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Author Topic: Brain Preservation, and the falsehood of human "immortality"  (Read 3021 times)

Offline ArtificialUnintelligence

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Introduction

Hello. It is my first time on these forums, so please bear with me. But I needed to clear a nagging topic from my head.

I am very interested in the sciences of brain mapping, human consciousness and artificial intelligence. It was thus that I came across a certain site while
perusing the internet a few days ago.

The site in question is that of the Brain Preservation Foundation ( newbielink:http://www.brainpreservation.org/index.php [nonactive]), an organisation that is dedicated to the survival of the human brain beyond the death of other organs.
It has some very interesting theories, all of which revolve around the possibility of mapping out the brain's synaptic connections. This is no small feat; to preserve these important connections in the human brain is to theoretically preserve all the memories and the full identity of the person in possession of said brain.

It is a very well constructed site, with the organisation even going so far as to construct some rudimentary ethics and legal guidelines for a future where one might choose to have their brain preserved for its continued survival. However, it has raised several disturbing issues within my head.

My Theories on the Falsehood of Human Immortality

First of all, let us assume that in one scenario "brain preservation" encompasses the successful placement into stasis of the whole human brain, or best case, their entire body. This is not as bad as the following speculations; with the entire brain intact and placed into storage, one would theoretically be able to be "revived" with a fully operational consciousness. However, putting aside the possible issues of adapting to life without a body, an excerpt from the site's guidelines sections raises my concerns -

"Legal rights should be secured for persons in storage. Their rights will not be equivalent to the living, but no longer will they have no legal rights whatsoever, and be considered only as donated anatomical specimens. Specifically:
a.     Perserved persons should be ensured a quality surgical preservation procedure performed by a licensed professional. These rights should be on par with the guarantees against malpractice in surgical procedures today.
b.    Preserved persons who have entered a preservation agreement should be ensured quality long-term storage and protection from harm with no removal from storage due to insufficient funds.
c.     Some legal rights should be available to allow persons in storage to retain some monetary and other assets, in trust form, so that they can be retrieved by the individual upon successful revival.
d.    The revival wishes of the individual undergoing brain preservation should be respected, when technically feasible. This includes the right to partial revival (memory donation instead of identity or self-awareness revival), and the right to refuse revival under a list of circumstances provided by the individual in their preservation contract."


It is stated within these rules that while persons in storage will be able to retain financial assets and will not be treated *only* as donated anatomical specimens, said persons will still not have rights that are equal to those of the living. This is frightening on many levels; what is to stop medical and scientific institutions and governments from utilising these stored individuals however they please if they not only do not have concrete legal rights, but are also helpless to argue their own case in their current state? The guidelines do suggest for rules prohibiting the damage of the preserved, but these are only suggestions, and medical experiments may still be able to circumvent such laws.

Secondly, another aspect of these concepts that worries me is the fact that the BPF's "optimal" future includes a citizen's ability to request an emergency brain preservation feature at any time if they only have six months to live (they can also be operated on without spoken consent if they have listed is as their medical preference).
And the apparent ease with which such an operation may be requested and performed only adds to another extremely problematic issue; what will be the effects of easy and cheap preservation and revival on the world's population? Disease and natural death are heartbreaking and terrible to experience, but at a base level they are the biological universe's way of keeping the population (somewhat) within safe boundaries. With the dangers, and therefore also the overall benefits, of natural death removed, Earth's already unstable populace could skyrocket beyond any sustainable limits.

Finally, I must voice my most dire concerns, and a question to all who may read this.
The BPF states that their proposed solutions to death have the potential to be desirable for some individuals; that the preservation of one's memory and identity is something great. However, what truly scares me is the fact that they did not, in this particular context, mention once the preservation of the human consciousness.

Consciousness is our brain's unique relationship with the world around us, and it is one of the most incredible tools of humanity. It gives us emotion, sensation, subjectivity, and near-absolute control over our physical form. However, most importantly, it grants us awareness and self-hood. Our consciousness is, in a sense, us; it is what allows us to understand what happens around us so fluently, allows us to have feelings, and forges our individuality.

