Medical Advances and their Limitless Potential

Extraordinary genetic and medical advances are becoming ever-more frequent occurrences it would seem. The possibilities are endless and we are rapidly increasing our repertoire of extreme, life-saving and unbelievable therapies. For example, this woman in Holland had a rare condition that caused the bone in her cranium to thicken to the extent that it was crushing her brain, causing loss of sight and severe headaches, which would eventually have killed her. So she had her cranium scanned and then a perfect 3-D printed version made for her and implanted as a replacement to her own. This photo shows her with the new plastic skull as it was fitted during the operation.

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Insane. But 100% real and hopefully life-saving for her. We can allow ourselves to imagine that we’ll soon be able to create synthetic versions of any organ or structure and make it personalized to an individual’s DNA, so the chances of it being rejected are extremely slim. We’ll be growing spare organs that are made-to-order and perhaps even providing genetic and tissue enhancements too. It reminds me of the film ‘Robots’ where they buy new parts in order to grow or make improvements, but only the richest individuals can afford the most desirable and powerful upgrades.

However, it’s unlikely we could ever recreate a person’s brain, as it is incredibly difficult to understand and attempt to replicate the relationship between neuron signalling and memories, thoughts, feelings and emotions, although we are improving all the time. Maybe one day it will be possible to upload the content of a brain, and to download this on to a replacement, in essence allowing someone to live forever. The film ‘Transcendence’ uses this idea to suggest that an uploaded brain could be given access and control over the power of a super-computer, forming a sort of Artificial Intelligence/Human hybrid. I can’t help but think that film is about Ray Kurzweil. But I would hasten a guess that if we do hybridise in some way with machines, it is more likely that we would be incorporating computer power into our heads, rather than our minds into a computer. It just seems simpler.

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One thought on “Medical Advances and their Limitless Potential

  1. The mind/brain question is another that fascinates me. I lean towards the idea that a mind is more than “something brains do,” and I think Kurzweil will ultimately be proved wrong.

    At least it’s one question we will eventually answer. A brain, after all, is just a bio-machine, and someday we will duplicate it and build one of our own. And then we’ll know what happens when we turn it on.

    Roger Penrose, in The Emperor’s New Mind (which opposes the Kurzweil idea of “strong” AI), points out the limitations of mechanics and algorithm (c.f. Turing and Gödel). I tend to think he’s right. That we experience the world around us is hard to explain.

    Is free will and experience only an illusion created by the complexity of the brain and the world? Perhaps, but just maybe, perhaps not.

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