Chemical Brain Preservation – How to Live “Forever” – WorldFuture 2012 Talk

Here’s an outline of a talk I will give at WorldFuture 2012, the World Future Society’s annual conference, in Toronto, July 27-29th, 2012. If you are a foresight professional or a futures enthusiast, I hope to see you there.

Chemical Brain Preservation: How to Live “Forever”

At present, roughly 57 million unique and precious human beings die every year, or 155,000 people every day. The memories and identities in their brains are permanently lost at present, but may not be in the near future. Chemical brain preservation is a technique that a growing number of neuroscientists believe may inexpensively preserve our memories and identity when we die, eventually for less than $10,000 per person in the developed world, and less than $3,000 per person in the developing world. Chemically preserved brains can be stored at room temperature in cemeteries, in contract storage, or even in private homes. Our organization, the Brain Preservation Foundation (brainpreservation.org), is offering a $100,000 prize to the first scientific team to demonstrate that the entire synaptic connectivity (“connectome”) of mammalian brains, where neuroscientists believe our memories and identities reside, can be perfectly preserved using these low-cost chemical techniques.

There is growing evidence that chemically preserved brains can be “read” in the future, analogous to the way a computer hard drive is read today, so that memories, and even the complete identities of the preserved individuals can eventually be restored, using low-cost and fully automated preserving, slicing, imaging and computerized reconstructing techniques. Such techniques are already being used to scan and upload the connectomes of very small animal brains (zebrafish, soon flies) today.

Amazingly, given the accelerating rate of technological advance, a person whose brain is preserved in 2020 might “return” to the world, most likely in a computer form, as early as 2060, while their loved ones and some of their friends are still alive. At the same time, all of their friends and loved ones who have also chosen preservation may also return to interact with them. We will discuss this astonishing technology and some of its social, political, and personal implications. Will 1% of any society ever choose low-cost chemical brain preservation, once it becomes available? Would you do it? If not, why not? We’ll explore group opinions and preferences, and likely scenarios for the next decade and beyond.

Still skeptical of the social value of the brain preservation choice? Please consider reading our Overview and particularly, Overcoming Objections pages at the Brain Preservation Foundation website.

Sectors: Commerce, Humanity, Futuring, Science & Technology

Comments? Feedback? Let me know, thanks. [tweetmeme source=”johnmsmart” only_single=false]

On Human Destiny and the Value of an Acceleration-Aware World View

Below is start of an interview I did last month with Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon, my futurist friends who run Speculist.com and Fast Forward Radio. The topic was human destiny, and the personal and social value of cultivating a big picture, acceleration-aware view of the world and our opportunities within it. You can find the full text interview here, at WorldTransformed.com, and listen to a related Aug 31st, 2011 audio interview, on a panel with fellow futurists Venessa Miemis and Robin Hanson, at WT2: Human Destiny Transformed.

Thoughts? Responses? Please feel free to use the comments section here, at my new blog home, and I’ll do my best to respond.  Thanks!

1. If you were to pick just one current or coming transformation that you would advise people to focus on, which one would that be?

I run the Acceleration Studies Foundation, so I’m a tad biased, but I would say one thing to focus on is to try to understand the meaning, risks, and opportunities presented by accelerating technological change, in your own life and in society.  Accelerating change is causing a whole number of transformations today, and several of these are giving us more options for what to do and how to live than we’ve had at any time in the past. Others (automation, globalization, fossil fuels, IEDs) are causing disruption in more ways than ever before. Read Martin Ford’s Lights in the Tunnel, 2009, for one of many thoughtful works on the way technology improves us in some ways, while disrupting us in others.

When you think carefully about accelerating change, you may conclude, as I have, that just a few technologies, specifically computing, communications, and nanotechnologies, are continually accelerating because every new generation of these particular technologies uses less resources per computation or physical transformation than the previous one, a phenomenon I call STEM compression. So these special technologies continually escape the “limits to growth” we see in traditional technologies. And it is these same technologies, as they perennially accelerate, that increasingly shape our future. We can think of them as the growing framework, or cage which restrains and directs all the most powerful actors today, the corporations, the governments, the ultrawealthy, the terrorists, everyone.

Our parents saw minicomputers, cheap telecom and the PC fuel the growth of multinationals, and at the same time, flatten corporate hierarchies. We’ve seen the iPod and internet disrupt the music industry, tablets are now starting to change the publishing industry, and as I argue in How the Television Will be Revolutionized, 2010, a few years from now  iTV will disrupt the television and film industries in even more powerful ways, bringing millions of channels to every device. Blogs, Wikis, virtual worlds, mirror worlds, social networks, and other facets of the internet are flowering and enhancing our collective intelligence. Twitter gives us a window on the thoughts of humanity. Smartphones connect us 24/7 to each other and the web. Sensors are proliferating across the planet, making every nation a transparent society. Lifelogs, wearable computing, telepresence, and augmented reality are just now emerging.

Today, Facebook and Twitter empower the Arab Spring. Tomorrow, we’ll have a conversational interface to the web, and cybertwins (digital assistants that model our personality and can act and transact for us, at first in simple ways, later in very intelligent ways) assisting us in our information consumption, communication, commerce, and political activities. We can expect a valuecosm to eventually emerge, quantitated versions of the publicly expressed values that each of us all hold on all kinds of topics, allowing us to connect with others who share our values, to work with others on projects that we care about, and helping us to generate a whole new level of specialization and subcultural diversity. [The rest of the interview].

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