Every now and then, an article is shared with me that I find so disturbing that I scarcely can muster the words to blog about it, much less to record my horrified reactions with anything like accuracy or depth. Such is the case today with this little "gem" that was shared by J.T. The only words adequate to at least a part of my reaction are "I'm so glad I'm not a scientist," because it seems as if they, as the rest of society, are going off the deep end in order to assure a nightmarish future.
What am I talking about? Scientists are growing brains in petri dishes, and have now recorded brain waves:
Now, if you don't find the basic idea disturbing enough, consider that the article - as most such articles in this genre usually do - gives us the "wonderful health benefits" angle potentially in store from growing pea-sized brains in petri dishes (without the rest of the creature, of course):
Looking forward, the team aims to further improve the organoids and use them to understand diseases associated with neural network malfunctioning, such as autism, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.
"As a scientist, I want to get closer and closer to the human brain," Muotri says. "I want to do that because I see the good in it. I can help people with neurological conditions by giving them better treatments and better quality of life. But it's up to us to decide where the limit is.
Well, I don't know about you, but I confess this statement of moral urgency I find a little flaccid and two-faced, because by all means let us press ahead with our research even though, deep down, we might be feeling ever-so-slightly the pangs of conscience. But regardless of your own reaction to this confession, there's more.
The brain cells which are apparently showing brain wave activity, were grown and "stimulated" in an unusual manner:
The pea-sized brains, called cerebral organoids, are derived from human pluripotent stem cells. By putting them in culture that mimics the environment of brain development, the stem cells differentiate into different types of brain cells and self-organize into a 3-D structure resembling the developing human brain.
Human stem cells, huh? Gee, I wonder where and how you acquired those? In fact, when one reads through the article, it becomes even more potentially nightmarish:
To compare the brain wave patterns of organoids with those of human brains early in development, the team trained a machine learning algorithm with brain waves recorded from 39 premature babies between six and nine-and-a-half months old. The algorithm was able to predict how many weeks the organoids have developed in culture, which suggests these organoids and human brain share a similar growth trajectory.
However, it's not likely these organoids have mental activities, such as consciousness, Muotri says. "The organoid is still a very rudimentary model—we don't have other brain parts and structures. So these brain waves might not have anything to do with activities in real brains."(Emphasis added)
So, in one sentence, we're told that algorithms were couple with the pea-sized brain cells, to "compare" how brain wave activity develops between these petri dish brains and those of actual babies, and in the very next sentence, we're told that these petri dish brain cells probably don't have any mental activities, "such as consciousness." Really? Having confessed your ignorance, how would you know? But by all means, let us press ahead, while we pretend to have some moral qualms about it. (And as for brain parts and consciousness, see Meet The Man Who Lives Normally With Damage to 90% of His Brain)
Now, thus far, I have to confess, my stomach was turning and quite queasy. But there's a final little indicator we have to deal with, before we get to today's high octane speculation:
Muotri and colleagues designed a better procedure to grow stem cells, including optimizing the culture medium formula. These adjustments allowed their organoids to become more mature than previous models. The team grew hundreds of organoids for 10 months and used multi-electrode arrays to monitor their neural activities.
So there you have it, and it's time to take an inventory to set the context for today's high octane speculation, or perhaps high octane nightmare might more appropriately describe it. We have (1) stem cells (where and how were they obtained?), (2) an algorithm to "compare" activity, and (3) a "better procedure" for growing stem cells and "optimizing" them in the brain research.
If you're smelling the foul odor of transhumanism wafting through, then join the club, because I am too. Why? Because I strongly suspect the real goal here is to learn how to "grow" entire brains, and to "grow" them in such a way that people will have a "better quality of life," which I'm increasingly inclined to view as scientism-speak for creating totally compliant, maleable, uncritically thinking zombies. Toss in the "algorithm" component, and one might be looking at the creation of "interfaces" between those brains-in-a-petri-dish, and the algorithm itself, which can be programmed to "guide" the development.
In short, we might be looking at the ultimate in mind manipulation research.
See you on the flip side...