Ethicist Wesley Smith asks, “Will Scientists Create a Conscious Human Brain in a Dish?“
As society roils with COVID and the election, the biotechnological revolution rushes forward with scientists bound by few enforceable ethical boundaries. As a consequence, we have already seen babies born who were genetically engineered, the march toward three- (or more) parent human embryos, and increasingly radical proposals for creating novel family forms.
Now, the prospect of growing human brain “organoids” from stem cells in a dish that could become conscious. Brain electrical activity has already been observed in the experiments. And now, some scientists are contemplating the next step. From the Nature story:
“The studies have set the stage for a debate between those who want to avoid the creation of consciousness and those who see complex organoids as a means to study devastating human diseases. [UC San Diego scientist Alysson] Muotri and many other neuroscientists think that human brain organoids could be the key to understanding uniquely human conditions such as autism and schizophrenia, which are impossible to study in detail in mouse models. To achieve this goal, Muotri says, he and others might need to deliberately create consciousness.”
Yes. He is talking about developing a human brain structure in a dish that could attain disembodied consciousness.
Once the nausea abates, isn’t that prospect something we should grapple with on an international basis (with alacrity) to determine what, if any, regulations and legalities should be constructed around research with human brain cells?
Good question! Read the rest at the Humanize blog, published by Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.