Science meets Science Fiction: Human head transplants

New Scientist magazine, which I have been enjoying since 1971, has a piece called “Welcome to the body shop” in its 28 February issue – on transplanting human heads – which has already had high-level media interest.  One Sergio Canavero from Turin has proposed that this could be feasible as early as 2017 – and indeed it may; however, the impression is that ethical issues could mire the whole issue in such red tape that it will not happen in our lifetimes.

Amazon ad for I Will Fear No Evil

Amazon ad for I Will Fear No Evil

But it has already happened, for us SF aficionados: back in 1970, no less a person than Robert A Heinlein published “I Will Fear No Evil“, about a brain transplant from an old tycoon into a young secretary’s body, which I picked up in paperback in sometime around 1974 (and which my dog ate in the 1990s).  This quite considerable tome – a lot longer than the average SF novel of the time – explored so many of the realistic and even completely far-fetched ethical issues (such as: the donor mind surviving with the new brain), that it should be prescribed as compulsory reading material for anyone who wants to do such a thing.

And would you believe, it is not mentioned once in the New Scientist article, nor in The Independent’s commentary?  What is it about SF that makes it unsuitable for mention in such an arena?  Or is it simply that no-one involved in the commentary has read enough SF to remember past lessons from masters like Heinlein?

Ah, well.  I have, and so probably have you, or you wouldn’t have found your way here.

To coin a pun, I am two minds right now as to whether or not I approve of such a thing B-)


About Ed Rybicki

Ed is a 60-ish virologist and biotechnologist, formerly a Zambian and presently a South African. He is into family, virology, biotechnology, science in general, science fiction in particular, photography, red wine, wearing loud shirts, 70s rock, blues and smooth jazz...and telling stories. Sometimes, interesting ones. And writing for his own amusement.
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