If it’s immortality that you seek, then science has got you, fam … maybe.
Yale neuroscientist Nenad Sestan made a startling revelation at a recent meeting at the National Institutes of Health: his team has successfully reanimated dead brains.
Dead pig brains, that is.
Recovering the brains of dead pigs from a slaughterhouse, Sestan and his team pumped them with artificial blood. The Conversation reports that they were able to bring these brains back to “life” for up to 36 hours. They didn’t gain consciousness though, but Sestan is certain that restoring awareness is a possibility.
He also reckons that the same technique could work on primate brains – including us humans – and that the brains could live indefinitely. As in, forever.
Eternal life, here we come!
Buuuut, is it possible to survive the death of your body? Is such an existence worthwhile? And what do you do now that you’ve got all this spare time on your hands?
Chances are that if your brain is kept alive once you’ve expired, you would have to spend your everlasting life as a disembodied “brain in a bucket”. You’d basically be locked away inside your own mind without a body to show for it, unable to access to the senses that allow us to experience and interact with the world, i.e. smelling, eating, seeing.
Implant your brain into a new body, you say? Sorry, but that kind of technology and knowledge may be decades, if not centuries, away. Only your thoughts would keep you company. Even if you had a new body, immortality would be boring as hell, if not all out soul-destroying.
Some say that it’s downright impossible for a disembodied brain to house anything like a normal human mind (if there is such a thing). Antonio Damasio, a philosopher and neuroscientist, says that the human’s brain and body are in constant interaction with each other:
Every muscle, nerve, joint and organ is connected to the brain – and vast numbers of chemical and electrical signals go back and forth between them each and every second. Without this constant “feedback loop” between brain and body, ordinary experiences and thought are simply not possible.
Truth is, no one knows what it’s like to to be a disembodied brain, but chances are that you could be driven mad. A man reportedly due to have the world’s first head transplant has experts worried that he could suffer a terrible fate. They say his brain will be overwhelmed by the unfamiliar chemical and electrical signals sent to it by his new body, and at that point, sanity is not an option.
A disembodied brain would probably have the same reaction, but it won’t be able to do a damn thing as it would be unable to signal its distress or provide relief.
You gotta feel for the plight of a disembodied brain, hey.
From an ethical standpoint, reanimating a conscious human brain is also a murky area. Benjamin Curtis, a lecturer in Philosophy and Ethics at Nottingham Trent University, explains:
Acording to the dominant view in ethics, living human beings possess full moral status – that is, they are deserving of the highest possible degree of moral respect. They have such a status by virtue of possessing high-level psychological properties that are grounded in the capacities of the conscious human brain.
… according to this view, irrespective of whether your disembodied conscious brain would be you, it would still be an entity with full moral status.
And so the bottom line is this: to keep a disembodied conscious human brain alive may well be to subject an entity with full moral status to an existence of hellish tedium, or to the mental torture of inescapable madness.
Essentially, to a fate worse than death.
Ja, I think it’s safe to say that this immortality gig is totally overrated anyway.
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