Just the other week Humai’s head of engineering John LaRocco sat down with The Hartman Media Company where he discussed artificial intelligence (A.I.), head transplants, and synthetic organs. It was an alluring conversation to listen to, one which will help people acquire a better understanding as to the company Humai’s vision for the future ahead of us.
Below is a recording of that conversation, which I’d recommend listening to before reading further.
Below we’ll briefly look into the specific topic of head transplants which LaRocco had explored and what it will all means for our not-too-distant future.
Two minutes into the conversation, the topic of head transplants came into full force. The notion went that, if we can successfully transplant a physical head and its brain and reconnect it to another physical body, this would then lay down the groundwork for Humai’s vision of reconnecting the human brain into a bionic body. Does this notion actually have merit with reality?
LaRocco responds by first noting the history behind head transplant research, In particular, the research conducted by American surgeon Dr. Robert J. White, who is famous for his head transplants on living monkeys. From a scientific point-of-view, the transplants were largely a success. But from a practical point-of-view, it was much less a success — rather it was a complete disaster.
Not only did the severing of the spinal cord paralyze the monkey from the neck down, but after 9 days post-surgery, the monkey went through immune rejection and died as a result. Scientifically, though, it produced interesting results, such as the fact that the monkey was still able to hear, smell, taste, eat, and follow objects with its eyes.
Which then brings us to the modern day version of Dr. White’s attempts to reestablish a healthy life via a head transplant surgery. Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero has caused some controversy as of late regarding his potentially revolutionary approach towards the procedure. He claims that, by 2017, with the help of Chinese surgeons, he will be able to perform the world’s first successful human head transplant. The patient: Valery Spiridonov, a 30-year-old Russian who suffers from type I spinal muscular atrophy, also known as Werdnig–Hoffmann disease.
So how does this relate to Humai’s own aims in transplanting the human brain into an entire bionic body? As LaRocco explained, Humai will be working with an entirely different application, of which, “is a more efficient mobile life-support system.”
The reason for this is understandable: when we think about the human body and how each organ operates independently, one begins to understand the complexity of organ transplants. If we were to simply adhere to a more macabre application where we grabbed different artificial organs and placed them together like a puzzle set, there is a huge possibility of these organs not playing nicely with one another.
Instead, alongside LaRocco’s research in developing a full body prosthetic, his plan is in developing “a control framework where all artificial organs can interface with each other — kind of a biological API.”
Full Body Prosthetic On-the-Go
What makes the bionic body idea so desirable — or as LaRocco calls it, a full body prosthetic — is in its ability to be readily available to anyone at anytime. LaRocco stated that he’d been in contact with Dr. Canavero, where they discussed the potential of a full body prosthetic.
The discussion can be easily mapped out. Dr. Canavero’s current method of transplanting a human head onto a separate human body is extremely limiting. While the patient, himself, already contains a donor body — a deceased cousin of his — not everyone will be so lucky. Especially when you consider future cases where someone needs a donor body immediately. After all, donor bodies aren’t exactly easy to come by — at least not in any legal manner.
With LaRocco’s work in engineering a full body prosthetic, however, you then have the potential in providing a brand new bionic body at the ready for anyone and everyone. This would be the most efficient method to adhere to in terms of head (or brain) transplants in our not-too-distant future.
For now, this is still in the works, but someday soon people will have the option of either remaining in their original biological substrate — in which case will have to be constantly maintained via stem cell therapies and synthetic organ transplants — or to have their entire biological substrate replaced for a brand new, easily maintained full body prosthetic. The choice, of course, will be yours to make.