Would you like to live forever? Some experts say you might. Last week, a former Google engineer said he believes humans will achieve immortality within the next eight years. Daily Mail.
Ray Kurzweil, whose predictions are 86 percent correct, believes advances in technology will quickly lead to the creation of "nanobots" capable of reversing age.
While it sounds farfetched, scientists have been looking for years to find ways to regenerate our cells or upload our minds to a computer.
What are some of the strangest ways humanity can gain eternal life?
- Electronic immortality - saving the brain after death and downloading the mind into a computer.
- Brain freeze. Cryogenic freezing of the brain until technology is available to bring it back to life.
- Cell rejuvenation - rejuvenation of aging or damaged body cells by introducing stem cells into them.
- Brain resuscitation - pumping the brain with artificial blood to keep it alive.
The idea of uploading your mind into a computer has been discussed for many years, but it has mostly remained the subject of science fiction.
Nectome, a US startup, is trying to change that by developing a way to save the human brain so that its memories can be uploaded to the cloud.
According to the MIT Technology Review, the firm has found a way to preserve the human brain in microscopic detail through a "high-tech embalming process."
She uses a chemical solution that can keep the body intact for hundreds or thousands of years, like a frozen glass statue.
"You can think of what we're doing as a fancy form of embalming that preserves not only the outside details, but the inside details as well," said Robert McIntyre, co-founder of Nectome.
The key to being able to recreate human consciousness is access to the “connectome” of the organ. The connectome is a complex network of neural connections in the brain, often referred to as the brain's wiring system. Nectome, which is called the "save your brain and download it" company, also came up with a way to embalm the connectome.
However, for the technology to work, participants must be prepared to be euthanized, which led to the loss of a contract with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2018. The prestigious institution has stated that the technology is in its infancy and there is no guarantee that they will be able to recreate consciousness.
Despite the failure, in the same year, a famous futurist predicted that by 2050 "electronic immortality" would become available to people. Dr. Ian Pearson said that human intelligence, memory or senses can be connected to external technologies.
Instead of backing up your mind, most of your intelligence will just work from a place outside of your physical brain. In a blog post, he wrote, “Once your body dies, your brain stops with it.”
“But it's not a big problem, because 99 percent of your mind is still in order, and it successfully works in IT, in the cloud,” he said. - Assuming you've saved up enough and prepared well, you connect to the android to use it as your body. From now on, you attend your funeral, and then you go on with your life as before - only with a younger, heavily modernized body."
He adds that this type of immortality also has dangers, as it would require using a purchased or rented android and cloud space, ultimately owned by a technology company.
In this way, these companies will be able to "enslave" workers after their death, while retaining ownership of the mind for their own benefit in the future.
“Maybe a cloud company can replicate your mind and make a difference for a wide range of markets,” the futurist wrote.
“Perhaps they can use your mind as UX for a new line of housekeeping robots. Each of you will think that you were once you, each of you will think that you are now enslaved to work for free in a technology company,” he wrote.
Cryogenics is the art of freezing bodies by preserving a dead body in liquid nitrogen. Currently, by law, this can only happen when someone has been declared dead.
The freezing process should begin immediately after the patient's death to prevent brain damage. Currently, there are corresponding funds in Russia and the USA. During the procedure, the body is cooled in an ice bath, gradually reducing its temperature. The experts then drain the blood and replace it with antifreeze to stop harmful ice crystals from forming in the body.
Some companies offer people the option to have their brains frozen after death in the hope that they can be brought back to life in the future.
One of them is the Russian cryonics firm KrioRus, which is currently storing 91 human patients at 196°C. This is enough to stop all cellular functions and preserve the state of the body until defrosted.
This is so they can potentially be revived in the future when science has advanced enough to cure any illness they may have had, including death itself, the company says. Brains, or entire bodies, are currently floating in large vats of liquid nitrogen and housed in a corrugated metal shed outside Moscow. Cryogenic preservation in this company costs at least $28.
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The service gives people peace of mind and hope that they will see them again, the company says. They also freeze pets and currently house 58 dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, rabbits and chinchillas. But the head of the RAS Commission on Pseudoscience, Yevgeny Alexandrov, called cryonics "an exclusively commercial enterprise that has no scientific basis." It is "a fantasy that speculates on people's hopes for a resurrection from the dead and dreams of eternal life," he said.
Valeria Udalova, director of KrioRus, froze her dog when it died in 2008. According to her, it helps people cope with the loss.
She said that it is likely that humanity will develop technology to revive dead people in the future, but "there are no guarantees about such technology."
It is certainly not the only company to offer such a service, and it is estimated that at least 500 bodies are frozen in this way worldwide.
Another notable company is the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona, USA, which had 2022 patients as of October 199.
There, all the bodies are stored in large cylindrical chambers. The brain can be stored on shelves. After a person dies, doctors must act quickly to save the body and get it to storage. Comparing the process to organ harvesting, Max Mohr, CEO of Alcor, said in a 2020 interview that the first step was to drain the body of its blood and fluids. Then they fill the body with antifreeze. This is necessary to prevent crystallization and cell damage during the freezing process.
People who invest in these services are often desperate to be reunited with their families in the future.
The company's youngest known patient was a two-year-old Thai girl who died of brain cancer. Her family hopes to be reunited with her in the future.
But cryogenic freezing also appeals to the rich and eccentric. Bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney decided to cryopreserve his body after he died from complications related to ALS in 2014.
There are serious ethical and moral concerns about a practice that has been touted for decades but remains a pipe dream. The high prices of this service can often drain a person's wealth and often eat up a huge portion of their life insurance payout that could instead benefit their family in the future.
