Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. After all, we've been listening to the transhumanist fanfares about their wonderful "singularity" for a few years now, and we've all heard about how they want to take the GRIN technologies (genetics, robotics, information processing, and nanotechnologies) and usher in The Golden Age, when everyone will live to a very ripe very old age of a few thousands of years, thanks to the virtual immortality that those technologies will offer. And if that doesn't work, we can always download or upload our memories into a chip, which will be inserted into our biological clone, and thus, we'll have our own transhumanist metempsychosis as we're in control of our own reincarnation. Amid all this, it was inevitable that someone would propose "resurrection studies" and attempts to revive the clinically dead. Well, in these three stories shared by Mssrs D.W. and V.T., and Ms. M.W., that's exactly what is now being done:
THe crux of the "new therapy" experiment is here:
It is important to note that at this point, there isn’t much evidence to suggest how genuinely realistic or even serious this endeavor is; however, the panel of experts working on the initiative does include Dr. Calixto Machado, a well-known neurological researcher and a member of the American Academy of Neurology who has written extensively on brain death.
The team will test a combination of therapies on the participants, who have been medically certified as being brain dead and are only kept from decomposing by life support machines. Injecting the brain with stem cells, giving the spinal cord infusions of beneficial chemicals, and nerve stimulation techniques – which have been shown to bring people out of comas – will all be tried out.
The central nervous system is bioelectrochemical, in that it uses biologically manufactured chemicals called neurotransmitters to transmit electrical signals through the body. Stimulating neurons with electrical currents is one thing – even in a coma, the neurons will be able to respond to electrical stimulation – but after brain death, neurons begin to wither away and degenerate, so for any “resurrection” to occur, the team will need to stimulate the regeneration of neurons in these brain-dead folk.
This is presumably where the stem cells come in, which in their most primitive state can differentiate into any cell in the human body. Although there has been plenty of remarkable progress using them to regenerate damaged heart, pancreatic, eye or even brain tissue, for example, there is a long way to go before stem cells can simply be injected into humans, allowing them to regenerate any type of lost cell.
Of course, this won't be the first time that scientists have tried "resurrection" experiments, nor even the first time that they have recognized the crucial role of electricity in biological life processes. Reanimation experiments were being conducted in the early 19th century, using electrical shock. What's unique here is the "new" added connection of using stem cells to attempt to restore neurons that have partially or completely decayed.
Now, regardless of where one stands on the morality or ethics of such an experiment, I am certain most readers of this website can percive the huge philosophical implications of this study, implications that can be divined by assuming such studies might actually successfully revive a clinically dead brain: (1) does the person whose brain is was return? (2) or does the "revived" brain or individual seem somehow "less than themselves," a hollow sort of soul with no individuality? (3) Assuming the whole person does return, what, if anything, will they remember? or (4) has a different person altogether "returned"? One is reminded, somewhat, of C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength, and of his version of DARPA, the NICE(National Institute of Coordinated Experiments, which was anything but nice), reviving the dead head and brain of a guillotined French murderer: what came through, wasn't what left.
In any case, merely mentioning these types of questions provides the key as to why such a study has been allowed to go forward, for if "successful" the experiments might begin to clarify such questions, questions which have been vexing human philosophies and theologies for some time, concerning the relationship of the mind and brain, the body and soul and person. One can expect that, if there is any measure of success, that the experiment will be expanded to considerations of how long after clinical brain death these "resurrection therapies" will actually work effectively, and so on.
...and there's one final thing, one very disturbing thing, that hovers in the background here, and that is the possibility that, once again, we're really looking at the "revelation of the method," and that these experiments have already long been performed secretly. This means "they" have probably already found the "answers" to some of these questions, or at least, concocted ones designed to avoid the real philosophical issues, probably of a materialistic nature, to keep everyone looking in the wrong direction. But doing the experiments secretly seems to me all but certain.
See you on the flip side...