I originally posted this information under the title Resurrecting Steve Jobs, but it’s applicable to any human being, so I’m reposting it with some minor edits. I understand this area of research is morbid and may offend some people, but it’s the kind of thing I think about anyway. The body of Steve Jobs rests in Alta Mesa Memorial Park (story here). I read a comment somewhere saying that his death certificate just says BU rather than CB/BU, which indicates he wasn’t cremated before burial. I’m not advocating breaking the law by body snatching. It’s just a shame that Jobs’ brain wasn’t preserved like Albert Einstein’s brain.
The idea of bringing a person back to life is more speculative than scientific at this point. Some might say it’s just wishful thinking or pseudoscience. In the interim, it’s more important to invest in ways to make the lives of living people more tolerable through expanded access to medical care and clean water.
I. Creating a Digital Likeness
This is the easiest to accomplish. Several years ago, American Idol had Elvis sing alongside Celine Dion. Tupac was re-created to perform in a concert. CGI and video effects could re-create a person in video form.
II. Creating a Robot
There’s a massive amount of information about some people based on their emails and interactions with others. Few other human beings have had their every action examined in such great detail. This information might be able to used to create a robot similar to the one that emulates Bina Rothblatt.
III. Creating an A.I.
Ray Kurzweil is an inventor whose predictions have been amazingly accurate so far. He wrote a document in 2010 called How My Predictions are Faring (PDF) which analyzes the predictions he made in his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines. He plans to create an avatar of his father. As I mentioned before, a massive amount of information exists regarding many facets of some individuals’ lives. This information could be used to create an avatar of the deceased.
IV. Cryopreservation, Resuscitation, and Repair
As long as the body hasn’t gone beyond repair, it might be possible to freeze it. The hope of cryopreservation enthusiasts is that future advances in nanotechnology may be able to repair brain tissue and restore cognition to people who experienced brain death. Time will tell.
V. Reverse-Engineering the Brain
While Ray Kurzweil is a computer scientist and electronics inventor, I find his thoughts on biology even more interesting than his computing predictions. Last year at the Singularity Summit, he gave a speech about reverse-engineering the brain and later responded to critics of his approach. Kurzweil is also working on an upcoming book called How to Create a Mind. However, reverse-engineering a human brain would lead to a clone rather than the original person. The clone would grow up in a different environment and would not be the exact same person. Dr. Ed Boyden’s ideas of using retroviruses to download memories sit at the intersection between this idea and the next one.
VI. Mind Uploading
The Brain Preservation Foundation led by Dr. Kenneth Hayworth is an organization working to identify and separate consciousness from its physical roots. Another approach comes from Sirius Satellite Radio founder Martine Rothblatt, who funded the creation of the Bina robot mentioned previously in this post. She supports creating a replica of the human mind through theTerasem Movement Foundation. Halcyon Molecular executive Dr. Randal Koene also has an interest in mind uploading. The Carboncopies Project advances the idea of substrate-independent minds.
It’s important to note that it would be “easier” to upload the mind of a person who is currently alive. Before consciousness could be uploaded, the brain of a deceased human being would need to be repaired through nanotechnology.
VII. Overclocking the Universe
In the book The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil describes the massive power that exists in the world around us – even in something as simple as a rock. In a section of the book titled How Smart is a Rock?, Kurzweil presents this information:
1. A kilogram of matter has approximately ten trillion trillion atoms.
2. A one-kilogram rock has at least 10^27 bits of memory, based on the results of an experiment that stored 1,024 bits in the interactions of the protons of a single molecule that contained nineteen hydrogen atoms.
3. A million trillion trillion trillion calculations per second happen in a rock weighing one kilogram.
4. Harnessing energy from interactions among the particles in the one-kilogram rock would be about ten trillion times more powerful than all human brains on Earth.
This phenomenal processing power introduces the possibility or organizing the atoms in the universe in a form that has incredible computational capabilities. This could be used to create every form of life in every possible permutation. This would recreate lifeforms that died out, as well as give birth to new creations. If the multiverse is a simulation made out of information, maybe this has already happened. If a universe is in a cyclic state that continually expands and contracts for an infinitely long period of time, maybe a computer powerful enough to engage in the continual creation of every possible life form is already in operation.
VIII. Exploring the Multiverse
Recent books such as The Hidden Reality by Dr. Brian Greene and Visions of the Multiverse by Dr. Steven Manly discuss theories of the multiverse in theoretical physics. Would it be possible to communicate with a doppleganger of the deceased from another universe? Would it be possible to bring him or her to our universe? Is there a universe out there where aging has already been cured? Is it even possible to detect other universes? I have no idea how to answer these questions.
IX. Time Travel
Dr. Ronald Mallett is a physics professor at the University of Connecticut. He gained wide recognition in the science news a few years ago for his book on time travel. The book mentioned his plans for creating a time machine and his interest in speaking to his father, who had passed away years earlier.
X. Waiting for the End or the Beginning
The book The Physics of Immortality was written in 1994 by Dr. Frank Tipler, a mathematical physicist. He claims that the end of the universe would involve the resurrection of everyone who previously died. He later wrote The Physics of Christianity, which received a mixed response. There’s also the possibility that measurements in the future can influence the present, as described in the article Back From the Future. Maybe time doesn’t exist in the way we think it does.
XI. Bringing Consciousness Back
No one truly knows what happens to a person’s conscious awareness when he or she dies. It may be an emergent property of brain cells that simply disappears when tissue degrades. Or it may be a quantum field that somehow gets transported to another dimension or an afterlife. Dr. Johnjoe McFadden has an interesting theory of consciousness as an electromagnetic field (the CEMI Field Theory). On that page, he speculates that if information cannot actually be destroyed, consciousness might survive in some form. I also wrote a post about scientists who speculate the universe might be made of consciousness.
XII. Communicating with the Afterlife
Dr. Gary Schwartz is a professor at the University of Arizona who investigates mediumship and communication with spirits in the afterlife. Another stunning story of the afterlife involves research on the electronic voice phenomenon. George Meek claimed to communicate with a deceased physicist who gave him instructions on how to improve his radio equipment. That story along with other information on EVP research is in the book Is There an Afterlife? by David Fontana. A brief summary is in the EVP article at HowStuffWorks. I’m not ready to believe this research yet, since extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
I also have two extensive lists of afterlife researchers in these posts:
Some spiritual traditions claim a track record of performing miracles and successfully bringing people back to life.
XIV. The Singularity
A civilization may develop ways of saturating the universe with consciousness in ways that re-creates every possible from of life that ever lived or could live.