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Reflections of a Transplanted Brain

About head transplantation, independent head and electronic backup for the brain

Aryeh Seter

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Organ transplants have been performed for over thirty years. The medical practice today performs skin, heart, liver, kidney and cornea transplants, as an act of routine. But already about twenty years ago, there were persistent rumors about preparations, attempts and even the actual performance of head transplants. Animal head transplants, however, have undoubtedly been performed. Also, many years ago they managed to hold the heads of animals - alive and conscious, for hours and days. This is done by connecting the head to an artificial heart-lung system.

A head transplant, at first thought evokes a shock; But if we think and describe to ourselves a situation in which two people had a fatal accident - one of them had his head and brain irreparably damaged and the other's body was the one that was damaged, what harm would it be if we made one of them both.

The question asked is who will be the person after the transplant - is he the former body owner or the former head owner. It seems that the answer to this question is very simple. If we agree that what separates man from most other organisms is that he has a thinking and creative brain and that all his connection with others and the outside world is made through the brain, we can easily agree that the transplanted person in his essence and essence, with all the knowledge and memory, experiences and emotions he carries with him - is the former head owner .

Poor plants and animals have no brain and nervous system at all. A nervous system developed in multicellular creatures for the purpose of coordination between the different cells of the body. With the development of the sensory organs and the movement systems, evolution assigned the nervous system the role of perceiving and processing the stimuli from the outside world, with appropriate programs of reactions - movement mainly, when this achieves the preservation of the organism and the continuation of its genes. As you go up the scale of development, the component of processing the data received and choosing the appropriate response, becomes dominant and has reached its peak (so far) in the animal called man.

In man, there are internal processes, similar to the processes that operate when receiving stimuli, and they are thoughts and their other manifestations such as imagination and dreams. Also there are reaction-like processes without immediate connection with the external world and they are also thoughts and other creative activities without immediate existential benefit. The brain's preoccupation with stimuli and reactions from the dawn of time brings it to the demand for experiences and stimuli and to the curiosity and reactions that constitute the artistic creation of the subject and the spiritual thought of man.

Many struggle with the essence of recognition and self-awareness. It seems that the brain's preoccupation with examining its environment for its existential needs and that of its genes, inevitably led to examining and knowing itself as part of its environment.

Along the evolutionary path, the nervous system and especially the upper components of the brain - from a coordinating auxiliary system, became the very essence and existence of man. We have already mentioned experiments in which the heads of animals were kept alive and it was found that they understood and reacted, within the limitations of the situation in which they were subjected. In performing a head transplant, or is it more correct to call it a body transplant, the existence of the head is made possible without artificial means. Apart from the problem of immune rejection, which today is successfully overcome by performing accepted transplants, today's surgical technique does not yet allow the connection of the millions of nerve fibers connecting the brain of the skull to the spinal cord, also called the spinal cord.

The spinal cord is an intermediate station and a pathway that transmits all the sensations from the body to the cranial brain and also transmits the commands from the cranial brain to the body. The spinal cord is also responsible for the body's reflexes - those stimulus-response circuits that operate without the direct intervention of the cranial brain - for example - the famous knee reflex used in neurological tests and the flinching reflex from a hot body - the flinching reaction is carried out automatically and quickly, even before the sensation of pain reaches the brain.

A body connected to a head without it, will be completely paralyzed - with the exception of the reflexes (which will be slightly increased in the absence of supervision by the brain) and will not transmit sensations to the brain and consciousness. Despite the disconnection from the body - most of the important sensations - sight, hearing, taste, smell as well as the sense of touch in the head area and the internal feeling of the head area will continue to exist. Such a person will be able to continue to live and create, using appropriate aids and we unfortunately know of cases of people whose spinal cord was damaged in an accident in the neck area, which is exactly their situation.

If we go further in this direction, we can imagine a head that will be kept alive with a machine that will take the place of the body and this will not be much different from a person paralyzed in his whole body (with the exception of the hormonal systems that interact between the brain and the glands of the body). The development of artificial organs is progressing; Can't we one day create a complete humanoid robot... and maybe we can be satisfied with an artificial brain with appropriate input and output means, which any resemblance to a human in its form or ways of action will be coincidental, but its essence and action will be similar or even identical. Isn't the progress of computing leading in this direction?

It is possible that in the future, instead of transplanting a body, or trying to preserve a living brain, we will be able to copy the human brain in general or the brain of a particular person into an electronic brain (and that is what they once called a computer), which will contain all the knowledge and all the potential for absorption in the future, including experiences, emotion , ideas, creativity, etc. Electronic technology - not far from that; Our knowledge of the brain is still a long way from that. Man's aspiration for eternal life is fundamentally disproved because evolution by its very nature is oriented towards the preservation of genes and not the preservation of the individual, but an electronic brain as we have described, if and when it exists - it is guaranteed eternal life. It will consume electrical energy with high efficiency, without the need for complicated metabolism existing in the organism and it will not emit waste materials. It will be possible to stop it and restart it at any time and it will resemble death and reanimation. He will be able to interact with the outside world as much as his design allows, without many limitations that exist in humans.

Everything we have described may sound like an exception, but human perceptions of morality, or of the essence and purpose of existence may evolve and change... and perhaps the next stage in evolution is the electronic organism, and this is what Isaac Asimov already said and many others who followed him...

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