Philip Ball has two brains…
In 1818 Mary Shelley wrote the seminal work ‘Frankenstein’, an exploration of the consequences of rivalling God by building a human being using parts stolen from dead bodies. 101 years later, Philip Ball explored in his book ‘How to Grow A Human’ how science is moving us closer to a different possibility, unguessed in Shelley’s novel: not of building but of growing a human artificially.
The book arose from Philip’s experience of having a “second brain” grown from his own cells in a lab in London. As a visiting scholar at Harvard, he takes us to Boston to speak to the foremost leaders in the fields of biotechnology, genetics and AI about whether it’s now possible, and desirable, to consider treading the path of Victor Frankenstein in creating our own artificial human.
Part Six. The final episode in this series looks forward into the future. If we are able to reach the point where we can create advanced AI ‘beings’, will we be able to live alongside them – especially if they are in some ways more intelligent than us, or hold our lives in their hands? Phil puts this question to Iyad Rahwan, a social psychologist formerly of MIT’s Media Lab, who is working on the ramifications of human-machine interactions.
Thanks to Philip Ball for original music and www.Freesound.org for supplying sound effects under creative commons Attribution 3.0 license created by the following artists;
The licence can be read here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode
Dr Philip Ball
Philip Ball is a writer. Most of his books are concerned with science: its history, its interactions with the arts and society, its achievements, delights and detours. He is a regular columnist, podcast and radio presenter and broadcaster. He was an editor of Nature for many years, and long ago, a chemist and physicist of sorts.
George McDonald Church is an American geneticist, molecular engineer, and chemist. He is the Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and MIT, and a founding member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
Robert Samuel Langer, Jr. is an American chemical engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, inventor and one of the twelve Institute Professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prof. Jasanoff obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemical Sciences at Harvard College. After completing his Masters in Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, UK, he returned to Harvard University to commit to his PhD studies in Biophysics. Jasanoff joined the faculty of the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT in 2004.
Tomer Ullman is a cognitive scientist interested in common-sense reasoning, and building computational models for explaining high-level cognitive processes and the acquisition of new knowledge by children and adults.
David Cox is the IBM Director of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, a first of its kind industry-academic collaboration between IBM and MIT, focused on fundamental research in artificial intelligence. The Lab was founded with a $240m, 10 year commitment from IBM and brings together researchers at IBM with faculty at MIT to tackle hard problems at the vanguard of AI.
Dr. Iyad Rahwan
Dr. Iyad Rahwan is an Associate Professor of Media Arts & Sciences at the MIT Media Lab and Director of the Center for Humans and Machines at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
How To Grow A Human: Adventures in Who We Are and How We Are Made
On a swelteringly hot day during the summer of 2017, Philip Ball had a piece of his arm removed and turned into a rudimentary miniature brain. This book is his attempt to make sense of that strange experience and to understand the implications of our new-found power to transform cells. If any type of cell in your body can become any other, is it possible to grow not just a mini-brain but an entire human being in a lab, from a scrap of skin? Ball recounts the macabre history of human tissue culture, and scrutinizes the narratives that frame our understanding of our cells and our genesis. At the cellular level, the unlikely process from which a clump of cells becomes a human offers much to marvel at. But now we can intervene in that process in unprecedented ways. With the cutting-edge scientific advances of today, Ball considers the likelihood of designer babies, gene-editing and cloning within our lifetimes, and of unlocking the true potential of the cell so that we might grow new organs, limbs, even whole humans. The possibilities are as amazing as they are terrifying.
Available on Amazon (UK)