Like human cloning before it, head transplants are not a matter of can they be done, but rather should they be done. As it happens, human cloning has been banned worldwide (at least commercially), and so should head transplants be, and here´s why…Initially it will be done for the so called “greater good” (theoretically anyway, albeit for an astronomical price), but then those initial intentions will take a much darker path since “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
Surgeon supremo Sergio Canavero from Italy expects to perform the first head transplant operation on a russian volunteer for the paltry sum of ten million dollars (plus indicentals) in a procedure scheduled to last 36 straight hours:
He had to wait until 2018 for legal implications to be resolved. He claims that it is to help quadraplejics be able to walk again, so basically, he will take the existing head of a paralyzed patient, remove it from its body and reattach it to a healthier (and vey probably younger) body.
The cost alone of this ensures that it is strictly an elitist operation reserved only for the ultra rich with the health insurance premiums to match.
A quick note on this is that if there are many paralyzed people who could benefit from this, but who donnot have $10,000,000+ usd, they are not candidates, bummer!
I first thought about Stephen Hawking, after all, even if he doesn´t have $10 million bucks, his mind would be worth saving, but, alas, that is not the way things work in this decadent, greedy world (as Marx would have put it).
On the face of it, it seems phenomenal from the neurological side of things: to reconnect so much nervous wiring is an astounding accomplishment. As with the first heart transplants, the first few patients will probably not libe to long nor too well; it´s all part of the guinea pig process for the real terror of things to come: to make old, rich men last longer.
Take one David Rockefeller (just to name the stereotype client), who recently died aged 99, presumably having received 6 or 7 heart transplants! Since medical records are private, we will never really know. Many think that he (or at least his head) is cryo-frozen to undergo the head transplant procedure sometime in the future:
Thus, the obligated question is whose body? Would this body come from an organ donor who died in an accident and only his/her head got damaged?
The dilema of this is not so much if it can be done as opposed as to whether it should be done at all. Why? Because old rich men who will be the natural candidates for this operation may actually want to select the body and not wait randomly for a roadkill body or somebody who killed himself (not herself as men usually shoot themselves in the head or hang themselves, where as women take pills which damage the body more).
So that means that people might actually be killed and make it look accidental, to donate their bodies for these people, which as we know, are not known for their ethical or humane prowess, otherwise they wouldn´t be billionaires (whose main virtue is greed).
We could go into the philosophical implications of this and I could quote Socrates (“an unexamined life is not worth living”), Confucius (“the superior man understands what is right, the inferior man understands what will sell”), and Buda (“it is a man´s own mind, not enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways”) and through them, we can all agree that the above is true.
Can you picture an old head attached to a young body? In the case of the heart, it is set to beat a determined number of heart beats, since it is a muscle, an aortic multivalve muscle, actually. In the case of the brain, its longevity can be much longer, as long as Alzheimers, dementia and other brain degenerative diseases donnot kick in.
But let´s make a thought experiment: suppose a billionaire like a republican senator or a republican president (who is also a businessman) decides to undergo the procedure. For the purposes of this argument and to ease the ethics, he will be scheduled for cryogenics.
He will not be awakened anytime soon, he will be awakened provided the cryogenics work, last and technology is ready to awaken them without much damage to the cryo-frozen cells.
Evidently, if he was a candidate for this, two important factors will be detrimental, first, he has to be ultra rich, for cryogenics alone is a very expensive process, and second, there must be something very wrong with the overall body, like desease or very old age for death and the procedure to be undergone.
So if revived, he cannot be revived in the same body for he will die all over again! He needs a new body (provided that the so called “head” is otherwise fine).
So let´s suppose this happens in 50 years´ time. And everything goes just peachy. Here we have an old minded senator/businessman (i.e., unwilling to change the error of his ways) and completely unable to cope competitively with the exigencias of the future. He cannot be a politician anymore (hopefully the world by then will be fed up with the corruption that made him so rich), and maybe his business isn´t even his anymore (at least legally).
What is he to do? Well, for one book and movie rights and royalties as well as speaking engagements is one way to go, but only for the first few pioneers, for the rest, another option for a livelihood should be found. Afterall, if you come back to life, you´ll want to do something with your new life… and this is in the best of cases.
And then, supposing he is still super rich, he´ll want the procedure over and over again to avoid death forever (as well as the several heart transplants that go with it). When is it gonna stop?
Now let´s look at the surgeons, remarkable as they are, the performers are only doing it for the money and selling their art to the highest bidder. Would these brilliant surgeons perform this operation on each other themselves and their families to go on forever?
What Canavaro is implying in his TED speech, incredibly enough, is that cloned bodies should be created on demand in order for head to be transpanted onto them so that the rich old people may live on! Otherwise, where would they get the bodies? Would the rich lect them and kill for them? The joke´s on him though, if the brains of the old and rich are Alzheimer-ridden, because then, even Musk´s plan to download brains into computers and upload them online will come to naught.
All in all, pretty Frankenstein and Soylent Green freaky, like a horrifying sci-fi movie…