Remember those people who had their heads cryogenically frozen because they wanted to be reborn into a world in which scientists knew how to bring them back to life? Oh, ho we laughed and laughed. But now, out tears of mirth shall turn into tears of sadness as all of us realize how close we are to living forever.
Okay, so maybe the cryogenically frozen heads are still a time off from being returned to this mortal realm, but how far can they be if we are alleedly two years away from putting living heads onto dead bodies?
The Guardian has a fascinating story about Sergio Canavero, an Italian surgeon who believes that science is ready (even if we're not, ethically) to merge lving heads with "donor bodies" in order to create a new breed of superhuman that can weather terminal illness and emerge victorious, ready to take on the world until another illness forces them to switch bodies. Canavero is now preparing a crack team of surgeons to help him explore the possibility of the type of fusion he dreams of and says that aside from the ethics, we're almost there biologically.
Here's what Canavero said about the procedure:
"If society doesn't want it, I won't do it. But if people don't want it, in the US or Europe, that doesn't mean it won't be done somewhere else," he said. "I'm trying to go about this the right way, but before going to the moon, you want to make sure people will follow you."
I don't know about you, but that sounds kind of like a threat to me. And others agree, including former Gawker writer Jacob Clifton who tweeted "this persons not a surgeon he is a supervillain be aware." Agree. Kinda. On one hand, I really want to see if this kind of transplant is possible so that I can get one and live forever surrounded by guinea pigs and other assorted rodentia, but on the other I think that if Canavero were to get his way and if the transplant were to work we'd soon be overtaken by an army of his minions and the entire earth would look like a giant game of Plants Vs. Zombies. Actually, that wouldn't be too bad either, provided I got to be a sunflower!
Don't break your piggy bank just yet, though. Canavero's a dreamer and he may be the only one. According to The Guardian, other experts in the field of neuroscience aren't so sure any of this is at all possible, especially considering that similar procedures done on animals weren't nearly as successful as previous supervillains had hoped.
Despite Canavero's enthusiasm, many surgeons and neuroscientists believe massive technical hurdles push full body transplants into the distant future. The starkest problem is that no one knows how to reconnect spinal nerves and make them work again. Were that possible, people paralysed by spinal injuries could have surgery to make them walk again.
"There is no evidence that the connectivity of cord and brain would lead to useful sentient or motor function following head transplantation," Richard Borgens, director of the Center for Paralysis Research at Purdue University in Indiana, US, told New Scientist.
So we may be further away than we thought. But that's OK. Who wants to live forever anyway? (Me) And who would be okay with having their head cooled and then sawed off and attachedto another body that would hopefully have been donated to science and not obtained through nefarious means? (Also me, to be honest.)