And the reason that the BPF's proposals terrify me is the fact that even in a future where such miraculous and life-saving surgeries are possible, what happens if the memories and identity of a person are preserved, but not the consciousness? It is difficult for me to explain my fears, but I will simplify:

Our consciousness is us. It is our mind, our awareness, our perception of the world. It allows us to observe and understand, and to analyse and fully grasp the capabilities of our memory and individual identity. Now imagine that your entire brain was copied, that everything, right down to your earliest childhood memories, was recreated, complete with your full identity and personality to boot. However, my issue is that no matter how similar this copy is, no matter how exact the procedure is, that entity is not you. It is a replica, and a very good one at that, but you do not see out of its eyes. You are not *inside* its mind. I fear that such surgeries will not magically resurrect us inside another exact copy of our brain, but that we will still die, with a perfect doppelganger of ourselves continuing to survive in our place, exactly the same, but an imitation of your true, dead self nonetheless.

Conclusion

Please, correct me if I'm wrong. It terrifies me, and any assistance in understanding would be helpful to my knowledge. But if my above statement is accurate, then is brain preservation really that desirable? What family, in my opinion, would wish to watch their loved one die, only for a perfect copy to rise up and take their place? One's memories and identity are only data, in a sense; what really makes us human is our inner mind, our conscious perception of the world. It is understandable that the most brilliant minds would wish for their intelligence and mind to live on; a humble sacrifice which would allow them to keep making the world a better place long after they are dead. But with that is a dark side, and when every person has the legal power to leave a shadow of themselves in the world after death, how will our kind ever again be able to define the difference between reality and falsehood?  [?]

Thank you for reading this. It means a lot to me. Any discussion is appreciated.


 

Offline RD

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Brain Preservation, and the falsehood of human "immortality"
« Reply #1 on: 15/10/2011 01:55:42 »
Where will the brain reside when it is defrosted and rebooted ?
Will it be in a jar , or installed in the skull of some brain-dead body-donor ?

The “Brain Preservation Foundation” looks like a front for a cryogenics company who have overestimated the demand for their pointless expensive service so have too much empty space in their freezers.

BTW once Granny has been frozen what if the price of keeping her cool skyrockets ?
at what point do you say “it cost too much: let Granny defrost” ?
Granny is a frozen hostage, (unless you are able to move her to a cheaper cryo-company).

A computer model of a persons brain seems a more realistic prospect to preserve their psyche after their demise: freezer not required.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole-body_transplant
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_transplant
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_uploading
 

Offline ArtificialUnintelligence

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Brain Preservation, and the falsehood of human "immortality"
« Reply #2 on: 15/10/2011 04:14:55 »
The Brain Preservation Foundation's ethics guidelines state that a patient would, in their utopian world, never suffer from "no removal from storage due to insufficient funds". However, I agree with what you're saying: financial issues could easily bend the limits as to what morally-damning things companies are willing to do.

However, I disagree with your other thoughts. The Brain Preservation Foundation is not a mainstream supporter of cryogenics. They accept that it has its value, but if you look throughout their site you'll notice that most of their research and technology articles focus on other, more advanced methods than freezing. Even if they aren't simply a legit scientific competition, I doubt they're trying to convince us all to remove and deep-freeze our brains.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Brain Preservation, and the falsehood of human "immortality"
« Reply #3 on: 02/12/2011 21:09:21 »
Things like the rights of living vs the rights of non-living individuals will NOT be something that a single company can decide, but rather will be something that future generations will struggle with.

In particular, I have no doubt that within the next century, computers will reach an equivalent consciousness to humans.  So, what will be the "rights" of the latest super-robot?  Will they be disposable slaves to their human creators?

