I’ve gotten over wondering who Dr. Ex is. That’s a relief. But I will never completely get over watching a recording of a young me about the size of a three or four year-old delivering a first-person recital of key events in my adult life; especially the moment when the tiny person with a previously hesitant and feeble voice responded to a question about his identity with an assertive “I am …” and then he sort-of slurred my name, sounding a bit drunk. I’ve seen recordings of myself and he said it pretty much the way I say things when I say them insistently (usually minus the slur). But how else would he say it, given that he and I are one and the same?
I know I shouldn’t have confused and startled you this way at the outset, but why not share my amazement right up front? The feeling of watching that moment was certainly surreal and thrilling—maybe even more than living the moment itself, but that’s partly because my thoughts at the time were a bit scrambled.
I had never felt that way. I had done some mind-altering things but I had never felt quite like that. Not even when I became semi-conscious following a three day coma after cracking my head open in a motorcycle wreck. The difference was that the little one on the recording wasn’t exactly the same me I was before or after. I certainly made more sense during that recording than on the one made a few weeks before it, when my little self was speaking half gibberish and uttering repeatedly both real and nonsense words and phrases. I had felt like I was deep inside somewhere, but some of my thoughts were mixed with static and random bits and were getting tangled on the way out. I’d always skeptically regarded reports of people “speaking in tongues,” but as I watched myself doing something similar, it didn’t sound so ridiculous.
Eventually those discordant signals subsided and I felt like myself again—and I was overjoyed to be alive. One thing is certain: I felt like me; I even remember the days leading up to the transfer procedure. In other words, I didn’t die, I wasn’t replaced—I persisted. And I’m now recording these facts for anyone who might be interested in this story. Let me clear up something you might be wondering about if you are learning about life for the very first time: the little one on that recording knew of my adult life because it was the second young me, not the first. And he, or I suppose I should say I wasn't a child of three or four; I was my combined ages before and after transfer, but the old concept of age has lost relevance in these situations. Confused? Let’s take a few steps back so you can understand what this is all about.
It was known for a long time that the human brain is what many think of as redundant and distributed; that is, memories and abilities are distributed throughout several locations. Important memories, such as those of the faces and personalities of our loved ones, are “located” among several areas. They’re everywhere … and nowhere—at least, nowhere in particular. Many people who suffer certain types of severe brain damage retain a sense of self and most of their critical memories, such as the identities of their loved ones. These observations led to the idea that even a portion of a brain provides continuity of identity.
People had long-discussed head, brain (or “whole-body”), and even partial brain transplants. They had even discussed moving a brain into a clone. Finally, it was suggested that a partial and eventually reversible brain transplant would likely provide what came to be known as Identity Persistence, or just Persistence.
Here is basically how it works:
1. Part of an aging donor’s brain is transplanted into a naïve recipient, a clone that has never been conscious and has been prepared to receive the transplant. The transplant consists of brain tissues providing critical memories and sense of identity.
2. The transplant recipient recovers and the transplanted partial brain and memories direct behavior during a transitional period, say, two years.
3. Throughout this period, memories initially residing in old tissue are shared and distributed into new brain tissues and new memories are also formed within them.
4. At the end of this period the original transplanted tissue is removed and replaced with youthful and naïve brain tissue.
Upon completion of the procedure your body and mind are new again, but your memories are old. Most people think of it as immortality.
The procedure works for several reasons: the transplant provides only those donor portions necessary for providing sense of self and interfacing with key portions of recipient brain; the essentially identical structures and neuronal behaviors of key portions of the donor and recipient brains, which are due to genetic identity between the donor and the recipient clone; the structural encoding of memories by neuronal interconnections, which are preserved in the transplanted donor tissue; the remarkable plasticity and regenerative capacity of the recipient tissue, which acquires older memories from donor tissues while simultaneously processing and storing new memories; and, the relative structural stability and strength of memories in the older donor tissue relative to naïve young tissue. This last point means that the older transplanted tissue provides the only awareness and memories the recipient has upon gaining consciousness, although it takes a while for them to clarify. Specific post-transplant treatments prevent significant rearrangement of the neuronal interconnections within the donor tissue, but promote connection and communication at the transplant interface between donor and recipient tissues.
A whole brain transplant doesn’t provide Persistence since the recipient can’t survive long with an aged brain. The key is to transplant interconnected portions of the donor brain that are necessary and sufficient for providing conscious thought and critical memories. Once healing has taken place, not only do the memories residing within the aged donor tissue guide the recipient’s actions, but over time donor memories propagate into the naïve recipient tissue where they are duplicated (propagative duplication). The aged donor tissue has to be removed at some point since it consists of old cells damaged by normal aging, and it would otherwise cause serious problems and eventually death. It is replaced with youthful tissue that is capable of storing entirely new memories.
The overall biomedical approach became known as Identity Module Partial and Reversible Transplant (IMPART), and several variants of the procedure were developed. IMPART provides Persistence but it isn't necessarily the only way; many other (and possibly superior) approaches are currently in development, but IMPART is the only proven approach for achieving Persistence today. Older people don't mind that the procedure is somewhat long and arduous; after all, the alternative is slow death, and when done properly, it is incredibly non-disruptive to the recipient’s sense of continuity.
By the time the aged donor tissue is removed it has imparted its memories to other tissues to such a degree that the recipient is hardly aware of its removal. Some IMPART patients are less receptive to propagative duplication of memories into new tissues; but even in its complete absence, continuity of identity is achieved but the donor tissue has to remain in place far longer. The bottom line is that IMPART provides Identity Persistence to virtually all who desire it, but it isn't magic or wishful thinking—it is real biomedical science and engineering and understanding the brain was essential to making it work.
Identity Persistence and the Unfolding Mystery of Mind
In the earliest years of the 21st century it was widely known that the regenerative power inherent to living tissue—including tissue of the brain—is truly spectacular. Due to head trauma and severe birth defects, many people have lived with remarkably altered and reduced brain structures for long periods prior to detection. A few highly capable people were discovered to have brains and key structures only a fraction of the normal size, and large defects in almost all structures have been found in many cases to have little impact on quality of life. These facts provided the basis for treating people with severe epilepsy using a procedure called radical hemispherectomy, which is essentially removal of half the brain. When this is done at an early age the patient usually suffers only minor problems.
