So let me set the scene. You’re sitting comfortably on your couch mindlessly scrolling through the latest cat vs cucumber videos on YouTube (if you haven’t seen or heard of this yet you should). A ghostly figure appears in front of you. Fortunately you are immediately disarmed by his incredibly well sculpted ghostly cheekbones, it’s the spirit of The Uprooted Farmer. Hold my hand and close your eyes, you are coming with me (not in the creepy I’m locking you up in my basement way!). We fly out of your house, zoom out of your suburb towards the sky. Your house is looking like a matchbox now as you look back over your shoulder. We glide effortlessly towards the stars. Now in the stratosphere looking down at the picturesque undulating country below, you can still differentiate the cities from the countryside and you can see the major roads carving through the land and its not at all pixelated like google maps! Zoom out again and you are floating above the earth in a vacuum of silence and awe. Weightless and boundless. Tethered to the Earth by an almost imaginary force. With no sensory input other than your sight and what your eyes behold is breathtaking. The Uprooted Farmer has left you alone now and is off to visit another lost soul and speak in the third person. Earth is below you in all her magnificence and the stars and planets take on a different hue and it is absolute bliss. Even the loneliness is comforting and you feel an innate belonging. An overwhelming sense of healing and contentment washes over you. The gargantuan cities and structures have faded away into insignificance and all the people in the world have disappeared yet all seems right.
All of a sudden you are hurtling at a horrifying speed towards the Earth. The skin on your face ripples and as you reach terminal velocity and the ground is getting closer as you barrel through the wispy cold clouds vision blurred as your eyes are spattered with virgin rain drops. The buildings are forming right before your eyes getting bigger and bigger. People begin to take shape and the smell of exhaust fumes choke your lungs and bang! Miraculously you have survived the fall, landing heavily into a bin truck into the middle of Mumbai. You peek over the edge covered in the city’s rubbish. It’s absolute chaos, the smell of the rotting organic waste and the stench of the streets fills your nostrils and everyone is in a hurry.
You peel yourself out of the pile of decomposing waste and old newspapers when a sensationalist headline on yesterdays soiled tabloid grabs your attention;
“Canavero heads off Xiaoping in transplant first!
Human head transplant no longer science fiction.”
Now that I have your attention let me go deeper. Together we have travelled outside our planet and seen the scale of our lives, felt our ant like insignificance and observed our world from a view of the Gods. From that distance it almost appears as if time is standing still and yet we as a race are capable of some incredulous feats. Notwithstanding the fact that on a biological level we could be described as nothing more than a malignant infection we have infinite potential to become otherwise.
We have one doctor in China, Ren Xiaoping, and one in Italy, Sergio Canavero, who both claim they are about to perform the worlds first human head transplant. That’s right a human fucking head. Your melon on someone else body. The procedure takes a mere 19 hours, the critical blood flow elements tackled first to ensure that a longer than expected procedure isn’t rushed due to blood loss and the brain is “protected” via induced localised hypothermia. To be fair to Canaverno he said he was going to do it first and of course someone in China said they can do it too but as we all know the quality probably won’t be as good. What that means in terms of a head transplant? Who knows. Maybe it will be exactly the same but cost $20m less or maybe the left leg will move when the right arm is supposed to move! Let’s not forget our priorities here though because after all we did sort out the penis transplant before the head transplant, thankfully. Dickheads.
My hypothesis is that this “step” represents a partial misdirection or sidestep in the human longevity projects which aim to healthily increase the lifespan of people by 30-40 years.
The sidestep being that we may be close to being able to “back-up” our brains and upload our consciousness to another brain. So rather than trying to deal with the extremely difficult physical implications of severing and reattaching the epicentre of the CNS it may be more realistic to attempt a software change at the head-end and retain all the old wiring. The next unethical step is that we will be looking at integrating means of capturing the data with hardware implanted directly into the brains of our children from a very early age in order capture the required data. The volume of data is estimated to be somewhere in the regions of 2.5 – 3 Petabytes and according to Moore’s law we should reach this scale and capability around 2020. The host body would likely be a product of a laboratory as the ethics surrounding alternatives would be disastrous. Even the former would have many decades of discussion, debate and laws in the lead up to the inevitable. You may think this is insane but we are already at the stage where we can screen our own DNA for particular defects and turn some of these known defects off at will so our offspring do not inherit them so we should not be surprised by any of the above. Right now there is a company in the US where you can have your DNA sequenced for a mere $149. Twenty odd years ago this same process was costing tens of millions of dollars. Beware, they reserve the right to sell your biodata! Now enter the age of your DNA being valuable info to more and more people, has this even entered your mind? I bet it hasn’t.
For the most recent addition to our family (2015) we were given a brochure on stem cell collection and storage which I totally dismissed. This meant keeping the umbilical chord for use later in stem cell work for any myriad of reasons. Now only a little over a year later I am genuinely regretting having done so. We can still do it with milk teeth and wisdom teeth later in life but I still feel like I missed something big.
The next decade will unveil what it truly means to live in an exponential world in terms of technology, science and business. When these three things collide on a global scale the results will be astounding and terrifying.
It is paradoxical, yet true, to say, that the more we know, the more ignorant we become in the absolute sense, for it is only through enlightenment that we become conscious of our limitations. Precisely one of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects.
– Nikola Tesla