Just when you thought the aspirations and plans of modern science couldn't possibly become more diabolical (or, if one prefer, sacrilegious), an article comes along to renew your hope that the world continues on its path of normalcy, and that many scientists are, indeed, just as wild-eyed-nuts as you always thought them to be. And this week, apparently many people were relieved and reassured that the mad scientist is not a thing of the past or a species that died out, but a real, living creature deserving of our awe and respect. Ms. M.W. and many others found this, and shared it, doubtless because they were concerned that I was losing hope that there were no more mad scientists:
Way back when I first started writing about these strange topics in The Giza Death Star, I made the observation that physical immortality might not be such a good thing, without a commensurate and corresponding improvement in human spirituality and morality. In this, I took my cue from an ancient Greek Church Father named St. John Chrysostom, who warned about the same thing, and who stated that it was death, in fact, that formed the crucial condition for the possibility of human repentance and a change of mind, for it cut off further progress in evil. Taking this as my cue, in the final pages of that book, I asked people to imagine if such immortality were possible, or even a dramatically extended life span were possible - both of which are now being openly discussed and touted in serious and not-so-serious literature - what it might mean for the resulting civilization? One thing that would result, I pointed out, was a vastly expanded and accelerated scientific and technological development. One individual would, in such a condition, be able to learn and to master several academic disciplines, not just one.The explosion of technology and science would dwarf anything we have seen thus far. But the other consequence would be for moral progress. Imagine, I said back then, an Albert Schweitzer having not a century, but centuries or even millennia to do good things, or, conversely, a Mao Tse-Tung, a Josif Stalin, a Pol Pot or an Adolf Hitler, having that long to "perfect their progress in evil," and one gets a clear picture of the sharp moral contradictions such a society would be in. And please note: this problem is not a problem that, to my knowledge, is receiving anything close to the attention it needs in the transhumanism-virtual immortality community. The sole focus is on the science; if we can do it, we should do it.
Now we have this:
Bioquark, a Philadelphia-based company, announced in late 2016 that they believe brain death is not 'irreversible'.
And now, CEO Ira Pastor has revealed they will soon be testing an unprecedented stem cell method on patients in an unidentified country in Latin America, confirming the details in the next few months.
To be declared officially dead in the majority of countries, you have to experience complete and irreversible loss of brain function, or 'brain death'.
According to Pastor, Bioquark has developed a series of injections that can reboot the brain - and they plan to try it out on humans this year.
They have no plans to test on animals first.
The first stage, named 'First In Human Neuro-Regeneration & Neuro-Reanimation' was slated to be a non-randomized, single group 'proof of concept' study.
The team said they planned to examine individuals aged 15-65 declared brain dead from a traumatic brain injury using MRI scans, in order to look for possible signs of brain death reversal.
Specifically, they planned to break it down into three stages.
First, they would harvest stem cells from the patient's own blood, and inject this back into their body.
Next, the patient would receive a dose of peptides injected into their spinal cord.
Finally, they would undergo a 15-day course of nerve stimulation involving lasers and median nerve stimulation to try and bring about the reversal of brain death, whilst monitoring the patients using MRI scans.
Light, chemistry, and stem cells and DNA. If one didn't know any better, one would swear one was looking at the broad chronological progression of Genesis 1.
But I digress.
The problem here is, one notices, the almost complete avoidance of the moral question. Let's assume the technology works and that one can, literally, resurrect the dead scientifically. And let us assume the project reaches the stage of perfection envisioned by the Russian Cosmists, like Nikolai Fedorov. The cosmists, recall, want to extend the resurrection-by-science principle to the entire history of one's ancestors. But should this occur, then what about resurrecting people like Stalin, Mao, or Hitler? The sad truth is, some people still "revere" those twisted and murderous people as heroes. The sad truth is, some people would attempt to do it, if given the means to do so.
But there's an even bigger problem. The entire project is predicated on the materialist assumption that "brain function equals the person." Regular readers here know that I have never subscribed to such a view, nor have I subscribed to the view, conversely, that there is no relationship between a person's "personhood" and the functions of their soul, which would include, of course, the functions of their will, intellect, emotions, and brain. It is, I suspect, a very complex phenomenon not neatly divided into tidy Cartesian dualisms, with numerous feedback loops between the two. This said, however, the problem arises then that the brain is not the creator of individuality, but rather, its transducer (and, if I may employ a more ancient version of the term, its traducer). Thus, the possibility arises that one might "revive" a brain, and traduce or transduce a different individual than one "recalls" being present prior to brain death. Already some psychologists have written - and published - papers suggesting that certain mental disorders such as bipolarity and schizophrenia might not be disorders in any standard sense, but rather a phenomenon where an individual is inhabiting two very different and parallel universes at the same time. In this they draw upon the many worlds hypotheses of qauntum mechanics.
In short, for my money, I have no doubt that ultimately, some sort of "scientific" resurrection technique might be possible. But I suspect it will be a Pandora's box of spiritual phenomena which, once opened, will be difficult if not impossible to close again, and that before we open it, we should give lengthy, and due consideration to all the moral problems it will engender.
See you on the flip side...