Such observations and procedures suggested an amazing possibility: selected portions of a person's brain might allow transfer of memories and experiences, and even provide continuity of identity, when brought together with complementary portions of a naïve brain (which has no memories or sense of identity). With increasingly detailed and accurate models of the brain and other key technologies at their disposal scientists made remarkable progress; before too long the first partial brain transplant succeeded in a mammal. Most people were stunned and excited; some were simply afraid.
But let's not jump too far ahead. Even prior to this landmark achievement the basic outline of IMPART was foreseen on the horizon and described in a science fiction story that provided a crude roadmap to Persistence. Some said it caused many scientists to quietly and slowly redirect their research efforts to align them more coherently with other Persistence-related science. I think it simply summarized the general direction science was already moving in, but it did become a visible statement of possibility.
Subsequent to the appearance of that story, and as scientific advances were linked in people's minds to the IMPART concept, the life-extension discussion began to change. Many scientists had been claiming that aging was inevitable; before long many of them were making less confident statements about the certainty of aging and more oblique comments about the certainty of death. Some people made moral and ethical objections; based largely on these, they said the developments described in the story were unscientific. Others countered that the laws of nature aren’t bounded by human emotional frailties and irrational pleas. Many claimed the story was just a story—although an increasing number of them secretly believed otherwise. The Persistence Movement had begun.
You’ll have to pardon the interruption of this recording process for a moment while I do some rehabilitation recitations. I'll resume in a few minutes, “persistence … dali one … ino trac … freedemb … my name is …”
Overt discussions of Persistence were scarce in scientific circles but much research possessed an implicit and clearly supportive directionality. I don't want to get too far from the main points of this story, so I have separately recorded the brief histories and details of these key IMPART technologies and procedures for anyone who might be interested. You will find them here, and if you are confused by any of the technical details of brain function or IMPART, your questions might well be answered therein. If you have a moment, please explore these fascinating developments, but if not, I will quickly summarize them.
A primary goal was memory transfer/transplant from one animal to another, and parallel and complementary R&D efforts came into full swing around the world. Over time, key technologies and procedures were developed. Trans-Cortical Identity Transfer, or Trans-CIT (pronounced transit), became the standard approach for performing transplantation of memory-rich donor tissues into recipient animals. Trans-CIT is somewhat of a misnomer; it's true that cortical tissue originally was and still is a primary tissue of the transplant, but several tissue types and brain structures are involved in the complex interconnected structure of the transplant, which is generally now called the Identity Module. In humans it is now typically about the volume of a large apple (230 to 350 cubic centimeters), but the shape is far more irregular. The portions of the donor brain required for function are so specific that the procedure must be performed by brain imaging-guided, highly precise, fast and efficient surgical micro-robots. Humans simply cannot perform this surgery.
Eventually it was shown that allowing the recipient animal to live with the donor tissue for some time prior to reversal of the transplant allowed it to retain a sense of continuity, and in some cases, even some of the donor's memories after the transplant was removed. Older animals proved to be the best donors; the stable physical structure of their memories was ideal. Very young animals with large portions of naïve brain tissue proved to be excellent recipients. They had no memories of their own, their brain tissue was highly plastic and possessed enormous powers of healing and regeneration, and memories formed within their naïve tissues quite readily. At this point, it was very clear what these developments might mean for human Persistence, so it was a landmark event when these animals thrived with the donor’s memories intact subsequent to transplant reversal.
A common analogy for IMPART is two interconnected computers. At first, one (an older model) is fully functional and controls all decisions, but over time it incrementally shares all past data with a newer model that is also functioning in parallel and storing all current data. Functions become increasingly taken over by the newer model and by the time the older model is disconnected there is little apparent discontinuity.
Another primary goal was to transplant as much of the donor memories as possible in a compact size. Related biomedical advances allowed for duplicative redistribution and concentration of memories critical for sense of self into a relatively small volume of donor brain tissue. IMPART worked moderately well without the need for concentrating important memories within the Identity Module prior to transplant, but with this procedure important memories could be selectively included, and unnecessary or unwelcome memories could be greatly excluded. Memory duplicative redistribution methods also greatly increased memory transfer from old donor tissue to young recipient tissue after transplant. This minimized the sense of discontinuity upon transplant reversal.
Even before these accomplishments in re-organizing the brain, some had speculated about transplanting a human Identity Module to a new human soma. Brain size and structure are highly similar between identical twins and clones, which is why IMPART probably works best between genetically identical animals. And immune rejection even now remains a problem for any genetically non-identical transplant. So, cloning was the obvious solution. Cloning of animals had become routine and everyone was aware that the goal was to pair older human donor tissue with a younger clone, but several nagging questions were in the air. They all crystallized into a single final form: how might identity transfer into a human clone be accomplished without infringing to some degree on the individuality of the clone? This turned out to be simpler than anticipated—at least from the perspective of reasonable people.
The Individual Right to Life and Therapeutic Cloning
Long before other advances in Persistence-related research had come to full fruition, ectogenesis R & D had successfully produced a functioning artificial womb. Research in this area showed that during normal development growth of the fetus is slowed by multiple factors secreted by the mother to prevent it from getting too large too quickly, which (under normal conditions) would tax the mother of vital nutrients and result too often in a baby dangerously large for natural birth. Sheep, pigs and monkeys were used as common research models and artificial womb technology could be used to greatly accelerate growth. Various related scientific advances allowed for the ideal gestational preparation of a Trans-CIT recipient. A sheep clone could grow to the size of a juvenile in a normal 5 month gestation, and pigs took the normal 4 months. Monkeys vary in gestational duration, but they too could be grown to almost juvenile size in a near-normal gestational period.
Human gestational biology is very similar and it was found that a human clone could be grown to a large size—about as large as a three year-old—in about 9 months. As with accelerated growth of other animals, the developmental process doesn't quite keep pace and the maturation of various structures is somewhat asynchronous. At parturition brain size is about equal to a three-and-a-half year-old but its structural development is about equivalent to that of a pre-parturition fetus. Of critical importance, prior to the secretion of signals from the fetus and placenta to initiate parturition, it remains in a normal pre-parturition unconscious state. Research into premature birth had identified these secreted signaling factors; in humans they come primarily from the placenta and secondarily from the fetus, and controlling these signaling pathways in order to regulate the length of gestation turned out to be fairly simple. Once again, nature had provided a useful solution; it simply needed to be implemented. The inhibition of these signals over the last weeks of gestation ensures a completely unconscious state.
