Creating a human? Why would anyone want to do that?
Come on — we all have our reasons.
Whether it’s ethical or not — I’ve got no idea. All I know is if we somehow managed to do it, it would lead to a pretty… interesting future.
But seriously — doing something as revolutionary as creating an artificial life could change how we see our own. Aside from the fact it could technically make us immortal and let us clone ourselves, it’ll open up a whole new world of opportunity.
At the same time, though, it’ll probably lead to just as much chaos— especially since that world’s a lot closer than you might think.
Step One— The Body:
Believe it or not, building a human’s pretty straightforward.
Think about it like this — we know humans are made of three components: a body, a mind, and a mysterious “consciousness.” How we follow through and find a way to build them is a bit complicated.
Good thing we’re starting out simple. Sure, we don’t know every detail, but we still know a whole lot more about our bodies than what goes on in our minds. But, let’s start by figuring out what our “bodies” are in the first place.
When it comes to humans, the body serves as our physical structure. That means your arms, legs, ears, and every other unique element that’s housed inside or around that structure.
But in general, our bodies couldn’t work without two main things: organs, and a proper “format.” It’s a simplistic way of looking at it, but it works. If you recreate those two factors well enough — you’ll have yourself a human body.
But what does all of that mean?
Let’s go into a bit more detail. Consider how almost every important “part” of your body is an organ. I’m talking about your muscles (that includes your heart), your entire digestive system and respiratory system, your bones and your skin.
But organs alone don’t cut it. If they aren’t arranged the right way to create the right systems — they’re basically useless. Think about how your muscles have to surround your bone. Or how your heart has to be connected to every other organ in the body via your blood vessels.
Of course, there’s more to your body than just that — but if it came down to two major factors, these would be it. Your body’s an intricate combination of engineering and assembly. The only question left is — “Can we even replicate any of that? And if we can, where do we start?”
Well, we can replicate it. In fact, we already have.
The most obvious place to start would be with the organs. After all, arranging them is simple. But is where the path diverges, and the routes you could take to create them are almost infinite.
Believe it or not, the quickest approach would be to 3D print them. Unless you’re going for the long-forgotten “Frankenstein” method. Or you could simulate evolution for a long enough time. If you’re lucky, you could get organs somewhere down the line. That’s cool too.
Anyway, it’s just a matter of getting a decent sample size of cells. Source them from anywhere you’d like, but make sure they’re from a human. If you’re trying to clone yourself, you can use your own.
Then, find a non-toxic substance that’ll act as the mould for your organ — preferably one with a low melting point. Finally, print out the scaffold in the shape you want, and instruct the printer to layer your cells on it throughout the process. You could even modify a store-bought 3D printer to do that.
Now, just wait for them to divide inside an incubator — and voila! You just made an organ. If you wanted to, you could choose a bioplastic that dissolves after a couple of days. That’ll leave you with a fresh pair of lungs or a brand new pancreas — and you get to save the turtles.
Rinse and repeat that process for every organ in the human body. It shouldn’t be too hard — especially considering how we’re already made quite a few of them: like a mini-heart, ear, and trachea.
So, you’ve somehow 3D-printed a whole human’s worth of functioning organs. Aside from the fact that you should’ve won a dozen Nobel prizes in the process — congratulations!
Now all you have to do is line them up in the right order. Bone marrow goes inside the hollow part of your bones, and your heart goes inside your rib-cage. You know the drill.
It’s more or less like putting together a complex piece of IKEA furniture — except you’re dealing with slimy organs, and the instruction manual is pictures of the human body you found online. Happy building!
Step Two— The Mind:
Reading that title, you might be wondering why we haven’t grouped our minds with our bodies.
After all, our brains are part of our physical selves, right?
Technically, they are. But even though it is an organ, your mind is on a totally different level of complexity when you compare it to any other organ in your body. Trust me, they deserve their own category.
This is where things get complicated.
