THINKING, EMOTION, AND SELF-AWARENESS
thin slice of rat brain on a silicon chip containing a row of transistors, when the brain was electrically stimulated, so was the entire array of transistors.
These early,though encouraging, results are providing insight into the linkage between cell and silicon. Fromherz calls the two-neuron experiment “a silicon prosthesis,” suggesting that it might some day be possible to repair neuronal circuits electronically. Nevertheless, he urges caution, writing that “visionary dreams of bioelectronic neurocomputers and microelectronic neuroprostheses are unavoid- able and exciting, but they should not obscure the numerous practical problems.”
SIGNS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
A neuron on a chip is not conscious—although a network of them might be—but the other hybrid beings we have considered are. A locked-in paralyzed person like Johnny Ray brings a mind with sub- jective experience, a sense of self, and a personal history to whatever artificial extension is added through a BMI. It might never be desir- able, ethical, or even possible to have a human brain operate a com- plete artificial body, rather than just a computer cursor or a mechanical arm. But if that were to happen, the result would be a being with the conscious personhood of the original mind (in Howard Gardner’s terms, intrapersonal intelligence), and the physical attributes of the new body—just as the cyborg dancer Deirdre kept her essential per- sonality even as her brain functioned within a metal shell. (However, according to the findings that the brain changes as it operates new devices, that personality might change as well, as was feared would happen with Deirdre.)
Next, consider a hybrid being many steps below human mental capacity, a lamprey brain operating a robotic body. Does that cyborg possess consciousness? Scientists and philosophers would agree that even a living lamprey with brain and body intact lacks a sense of personal existence, what the consciousness theorist Gerald Edelman calls higher-order consciousness. But it does possess what Edelman