by Joe Allen
April 21, 2021
Recent scientific experiments
reveal a dangerous desire
- and the
increasing ability -
to alter the fundamental elements of life.
don't want to see
When Technocrats see no difference between humans,
animals and inanimate material, there is no ethical
boundary in mixing the three to see what might
This smacks of
which seeks to merge technology into human flesh in
order to achieve immortality.
It's been a big
month for sci-fi primates.
On April 8, Elon
they created a
cyborg monkey who can play MindPong using a brain chip.
week, scientists at the Salk Institute in California
revealed they successfully grew human-macaque embryos in
babies were aborted at 20 days.
implications of such experiments are now
debated with a resigned shrug.
There's a sense of
inevitability to it all.
Powerful humans will indulge in any
behavior that's both pleasurable and possible.
What could be
more pleasurable than playing God...?
question isn't how to stop them, but how to survive in their
Where do we
draw such boundaries?
reflexively reject technology's terms and conditions?
Or, when it's
our turn to get chipped, do we take the plunge?
are religious questions.
cultures view living beings as sacred.
Each creature is endowed with
a spark of consciousness and is therefore deserving of dignity, even
those we kill and eat.
standpoint, tinkering with the fundamental make-up of any living
being is a form of blasphemy, especially in the case of humans.
For materialists -
quite prevalent in Silicon Valley - an organism is only a
collection of cells and chemical signals with nothing like a "soul."
In their self-conception, these innovators are simply joining
Nature's inexorable march from steam engines to smartphones to
cyborgs, and beyond.
Many of them view
pain and suffering as mere brain signals on a flickering monitor.
For them, the
pleasure of advancement is a much higher priority.
Monkey Cyborgs - Just
Another Sign of the Times
wired-up primate is being
celebrated as a major breakthrough in
The overall system
is fairly simple.
Neuralink scientists trained a nine-year-old
macaque, Pager, to play Pong and other puzzles on a computer screen
using a joystick.
Every time the
monkey made a correct move, a metal tube squirted banana smoothie
into his mouth.
All the while,
Pager's brain was being scanned by two Neuralink chips jabbed into
More than 2,000 wires fanned out into his gray matter,
monitoring his motor cortex as he wiggled the joystick and sucked
down the banana smoothie.
Once the monkey's
neural activity had been correlated with his actions onscreen, the
researchers unplugged the joystick.
The cursor kept
The monkey was playing a video game with nothing but his
Maybe it's just me, but it seemed like the cursor moved
more smoothly when the Neuralink chip was being employed.
According to Musk's
ambitions, this breakthrough is just a stepping stone to inputting Neuralink chips into human skulls, thereby merging our cognition
looming just over the horizon - when AI has
surpassed the human mind - getting a brain chip could be seen by
many as merely a way to keep up in the rat race.
is just the latest chapter in a long history of animal-machine
Twenty years ago,
Chicago's Northwestern University revealed the
first vertebrate cyborg.
In that experiment, scientists cut a
lamprey eel's brain out of its head, kept the brain alive in a
nutrient solution, hooked wires to its visual and motor cortices,
and stuffed the sentient organ into a small machine the size of a
There, the eel's
visual cortex was connected to light sensors and its motor cortex
controlled the device's wheels.
this fresh cyborg in a dark space. They flashed lights on one end of
the chamber, and then on the other.
Because lamprey eels orient
themselves to light coming through the ocean's surface, the
brain-controlled hockey puck turned and moved toward the light
wherever it shined.
The creature buzzed
back and forth, trying desperately to orient itself.
ago, publications like
CNN and the
Washington Post responded to such advances with suspicion
and moral concern.
rise of technocracy with a
mixture of awe and shameless product placement,
if they cover it at all...
Looking at Musk's
cyborg macaque, they
see a bright future where,
the lame shall walk, the blind shall
see, and the dumb shall think like super-intelligent machines...
Planet Of the
On April 15,
Carlos Izpisua Belmonte and his joint American-Chinese team at
the Salk Institute
successful fertilization of human-macaque chimeras, a term
derived from Greek mythology.
a lion's head, a serpent's tail, and a goat's body, and it
Today, we see myths
Promethean bio-labs around the world, "chimeras" are,
creatures whose stem cells derive from multiple species...
endeavor has been in progress for
more than five decades.
In that time,
scientists have created viable,
More recently, the
engineered pig hosts that grow healthy human lungs.
The way it works is
Lab techs take a fertilized embryo (like a macaque), then
add the stem cells of another organism (like, say, a human being).
They let the
resulting entity gestate in vitro - or preferably, in
utero - then stand back to watch the "magic" happen.
Among the weirder
results is the blending of behavioral tendencies.
One good example
is a classic mouse hybrid.
mixed the stem cells of a jittery species with a more docile
The behavior of the lab-grown offspring was somewhere in
When Belmonte was
asked about the ethical implications of creating chimeras three
years ago, he
downplayed the possibility of runaway advancement:
fiction. We are at the earliest stage."
Today, he's the
proud father of three recently aborted human-macaque chimeras (more
than 100 others simply withered in their jars).
In the future,
Belmonte hopes, similar creatures will grow up to have their organs
harvested for human use. That means his lab's work is not only
philanthropic, it's necessary to the ends he foresees.
The brief, but
meticulously documented lives of these human-monkey hybrids pushed
medical science to the next level.
Meanwhile, their mortal bodies
were tossed into biowaste containers. Grim as that reality may be,
the prospect of nurturing such a being into adulthood is far more
What happens if a
few human stem cells migrate to the monkey's developing brain?
many examples of blended characteristics in adult chimeras,
predict this modified simian would
exhibit human-like intelligence...
It might, for
instance, be smart enough to figure out how the Statue of Liberty
got buried up to her neck in sand. That possibility isn't just
reasonable, judging from present trends, it's probably
In truth, if a
behavior is both pleasurable and possible, then a few powerful
people are bound to do it - if they haven't done it already...
Yet by the time
they get caught, it's probably too late.
At What Point Have You
Sold Your 'Soul'?
Today, your kid
needs braces to feel good about her smile.
need a Neuralink chip to keep up in school.
Given the laws of
supply-and-demand, the price of fresh fetal tissue could be the
crypto bubble of tomorrow.
Indeed, that trend
to be well
Again, the question
for regular people isn't how to stop this technocratic revolution
from taking place. Barring some circuit-frying
electromagnetic pulse, that ship's already sailed.
The question is
to stay human in this emerging world.
At what point
are you just being stubborn?
On the other
hand, at what point have you sold your 'soul'?