Need a new brain? Why not grow your own?

Well, maybe not quite yet. But work is underway.

In Austria, researchers took both embryonic stem cells (i.e. from human embryos) and adult skin cells, then did some "lab magic" and in about a month the cells grew and self-orgaized into what the researchers termed "brain-like organoids" 3-4mm in size that showed "neural activity".  

Think of it!  A few flakes of skin can become the startings of a human brain. Now that's not to say that these litle bits had consciousness, that's many more steps ahead.

They have survived a year (as of when the article went to publication in the journal Nature,) but have not grown any larger, apparently because at this point there is no blood supply in. (But other research in other labs is focusing on generating bio-artificial  blood vessels.)

This work was reported on in  Britain's New Scientist , BBC News , Washington Post via Reuters , Siongularity Hub  and others .

What about the ethical issues of growing even a tiny  human brain?  The researchers are aware of the issue, and the Austrian team does not want to see larger human brain specimens grown now, as that would be "undesirable."

Gary Marcus, in a New Yorker article, looks at this same research, though taking a much longer look at the implications  of where this kind of work may lead decades or a half-century from now.

 "But we’ll also need to confront immense ethical quandaries. What rights does synthetic brain tissue have? Should a 3-D-printed brain have the right to vote? To an education? To terminate its own life? (Or to not be terminated?) For now, these questions are still just another round of thought experiments. But it’s more likely than ever that such thoughts might some day be held by just another brain in a jar."

Beyond all that, there's still one other big issue: even if we can "grow"  a complete human brain, where is the mind?   That is the biggie we tackle in  my technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH --Playing God with Body, Soul, and Biotech,  . . . though suggesting an approach other than bio-science.


"How would you like to invest in immortality?" -- Fortune Magazine

"How would you like to invest in immortality?" is just out in Fortune's on-line tech blog  (and likely in the paper edition when it arrives).

Briefly, this coming June, 32 year -old Russian tech entrepreneur/billionaire Dmitry Itskov will be announcing his launch of a venture to "allow investors to bankroll research into neuroscience and human consciousness..."

The aim is to set up a "push to understand human consciousness and ultimately how to transfer it from human bodies into robotic avatars." (Yes, that does align with Ray Kurzweil's program.)

But, Dmitry, sorry to tell you this, but this has already been done! (Albeit fictionally) in my technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with body, soul and bio-tech.

Only REMEDY does it better (I modestly propose). I mean, who'd want to come back to find their mind transferred into a robot? A robot, good grief!  Wouldn't rich elite folks want to come back into, as one of rich guys in REMEDY puts it, into  "healthy, horny 21-year-old bodies complete with all of our  accumulated savvy from this first lifetime?"

No, seems to me that moving a "brain," a "mind," a "conscious essence" (the jargon  I use in  REMEDY) into a robot or a robotic avatar is not the way to go . . . not with all that's opening up in the fields of bioartificial organs, organ fabrication, regenerative medicine, growing body parts, and even transgenic and transhuman possibilities.

In short, wouldn't those rich elite folks really prefer to come back into a complete new body (as their present  one was in its prime), with all their present learning and experience?

Another thing:  the Fortune article suggests that  Itskov's  methodology will, "by 2025 . . .place a human brain into a working robot and have that person's consciousness (memories, personality, and everything else that makes up the 'self') transfer along with it."

But . . . um . . . how're you going to manage that? Plunking a brain into a robot (or into some kind of tank) is easy enough, but how do you get that -- dare I say the word "person" -- to turn on and come alive?  And how does that brain in the machine get to smell the flowers and do all the other little things that make life worth living?

How?  again, modestly,  I suggest you check out my technothriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with body, soul and bio-tech.  Probably won't get all the questions answered, but I hope it will give food for thought.