Re: Brain in a vat / ASIMO

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Wed Nov 22 2000 - 09:32:50 MST

"zeb haradon" <> writes:

> So I'm wondering, what work has been or is being done on the "brain in a
> vat" scenerio - by that I just mean keeping it alive and functional. I
> assume there isn't much being done, so what is it that has to be done?

To my limited knowledge there is indeed very little being done on
this. But work on artificial blood, artificial livers, dialysis and
heart-lung machines are clearly relevant.

But I don't think it is going to be a very elegant system or even
movable before we have nanotech, good biotech or at least good
microtechnology, there are a lot of nasty engineering details to solve
(such as preventing clotting, keeping chemical homeostasis and
especially, good brain-computer interfaces).

> The only other thing I can think of is the immune system, which I
> really know nothing about at all (are white blood cells self
> reproducing or do they come from the marrow like red cells?).

They are mainly generated in the marrow, in a quite interesting
cascade. The problem is that if you want a working immune system for
your cyborg or brain in vat, you would need to deal with moving both
the marrow and the "training" structures of the thymus or lymph nodes
where the cells learn how to distinguish self from non-self (if you
avoid using an immune system, then you get less problems of rejection
of the "implants" (explants?) of the brain).

> In some situations this may be preferable
> to biological existence. By making some changes to account for
> temperature variations (keeping the brain at a constant temperature
> would be required anyway), the robot could basically be a space suit
> for the brain, or a diving suit. Nobody say anything about
> uploading.. I'm thinking nearer term.

Well, I think this is doable in the long run, but I think it will
never catch on because it is very cumbersome to achieve with low
technology, and as technology gets better alternatives to the brain in
vat approach will emerge. It might be useful in emergency medicine
(where some cases are good approximations to this problem), but as a
way of life?

(I actually though this was a great idea myself some years back, but
that was before studying too much medicine. Things like that tend to
make you sceptic, you see all the devils in all the details. I could
be quite wrong, of course)

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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