Welcome to Life After Death

Written by Joseph Darius Jaafari

Afraid of dying? If you stick around long enough, you just might not have to be.

If you had the chance to not just see your loved ones after they die, but interact with them, would you?

The question for many researchers and neuroscientists working in the aptly coined death-tech field is not one of will we, but rather on what platform.

“Death is often viewed as the great leveller that marks the cessation of experience. But perhaps this needn’t be the case,” writes Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad, a data scientist who studies machine learning and artificial intelligence. “Even if the dead can’t interact with us anymore, we can still interact with a simulation of them.”

Not terribly long ago, the concept of bringing people back — or, rather, bringing back their consciousnesses — seemed so far out of reach that it was the subject of an early episode of the futuristic sci-fi series “Black Mirror.” Fast-forward a couple of years to today, and you can find many scientists and philosophers contemplating the ethical implications of re-creating deceased humans, and what that might mean for how we grieve.

Dmitri Itzkov is a Russian multimillionaire who told the BBC in 2016 that he left the business world to “devote himself to something more useful to humanity.” His vision: A world where science has decoded the mysteries of the human mind, which then can be uploaded to a computer and transferred into a robotic avatar.

The thirtysomething Itzkov, who founded the 2045 Initiative to pursue his goal of “cybernetic immortality,” already knows how he will spend his immortal life. “For the next few centuries I envision having multiple bodies, one somewhere in space, another hologram-like, my consciousness just moving from one to another.”

It sounds outlandish, like something out of a low-budget sci-fi movie from the ’80s. But not everyone in the death-tech field is planning an endless existence involving mind-uploading and lifelike robots.

The Philadelphia-based biotech company BioQuark is currently studying how to reanimate the brains of people on life support who have been declared brain-dead. (Once the brain stem stops functioning, a person is considered to be legally deceased.) The plan is to inject stem cells and amino acids into patients’ spinal cords and brain stems, alongside other therapies, and grow neurons in the brain that will connect to each other and thus, regenerate the brain.

“This represents the first trial of its kind and another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime,” said BioQuark CEO Ira Pastor at the study’s outset.

There are other technologies cropping up that don’t bring back the dead, per se, but do allow mourners to keep their memories of loved ones alive for eternity.

A few years back city officials in Anchorage, Alaska, for example, began allowing people to stick QR codes on the city’s columbarium wall, which holds 9,000 urns. When scanned by visitors, the QR codes pull up an online memorial, photos and videos posted by the family.

“If we give people the opportunity to memorialize in a way that they’re comfortable with, then they’ll be down the road to healthy grieving, and that’s the whole point,” said Rob Jones, director of Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that robotics and the rapid evolution of technology may one day revolutionize the way humans die — or don’t die.

Until that time comes, however, the rest of us will have to make peace with our own mortality and continue honoring our dead the analog way: by keeping their memories alive inside our brains, and our hearts.

This post originally appeared on NationSwell

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Photo Credit: Franklin Heijnen/Flickr

67 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thank you.

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Lesa D
Lesa D8 months ago

um yeah... NO!

thank you Joseph...

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Angel W
Past Member 9 months ago

don't wanna live

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Angela G
Angela G9 months ago

only want to live longer if healthy, otherwise just a drag on everyone including self

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Deborah W
Deborah W9 months ago

GARY JULES said it all ... It's a mad, mad world. Streisand tried it with her pet dog, and pretty much everyone was outraged. Why is this any different? Humans were made for specific roles in life and in death (as role models, examples of waste, whatever). Once and done, no do-overs. Personal opinion is that what we do during our limited time on this earth has a profound effect, for good or bad, on those we encounter along the way. Feel the masses would do well to make peace with our own mortality, making each day the best it can be, as it may well be the last. Think the best way to honor our dead is through personal memories made, gathered and shared with others over a lifetime -- and tucked safely in our own hearts and souls, never to be tapped again through this BOGUS undertaking. Things progress or regress over time and, just for the sake of conversation, who the hell would want to come back into a strange new place, with old patterns of thought and survival no longer appropriate. SUCH A BULLSHIT PROPOSITION.

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Liliana Garcia
Liliana Garcia9 months ago

I agree with heather B's comment and also see a difference between immortality and brain recovery as Lorraine pointed out.

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Lorraine A
Lorraine A9 months ago

This has shades of many sci fi stories. As for helping people with brain damage recover, that would be a blessing to the families!

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Ruth Rakotomanga
Ruth R9 months ago

I can think of a few people I wouldn't like to see again, thanks!

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Anne M
Anne Moran9 months ago

??

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Leigh EVERETT
Leigh EVERETT9 months ago

I have an idea. Why don't we just let people die and keep their memories in our brains and hearts ? Anyway, This will never happen. God has already announced what happens to us when our flesh dies and I don't think he's about to change his mind for a few dreamy scientists.

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