Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Artificial Immortality: At What Point Do We Stop Being Human?
With the scientific advances that have been made in medical care over the past few decades with things such as artificial organs, prosthetic limbs, and computer technology, how far are we from making ourselves immortal?
Nowadays we have artificial kidneys and other organs, but those are only good for a limited time, but with advances in medical technology, how far off are we really from having parts that will not only function for longer, but will be better than the real thing? What about organs that are interchangeable by the person that they are installed in? I know we have seen fictional cyborgs like Robocop, but how far off is that from becoming a reality? Was Murphy still alive in that shell, or was he just a skinning on a robot that accidentally carried over some memories from a previous life?
This scenario raises many questions for me. It makes me wonder if we will be able to produce artificial immortality and what parts of the body are actually fully necessary to still be human. I'm sure a fully working artificial heart will not be far off to where it will plug into the brain and use electronic pulses from the brain to know when to speed up or slow down as necessary. It seems there is now also a way to combine living neurons with microchips. We already have somewhat artificial limbs and I'm sure there is someone somewhere working on a way to replace our veins and arteries with surgical tubing. I know people who have metal bars working as a bone when the bone was shattered, and how many senior citizens have you heard of having an artificial hip?
Sure we want our loved ones to be with us forever, but there is also the ethical question of how long should we keep someone alive and when we do have the ability to keep someone alive artificially, at what point should we pull the plug and send them to the afterlife, or are they already in the afterlife and the living entity is just a soulless shell of a person. Where do we cross the line from being living to dead? I think the best answer to this is to just listen to our hearts.