under the auspices of making a tool for use in studying brain diseases.

Good news, though: federal grants have to abide by Bayh-Dole rules with respect to intellectual property, including the reservation of march-in rights from the federal government, and the reservation of rights to use the technology for research purposes. This company has likely received rights to commercialize the technology in some fields, but I'm guessing they haven't locked everyone out from using the technology.

Of course, the manuscript linked in the post entitled "Aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation," doesn't cite federal funding, so that work may the company's own IP.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:20 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, uploading your consciousness just means it could be copied and tortured in a simulation for eternity

I catch myself wondering if I'm not mixed up in such a scenario more and more.
posted by marimeko at 5:17 PM on March 14, 2018


He shall gather the saints onto San Junipero, and cast the wicked onto White Christmas.

Am I the only one who finds consciousness-uploading creepier when it convinces people with disabilities to choose euthanasia than when it gets a confession out of an abusive stalker-murderer?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:27 PM on March 14, 2018


If we asked you#33 if they wanted to be copied again when their current body wore out, it seems likely they'd say, "Sure, why not?..”

Presuming that can be done non-degeneratively. Otherwise something more like “I like pizza, Steve.”
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:34 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


hi, it's me, Brad Chuzzleshorts, welcome back to another fine hour of How to Bait a Philosophy Major

Define “fine.”
posted by octobersurprise at 6:11 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


At long last, my dream of being reborn as a hip new JavaScript framework is nearly a reality.

Or brought back as a door with a Genuine People Personality.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:37 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


what if I wake up in the 23rd century and the locals have painstakingly pieced my mind back together and installed it in a shiny new body—what do I do next?

Transmetropolitan #8
posted by kokaku at 7:00 PM on March 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Transmetropolitan #8

Beat me to it. I was going to post the exact same thing.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 7:14 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


One thing that's become clear to me, after years and years of watching startups, is that a lot of them propose something audacious/crazy/over-the-top in order to get national media attention, get investors interested, and then pivot rapidly to something that's basically achievable. Congratulations, Nectome.
posted by miyabo at 9:01 PM on March 14, 2018




Fine, if no one else is going to mention that this has been pretty well covered in Don Hertzfeld’s two excellent World of Tomorrow shorts than I will
posted by ejs at 9:23 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Skinned AKA Frozen by Robin Wasserman, memorable mostly in contrast because I read them back to back and they have the same basic plot (teen girl killed in accident has her brain digitally copied into cyborg body)

I think Disney took a lot of liberties when they adapted it.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:24 PM on March 14, 2018 [2 favorites]




Even if it turns out to work in the end, I'm not sure I'd want to run the risk of being resurrected thousands of times using version 0.3 alpha during early testing.

There's a huge ethical can of worms for future people while they are working out how to run a scan (after they've invented a scanner that works). Researcher X boots you up but you are severely cognitively damaged because of bugs - can they reasonably just shut you down and try again without consent? The first 1000 tries wake up screaming and immediately go catatonic. The next 1000 have subtle errors which lead to eventual personality disintegration, and so on.

After all you're hoping to be woken in a world where your simulation has rights to not be switched off arbitrarily or paused indefinitely or tortured, but you can't develop a scanner and simulator without breaking some ethical eggs. Don't want to be an egg.
posted by larkery at 1:30 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Someone, please convince Trump that this is a good idea. Right away.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:13 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


It feels to me that, every time I read one of these threads or conversations, I can basically divide people into two camps:

(i) Those who think that any digital copy, clone with implanted memories, matter-transported self, etc., would NOT actually be the person being reproduced, and that that person hasn't gained any kind of immortality because they're (in most cases) dead and gone to oblivion or a presumptive afterlife, and

(ii) Those who see these things as true immortality, because 'they' would wake up in a new body/simulated body and just continue where 'they' left off.

I find the whole concept of "if it remembers being me, and people think it is me, then it's me" (i.e. belief (ii)) to be magical thinking. There's no continuity of self, just one dead person and one living person with false memories. For me, that renders the whole thing a vanity project, like putting up as statue to yourself, except that in this can the statue walks around and thinks that it's you... kind of like those museum exhibits where you can put on headphones and listen to an actor pretending to be the real person represented by a wax model, only with added fidelity.

Of course, you can get into all sorts of weird and disconcerting ideas, from the idea of gradually merging a human mind with a machine until all of the biological matter is eventually gone (in effect preserving consciousness in the process) to the idea that ever time we go to sleep, our conscious self 'dies' and is resurrected on waking from memories, so we might be a discontinuous copy anyway.
posted by pipeski at 4:31 AM on March 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


My camp is that this flavor of transhumanism likely involves intractable maths, if not clawing the wrong way up one-way functions, so I'll stick to plain old humanism (in the last-century meaning) about what it means to live well.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:04 AM on March 15, 2018


Transmetropolitan #8 posted by kokaku

And I cite Accelerando back atcha.

