Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Interchangeable Brain

The "black box for the brain" idea I discussed in my suggested video game idea (REVIVE) carries with it some interesting implications:

If it really were possible to record the total neuron function of the brain and map its structure in such a way to capture its memories, allowing the brain to be rebuilt, that would also logically allow a person's brain to be placed in a head other than the one it came from. For my story idea, that would mean that people would not just medically come back from the dead, they might come back as someone other than who they used to be--a futuristic, surgical-based version of reincarnation...

Please note I'm not stating it actually would be in any way possible to record total neuron function. It might be possible, but I think even if so it would be very difficult--there are just so many neurons. Nor do I consider it probable that any such surgical reconstruction on a cellular level will ever really happen--though it makes sense to me that bringing a person back from the dead with the exact same brain they used to have would require cell-by-cell replacement, exactly reproducing each cell of the original brain. As I understand it, it's the exact configuration of your brain that makes it carry the specific information that makes you who you are. Nothing short of total reconstruction is plausible to me as a means to bring someone back from the dead--or to make a brain "interchangeable."

"What about the soul?" someone is probably asking. Bringing someone's brain back should not bring back the soul, according to how most of my fellow Christians think of it. They would object that totally rebuilding the brain is not the same as having the person return in the way that they used to be. 

That's actually something a story like this could play with--those so operated on could be portrayed as seeming subtly different somehow, not themselves. Or perhaps even radically different. But since it's at least theoretically possible that the soul is a product of brain function (the soul would then be immortal because God retains a copy of it in His memory), I think a story could also portray people coming back exactly as they used to be--or very close anyway. Again, not that I think such surgery will ever be possible, no matter how advanced medicine may become...

That I doubt this could ever happen shouldn't stop a writer from crafting a story where it somehow does happen.  And if a brain can be reconstructed to bring someone back to life, that would allow bringing them back with their brain in someone else's body.  Applied to the REVIVE game setting, that could mean the very rich who revive themselves perhaps would choose to come back in a different form on a regular basis--switching from male to female, or between races, for example (though some individuals or the majority even might prefer to always be themselves). They could have the procedure done even if they had not passed away, in fact, though waiting for death would seem to be a good idea, since such radical surgery might well be risky and certainly would be expensive--many might choose to undergo the procedure only when strictly necessary, i.e. after death. But some might have it done at other times. In story terms it could mean that the villain is very difficult to find because he is always changing who he is--or who she is. 

And if a brain can be surgically reproduced in such a way it could be placed in a body other than the one it belongs to, why couldn't someone make multiple copies of the same brain? Especially if this were frowned upon or illegal--the law may say you are allowed only one brain and doctors are forbidden to do more than that. But the antagonist has found a way around that rule so that he and she, or she, she, and he--they--act together to foil the hero in a way he never understands at first, because there is only one of him (or her) and many of them, many exact copies of the same interchangeable brain and personality working together, masked by differing bodies...


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