More admitted during an interview in February 2020 that his firm doesn't know when the technology needed to wake up their patients will arrive. However, he is hopeful that the technology will exist, and cited recent success in stem cell research and organ growing in the lab as the start of a path forward.
Dr. Michael Hendricks, a biologist at Canada's McGill University, wrote in 2015 that a person's personality, sense of self, decision making, and everyday mood form small connections between nerve cells. But today's technology doesn't have a way to perfectly store these cells throughout the body, and changing them will fundamentally change a person's personality.
Many scientific breakthroughs have been made regarding stem cell injections, which have been found to be able to rejuvenate cells.
Stem cells are unique because they can differentiate into different types of cells in the body, such as muscle, bone, or nerve cells. When introduced into the body, they can integrate with damaged tissues and contribute to their restoration and regeneration. In 2016, stem cell injections changed scar tissue in a study of 11 critically ill heart attack patients, reducing scarring by 40 percent.
Similarly, in 2019, researchers at the University of Cambridge regenerated lost heart muscle and blood vessels in heart-damaged rats after transplanting stem cells from a human heart.
Stem cells are everywhere in the body, especially in the bone marrow, ready to transform into the 200+ cell types that make up the human being to repair damage. But with age, their number decreases, as a result of which older people lack the same regenerative abilities as their younger peers.
Some creatures, such as flatworms and hydras, have stem cells throughout their lives, so they can always regenerate lost body parts.
Dr Stephen Cohen, owner of health clinics in California and London, says stem cell therapy could be the key to extending human lifespan to 150 years. Last month, he said his technology, which involves injecting people with exosomes, small vesicles naturally produced by stem cells, would be available in just five years.
It is hoped that exosomes filled with essential proteins, lipids, nucleic acids and other substances will reach the organs and help "rejuvenate" them, allowing someone to live longer.
A paper published last year found that more exosomes in the body improved brain function, and another paper from the same year suggested that they could reduce weakness and help someone live longer.
Other scientists suggest that humans may one day live to be 200 years old, and are exploring technologies such as pills to get rid of "zombie cells" and ways to change DNA. These cells stop dividing like the others, but start regurgitating a cocktail of harmful chemicals, wreaking havoc and degrading those around them. The pills that wash them out are already being tested in humans, and scientists say they could be on the market in as little as 10 years.
A 2016 study by the Salk Institute in California found that cellular reprogramming may be the key to stopping or reversing aging. This is a process in which the expression of four genes known as Yamanaka factors is induced, allowing scientists to turn any adult cell into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
Like embryonic stem cells, which are derived from early embryos, iPSCs are able to divide indefinitely and become any type of cell present in our body. The researchers found that when cellular reprogramming was induced in mice, their cells looked and acted younger.
The technology, which was developed to help scientists study the brain in three dimensions, could also hold the key to eternal life.
In 2019, scientists at Yale University restored circulation and cellular activity to a pig's brain four hours after its death by pumping it with oxygen-rich artificial blood.
According to an MIT technology review, neuroscientist and lead author Dr. Nenad Sestan stated that perhaps the brain could be kept alive indefinitely and that additional steps could be taken to restore consciousness. But he added that his team decided not to try it because "it's uncharted territory."
The chemicals added to prevent swelling during the procedure will most likely render you unconscious indefinitely.
This means the team may not be able to resuscitate a brain that can still "think" using its current methods.
“Previously, we could only study large mammalian brain cells under static or mostly two-dimensional conditions, using small tissue samples outside of their natural environment,” said co-author Stefano Daniele.
"For the first time, we can examine the large brain in three dimensions, which increases our ability to study complex cellular interactions and connections," he said.
The team hoped that these future 3D brain studies would help doctors find ways to restore brain function in stroke patients or test new therapies.
But scientists have also said it could one day allow humans to become immortal by plugging our minds into artificial systems after our natural bodies are gone.
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Nottingham ethics and philosophy lecturer Trent Benjamin Curtis said this could lead to people being locked in an eternal "living hell" and facing "a fate worse than death."
“Even if your conscious brain remained alive after the death of your body, you would have to spend the foreseeable future as a disembodied brain in a bucket, locked inside your own mind with no access to the senses that allow us to experience and interact with the entire world,” said Curtis.
“At best, you will spend your life in the company of only your own thoughts,” he said.
Upload consciousness to computer
Futurists, scientists, and science fiction enthusiasts have long studied the preservation of the brain and memory.
Many say it falls under the category of "transhumanism". Transhumanism is the belief that the human body can evolve beyond its current form with the help of scientists and technology.
Thought uploading is promoted by many people, including Ray Kurzweil, CTO of Google, who believes that by 2045 we will be able to upload our entire brains to computers. Similar technologies have been featured in sci-fi dramas ranging from Netflix's Altered Carbon to the hit series Black Mirror.
Another prominent futurist, Dr. Michio Kaku, believes that virtual reality can be used to preserve the identity and memory of our loved ones even after their death.
“Imagine that you can talk to a loved one after his death… it is possible if his personality is downloaded to the computer as an avatar,” he explained.
These ideas have not been without criticism. McGill University neuroscientist Michael Hendricks told the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that these technologies are "a joke."
“I hope the people of the future are shocked that in the 21st century, the richest and most prosperous people in history have spent their money and resources trying to live forever off their descendants. I mean, this is a joke, right? They're cartoonish bad guys," he said.
Meanwhile, neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis recently stated that such technologies are practically impossible.
“The brain is not calculable and no amount of engineering can replicate it,” he said. “You can have all the computer chips in the world and not create consciousness.”