Imagine if Gerry Adams’ head was somehow transposed onto Jeffrey Donaldson’s body or if Ian Paisley Junior was the recipient of Gerry Kelly’s head .The old original brain might be the same as before , but there ‘d be some novel thoughts rattling through it. Things like ….What did these hands in former days do….? Ideas of identity would be challenged too, I would think.
None of this is fantastical thinking anymore….
Just over a mere hundred years ago …somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century , the idea of manned flight wasn’t accepted by everyone. They had to be shown it was possible or they wouldn’t have believed it at all. Don’t even begin to talk about building an aeroplane out of metal and making that behemoth take to the skies .That really was science-fiction .That would have been as impossible as the idea of building ships from iron a few years previously.Sure, you could get a glorified kite made of wood and doped canvas off the ground if the wind was with you…those Wright brothers had proven that…. but nobody was going to believe that something heavier than air would ever be able to fly.People weren’t ready, or educated enough, to get their collective heads around a new idea like that.That kind of thing had to be proven as fact before anyone would believe it.My grandfather died in 1962 and I still don’t consider he would have believed the moon -landing of 1969 , some seven years later.
There’s a neuroscientist called Mr Canavero who believes that within a couple of years he’ll be ready and able to transfer a head from one living body to another .Just stop for a moment and think about that.Remember, we are fifteen years into the twenty first century. This isn’t some Mary Shelley Frankensteinian gothic horror story from the eighteenth or nineteenth century , cast in long shadows ,tall, banging windows and howling electrical storms . This is the bright new era of virtual entertainment where we’re still searching for the cure for cancer and how to live forever.
Meanwhile , in Norneverland there are many people struggling with the ideas of “culture and identity”. it would appear that we are on the cusp of a whole new identity crisis…or maybe I should say “a crisis of identity”.While we’ve been tussling with the ethics of life itself…when it begins …when a collection of cells become a viable human being…who we actually are as people…what class we are in…and all those other questions that exercise people in what we like to call the “chattering classes”, suddenly the game is about to change irreparably and a whole new ethical box of tricks is about to be broken open.
For example , should your head be transferred to another more viable body , who exactly and in actuality is the being that is the result of this experiment? This “new” you would be a composite of two human beings…something or “somebody” entirely new. It wouldn’t exactly be you at all, would it? This hasn’t happened yet , of course , but some of us have lived through the era of the heart-transplant in the 1960’s and now take that for granted , as we do the acquisition of artificial limbs such as the Blade Runner’s running blades.
You might laugh at all of this if you are hale , hearty and in robust health but less-fortunate volunteers are already applying to undergo this experimental surgery .Many people with wasting illnesses or a terminal diagnosis will try anything to stay alive .Then there are the transsexuals. There are many who will mutilate their given bodies to achieve a sex-change more in keeping with their personal preference. Many people will undergo cosmetic surgery to enhance their bodies, augmenting their breasts and buttocks or re-sculpting their chins and noses, so it’s no stretch to imagine someone wishing for a more beautiful head or a more beautiful body. If this kind of surgery becomes yet another cosmetic procedure , what are the ethics involved? There are many people with so much money to spare that ethics might be the least of their worries .Already we know that there is a thriving underground business concerning the sale of stolen kidneys. What about “stolen bodies”? We could be back to the bodysnatching of latterday Burke and Hares.
It takes the old adage “walk a mile in my shoes ” to a different dimension entirely.