Of course, most people had no objection to growing a cloned sheep or monkey in an artificial womb, but when it came to humans, most people's attitudes were radically different. Needless to say, ethical and religious debates over this point were frequent and heated. During the gestational period a fetus has potential for individuality and personhood, but it only has real value is to its parents and others who care about it. The development of highly specific tests of consciousness, awareness, and analyses of both pre- and post-parturition states of awareness helped settle the issue in the minds of reasonable people. Pre-parturition clones simply are not conscious and aware, and they do not form lasting memories of these times. Besides, fetuses have long been commonly aborted at a similar stage of development and possessing a similar absence of conscious awareness, whereas cloning preserves and perpetuates life.
But all of these facts combined didn’t settle the issues of “ensoulment” and “personhood” in the minds of many, especially within certain religions. This was especially true for people who bizarrely conferred upon even single cells rights possessed by conscious adult humans with loved ones, interpersonal relationships, and rich life histories—but for people of this mindset, evidence will never suffice, or even help to settle such issues. To more reasonable people, the real crux of the matter was the absence of consciousness in the clone.
But not all religious people opposed these developments and reactions ranged across the board. Many religious leaders were uncomfortable with the general concept of brain transplants, but biomedicine moved steadily forward and many previously unsettling procedures were helping people. Importantly, it was Robert White, a deeply religious Catholic and member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, who had first ventured seriously into the unexplored territory of brain and whole head transplant. Why did he pursue such things? For the same reasons truly caring people pursued Persistence: to help all of humanity, whether or not some individuals wanted any part of it.
Many within certain religions strongly objected at first to developments in cloning—especially the use of a clone for transfer of identity and consciousness—because it was non-traditional and profoundly unnatural. But it is also unnatural to fly airplanes and drive cars, to remove cancerous growths, to mow lawns, to transplant life-saving human organs, and to devote much of the waking day to interfacing with electronic devices; in fact, most of modern life itself is profoundly unnatural. And in many ways that is a good thing, because, when we get beyond excessively romantic notions, nature is harsh and unforgiving. Very importantly—at least, it should have been—most of these objectors were confronted by the lack of specific prohibitions against such developments in their bedrock texts. Of course, many looked for and found passages that might be loosely interpreted as prohibitions against cloning; but these same passages might have been interpreted equally validly as being for or against almost anything to do with life, and many passages were widely cited and interpreted as supportive of cloning.
Similar arguments had emerged over evolution but that argument had been mostly trivial because the main point of contention was how humans had come into existence in the distant past. The argument over Persistence and cloning was an argument over the present and the future trajectory of humankind. It was a great irony that the deniers of evolution were generally the same as the opponents of Persistence, yet Persistence was the best way of overcoming the brutality of evolution; even though they denied evolution, by opposing Persistence, this stubborn and unthinking mob was subjecting humanity to its ongoing and ultimately unforgiving cruelty.
Many Hindus and Buddhists welcomed the collective developments leading to Persistence and saw them as a next step in the continuity of life. Many leaders of the three Abrahamic religions had already accepted the gradualist view of personhood: the belief that a person’s value grows as their interactions with others grow in depth and number. So, resistance to developments leading to Persistence was generally baseless and irrational. Besides, the person whose cell would be cloned owned that cell in every sense of the word. It was part of that person’s body. They could kill it, discard it, or grow it. Routine procedures like brushing of teeth and showering killed countless cells every day. But using the power inherent in that single cell to perpetuate life was called by some completely unethical and blasphemous. Supporters of Persistence repeatedly responded that they weren't killing or harming anyone; they were simply exercising a preference for an existing, feeling, and interpersonally connected consciousness over one that didn't yet exist. When viewed from this perspective, opposition to cloning for the purpose of Persistence seems incomprehensible.
Please pardon me again, I’ll resume in a few minutes, “born first …thirty-eight … dot … 57403 … dash dash …negative-ninety …dot …42554 … I am …”
As religious and ethical debates raged on something interesting (although relatively unsurprising) was slowly happening to people: they were behaving differently. Persistence wasn’t a religion but people in the Movement were generally model citizens. Behavior had been disintegrating for years among many people—including those who nominally subscribed to common religious traditions—but as people became committed to Persistence they typically acted with more care and self-control. Rape, murder, assault, drug abuse, unwanted pregnancy and other crimes and social ills gradually decreased. People became intolerant of environmental destruction and flagrantly excessive and wasteful behaviors. Many young people saw the possibility of a hopeful future and they stopped wasting their time and lives on diversions and sedation. Even casual sex and masturbation decreased because both threatened the integrity of cells important in the Persistence procedure. I don’t want to imply that all human difficulties were solved in one stroke—far from it—but Persistence was largely delivering a level of sanity and orderliness that had been promised, but only weakly provided, by education, law, and religion.
As a result of all these positive changes it was hard to effectively oppose the Movement. Many people’s resistance obviously crumbled when all the critical pieces had been assembled. And assembled they were: the full IMPART approach (consisting of Trans-CIT, a transitional period, and then transplant reversal) worked in animals; cloning was routine and the animal could be gestated and rapidly grown by ectogenesis to a size suitable for a Trans-CIT recipient; and the emergence of consciousness could be controlled and completely suppressed in the recipient. The only thing remaining was to do to a person what had been done to thousands of animals, including primates. The path to extreme extension of human life was clear. But the path was still illegal in many places.
A few scientists and philosophers began to say it was time to try the procedure with people and the question of which few would be first in line had been long ago decided. Brains and Identity Modules of a few victims of fatal accidents had been vitrified (frozen under highly specific conditions) in liquid nitrogen. They had taken many hours to die and had been attended by cryonic specialists at the time of death, so the vitrification procedure had been performed in close to ideal conditions.
