Freezing bodies for science

THE TRANSHUMANIST SCRAPBOOK: RABBIT BRAIN SUCCESSFULLY FROZEN AND ...

February 16, 2016 By Joseph P. Farrell

If you've been following the transhumanist meme of downloading and uploading brain memories, or for that matter, the meme of cryogenically freezing people and then reviving them, a big hurdle may have just been surmounted, in this article shared by Ms. M.W.:

A Mammal’s Brain Has Been Cryonically Preserved and Recovered

The hub of the new technique is based upon bypassing or short-circuiting the dehydration of the brain that occurs in current cryogenic methods, and thereby to avoid the destruction of the neural pathways of the brain, that these methods cause:

The promise of such a technique has been out of reach to scientists since the chemical process of preservation has proven far too damaging for any brain’s future revival. The challenge comes from today’s standards of cryonics freezing, which according to officials at the foundation, causes massive dehydration in the brain, squashing the neural connections and rendering it useless for imaging. That’s why 21st Century Medicine’s achievement is so exciting.

McIntyre’s team reportedly demonstrated the ability to cryonically preserve the neural connections inside an intact rabbit brain, and fully thaw the thing back. The approach used what’s called an “Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation” protocol, meaning the researchers dispersed a collection of chemicals through the vascular system of the brain which fixes the neurons in place, then converted it to a glasslike object by cooling it to -210 degrees F (-130 C) for long term storage. Later, the brain was rewarmed and the cryoprotectant chemicals were removed.

Judges at the Brain Preservation Foundation then used traditional electron microscopy to image hundreds of brain regions to ensure that the synaptic connections in the rabbit brain remained undamaged.

As the article notes, "virtual" immortality just took another step closer, as the article avers;

The weirdness of preserving your brain for a future era could prove far too alienating for widespread adoption, but Smart hopes that today’s announcement will stimulate a renewed sense of interest for those who wish to sign up for preservation at death.

“It’s a highly personal decision, but we believe that if these techniques can be validated in large animals, we should be able to make them increasingly available in society,” he said. “I think the question of preservation will be one of the more valuable social conversations we can have.”

“In short, this is a very exciting time to be alive,” he said. If things keep moving, that ‘time to be alive’ part may last a while.

And there's the rub, for it brings me again to the heart of what I think are the problems with emerging "virtual immortality" technologies. My difficulties here have always been of a spiritual, moral, ethical, and even jurisprudential nature. And perhaps the last of these problems is the entry into the other three:

How will jurisprudence handle such a technology? Should it even be concerned with it?

Imagine, for a moment, that Ms. X has had a terrible diagnosis, a terminal disease, though she has been told there has been progress with the disease and in  a few years they expect a cure. Ms. X, being a lady of some means, decides to have herself cryogenically frozen. Though it takes a century a cure is eventually found, and Ms. X is revived and cured.

In the meantime, however, what has happened to her assets? Have they been put in escrow? Did she have a last will and testament drawn up, in which part of her assets when to her children and the rest in escrow? Having been revived, and cured, was she even dead, and did the court therefore have the right to enact a last will? Or did she choose some other avenue, say, creating trusts or holding companies for dispersing her assets to her children while retaining others to pay her freezing and storage fees? What if Ms. X is a particularly vile person, and decides to sue her children to recover assets, with interest, that went to them under any of these arrangements? What if her storage tank malfunctioned during the period of her storage, and her children sue the storage company for negligence? Does the local DA have a right to bring the company or its directors on involuntary manslaughter charges? On what basis? Was she alive when frozen? Dead? Or like Schroedinger's Cat, was she both? What if someone wants to be frozen just before death?

There are, as evident from my example, legal recourses already existent that can handle some of these issues, but as evident from my high octane ruminations, I submit, not all of them. And while we rush headlong into the transhumanist future, it seems that little to any real thought is being given to an issue that is well set to be a divisive issue.

Like it or not, though, technology will force the issue. It's time to give it thought.

See you on the flip side...