Ethics in Life Extension
Is the idea of uploading human brain to live forever in the cloud ethical?
Randal koene’s idea of replicating human brain as a mechanical system leads to an ethical dilemma, representing choice between right and wrong. The stress of Koene is on making human brain immortal that could exist forever. Author’s credentials including his affiliation with Neural Engineering Corporation of Massachusetts and specialization in Computational Neuroscience and Information Theory adds weight to his argument. The concept of mechanical transformation of human brain involves an ethical debate about its moral implications. Koene’s research suggests that mapping brain and reducing its involvement in computation activities will allow humans to live indefinitely. The possible adoption of Koene’s idea will influence the society and produce repercussions. His focuses not only on artificial intelligence but also on downloading of a human brain to a computer. Ethics of life extension rejects the idea of making human brain immortal and people supporting the view lacks moral obligation.
Ethics of existence argues that the idea of Koene to replicate human brain is unethical because it leads to unequal death. Death is an intrinsic good and God-given reflecting moral obligations. People unable to avail extension would die naturally while others would be able to enjoy benefits. The moral theory of extension disagrees with Koene’s idea due to the concept of injustice. Replicating human brain will further increase inequality between the rich and the poor as the poor will never be able to avail the advantage. The theory of extension stresses on extending planned behaviors on moral domains. Professor of ethics Pijnenburg and Leget mention, “if immortality or increased life expectancy is good, it is doubtful ethics to deny palpable goods to some people because we cannot provide them for all” (Pijnenburg and Leget). Pijnenburg is a professor of philosophy and history of medicine in ethics department Radboud University Netherlands and Carlo Leget’s affiliations with University of Humanistic Studies Utrecht adds validity to the claims. The claims presented by the author highlights the negative role of life extensions. The hypothetical situation suggests that the adoption of a model will divide human race into two categories the ones accepting to avail the opportunity. The second one would reject the idea under influence of immorality. The people selecting the opportunity will be able to use preserve their brains thus becoming the disadvantage for the other humans (Pijnenburg and Leget).
Uploading human brains raises the question of distributive justice thus making the idea immoral. Ethics of existence emphasize that the medical invention must provide benefits to all irrespective of their differences. Pihenburg and Leget justify their argument by using their philosophical knowledge, “new scientific developments may be applied but must also confront the question whether these developments contribute to a more just world” (Pijnenburg and Leget). The quote reflects that bioethics does not consider the limitations of benefits. It represents the threats of global inequality such as people of developed countries having increased life expectancy compared to the populations of underdeveloped countries. The idea of uploading brain is not convincing as the current knowledge of neuroscience does not support it. According to neurologist Miguel Nicolelis brain functions in an unpredictable and non-linear manner that makes uploading on cloud impossible. He claims that the most efficient supercomputers also display limitations in accurately modelling stock markets thus making the concept less realistic. Nicolelis mentions “You could have all the computer chips ever in the world and you won’t create a consciousness”. He highlights the issues of hurting brains and the role of consciousness poses further risks. The discussion highlights the concerns regarding limitations in creating consciousness. Uploading brains will affect the freedom of choice and relationships of people with others. The social nature of human beings imposes moral obligations, so their decisions of choosing artificial intelligence will depend on their moral philosophy (Nield).
Another claim supporting the main argument involves the experimentations conducted on animals before moving to humans. Brain emulation and creation of artificial intelligence always involve complex experimentation as proved in experimentation and supported by Nicolelis. In an article on ‘Uploading Brains’ Netcom, one of the leading IT company highlights concerns regarding uploading brain as it states, “vitrification process to preserve a brain well enough to leave hope of accurate upload or revival, it has to be carried out at the moment of death” (Hern). The process of vitrification causes pain and involve fatalities reflected through experimentations on the rabbit. Other claims suggest that artificial intelligence raises the issues of vulnerability, self-ownership, and privacy. The ideal of Koene is also unethical because it represents threats to human life. Uploading human brain to live forever involve experimentation and testing that can harm humanity thus exhibiting a violation of ethics (Miller and Rosenstein).
Any invention that creates more problems than benefits is immoral. The central claims reflect that Koene fails to apply his model to the masses. Iskov identifies serious concerns, “scientists that are involved in these methods have the responsibility to think ahead. Mind uploading would usher in a world fraught with risks” (BBC, 2006). The claim presented by Itskov in the source depicts the need for rethinking in development of Koene’s idea. Replicating human brain is not ethical as it will violate the ethics of human existence. The concept involves moral repercussions for the society depicting the need for dropping the idea of uploading brains in clouds. Dmitry Itskov is owner of a web-based company and engaged in attaining his initiative of cybernetic immorality mentions in article “The Immoralist: Uploading the `Mind to a Computer” mentions, “For the next few centuries I envision having multiple bodies, one somewhere in space, another hologram-like, my consciousness just moving from one to another” (BBC).
The arguments state that the idea of uploading brain to live forever is ethically wrong. Different claims support the arguments while the argument of distributive justice remains the strongest. Adopting Koene’s idea of replicating brains will create the world a less fair and unjust place. The theory ethics reflects that the choice of brain replication involves experimentation that will cause pain to humans, reflecting unethical side. Social behavior of humans also depicts the role of moral ethics thus leading to the rejection of Koene’s concept.
BBC. The immortalist: Uploading the mind to a computer. 2016. 24 03 2018 <http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35786771>.
Hern, Alex. Startup wants to upload your brain to the cloud, but has to kill you to do it. 2014. 14 03 2018 <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/14/nectome-startup-upload-brain-the-cloud-kill-you>.
Nield, David. Can an uploaded brain live forever?. 2016. 24 03 2018 <https://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/can-an-uploaded-brain-live-forever-1329189>.
Miller, F G and D L Rosenstein. “Challenge experiments.” Emanuel, E J, C Grady and R Crouch. The oxford textbook of clinical research ethics. Oxford University press,, 2008. 273-279.
Pijnenburg, Martien A M and Carlo Leget. “Who wants to live forever? Three arguments against extending the human lifespan.” J Med Ethics 33.10 (2007): 585–587.