Consider this scenario. Let's say I've created a synthetic replacement for brain tissue. This material is wholly non-organic but it can serve as a raw, unformatted substitute. Now, let's say we replace 1% of your current brain with it. You maybe lose a memory or two (how did apples taste?).
You may experience a little loss of your motor skills. But let's give you a week to retrain your hand-eye coordination to eat that apple. Train the new synthetic tissue and migrate memories to the new space. In no time at all, you'd be back to normal.
A week later, let's do another 1%. Lose a tiny bit of memory, learn new things. Next week, rinse and repeat. In about two years, you will have a completely synthetic brain immune to aging, death through oxygen loss, or biochemical imbalance. You may even think faster and be able to directly interface with your new cell phone, or bypass it directly.
My question: did I kill you in the process? If so, when? At 51%? 1%? 99%? Was there a point when your "soul" decided enough is enough and jumped ship? Are you the organic tissue, the "hardware"? Or are you the software of your brain? Can we upgrade or migrate you across platforms? Once synthetic, how about paying a little extra for an external backup?
This is a very real scenario. Brain prosthetic research is currently in the testing phase. Please post your thoughts and opinions in the discussion thread.
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.