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Kenneth Hayworth is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. Hayworth is co-inventor of the Tape-to-SEM process for high-throughput volume imaging of neural circuits at the nanometer scale and he designed and built several automated machines to implement this process. Hayworth received a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Southern California for research into how the human visual system encodes spatial relations among objects. Hayworth is a vocal advocate for brain preservation and mind uploading and a co-founder of the Brain Preservation Foundation which calls for the implementation of an emergency glutaraldehyde perfusion procedure in hospitals, and for the development of a whole brain embedding procedure which can demonstrate perfect ultrastructure preservation across an entire human brain.
The new science of connectomics is gearing up to map the connectome, the full synaptic connectivity of an entire mammalian brain. The first major milestone will be a mouse brain and eventually, we will map an entire human brain. Development of whole brain chemical fixation and plastic embedding procedures seems an absolute prerequisite for such a scientific endeavor.
Since neuroscientists agree that our unique memories are written into the brain at the level of synaptic connections, successful whole brain plastination after clinical death would perfectly preserve the memories and identities of all individuals who might wish to do so, for themselves, for their loved ones, for science, or society. There are many who would desire the option to perfectly and inexpensively preserve their brains at the nanometer scale today, for the possibility that future science might be able to read their memories or restore their full identities, as desired.
Of all the paths we may take to longevity and immortality, Ken Hayworth’s may strike you as the hardest to accept. This postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University has spent years developing techniques to scan the brain and record its synaptic circuits. Hayworth believes that we may all be able to see the future years from now, and then to essentially live forever. How? All you need to do is wait until the hours before your death and then allow someone to chemically preserve or freeze your brain, slice it into nanometer thin wafers, scan it, and upload your mind into a computer. Through his website, BrainPreservation.org, Hayworth is proposing the creation of a Brain Preservation Technology Prize; a way of generating the necessary scientific and technical developments necessary to bring his idea to fruition. With the right funding, Hayworth thinks the prize could lead to brain preservation technology being available in as little as five years. If the idea of having your brain sliced and then living as a software construct seems less than appealing, you’re not alone. Yet Hayworth is adamant that not only is brain preservation possible, access to such technology is the inalienable right of every human being.
As Heyworth sees it, opposition to brain preservation technology centers on the “unique soul metaphor”. To illustrate the USM, let’s ask a question. If I made an exact copy of your brain (in a working human body), every synapses and molecule in its place, would it be you? Most people, I think, would say, “No. I am me! There is only one. I cannot be copied.” Heyworth says, and cognitive science may agree, that such a point of view is uninformed at best. We may actually be the wiring of our brains. If we copied your wiring, we may have an exact other you. Rejection of that idea (which I must admit, for myself, comes from a very fundamental level in my psyche) is a belief in the USM. Of course, most of humanity doesn’t have a problem with such a philosophy. Many religions are based upon it, and even many atheists don’t wish to dismiss their uniqueness. For Heyworth, however, the USM is keeping us from believing in a real path towards the preservation of our lives. As makes sense from his point of view, Hayworth rails against the USM in his website, his essays, and his speech.