It’s not you – it’s me. Besides being your favourite pseudo-compassionate break-up line, this is also the answer to the ominous-sounding question: who owns your organs when you die? If your partner passes away before you, his or her organ donor wishes can go entirely unheard. As the next of kin, it’s your decision if critical organs like their corneas, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas and skin are harvested for transplant patients. This familial fallback is standard practice here in New Zealand, in line with many other nations. Now some experts are calling for the law to be axed, hoping it might boost the national organ supply. Seeing as half of donor candidate families vetoed organ donation here last year it raises a big question mark over the long held policy. What do ethical philosophers have to say about this?
A man walks into a teleporter, presses the EXECUTE button, and pauses for thought while the machine scans the physical state of every single molecule in his body. In a few moments, his entire physical being – his brain, heart, blood vessels, cells, genes, and even the contents of his bladder – will be annihilated and instantaneously recreated from new materials in another teleporter helpfully positioned on Mars.
From the man’s perspective, he will arrive at his destination with no lapse in consciousness, no pain, and not even a single hair physically out of place. But is there some intangible essence to him which the machine might fail to replicate? Is there a mind, or soul, or self about to be extinguished? Is he about to teleport… or die?
Isaac Asimov was one of the greatest science fiction writers in history, as well as a professor of biochemistry and a prolific author of non-fiction. His best loved works include the Foundation series set in the distant future where humans have colonised the galaxy, and a book of interlinked short stories called I, Robot which he developed into an extensive series of humanity and morality tales during the dawn of the robotic era.
Are humans more than biological machines? From an empirical view, we breathe, digest, grow, and die on autopilot. We are biologically programmed by our DNA, and psychologically programmed by our experiences, all of which is beyond our control. But it feels like there’s something a bit special about being human, right? Some conscious spark that makes us more than just fleshy automatons?
Helium could become the clean energy source of the 21st century. Colossal reserves of the gas are waiting to be mined from the moon’s surface, and returned to Earth as a fuel for 100% green, radioactive-free nuclear power. So what are the hurdles to this endeavour? And why isn’t mainstream media screaming about this revolutionary answer to the world’s energy and climate crisis?