[extropy-chat] Cryonics is the only option?

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Mon Apr 16 22:45:13 UTC 2007

Thomas wrote:
> ben wrote
>>[...] What occurs to me is that, as long as your brain is kept alive and
>> can
>>communicate with the outside world, you are surviving. The rest of the
>>body doesn't matter, it can be regarded as a life-support system for the
>>brain, as well as providing transport, sense organs and communication.
> I have the impression that patterns I've learned are embodied in
> connections throughout my (including the periferal) nervous system.  I
> think the rest of the body does matter.

To my knowledge there is no evidence for anything more than rudimentary
adaptation in the peripheral nervous system. The spinal cord does have
more complex adaptation, learning and even somewhat brainlike neural
activity. I would suspect it contains at least some of our low-level motor

The real reason the body matters is that it is part of the normal feedback
loop between the brain and itself. When you get anxious the viscera
respond, and the experence of butterflies in the stomach influences the
brain. When I write this, my fingers are moving according to motor
programs initialized in the brain, sending back sensory information about
touch and location that is used by the cerebellum and spinal cord to
adjust the movements. Remove the body and there would be a loss of parts
of emotion (cmp the flattening of affect in people with cut vagus nerve or
paraplegia) and my virtual fingers would likely mistype a lot since the
timing would be off. But this may not be terribly insurmountable. We just
need good virtual bodies.

>>Given a constant blood supply, a brain can stay alive even if the rest
>>of the body is gone, or damaged beyond repair (This doesn't apply, of
>>course, if your problem is a damaged brain, but the vast majority of
>>cases of death boil down to one simple thing: The brain starves of
>> oxygen).
> If you can keep a brain alive and oxygen fed, why not conserve what's
> left of your body as well?  I had friends with undamaged brains who
> would have survived to this day if their spouses had not agreed to "pull
> the plug."

An intact body works much better than an isolated brain. Unless there is
something wrong with it, of course. Cancer or some organ failure can
really mess up your day.

>  An artificial body that keeps me imprisoned in a lab would be a step
> backwards.

Shades of Olaf Stapledon's "the fourth men". My favorite callous

> Dialectic maybe, but I think we'd do better to preserve and
> enhance as much of the human as possible.

Exactly. If being a brain in the jar is the only option, I would take it
(but it better be a jar with internet access!) Even living life as a
totally virtual upload will involve having a (virtual) body with body
functions. It is just that it would be a lot more editable and have a few
fast forward functions. But getting there requires understanding the body
pretty deeply.

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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