Even prior to death their blood had been replaced with an oil-like synthetic oxygen carrier that was designed for two primary uses: filling the delicate and oxygen-sensitive lungs of premature newborns and as a blood substitute in emergencies. It had been discovered over many years of treating trauma patients that rapid changes in blood oxygenation and other variables were even more dangerous than prolonged lack of oxygen. The blood substitute allowed for greater control over these variables during trauma. Importantly, the blood substitute didn’t crystallize as it froze, as blood did, and as a patient neared death the circulatory system was already hooked up to the perfusion pumps and apparatus. Within a few minutes of death cryoprotectant chemicals (for preserving the integrity of the tissues during freeze/thaw) had been added to the blood substitute and were circulating through the brain and other tissues. Vitrification under these conditions was rapid and effective.
Upon death, their stem cells were harvested for the growth of recipient clones. Their brains hadn’t been prepared specifically for Trans-CIT by memory concentration, but experiments in animals showed that unconcentrated brain material could provide a reasonable degree of Persistence. Upon completion of the Trans-CIT procedure the patient was predicted to lose between 40% and 60% of certain memories, but all were predicted with a high degree of certainty to remember their loved ones. To their still grief-stricken relatives it was all that mattered.
The United Nations and governments of some countries of the world had agreed to prohibit all human cloning. Various governments banned human reproductive cloning but allowed or even embraced the concept of therapeutic cloning, a process by which a cloned pre-embryo or embryo is allowed to grow to an arbitrary stage of complexity, and then its cells are used for various therapies. However, the IMPART approach showed very clearly that reproductive cloning was one form—probably the ultimate form—of therapeutic cloning, revealing the inhumane arbitrariness of this legal distinction; thus was born a legitimate new biomedical concept: therapeutic reproductive cloning, but to differentiate it from reproductive cloning for the purpose of producing another human, it became known as "somatic replacement cloning," which is just the highest-order version of body part replacement through cloning. Many common variants of the name emerged referring generally to replacement and Persistence.
The beloved of the deceased insisted that reason overrule irrationality and their departed be given a chance at Persistence. They said the existing distinction between therapeutic and reproductive cloning was not only arbitrary, it was obscene that some people could reproduce without restriction, having five, ten, even fifteen or more children by natural means, yet each of them was prevented from reproducing the one person they so desperately loved. Many of them lobbied tirelessly; they said the issue transcended normally simplistic discussions of “pro-life” and “right to life.” It was about the right to guide the course of our individual lives and of our relationships. Through Persistence, a life would come into being that didn’t now exist, except it was someone who until recently had existed and was—and still would be!—someone they loved.
Lining up behind the increasing numbers of these desperately distraught were parents with terminal children, along with cancer patients and their families, and they were joined by many others. Stories of heaven and an afterlife in paradise could not assuage their intense anguish. The tears and deep sadness in the faces of even the most religious revealed all-too-clearly that not even they truly believed these elaborate diversions from the harshest reality of all. So, the birth of the final phase of the Persistence Movement began with the collective solitary wish of the desperately sad beloved of the recently dead, and then became a tidal wave of mutual sympathy and basic self-interest. A Therapeutic Cloning Bill of Rights had long existed in draft form and it approached a final form that a majority of people in leading nations agreed upon. I might not have every detail exactly right but here are the main points:
Therapeutic Cloning Bill of Rights
Human value is accumulated gradually through conscious experience and through relationships with others. A person having conscious identity and meaningful interpersonal relationships has infinitely greater rights and value than a clone of any degree of developmental maturity that has never experienced a moment of consciousness.
Therefore, we the people, in order to advance the cause of humanity, and in the pursuit of life, liberty, and the betterment of all, declare the following to be natural human rights:
1. The cells of a person belong to that person and the fate of these cells cannot be determined by an outside agent against the person’s will.
2. Each person has a right to determine for themselves whether or not to continue life beyond the bounds set by nature.
3. Each person has the right to continue life through repair or replacement of any part or all of one's own soma, and this right shall include the production of a never-conscious clone from one's own cells. This right does not extend to the production of conscious clones, or multiple clones for the numerical expansion of the person.
4. A living will may direct the exercise of these rights for the deceased, and parents may exercise these rights for their non-adult children.
5. Reproduction by any means shall be deemed equivalent. A citizen or legal resident of a country that limits individual reproduction shall be be bound by those laws, whatever the means of reproduction.
As one outspoken proponent pointedly proclaimed: “These people don’t want your money, or to infringe on your rights, and they shouldn’t have to seek your permission to do what they so deeply desire, in fact, what many of them live for. All they want is for you to stand aside as they do what is their right. It is not a question of if, but when, most or all of you or your loved ones will come to a similar challenging moment in life, and then it will be your right to choose—even if you choose the other path. For all who choose life, and on behalf of those who are undecided, let’s take this opportunity to refine these procedures, so that when that time does inevitably come, you will be confident that you will see your most beloved again. Why should I, or you, or anyone else decide that these people be required by law to meekly discard their own most beloved into the abyss of eternity?” Voters, lawmakers, and judges heard the message and were all shifting into the next gear for a challenge on cloning bans.
Naturally, that’s when the most radical few came completely unglued. They violently demanded hard evidence for everything except their own beliefs. Some said God was opposed to Persistence and they often spoke with self-confidence on God's behalf. They said humans shouldn’t play God even as they played the role and tried to control the lives of all other people with completely unreflective authority. Just as initial opponents of in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods for producing children had been terribly confused, and had mistakenly identified themselves as pro-life, these new opponents of life convinced themselves they were on its side. These were the same groups who on essentially the same grounds had opposed the ideas of Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin.
Procrustean Deathists and Somacentrics
At the beginning of discussions about Persistence there were many such objectors. Over time their numbers dwindled, leaving a stubbornly ignorant but substantial core that stood firmly in the way of progress, but in key countries momentum and the law had turned against their arbitrary objections. Unsurprisingly, they make trouble to this day. As with flat-Earth and geocentric theories of the cosmos, someone has to be the last to understand what is true and right. But even many sensible people opposed Persistence at first—at least, they remained neutral and required evidence. I counted myself in that group. Why should anyone choose a path to the future prior to the existence of evidence that strongly suggests it is the correct one? Nevertheless, people did choose. They chose conventional diversions, conventional medicine, conventional religion, conventional life-extension fairytales, and even conventional death. In other words, they chose to close their eyes and hope.