Or even A World out of Time by Larry Niven (1977), or A King of Infinite Space by Allen Steele (1997) or, as noted upstream, Return from the Stars by Stanislaw Lem (1961, trans. 1989) ... it's a recurring trope.
posted by cstross at 6:07 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I find the whole concept of "if it remembers being me, and people think it is me, then it's me" (i.e. belief (ii)) to be magical thinking. There's no continuity of self, just one dead person and one living person with false memories.

Granting that the reconstruction of the brain would be perfect (a big assumption, admittedly), it's a question of whether consciousness is more than what's encoded in the brain, then, isn't it? If what's "you" is contained entirely in the brain, then a recreated brain that was treated as "you" would actually be you, so far as it mattered.

Of course, you can get into all sorts of weird and disconcerting ideas, from the idea of gradually merging a human mind with a machine until all of the biological matter is eventually gone (in effect preserving consciousness in the process)

The Brain of Theseus? Your body is constantly replacing cells, anyway; if you should make those replacements with non-biological matter instead of living cells, how is that different, end-result-wise, than just replicating the brain's contents to a machine to begin with?
posted by uncleozzy at 6:16 AM on March 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


I dunno, I feel like we're heading more into the idiocracy timeline than the futurama timeline... so I don't know what you all are talking about with these guys potentially waking up in a thousand years and being the biggest idiots around...
posted by Grither at 7:19 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Grither: If we are on the Idiocracy timeline, they'll fit in just fine. They like money.
posted by SansPoint at 7:40 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Granting that the reconstruction of the brain would be perfect (a big assumption, admittedly), it's a question of whether consciousness is more than what's encoded in the brain, then, isn't it? If what's "you" is contained entirely in the brain, then a recreated brain that was treated as "you" would actually be you, so far as it mattered.

If you could make an exact copy of me, how many eyes would I see out of? I'm assuming it's still two. And if I die, I'm not expecting to wake up in the copy's body. I'm just gone. If I enter a room and the copy leaves, maybe nobody else is any the wiser (even including the copy). Doesn't make them "me" though. As far as I'm concerned, I'm still in the room, slightly annoyed about the whole thing. My sense of self is not simply the product of what other people see - if that were the case, I'd be an automaton of some kind, with no self-awareness.

It other words, what is "you" is a single specific physical instance, from the point of view of "you".

The Brain of Theseus? Your body is constantly replacing cells, anyway; if you should make those replacements with non-biological matter instead of living cells, how is that different, end-result-wise, than just replicating the brain's contents to a machine to begin with?

Continuity of consciousness, which, if it isn't an illusion, is the product of a single physical instance of you existing over time. If you make a completely separate copy of me, then it doesn't matter if I live or die - except that it does, to "me".
posted by pipeski at 8:04 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


pipeski: If we're using continuity of consciousness as the measure, then you run into the problem of whether going to sleep means you've died and come back to life/been replaced by another version of you.

Which, honestly, is part of why I find these discussions and arguments rather wearying.
posted by SansPoint at 8:46 AM on March 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yes, I find them wearying too, to be honest. Of course there are lots of complex and unresolved issues around the nature of consciousness. If we throw away the idea of continuity of consciousness, we slip into a sort of Blindsight existential nightmare.

At the level where we assume that our perception of continuity of self has some sort of reality or meaning, though, I don't see how we can incorporate a distinct and disconnected copy of our brain into our self-image. The argument that our sense of self is merely a convenient illusion that our brain foists upon itself doesn't make me feel any less attached to this particular copy of me.
posted by pipeski at 9:34 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well this is just socially constructed. If people lived like Cylons all the time, this would be perfectly fine and normal. The main issue is risk of getting damaged over the time period that you remains are in stasis inside your horcrux or sarcophagus.
posted by polymodus at 9:39 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well it wouldn't be perfectly fine and normal even in that case because it doesn't exist yet, it's all still theoretical.
posted by ODiV at 9:46 AM on March 15, 2018


Yeah, anybody with a "Well obviously..." take on this question needs to account for the fact that there are a whole lot of people who have thought about this a lot and disagree with you, whatever your opinion is, so it's clearly not obvious.
posted by straight at 10:10 AM on March 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


I agree in this case, but not for that reason. There are plenty of obvious things out there with a ton of disagreement. So much disagreement, in fact, that I'm going to not derail this thread by bringing up any, specifically.
posted by ODiV at 11:13 AM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ya'll missing the interesting point. My comment was about suggesting a non-obvious and non-mentioned idea, that the above mentioned metaphysicalized continuity is contingent on being socially constructed, and that if society was literally postmodern in the actual physical sense like with how Cylons or other TV shows where identities are allegorically/metaphorically fractured by the process of uploading, transferring, and/or cloning their substrates, then these technological processes would be socially normalized.

