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Our bodies are extremely complex systems, one human body is more accurately described as a living organism in itself. The moment you’re born your body is already riddled with billions of microbes (some estimates in adults exceeding hundreds of trillions). Life begets life. But this system, comprised of systems, this organism comprised of organisms, brilliant though it may be, can fail with no warning signs, whatsoever.

It’s estimated that recorded deaths in excess of 100, 000 occur naturally every year among individuals aged between 0 and 35 years old. Most of us know someone, or of someone who though seemingly healthy, retired to bed one night and just never woke up. One of the myriad of systems tirelessly working, for whatever reason, gave out. In my experience it’s these anomalous and inexplicable deaths of the young and otherwise healthy that reveal to us just how fragile our lives can be. Yet, most of us take our health for granted, until something goes awry.


Is life the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death (dictionary.com)?

Generally it’s agreed upon now that death can only truly be achieved with the declaration of total brain death. Once the brain is dead, the individual is considered deceased. (Some believe the individual should be kept alive, regardless. Others believe that it is immoral to provide means to sustain life when someone is in a severe comatose condition. Usually comes down to decisions made by next of kin and the specific laws of the country involved.)

So in the hypothetical instance (discussed by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku) where future technology has allowed for a brain to be augmented with machinery, is the more capable mechanical component of the brain, slightly less alive? Despite the functionality working in unison to present one singular living mind.

What if (by some extremely technologically advanced means) a human brain was integrated with a highly sophisticated system. Where consciousness as we understand it is existing simultaneously in both the brain (attached to a living body) and in some machine/system. Eventually integration becomes absolute and consciousness as a whole is existing just as it had done so in the organic brain in the system. Then the organic brain, along with the human body, dies and is destroyed. The mind, however, is completely intact, interpreting the world through audio and visual sensors. Generating responses that transmit audible speech. Would you be talking to a dead man? An imitation? Artificial intelligence? The soul?

If this transference of consciousness happened overnight, to an individual who had no idea it ever occurred, the mind placed into a synthetic replica of their previous organic body. Complete with simulations of all organic bodily processes. Would they be dead? They would not think so, because in this scenario they would be completely unaware.

All said and done, I believe who we really are, are our thoughts, our memories, dreams and desires, the things that matter to us, the decisions we make and made. Sure we have impulses, urges with a basis in our biology, but does that define us? Are we defined by our limitations, such as the fragile mortal forms we currently find ourselves within?

Are we alive right now, or is it purely our organs that are “living”, and we are merely the by-product, exactly the same as we would be if situated in a machine, a by-product of a series of complex processes?

Who is more alive, the sentient mechanical being, who can interact with the world around them. Or the (technically) living human comatose patient, who has already experienced brain death?

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