Once again, I don't want to venture too far from the main threads of this story, so if you are interested in a detailed account of the pernicious effects of popular entertainment, the "Procrustean Deathists," the Somacentric Life Extension Movement, and various irrational supporters and opponents of Persistence, you will find it here; otherwise, read on and I will briefly summarize.
In Greek mythology, Procrustes invited passersby to lie in a bed he slyly shortened for the tall and lengthened for the short. When they had laid down he insisted they fit perfectly; to make these adjustments he cruelly stretched the short and chopped feet off the tall. Human lifespan has its own irrational Procrusteans, and to this day, they say natural life is only worth living, and the human experience is all-the-richer, if death lies inevitably at a fairly predictable location along life’s trajectory. Even prior to the emergence of Persistence these apologists were rationalizing death as part of a natural program—primarily because they lacked imagination and courage. These personal deficiencies led to the Procrustean Deathist's steadfast general opposition to life-extension research, and their most visible and outspoken leaders were influential and dangerous zealots.
Most biomedical scientists also had made a choice: collectively, they were dedicated to saving the entire soma (body) to varying degrees. This came to be known as the Somacentric path or philosophy, although detractors called it an obsession. Most hadn't consciously chosen the Somacentric path; they found themselves traveling along it through default, purely through convenience and historical coincidence. The Somacentric philosophy lies at the core of virtually all biomedicine, and since the time of the first advances in medical treatment of illness, it had been the only option—well, it and the many fantastically elaborate myths of supernatural transcendence of death, which had become a deeply rooted part of even civilized people. Nevertheless, many of these people simply proceeded cautiously and rationally; they demanded evidence while trying to remain open to any reasonable option. It was hard to disagree with this approach since almost all scientific progress is accomplished this way.
Others had also chosen the Somacentric path to the future. Some were active in extreme (i.e. indefinite) life-extension advocacy and research and they invested all their efforts and faith in Somacentrism—and they were betting their lives. The most visible leaders of this movement were accused of pseudoscience and only pretending to cure aging because of their scientifically baseless and hyperbolic claims. They published papers in scientific journals and staged conferences for the explicit purpose of advancing research in the areas they deemed necessary for curing aging, and implicitly for ignoring or sweeping under the rug other pathologies that contribute to human mortality. Specifically, their efforts obviously were channeled toward marginalizing and downplaying discussions of types of somatic decay, such as epigenetic drift, that are ubiquitous and essentially irreparable in the absence of fantastically futuristic technologies. Their underlying strategy and goals were obvious: raise massive sums of money based on false promises, and hope that the falsely excluded types of pathological damage might someday be dealt with. As with other accomplished deceivers in human history, it appeared that they deeply believed their own deceptions, in spite of the fact that they made no sense. No sense at all.
The deficiencies of the Somacentric approaches became increasingly obvious to some as humanity edged toward the possibilities offered by Persistence. However, it remained nearly impossible for many to grasp the fundamental change that lay on the immediate horizon. The Somacentrics didn’t fully appreciate that they were committed to a losing battle, and although their path was one of convenience, in the end, how is a losing battle more convenient—especially since losing meant they would be meekly shuffling “into the abyss of eternity”?
Fortunately, some leading Somacentrics began to openly support Persistence, but this didn't eliminate irrational objections and opposition—or irrational support that detracted somewhat from the perceived legitimacy of Persistence. It was also fortunate that truly sensible people didn’t pay too much attention to these and other distractions, and the stealthily growing awareness of the Persistence Movement allowed them to direct their talents more productively.
Reproductive scientists and stem cell biologists were pushing forward into extremely rich territory; in fact, they had hit the biological mother lode—literally. They had isolated, characterized, and were engineering the most protected and pristine cells in the body: germ line stem cells. The mitochondrial genomes of these cells are essentially flawless, their nuclear genomes are maintained with the highest fidelity, and their epigenomes are orderly and sound. Their epigenomes can become a bit disordered with time but it was discovered that they can be repaired and restored to original condition by simple treatments. These remediated cells are the founts of new life.
A donor goes through a procedure in which some of these precious germ stem cells are removed (and repaired if necessary). If the person is young and not yet ready for the Persistence procedure the cells are stored at several safe and geographically dispersed locations. If the donor is ready for the procedure several of the cells are used to produce clones. An artificial mini-chromosome is added to each cell to enhance various traits. Twenty clones are grown initially to a multi-celled stage at which mitochondrial and nuclear genomes are sequenced. Once the results from these tests are analyzed the single best clone is chosen and maintained to the mature recipient stage in a special mobile artificial womb incubator designed for three primary functions: growth and preparation of the IMPART recipient, holding the recipient during the Trans-CIT procedure, and holding the recovering patient following the procedure.
The apparatus is called a Mobile IMPART Recipient Incubator (MIRI). It is transported into the surgical area just prior to Trans-CIT procedure and the recipient remains in it throughout. During the recovery period, I would occupy the MIRI and would remain in it until I emerged into consciousness without a visible trace of the surgery. The MIRI has several cameras mounted within the incubation chamber and a couple of hours prior to Trans-CIT your IMPART team allows you to see your recipient briefly by video. Most people take the opportunity.
Pardon the interruption, “renewed … dolly two … tesh durbbesh … pioneer sprint …i am one … i am …one loop to last …”
I remember regarding my recipient within the MIRI and each minute seemed like an eternity. I silently gazed as it hovered there in the almost clear but delicately pinkish liquid milieu. I became aware of the sounds of my old-person's breathing and wondered what it might sound like coming out of that body. I was simultaneously inspecting it and awed by it—like a combination of a new parent and a prospective owner of an unimaginably beautiful and precious work of art, a work of art that I would become. It looked just like images of me as a child. The skin and hair were fine and new; the eyelashes and brow hairs uniform and aligned; the limbs and digits smooth and beautiful; the face still and expressionless. Absent were the two prominent scars on my face, the many scars on my body, and the moles, blemishes and other visible irregularities of most of a human lifetime. It looked simply perfect. I say “it” because the brain wasn’t conscious. It was a vessel that I would become immersed within, become one with, and transfer my identity to.