It is not to say that a Cylon future is ethical or desirable, because futuristic societies can be dystopias or worse. But it is to point out that people are already, even today, much more flexible and unconsciously accepting of their own fractured identities in many ways than recognized. It's a concrete, real reason that people could psychologically adapt to such hypothetical technologies. To think that you are you is a psychological essentialism and arguments in against such tech risk amounting to a rationalization of this. Rather, minority groups know this well, being impelled by society to perform psychological navigation of spheres of power and culture, we have to wrestle with multiple identities and the cognitive burden of that. But would we rather not live in a multicultural society? Don't think so.

So not only does something like Nectome reveal some negative things about the ideologies of its proponents; our reactions to it also says something about ourselves. Recognition of that is one way to be progressive about the political implications.

BTW, for all the hours spent thinking about this problem, show me that one comment that's 'accounted for' a similar angle. It does take time and recognition of the non-obvious, to come up with interpretations that go beyond the familiar, the repeated, and the rehashed. Just because some people hold onto their opinions doesn't mean they should be coddled, or emotional labor be performed, such that new opinions are immediately intelligible; similarly, being expected to 'explain' what was meant. It's a matter of emotional labor and the tacit agreement that dismissing an opinion is not dismissing the person.
posted by polymodus at 1:39 PM on March 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


To think that you are you is a psychological essentialism and arguments in favor risk amounting to a rationalization of this.

Indeed. I think I am you. Prove me wrong.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:45 PM on March 15, 2018


Well, a 'Prove me wrong' approach is a rationalization in service of essentialism, because identity claims are unfalsifiable in the sense of a logical or scientific proof. So from this point of view your approach in this context is doing the very thing I said would be risky.
posted by polymodus at 2:07 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Are we still doing book recs? The Uploaded by Ferrett Steinmetz is about a future where people become part of the internet after they die. The problem: The dead outnumber the living, and they vote.

I'm sure that's exactly what the techbros are hoping for, but it doesn't work out great for those in the book, and the fictional dead people started with a lot better people-to-AI resources than we have.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:10 PM on March 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


the above mentioned metaphysicalized continuity is contingent on being socially constructed, and that if society was literally postmodern in the actual physical sense like with how Cylons or other TV shows where identities are allegorically/metaphorically fractured by the process of uploading, transferring, and/or cloning their substrates, then these technological processes would be socially normalized

This was the unspoken premise of Altered Carbon— everyone quite clearly believed themselves to be a continuous consciousness and person even when quite obviously they were not since you could also be revived from an external data source. But the people themselves believed they were a continuous person as did everyone around them.

The thing is that all it takes is for those individual bodies to stop believing it and start to think of themselves as a different person with implanted memories, and then the whole system breaks down. In this future, such a reconstituted person might still legally own the assets and owe the debts he had before, but he may decide suddenly that all his human relationships and social commitments are no longer binding to him.
posted by deanc at 6:40 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Oh my god the probate lawyers for estate cases involving digital persons would make so much money.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:55 PM on March 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Iain M Banks' Surface Detail concerns a war over the existence of virtual hells.
posted by lucidium at 7:01 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


The thing is that all it takes is for those individual bodies to stop believing it and start to think of themselves as a different person with implanted memories, and then the whole system breaks down. In this future, such a reconstituted person might still legally own the assets and owe the debts he had before, but he may decide suddenly that all his human relationships and social commitments are no longer binding to him.

But that applies equally to our society's current beliefs about the continuity of the self. There are people who say, "The old me is dead. I'm a new person now." And some of them use that reasoning to try to deny that previous relationships and commitments are still binding on them. And if enough people agreed with them, it would be true. (And sometimes we do. That's sort of what happens sometimes with releasing people from prison on parole.)
posted by straight at 8:34 PM on March 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Mur Lafferty's book Six Wakes looks at cloning, memory transfer, and continuity of personality.

No spoilers, but one of the things I found interesting was that although the society has laws regulating cloning that on the surface everybody accepts, as the story goes on it becomes clear that some of the characters don't truly emotionally believe them and what they say about who a person is. (I feel like I should be throwing quotation marks around several of the words in that sentence, but not sure whether it should be "who", "person", or "is"...)
posted by Lexica at 9:58 AM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Sam Altman is on the waiting list [Yahoo Finance].
posted by ryanshepard at 7:57 AM on March 20, 2018


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