Bioethics Blogs

Self/less and transplanting (ID)entities

by Karen Rommelfanger

I recently sat on a panel discussion for an early screening of the movie Self/less. I’m quoted (mostly correctly) with my name (mostly) spelled correctly here.

In Self/less, an aging business tycoon with a terminal illess (played by Ben Kingsley) pays to “shed” his skin for a new, younger, fitter body (played by Ryan Reynolds). See trailer above.

The film, despite the futuristic theme, revisits mundane themes of the Faustian tradeoff or a deal with a devil, ultimately conveying the message that the costs, even for the rich, are too high when trying to cheat death. The title of the movie implies that for the greater good the selfless thing to do is to just die as nature intended.

While the film would surely be categorized as science fiction, there are entrepreneurs quite dedicated to making such a possibility a reality.

For example, the 2045 Initiative promises, for the starting price tag of $3 million, that your brain can be downloaded and that downloaded information can be used to animate or be “transplanted into” a personalized avatar or robotic copy of a human body remotely controlled by a brain computer interface or, if you fancy, a hologram (just press the immortality button on their site). Among its supporters, the website claims, is the Dalai Lama.

And, for the first time in human history, the neuroengineer Miguel Nicolelis recently connected two brains, rat brains, with one brain able to transfer electrical activity to another to facilitate learning a task.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.