It had been in the MIRI for 9 ½ months and would remain there for about two weeks after the Trans-CIT procedure for healing and recovery. Ten months total, pretty much just like natural birth. But the recipient wasn’t the size of a newborn—even a big one. It was closer in size to a large 3 year-old (almost 35 pounds) with a head at the large end of the normal range. The MIRI and associated technologies speeded growth remarkably. The recipient’s hormone levels were adjusted not only for increased growth but also to match mine. I had been receiving slight hormonal adjustments for the past couple of months and at the time of transfer levels of important hormones and growth factors were equilibrated. I found myself staring almost in a trance at my former and soon-to-be face when the time came for me to get prepped for the transfer. I was old and nothing got me very anxious or excited these days, but I was feeling both. If all went well, I would soon rise anew through virgin rebirth. I was ready.
As members of my IMPART team prepped me for the Trans-CIT procedure they reviewed the few things I needed to keep in mind. A nurse told me to listen carefully until I succumbed to the anesthesia. She then placed an earphone over each ear and a large positioning apparatus was placed over my head to hold it firmly. The earphone cup fit snugly over the entire ear and the sounds of the world were gone. My own recorded voice sounded in my ears and asked some questions about my comfort and whether or not I could hear okay. After each question was a pause and I responded to them in series.
A few days before, I had made the recording I was currently listening to (along with several others I would be listening to during recovery). It consisted of four parts. The first part consisted of these few questions. The second part was an overview of the procedure. They had given me a choice of things to record for this five minute portion and I had chosen this one. The third part consisted of a recitation of key memories that would play up until the moment the donor material incisions were made around my Identity Module. The fourth part consisted of music I had chosen.
The third part was by far the longest. It began with a short stereotyped version of a recurring dream I had experienced over many years. The dream wasn't quite a nightmare but it consisted of some anxious moments, which were intended to elicit strong feelings at specific times during the procedure. After the end of the dream sequence came some coded words and phrases, which then segued into a listing of facts about me and key events in my life. At the end, my voice began again and went through two more cycles of a dream, coded words and phrases, and then facts, each cycle unlike the one before. The purpose of playing this third recorded portion during the procedure was to guide the incisions more precisely around the Identity Module. The memories I had recorded a few days before, and soon would be hearing, had been intentionally located at the very boundary of the Identity Module where it adjoined brain tissues that would not be part of the transplant, and imaging equipment could locate the positions of my memories as they were triggered. I also would be recalling many positive emotional memories during the procedure to guide the incisions. Once all the pathways were mapped the incisions would be made very quickly.
I also would be hearing some of these recordings during the recovery period in the MIRI. As the second part of the recording began I spoke along with my own voice in my ears …
Part 2 consists of an overview of the Trans-CIT procedure.
The purpose of this procedure is to transplant my Identity Module into a recipient soma. The Identity Module contains my intact identity and critical memories, and upon recovery it will be the source of awareness, consciousness, and past memories. The procedure might cause some memories to become slightly corrupted, but rehabilitation therapies in combination with review of the training recordings I prepared in advance should restore them to high quality. Within a few weeks the incoherence will subside, and as I review my recordings, the whole procedure will seem like a dream.
I understood and now felt almost as if I were dreaming as I listened.
The Trans-CIT procedure I am undergoing is simple, safe, and the only known way to achieve Persistence. Robot and perfusion apparatus on-time is estimated at 42 to 57 minutes. Only a few primary vascular connections must be established quickly and this will be accomplished through a combination of synthetic means; other connections will be made more slowly through the regenerative capacity inherent to the brain. My Identity Module mapped for transplantation is about 310 cubic centimeters. It is estimated that greater than 95% of my critical memories and about 10% of infrequently accessed memories will transfer successfully.
The Identity Module interfaces to and involves portions of several separate brain structures. A large portion of the transplant consists of frontal cortex, which is capable of a high degree of Critical Memory Concentration. Successful connection of the Identity Module to various structural counterparts of recipient brain can be accomplished more easily than establishing functional connections of various portions of the brain to many separate structures, such as the spinal cord or optic nerve, as two among many examples. There will be minimal disruptions to portions of the brain that regulate the complex neural circuits that run to and from the face, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, throat, heart, diaphragm, gut and reproductive organs. All autonomic functions will be normal but controlled during the Trans-CIT procedure.
A synthetic oxygen carrier is being perfused into both donor and recipient to mostly replace and supplement natural blood. This carrier has been adapted for this procedure and prevents damage to the donor and recipient tissues. The donor tissue will receive sufficient circulation, oxygenation and removal of CO2 and waste throughout the procedure. The oxygen carrier contains a mixture of drugs for slowing metabolism and activity of certain portions of the brain. Infusion of the oxygen carrier and drug mixture began about two minutes ago. Over the course of the procedure drug mixtures will change several times to control various parameters of both donor and recipient tissues.
The highly coordinated procedure will be performed by an integrated duplex robotic apparatus.
I had seen this apparatus many times prior to my own procedure. It was an impressive feat of engineering.
All dimensions and coordinates are set and the surgery will be performed to an accuracy of less than 300 microns. Primary blood vessels at the planned interface of donor and recipient tissues have been mapped and will be appropriately matched for successful vascular reconnection. They will be remapped during this procedure during mapping of the Identity Module incision boundaries. The robotic units performing the procedure will be responsible for all incisions and excisions and donor tissue placement. Specialized bone, tissue, and skin repair units will perform all repairs.
The duplex apparatus will simultaneously excise the donor tissue and prepare sites in the recipient brain. The small amount of removed recipient brain material will be vitrified and kept in liquid nitrogen until it is needed to replace the donor material in the Completion Procedure. It will take about 22 seconds to excise the donor tissue. Once the donor tissue is excised it will be placed into the recipient site within 12 seconds.
Vascular connection of the donor transplant to the recipient blood supply is the most critical step of the procedure. A combination of vascular adhesion technologies will be used along with gentle agitation of the transplant site to accomplish connection and restore circulation to the donor tissue. A special coating of protectant and neurotrophic growth factors will be applied to each surface of the transplant interface. Vascular reconnection time for sufficient circulation is estimated at 50 seconds and excellent circulation should be achieved within 200 seconds.
