Much of this is stuff that will give you nightmares, so proceed cautiously if you are easily upset. Honestly, I mostly completely condemn what they are doing, but also see how it could be beneficial if it was undertaken by people with moral values. Which seem to be lacking, or utterly non-existent in researchers these days. A few of the researchers mentioned in the article seem willing to impose restrictions on themselves, and are proceeding cautiously, however I suspect they are in the minority. Most scientists fervently demand their research be done with zero restrictions or ethical guidelines.
But one experiment has drawn more scrutiny than the others. In August 2019, Muotri’s group published a paper in Cell Stem Cell reporting the creation of human brain organoids that produced coordinated waves of activity, resembling those seen in premature babies.
When Muotri suggested that his organoids’ firing patterns were just as complex as those seen in preterm infants, people were unsure what to make of that. Some researchers don’t consider the brain activity in a preterm infant to be complex enough to be classed as conscious.
Muotri sees little difference between working on a human organoid or a lab mouse. “We work with animal models that are conscious and there are no problems,” he says. “We need to move forward and if it turns out they become conscious, to be honest I don’t see it as a big deal.”
The idea of bodiless, self-aware brains was already on the minds of many neuroscientists and bioethicists. Just a few months earlier, a team at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, announced that it had at least partially restored life to the brains of pigs that had been killed hours earlier. By removing the brains from the pigs’ skulls and infusing them with a chemical cocktail, the researchers revived the neurons’ cellular functions and their ability to transmit electrical signals2.
Other experiments, such as efforts to add human neurons to mouse brains, are raising questions, with some scientists and ethicists arguing that these experiments should not be allowed.
The studies have set the stage for a debate between those who want to avoid the creation of consciousness and those who see complex organoids as a means to study devastating human diseases. Muotri and many other neuroscientists think that human brain organoids could be the key to understanding uniquely human conditions such as autism and schizophrenia, which are impossible to study in detail in mouse models. To achieve this goal, Muotri says, he and others might need to deliberately create consciousness.
Muotri wants his organoid systems to be comparable, in at least some ways, with human brains, so that he can study human disorders and find treatments. His motivation is personal: his 14-year-old son has epilepsy and autism.
Either way, I sort of hope more people become aware of this technology, at least as a means of applying social pressure to regulate it. From what the article states; as of right now if your genetic material is taken during routine medical work, as in your regular doctors office, or at the hospital -- the companies they send the material to for testing are allowed to keep your genetic material and use it, or sell it to researchers. So, if you get any type of medical work done, your own brain cells could be grown out in some guys lab, potentially creating a disembodied consciousness - and they can do this without any restrictions, legal repercussions, or even your consent.Members plan to weigh in on questions such as whether to obtain people’s consent to develop their cells into brain organoids, and how to study and dispose of organoids humanely. The International Society for Stem Cell Research is also working on organoid guidelines, but is not addressing consciousness because it doesn’t think the science is there yet.