From cryonics to time travel, here are some of the (highly speculative) methods that might someday be used to bring people back to life.
- Alexey Turchin and Maxim Chernyakov, researchers belonging to the transhumanism movement, wrote a paper outlining the main ways technology might someday make resurrection possible.
- The methods are highly speculative, ranging from cryonics to digital reconstruction of individual personalities.
- Surveys suggest most people would not choose to live forever if given the option.
Immortality and identity<p>The paper defines life as a "continued stream of subjective experiences" and death as the permanent end of that stream. Immortality, to them, is a "life stream without end," and resurrection is the "continuation of that same stream of experiences after an arbitrarily long gap."</p><p>Another key clarification is the identity problem: How would you know that a downloaded copy of yourself really was going to be <em>you? </em>Couldn't it just be a convincing yet incomplete and fundamentally distinct representation of your brain?</p><p>If you believe that your copy is not <em>you</em>, that implies you believe there's something more to your identity than the (currently) quantifiable information contained within your brain and body, according to the researchers. In other words, your "informational identity" does not constitute your true identity.</p><p>In this scenario, there must exist what the researchers call a "non-informational identity carrier" (NIIC). This could be something like a "soul." It could be "qualia," which are the unmeasurable "subjective experiences which could be unique to every person." Or maybe it doesn't exist at all.</p><p>It's no matter: The researchers say resurrection, in some form, should be possible in either scenario.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If no 'soul' exist[s], resurrection is possible via information preservation; if soul[s] exist, resurrection is possible via returning of the "soul" into the new body. But some forms of NIIC are also very fragile and mortal, like continuity," the researchers noted.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The problem of the nature of human identity could be solved by future superintelligent AI, but for now it cannot be definitively solved. This means that we should try to preserve as much identity as possible and not refuse any approaches to life extension and resurrection even if they contradict our intuitions about identity, as our notions of identity could change later."</p>
Potential resurrection methods<p>Turchin and Chernyakov outline seven broad categories of potential resurrection methods, ranked from the most plausible to most speculative.<br></p><p>The first category includes methods practiced while the person is alive, like cryonics, plastination, and preserving brain tissue through processes like chemical fixation. The researchers noted that there have been "suggestions that the claustrum, hypothalamus, or even a single neuron is the neural correlate of consciousness," so it may be possible to preserve just that part of a person, and later implant it into another organism.</p><p>Other methods get far stranger. For example, one method includes super-intelligent AI that uses a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere#:~:text=A%20Dyson%20sphere%20is%20a,percentage%20of%20its%20power%20output." target="_blank">Dyson sphere</a> to harness the power of the sun to "power enormous calculation engines" that would "reconstruct" people who collected a sufficient amount of data on their identities.</p>
Turchin<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The main idea of a resurrection-simulation is that if one takes the DNA of a past person and subjects it to the same developmental condition, as well as correcting the development based on some known outcomes, it is possible to create a model of a past person which is very close to the original," the researchers wrote.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"DNA samples of most people who lived in past 1 to 2 centuries could be extracted via global archeology. After the moment of death, the simulated person is moved into some form of the afterlife, perhaps similar to his religious expectations, where he meets his relatives."</p><p>Delving further into sci-fi territory, another resurrection method would use time-travel technology.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If there will at some point be technology that allows travel to the past, then our future descendants will be able to directly save people dying in the past by collecting their brains at the moment of death and replacing them with replicas," the paper states.</p><p>How? Sending tiny robots back in time.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"A nanorobot could be sent several billion years before now, where it could secretly replicate and sow nanotech within all living being[s] without affecting the course of history. At the moment of death, such nanorobots could be activated to collect data about the brain and preserve it somewhere until its future resurrection; thus, there would be no need for forward time travel."</p>
Pixabay<p>The paper <a href="https://www.academia.edu/36998733/Classification_of_the_approaches_to_the_technological_resurrection" target="_blank">goes on to outline some more resurrection methods</a>, including ones that involve parallel worlds, aliens, and clones, along with a good, old-fashioned possibility: God exists and one day he resurrects us. </p><p>In short, it's all extremely speculative.</p><p>But the aim of the paper was to catalogue known potential ways humans might be able to cheat death. For Turchin, that's not some far-off project: In addition to studying global risks and transhumanism, the Russian researcher heads the <a href="http://immortality-roadmap.com/" target="_blank">Immortality Roadmap</a>, which, similar to the 2018 paper, outlines various ways in which we might someday achieve immortality.</p><p>Although it may take centuries before humans come close to "digital immortality," Turchin believes that life-extension technology could allow some modern people to survive long enough to see it happen. </p><p>Want a shot at being among them? Beyond the obvious, like staying healthy, the Immortality Roadmap suggests you start collecting extensive data on yourself: diaries, video recordings, DNA information, EEGs, complex creative objects — all of which could someday be used to digitally "reconstruct" your identity.</p>But odds are you're not interested. Although Turchin and other scientists are bent on finding ways to avoid death and extend life indefinitely, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/may/16/dying-still-taboo-subject-poll" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">surveys</a> <a href="https://quillette.com/2018/03/02/would-you-opt-for-immortality/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">repeatedly</a> <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutesvanity-fair-poll-the-afterlife/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">show</a> that most people would not opt to live forever if given the choice.
