Monday, 30 May 2011

Business: Nothing To Do With

Apparently, we are a small step closer to a "brain in a jar"...

Yes, it's a rat's brain, and it's not even a complete one. However, it seems that University of Pittsburgh researchers are now able to grow a rat's hippocampus in a Petri dish and have it work it's magic for the whole of 12 seconds. Apparently, as it grows it forms some memories and can be tested almost as if it were in situ. Not exactly a "brain in a jar" of the early 20th century science fiction, but not a bad effort. And who knows, in the future even more may be possible. But the question arises right here and now: if we manage to grow brains of any real complexity, at which point do they become aware? At which point have we crossed the line between pushing the boundaries of science and creating something that can only be described as cruel and unusual punishment. I guess the question becomes much like the one of the latest one should allow for an abortion for non-medical reasons. When a "brain in a jar" becomes brain in a jar? It is to be hoped that the progress in figuring out what really goes on inside a network in neurons will be of the same magnitude as the progress required to grow a truly complex neural network, one capable of knowing itself and the world around - even if self is only a rat self, and the world around is a Petri dish (which I guess is a horrifying part of it, together with the realisation that there can be no real sex). And if you think I'm way ahead of myself, you obviously have no real sense of speed with which the science has been rushing onwards in the past decades.

And as for me, who knows. When the body fails, a Petri dish may prove to have some advantages...