And, then if it becomes possible to "revive" people, in electronic format, what will be their rights?  Will they be individuals, or like a library book that you can check-out query, then put back on the shelf?  Will there be one copy, or multiple copies?  Will all the copies be aware of each other and treated the same?

One would hope that we will have stable governments in the future, but keep in mind that we are still investing about 1/3 of our national budget to ensure this... at least in the eyes of those that control the national budget, and the army it supports.

Governments come and go, and certainly change over time.
Recessions, Depressions, Booms, and Busts come and go.
Companies go bankrupt.  One day AIG is at the top of the world, the next, a small mistake shows up and they are at the bottom of the dung heap.
Will the taxpayers choose to bail out a cryo-company that made bad investments, or was stripped by a greedy CEO just because their sales agreements state that they can't go bankrupt?  Certainly I didn't vote for my money to be wasted on some billionaire's dream.

Is this company only investing in preservation techniques, and just expecting society to develop restoration techniques and give the technology away for free...  or does the company also invest in restoration technology, and have plans to support the restoration of the individuals?  Funding the restoration of the individuals?  Plans to meld brains and robotic technology?  AND FUTURE HARDWARE/SOFTWARE REPAIRS AND UPGRADES?

With a myopic society based on the "me-now" principle.  If we can't plan for future generations now, what would make one think that future generations (that will be paying our debts) will feel indebted to us?
 

Offline crimsonknight3

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Things like the rights of living vs the rights of non-living individuals will NOT be something that a single company can decide, but rather will be something that future generations will struggle with.

In particular, I have no doubt that within the next century, computers will reach an equivalent consciousness to humans.  So, what will be the "rights" of the latest super-robot?  Will they be disposable slaves to their human creators?

And, then if it becomes possible to "revive" people, in electronic format, what will be their rights?  Will they be individuals, or like a library book that you can check-out query, then put back on the shelf?  Will there be one copy, or multiple copies?  Will all the copies be aware of each other and treated the same?

One would hope that we will have stable governments in the future, but keep in mind that we are still investing about 1/3 of our national budget to ensure this... at least in the eyes of those that control the national budget, and the army it supports.

Governments come and go, and certainly change over time.
Recessions, Depressions, Booms, and Busts come and go.
Companies go bankrupt.  One day AIG is at the top of the world, the next, a small mistake shows up and they are at the bottom of the dung heap.
Will the taxpayers choose to bail out a cryo-company that made bad investments, or was stripped by a greedy CEO just because their sales agreements state that they can't go bankrupt?  Certainly I didn't vote for my money to be wasted on some billionaire's dream.

Is this company only investing in preservation techniques, and just expecting society to develop restoration techniques and give the technology away for free...  or does the company also invest in restoration technology, and have plans to support the restoration of the individuals?  Funding the restoration of the individuals?  Plans to meld brains and robotic technology?  AND FUTURE HARDWARE/SOFTWARE REPAIRS AND UPGRADES?

With a myopic society based on the "me-now" principle.  If we can't plan for future generations now, what would make one think that future generations (that will be paying our debts) will feel indebted to us?

One cryonics site i have been looking at and researching insists they are a purely scientific and non-profit organisation, you pay them your fees and you are frozen, the money you pay helps them to survive through interest. Cryonics as they go are pretty cheap currently, they say per person per year the liquid nitrogen costs are around $100. While i agree that no organisation is perfect nor any government, the foundations cryonics projects are built on is the fact as a race we are compassionate and as a race would never allow a cryonics institute with human bodies stored go bust and allow humans to defrost. It happened once before a long time ago and since then there have been strict controls and limits put in place by governments to insure that it never happens ago. Another linch pin of cryonics is that when people are reanimated it will be into a society that is interested in them, and compassionate enough to help them through a very tough time, if we lived in a government that would just as soon let them defrost then it certainly isnt a government a 20th century person would like to wake up into anyway. Ive always said that until our planet operates as a single entity under one government with one purpose, all technological advances will be stunted by rivalry and lack of resources/funding
 

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