A new study used artificial intelligence to analyze relationship data from thousands of couples.
- Artificial intelligence discovered key relationship predictors in psychology study of over 11,000 couples.
- The researchers utilized machine learning to find the best predictors of relationship success and failure.
- The study showed the survival of a relationship depends more on its quality than individual characteristics of the people.
Credit: Western University.
"It's kind of like a Fitbit in your skill with tiny wires," Musk said.
- Neuralink is Elon Musk's company that's building brain-machine interfaces.
- The company's ultimate goal is to build an interface that connects human brains directly to computers.
- At a demonstration on Friday, Musk unveiled the company's latest progress, including that it had successfully installed its interface in the skulls of multiple pigs.
Neuralink implanted a chip inside the skull of pig<p>At the demonstration were three pigs in pens. One pig, named Gertrude, has been living healthily for two months with the implant in its skull, according to Musk. As Gertrude snuffled around the pen, a screen displayed real-time spikes in neural activity coming from the pig's brain.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We have a healthy and happy pig, initially shy but obviously high energy and, you know, kind of loving life, and she's had the implant for two months," Musk said.</p><p>The coin-sized implant was read-only, meaning Gertrude wasn't using it to control any device. But the demo showed that the implant was capable of wirelessly relaying neural data to external computers. What's more, a pre-recorded video unveiled at the event showed that Neuralink was able to predict the pig's limb movements with "high accuracy" during a treadmill experiment.</p><p>Musk also said Neuralink had implanted a chip into another pig, Dorothy, and then removed it without health complications.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What Dorothy illustrates is that you can put in the Neuralink, remove it, and be healthy, happy and indistinguishable from a normal pig," Musk said.</p>
Illustration of Neuralink implant.
Neuralink could enable people to replay memories<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The future is going to be weird," Musk said. "In the future you will be able to save and replay memories [...] You could basically store your memories as a backup and restore the memories. You could potentially download them into a new body or into a robot body."<br></p><p>Sound unnerving? Musk sort of agreed:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"This is increasingly sounding like a Black Mirror episode," Musk said, referring to the dystopian TV show.</p>
Neuralink wants robots to install the interface on humans<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU5NzQyNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODE2Njg2MX0.WaiNYW31lb2_A4kzI_Ct6ykv-TpTKa9EKgPc_06zxk0/img.jpg?width=980" id="d79a9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="72cc0cdd6547966b23a31e78c7eaa5a3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe location of a Neuralink implant in a human skull." />
The location of a Neuralink implant in a human skull.
Credit: Neuralink / Big Think<p>Musk said Neuralink eventually wants to use a surgical robot to install the interfaces into human skulls. Neuralink has so far used robots to implant all of its chips, but these experiments have been limited to rodents, monkeys and pigs, according to Musk.<br></p><p>Neuralink hasn't revealed how much the procedure might cost for humans in the future. Musk said it'll be "quite expensive" at first, but hopes the price will eventually drop to a few thousand dollars.</p><p>"I think it should be possible to get it similar to Lasik," he said.</p><p>Of course, Neuralink still faces many safety concerns and regulatory hurdles. But in July, the company received FDA <a href="https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/breakthrough-devices-program" target="_blank">Breakthrough Device designation</a>, which expedites approval for technologies "that provide for more effective treatment or diagnosis of life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions."</p><p>The next major step for the company will be demonstrating that its technology works safely and effectively in humans. In 2019, Musk said he hopes to begin human testing by the end of 2020, though it's unclear whether that'll happen.</p>
It's a very human behavior—arguably one of the fundamentals that makes us us.
Scientists are seeking ways to safely connect computers to the brain.
- Companies are developing brain-machine interfaces that aim to connect humans to computers.
- One major challenge is finding materials that can accomplish this without damaging human tissue.
- At a recent event, a team of researchers presented a specialized version of a polymer that could someday make brain-machine interfaces safer and more effective.
Neuralink prototype device