There is another foreseeable development that will come from the full understanding of the construction plan of our brain. Stripping that plan of its specialized instructions used for building blocks made from organic chemistry, and exchanging them with commands to assemble suitable modern computer components, a self-conscious, nonbiological brain may one day be built. As a result, many biological limitations - such as, for example, the isolation due to confinement in a body, the restriction to five senses, the slow speed of nerve signals, or mortality - would no longer apply. An intelligent brain in a suitable mechanical body, a so-called android, would easily connect with others, rapidly communicate by electronic means, and essentially be immortal, except for accidental death. In addition, androids would probably have very different sizes. Most likely, due to costs, they would be much smaller. Our brain, with a diameter of about 15 cm, contains roughly 1011 neurons with sizes of about 30 |im. By replacing these neurons, for instance, with 300 times smaller nonbiological nanostructures of 100 nm size, an android's brain could have a diameter of 0.5 mm.
At this point, it is foreseeable that mankind would have to face a tough problem, already envisioned by the famous science fiction writer and bio-physicist Isaac Asimov (1982) in his great robot novel series: Can one accept androids as humans? To a lesser degree, this problem would already have arisen if our ancestors Homo habilis or Homo erectus were still alive today.
Since the body weight of H. habilis and H. erectus was not much different from ours, their average brain volumes of 650 and 900 cm3, respectively, relative to our present volume of 1350 cm3, certainly imply that their mental capabilities were much less developed. This despite the fact that as mentioned in Chap. 7, H. erectus already used fire and superbly manufactured spears as tools. The criterion "toolmaker", by which humans are defined, would certainly apply to androids. In terms of intellectuality, there would be no doubt that an android with a brain as complex and capable as ours would qualify to be included in the classification "human". Compared to the mindless unstoppable robots portrayed in some horror movies, androids would be very different. Yet will it matter that they are made out of inorganic materials?
The important issue here is that when constructing an android on the basis of the human body plan we would not create the phenomenon of self-consciousness. That self-consciousness exists is due to the laws of nature. These laws cannot be created; they can only be found. Once we know the building plan of a self-conscious brain, we will have found the law of nature governing self-consciousness. For example, when a certain combination of neural components is present and the neurons are connected in the right way, then self-consciousness arises. This law has existed since the formation of the universe. Self-conscious intelligence is therefore a possibility, which nature has eventually expressed in humans on the basis of organic components. In constructing androids, we would merely set the conditions such that this long-existing possibility is now expressed on the basis of inorganic components. We have to accept that since the beginning of time the laws of nature have presumably had a large number of possibilities in store, many of which became reality, and that others, which so far have not yet been realized, are going to appear in the course of our future evolution. From this perspective, it seems difficult to view androids as unnatural and nonhuman.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.