Re: New bodies [was Re: Study: Gene Therapy Restores Cells]
Wed, 15 Sep 1999 14:28:16 -0700

Robert J. Bradbury, <>, writes, regarding brain transplants:
> Before you go to far down this road you are going to have to solve
> the problem of *Where* do you get the body? The only two options
> I forsee are
> (a) The bodies of brain dead individuals who are donating organs.
> (b) Bodies grown in a vat (which at current growth rates takes
> ~15 years to get an adult sized body) and made anencephalic
> very early on in the process with clever trickery to keep the
> body developing.

I agree that brain transplants are problematic as a method of life extension. In addition there is the problem that with modern health measures people often live long enough that their brains deteriorate. If you're lucky you'll still be lucid and coherent when your body fails, but often it happens in the other order. A body/brain transplant won't help if your mind is gone.

> To my way of thinking, unless the people in (a) are "fully" informed,
> i.e., they know about cryonics, reanimation, etc. and have intentionally
> chosen to be allowed to die and donate their body, it would be morally
> questionable for people on this list who have such knowledge to take
> advantage of others lack thereof. By not informing them of the options
> you are creating a situation in which you can take advantage of their
> ignorance. [said with flame retardant goo smeared all over my body...]

Well, you could say the same thing about organ transplants as well. Most people are as informed as they care to be about cryonics; they've heard of it, and they think it's loony or sick. I don't think this is a real issue. If cryonics becomes popular then it will become an issue, but a practical one rather than a moral one.

Besides, many cryonauts elect to just freeze the head and so they have bodies to donate.

> Now, looking at (b), ...
> As soon as you try to grow a human in a vat (brain or no brain)
> I would predict you are going to have people condeming it left
> and right. That whole area will make the GM food debate look
> like a walk in the park.

Absolutely. Anencaphalic bodies are going to raise huge amounts of opposition. I don't see this happening for decades. It is virtually certain in my mind that other technologies will be available in that time frame which would work just as well - in situ organ regrowth, artificial organs, full nanotech cell repair, uploading, who knows. These do not require the creation of brainless, soulless monsters, and the moral issues are much easier to handle.

> Now, the end run around this will be "artificial genomes". When
> we get to the point where we can take the human genome, compress
> it into the minimal set required to produce a body, leave out all
> of the brain genes, *then* the discussion about brain transplants
> is useful. But I suspect by that time, we will also be able to grow
> all the organs you want, perhaps even "in you", so there will be
> much less need or point for new bodies. Now, how the ethicists,
> etc. will react to artificial human derived genomes is going to
> be an interesting question.

Right, my crystal ball gets pretty foggy by then. Extrapolating from present-day morality, any modifications to the human genome are going to encounter opposition, especially deleterious ones. On the other hand perhaps decades of gene engineering, near-human AI, artificial immune systems and other technologies will reduce the importance of the moral issues. People may start thinking of bodies and genomes more as technologies we routinely tinker with than as holy creations of God. Then perhaps making a brainless human would be no worse than building a car without an engine.