Headline of the future: May 1983—“Brain Transplant Successful! Scientist Lives on in Borrowed Body.”

A bizarre fantasy? A page from one of Robert Scheckley’s far-out science fiction novels? Definitely not. The date is an educated, conservative guess, and the event is a near certainty. Incredible as it may seem, most of the technical difficulties have already been solved. Evidence from organ research and animal experimentation increasingly indicates that brain transplantation can be performed now—with existing techniques. Only moral inhibition prevents one neurosurgeon from trying it today. Dr. Robert White of Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital believes that “the Japanese will be first. I will not because I haven’t resolved as yet this dilema: is it right or not?”

Regrettably, Dr. White’s question is not typically asked by scientists. Alvin Toffler sums up the prevailing attitude of the scientific community as “if something can be done, someone, somewhere will do it.” That terrifying doctrine gnaws away at the concept of a society based on appreciation of the individual. It gives short shrift to Thomas Jefferson’s idea that all men are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights. It appears that the 1980s will usher in an era of experimentation on human beings that asks only, “Is it possible?” and “Is it feasible?”

Toffler lays out some stunning prospects: genetically prescribed babies bred in test tubes and purchased by parents in a baby mart; astronauts biologically modified for space travel; cold-war rivalry to breed super-brains to engage in further warfare; “cloning,” physically copying a living organism from its genetic material; and finally, merging of man with machine. “If we assume that the brain is the seat ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.