Cheating Death Cheaply

(NOTE: this topic really belongs in TheAdjunct, but it is currently down for maintenance. It can be moved when back up.)

I found myself in the middle of an online discussion about ways to "cheat death". Cryogenic freezing of one's brain is about 80 grand, which is a bit high for most people.

I was thinking that rather than biologically revive a brain, it may be easier to scan it on a microscopic level (with cheap future technology) and then "implement" it in a virtual environment. This allows one to "fix" in software any damage caused by death or storage without having to change or activate stuff on the biology level. This may reduce the need for hard-core preservation since we don't need to revive actual cells.

But still, paying a cryogenic company is too much for most. Thus, is there a way to store a brain that preserves the "essential" info until a point in the future where virtual restoration is cheap and easy? What affect does say formaldehyde have on the parts where memories and personality are stored? What about keeping it in a regular freezer? (Although in a 100 or so years, the power is bound to go out enough times to mess it up, so we may need chemical preservation also.)

(I know some of you are thinking: Oh shit, he's gonna be trolling for eternity!)

See ScannedBrainSimulation.


No matter what one does, the individual personality and the mind that lived before will be lost. A simulation is just that, a simulation. A brain brought back to life will be a new thing, and not the same as the old. Best way, and cheapest way to pass on brain and personality is through offspring, writings and teachings.

[Not necessarily. If you precisely duplicate the mechanisms in the brain that support personality and mind, and accurately copy the current state of a living brain at an instant of time, why would the personality and mind be lost? The underlying hardware would change from a brain to something else, but the personality and mind are arguably a function of the computational state represented by the neural connections and activity at a point in time, and not merely that particular collection of neurons (or whatever) themselves. Of course, this presumes a computational model of mind and personality, with which not everyone agrees.]

The problem lies with the fact that the human brain is a biological unit which is unpredictable, and is influenced by functions of the body such as insulin, heart rate, oxygen etc. When you lose or alter the input from any one of these random body functions, you lose the uniqueness of the human mind. For instance, people using a temporary implanted mechanical heart pump, complain of not being able to feel certain emotions such as love, etc.

Having been directly involved with a number of individuals that have suffered physical damage to the brain (both major and minor) I can testify to just how little, tiny, changes to the brain and its inputs can drastically alter the brain to create a whole new individual. It is a very tricky thing, this thing called the human mind, and ever so more tricky is what we call the human personality.

Obviously, some trouble-shooting will need to take place to adjust stuff.

[Certainly relatively minor illness, trauma, and even change of scenery can have effects on personality. Major illness, minor illness in critical areas (like parts of the brain), chronic pain, serious accidents, and life-altering events can have profound effects on personality. The significant relationships between the brain, body state and perception, emotions, and personality are becoming increasingly researched and understood. See (for example) the works of neural scientist Joseph LeDoux (e.g., "The Emotional Brain") and others. Were we actually able to transplant neural state (including and beyond just the brain) into a brain/body facsimile, it is reasonable to suspect that the associated trauma, even if only psychological, would have a significant effect on personality. However, it is equally reasonable to presume (under a computational theory of "mind") that the same mind -- personality changed or not, for some philosophically simple definition of "the same" -- would exist in the new "body" and cognitive host.]

They'll also have better shrinks for us in the year 2140. They'll open-source Dr. Phil's clone.

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