The Neural Archives Foundation
Archiving: Personalities, Memories and Experience

About NAF

NAF was conceived in mid 2005 in response to advances being made by IBM and others in the field of whole brain simulation. It was eventually incorporated in early 2008 and preserved it's first neural tissue shortly thereafter. NAF was discussed initially as a potential vehicle for uploading a human mind into a future version of just such a whole brain simulation. The two of us saw the value in a non-profit organisation that would allow people to have their neural tissue stored after death in advance of technology that would be able to access it. This would serve two functions, firstly it could provide a true historical archive, particularly in respect of storing the neural tissue of prominent states-persons and others who had been instrumental in the shaping of, or witnessing significant events from, the world of our times. Secondly, it could provide a vehicle for cryonicists who accepted an information theoretic model of self and who believe that their neural tissue could be reconstituted back into a conscious self at some point in the future.

Unfortunately, there are too many unknowns to realistically appraise the likelihood of success or failure of such a venture. There is simply too much we do not know; for example, we do not understand the phenomena of consciousness; we do not know how and by what mechanisms memories are encoded within the brain; we do not know if the societies of the future would even be interested in us and our past. There are also problems that we do know about; we know that cooling the brain to temperatures needed for preservation causes massive cellular damage. Despite these negatives, we can however make some reasonable assumptions, we can assume that because all known societies have or are interested in their past then people of the future will similarly be interested in their past. We can also get around problems of insufficient specific understanding of brain mechanisms by simply preserving as best we can the entire structure. We do know that it is possible to preserve structural information about the brain by cryogenic storage, even though many of the cells that originally formed it are no longer viable and even though there is mechanical damage to those structures caused by freezing. We also know from medical procedures where a patient is cooled to very low temperatures, that information is retained even though neural activity stops. This is evidence that the information is stored structurally and independent of active biology.

The information content of your brain defines your identity as shaped by your experiences and core structure. Whilst we cannot realistically assess the likelihood of uploading, it is probable that some stored information will be accessible to future technology and that this information is interesting and valuable in its own right.

If it were possible to imbue a future simulation of you built from this information with consciousness, would that be you? It is a deep philosophical question and we simply do not know and make no claims. We can however say that your brain is your best autobiography, a unique snapshot of life in our time and valuable for that reason alone. It is the sum of all your observations, experiences and feelings of a World that may no longer exist when the technology matures.

The two current Executive Directors of NAF are:

  • Philip Rhoades, BSc: Philip has a background in biomedical research and IT. He is completing a mature-age PhD in Population Genetics involved with computer modelling of threatened populations.
    phil at neuralarchivesfoundation dot org
  • James Newton-Thomas, M.AppSci: Field roboticist and AI developer. In between automation projects in the mining and other industries is currently researching the engineering of machine consciousness and whether or not we can recreate a subjective experience of existence in a non-biological substrate.
    jnt at neuralarchivesfoundation dot org