My aged soma will be maintained in an unconscious state until the Trans-CIT procedure is successfully concluded, and I have recovered for two weeks outside the MIRI. If that time arrives my former soma will be allowed to die a natural death. Given the usual state of the soma subsequent to surgery and my advanced age, there is a 95% probability that this will not take more than 9 days, and a 99% probability that this will not take more than 14 days. If the procedure is unsuccessful my brain will be repaired, I will be revived, and a second Trans-CIT attempt will be made in about 12 months.
This concludes part 2 of this recording. Part 3 consists of separate cycles of recordings of important stereotyped dream sequences, coded key words and phrases, and important facts. Now beginning dream sequence number one.
As I walk the dimly lit hallway I pick up speed, knowing I’m late. For what I’m not exactly sure, but I think I was enrolled in some … math class this semester, only … I’ve forgotten which one. I think there is a test today I forgot to study for. I guess I’ll find out if I can only find my way to the classroom, but none of this … looks … familiar. I know it's getting late, too late to do anything about the test, and the clocks I’m passing are ticking insistently. I don’t see their hands but I hear them as I walk in rhythm, two steps for each tick, tick, tick … I hear the echoes as I walk the winding, almost cave-like, and anonymous hallway.
But wait, I don’t have a test! I finished school years ago. I’m late for the school reunion. What a relief! I’m not failing a test in absentia, I’m headed to see old friends. I’m relieved, but the time did go fast; it seems we were in school together not too long ago. How long ago was that?
I walk into the reunion and begin to see faces. I don’t recognize anyone yet, but I went to a large school, that’s to be expected. Oh, there’s umm … what’s her name? No, that’s not her. For a minute … oh well, it’s been a while ... but I’m seeing lots of unfamiliar faces. They seem to know one another but I don’t recognize them and they don’t seem to recognize me, either. I see a sign for the bathrooms toward the back of the large main room and I retreat to collect my thoughts. I wander inside, looking down and lost in thought about the strangers outside. I look up into the mirror and I'm not even certain I recognize myself. Staring intently at my face only makes things worse. It's like the blind spot of my eyes partially obscures my face, even when I try to see myself in peripheral view. The oppressive stuffiness of the bathroom overwhelms me and as I walk out I notice the red EXIT sign and doorway to my left. The outdoors and fresh air should help me clear my thoughts.
Outside, I stand with my back to the building and a small barren tree, and far away across a non-descript and anonymous landscape, I see blue water on the left and sunlit hills to the right. I begin to walk toward the hills and before I know it I am climbing them. They are lush and green and I’m surrounded by the aroma of spring as I ascend. The climb gets steeper and more arduous, and now I’m … climbing steps, the steps of a massive pyramid, one so tall I can’t see the top. The view is breathtaking and I am full of life. I gradually move upward into a light and diaphanous fog, which blends into neighboring clouds. The fog and clouds drift and flow, appear and disappear, like apparitions seemingly almost real and alive. I am entranced.
I realize after some time that the fog has thickened and the breathtaking view now seems a distant memory. And I am very tired. The previously engrossing apparitions are now lifeless. I am immersed in a thick haze of depleted sameness. I slowly climb onward, exhausted, disoriented, and despairing. Another step. And another. And another. I wonder apathetically about the end ... but then the fog lightens and I see the sun shining on the truncated apex of the pyramid above me, clear of fog and clouds. At this pace I should be there before long. I feel a deep sense of relief but a growing sense of uncertainty. Should I go onward? What might be there, and where will I go from there? I am certain of only one thing: I can't go back.
Now ending dream sequence number one. I will be instructed to silently rehearse these words and phrases upon awakening from the procedure: my name is …
My Trans-CIT took just under two hours. The duplex robots had simultaneously removed the appropriate donor and recipient brain regions, and prepared the tissues for transplantation. They were very efficient and performed each of their several tasks with remarkable speed. Much of the procedure time consisted of memory recall and mapping of the incision boundaries, and slowly ramping up and down bloodstream and brain levels of specific drugs and other therapeutic agents. A similar robotic apparatus would be removing my donor transplant in about two years and replacing it with the tissue removed from the recipient.
About thirty-five minutes into the procedure the recipient and I became one, although it would take almost four weeks to declare success. I remained in the MIRI for 16 days of recovery after the procedure. During this time my donor soma remained sedated. The excised donor portions were replaced with filler—tissue scaffolding and various time-release growth factors—so that the remaining brain could be maintained. If the transplant hadn’t been successful my brain would have been regenerated, my aged donor soma revived, and another transplant would have been attempted at a later time.
Pardon me again for just one last interruption, “once-sped exister … zarksmo pa … repeat last … whiskey echo … and i have landed …”
I slowly emerged from fog. I was told afterward of my recovery of consciousness, and I later watched recordings of those moments—in fact, I watched them only a few hours ago—but I don't remember the first couple of weeks. When I had my first really clear moment of awareness that I had made it, that I was still myself, I bordered on crying for joy, but I didn't know exactly how. I have since reconnected with a full range of normal emotions, and I've experienced many joyous tears during embrace of my new life.
I certainly wasn’t alone. The procedure had been performed for five years when I had it done. By then, many thousands had gone before me. Greater than 96% of first attempts worked as planned and 84% of second attempts—for a combined total success rate of over 99%. The two main reasons for the lower success rate the second time were the older patient age and the complications of recovering after a first unsuccessful attempt. In the early years of Trans-CIT use in people, at least eighteen months was required after the first unsuccessful attempt, for brain re-growth and memory concentration, etc., but this time got shorter as the procedure was improved. Unsurprisingly, all aspects of the procedure improved over the first few years, which is one of the reasons I waited. I was old and very ready by the time I scheduled a date.
During the transitional period when the donor transplant is still in place the person is referred to as a “hybrid.” After less than a year the memories from the transplant have been substantially transferred to newer tissues, and new experiences since transfer are safely stored there as well. I was a suitable candidate for a two year hybrid period. During this time both physical and brain development are greatly accelerated. By the end of two years I will be the size of a normal seven year-old and my brain will be equivalent in size and developmental maturity to that of an adult, although its structure will be somewhat modified relative to a natural brain.
