Major VC Firm President Paid $10,000 to Preserve His Brain After Death

Sam Altman, the president at Y Combinator, one of the largest early-stage technology venture capital firms globally, has paid $10,000 to preserve his brain and potentially upload his memories to the cloud after his death.

Earlier this week, MIT Technology Review reported about a startup that is providing a mind-uploading service through a process that is 100 percent fatal. In a nutshell, Nectome’s mind uploading service is a post-mortem process that would allow future data scientists to integrate an individual’s mind into a computer.

Nectome’s cofounder, Robert McIntyre, an MIT graduate, told MIT Technology Review that the startup’s preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it service enables a human brain to be preserved for several hundred years, and potentially allow the company to upload the memory stored in the human brain to the cloud.

The firm has already received a large federal grant and the approval of the US government to continue studying its preservation methods and cloud technology. In collaboration with MIT’s leading neuroscientist Edward Boyden, who recently received an $80,000 award for preserving a pig’s brain, the Nectom team is aiming to have its service available to the public in a few years.

There still exists several technical issues the startup is attempting to solve. One of the major issues is the process of obtaining memories from a human brain with dead tissues. Since the process requires a brain that is already dead, a key solution the firm will need to come up with is the analysis of dead tissues within the brain to obtain memories and upload them to the cloud.

Until the team comes up with tested solutions to address the above mentioned problems, Nectome’s preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it service cannot be offered to the public. Currently, the company has created a waiting list composed of individuals who are willing to pay a refundable deposit of $10,000 to preserve their brains post-mortem. The company decided that the deposit would be an efficient way to test the market and also to fund the firm’s operations.

According to the MIT, 25 individuals have been listed on the waiting list of Nectome. One of the individuals is Y Combinator co-founder and president Sam Altman, a 32-year-old Silicon Valley-based technology investor.

“I assume my brain will be uploaded to the cloud,” said Altman, expressing his optimism towards the potential of Nectome’s technology that may allow the memories of Altman to be integrated into a computing system one day.

Ken Hayworth, the Brain Preservation Foundation president and a neuroscientist, stated that while a dead brain is equivalent to a computer that is switched off, information stored within the dead brain can still be recovered

“If the brain is dead, it’s like your computer is off, but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t there,” said Ken. He added that for brain preservation enthusiasts like himself, the waiting list of Nectome doesn’t come across as controversial. But, to some people it could be demonstrated as an encouragement of committing suicide.

“If you are like me, and think that mind uploading is going to happen, it’s not that controversial. But it could look like you are enticing someone to commit suicide to preserve their brain,” Ken added, emphasizing that McIntyre is walking a very fine line.