My potential for intellectual growth and memory storage has been greatly expanded. These enhancements are the result of the actions of just a few of the many engineered genes residing on an artificial mini-chromosome that was added to my founder cell prior to growth of my new soma. It really doesn't matter to anyone undergoing the overall procedure that previously important trained skills are lost to varying degrees. The improvements allow such rapid learning and eclipse of former levels of accomplishment that these minor losses are utterly insignificant.
Many other traits of my former soma also have been improved; thank goodness I won't have to suffer with the same frailties I experienced last time around. I'll be far more mentally, emotionally, and physically fit, I'll need less sleep, and I'll be far more resistant to most known diseases and infections. Relative to Somacentric life extension approaches, one among many benefits of Persistence through cloning (of course, other than the fact that it actually works), is that it allows all these improvements to be done in one efficient procedure, rather than through non-specific drugs and other ad hoc fixes. I don't want to give you the wrong impression that the procedure is perfect; there are minor downsides and the biggest is Completion.
Eventually, I'll have to go through surgical removal of the older donor transplant and have it replaced with newer brain tissue. This is the Completion Procedure—most just called it Completion. Human Trans-CIT and Completion are both a bit more complicated than their equivalents in animals because measures are taken to eliminate the chance that residual aged donor cells remain after Completion, since they pose a cancer risk. By the time the transplanted tissue is removed the size of my brain not including the transplant is normal for an adult; upon replacement of the original tissue that had been removed for placement of the Identity Module my brain would be returned to a fairly normal structural state (except for the genetic enhancements). It's as if no operation had occurred —except, of course, I possessed a sense of uninterrupted continuity of my identity. In a way, the entire IMPART procedure is a lot like learning except the transfer of information is highly specific and efficient. So, this is the general outline of the IMPART approach I signed up for: the Trans-CIT procedure and recovery, a two year transitional period, and then Completion. After recovering from Completion it is typical for a person to say they are “Complete.”
For a little over a year I will remain a hybrid prior to Completion. We hybrids are small and initially uncoordinated, and generally need to grow some before we go out on our own. First, we need to practice walking and moving. We also need routine therapies designed specifically for hybrids. Remember, the body one is transferred into has never walked before and the muscles, nerves and brain need time to adjust. The process doesn’t take much time now with modern combinations of pharmacological and physical therapy technologies.
Somewhat surprisingly, all the senses work fairly well before too long and speaking coherently comes amazingly quickly, although, as I mentioned before, it is pretty scrambled for a while. The reason it develops so rapidly is due partly to the efficient design of the Identity Module prior to Trans-CIT, and partly to various post-Trans-CIT treatments to re-coordinate the flow of thoughts into speech. Without these treatments speech comes slowly or can fail to develop fully. The design of the Identity Module allows retention of a reasonably large functional vocabulary, along with critical skills and memories. Another important factor driving recovery of function is the remarkable regenerative plasticity of the brain. Understanding a few basic things about how to guide these self-organizing and healing processes allows the patient to speak, hear, and see soon after recovery, and within six months all senses are essentially perfect. Those early startling images of myself on video were made during those treatments when my brain was coalescing into one unified self, and I was trying to communicate.
By the way, I wasn’t at all surprised at what the little one said; after all, I was he, and I remember at least some of that interview less than a year ago, although reviewing the recordings of that interview undoubtedly reinforced memories I wouldn't have retained otherwise. It was my appearance … and my voice. It was the whole weight of the experience concentrated in the moment of seeing my memories coming out of that little one’s mouth. Yes, I knew I would look that way; after all, I had seen my young clone prior to the transfer procedure. But some developments are just so difficult to process or believe—even if you are prepared for them.
After I watched those early video recordings of myself for the first time I was finally given access to a mirror. I looked exactly as I did in the recordings. My distance and motion vision weren’t perfect yet but I could make out my features and the flawless skin of my face. The clear eyes of a child were mine, regarding my new self with awe. But a child's mind wasn't behind them and anyone should have been able to detect an unusual gratefulness and wisdom in a face so youthful. It was like I existed within the body and mind of my own child. I had carried that germ cell and it had given birth and new life to me. That was the moment I almost, but could not quite, shed a tear.
I gained increasing control. My legs worked more predictably every day as did my small, soft, and perfect hands. After not too long, I had made sense of ino trac, tesh durbbesh, and the other nonsense words and phrases I uttered in those first few days. Along with important real words and phrases they were coded memory keys that were devised for restoring order to my thoughts, and to help reinforce my identity. In fact, I’m still using them along with new ones I create occasionally. But now this ritual is part of an accelerated learning program I am using to both regain certain knowledge that was lost during the procedure, and to learn new things in my areas of interest. When I recite these coded keys, I pause for a moment between each one and think about their meaning; this decoding process acts as memory rehearsal and demands complex thought, and it helps the donor part of the brain to assert its identity.
As astonished as I was to be experiencing all of this, I was even more astonished by something else: my distant vision of the future had arrived and I was living it. I am Dr. Ex and decades ago I wrote a science fiction story about a possibility called Persistence. But, actually, the truth is more complex. I came along at just the right moment in time to describe Persistence but my contribution was fairly insignificant. I had inherited the distillation of centuries of the thoughts and lifelong pursuits of many brave visionaries in the pursuit of human betterment. So, Dr. Ex is really a collective identity, an abstract chain of continuity of a small fraction of wisdom past and present.
When I recorded that outline of Persistence long ago I was the product of brutal and uncaring evolution, the hopeful I of natural mortality, one of the discontented for whom wishing away the abyss—even pretending it to be paradise!—was never an option. We didn’t know how long it might take, we didn’t know if we would make it to the ultimate goal ourselves. but we knew that if we could recognize the path to the future when it appeared, and stay resolutely committed to it, someday, someone would make it. We and our ancestors fought against the brutality of evolution, we struggled against its unthinking allies, and we did (just in time for some of us) recognize the path to the future. Now, I am a conscious chain of continuity, part of a triumphant new trajectory of human life. I am I of Persistence.
Please send comments to dr.ex(at-sign)iofpersistence(dot)com