Your brain’s about the size of two of your fists, but it houses almost 100 billion neurons and trillions of connections between them. Just imagine how tightly packed it must be in there! There’s no way we could 3D-print something with even close to that much detail— at least for now.
But still, it’s something we can’t live without. Our brain orchestrates every single process that takes place in our bodies, whether we notice them or not. With such an insane organ comes an equally insane way to build it.
The most promising way is with a computer chip. Not just any chip, but a neuromorphic chip. Yeah, we are making humans — but hear me out. Whether there’s a chip in your head or not, does it really matter if you think and act the same as you always would?
Earlier, you probably noticed how not every part of us played the same role in making us who we are. Like how a person without an arm is still the same person, but what about a person that injured their head and lost all their values, beliefs, and memories?
Are they still the same person?
Our thoughts matter— much more so than our minds. If what I just mentioned is true, it shouldn’t matter what materials that mind is made of. It’s a dilemma you’ll notice in most of our efforts to recreate the human brain.
But a chip for a brain? How?
Remember, it’s not just any chip — it’s a neuromorphic chip. Unlike “classical” chips meant for computers, neuromorphic chips are designed to mimic (and act) like the human brain. It gives them the ability to learn in the same ways we do.
We’ve already used them to mimic the actions of simple organisms with a few hundred neurons. The only thing standing in our way is the fact that our minds are too complicated.
Now, will those chips get near a human brain’s capacity anytime soon? Probably not, but they’re the closest thing we’ve got to building an artificial brain.
Fitting those 100 billion neurons onto a chip is going to be tough work, but that’s not all— keep in mind that a brain’s nothing without training:
Building an artificial brain isn’t enough — you’d just be left with a tangled mess of neurons that don’t serve a purpose. Getting the brain to learn how to coordinate itself is the real challenge. And honestly, we don’t fully know how that works.
But if we somehow figure that out too —we don’t know what we would get.
That’s because we think there’s something missing.
The Final Engima — “Us”:
Aside from how we look like, nobody’s ever figured out what makes us who we are. That’s why most of us take that uncertainty and call it our “consciousness.”
Again, we have absolutely no idea what it means.
But don’t take it from me — do a quick Google search on the term and visit each link from top to bottom. Even comparing trusted sources with each other, every website shows you a different definition. Some of them completely contradict.
You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with making artificial life. Well, I guess you could say it’s the only thing that matters. We can’t even start building something as scientific as a human before we answer that surprisingly-philosophical question.
It’s why a body and a mind alone aren’t enough to make someone human. The fact that there’s something else at play — that leads us to consciousness.
But, by process of elimination from a list of possibilities, we’re getting hints at what our consciousness really is. It might actually be your character that makes you who you are:
Not our memories or our technical skills, but the signature way you would respond to situations according to what you believe (and don’t believe) in.
But then again — that’s just a theory.
And even if we somehow confirmed that our character makes up our consciousness, then creating a synthetic “character” from scratch would be almost impossible.
It’s a shockingly short definition in plain English, but abstract ideas and code don’t tend to mix too well. Even if we could digitize someone’s character and run it on a brain chip, what would we turn out with?
Would we be left with a human?
What’s The Meaning Of It All?
Now, you’re probably left with more questions than answers. But just bear with me and think about one more:
What even is a human?
Seriously. What makes us different from a panda or a giant squid? Is it our bodies? The unique arrangement of blood vessels, the expression of our DNA, or the loops and whorls of our fingerprints?
In that case, what separates you — a single human — from everyone else?
It can’t be any of the physical stuff I mentioned earlier. All of us are human, yet none of us are even close to similar in that aspect either. There’s just no such thing as a standard, run-of-the-mill human.
Everyone’s different, but somehow we’re all the same. Weird.
But if we figured everything out and created humans in a lab, what would this new future hold in store?
One where you could clone yourself, live on past your physical life or revive others who passed long ago. A future where humans will have created life, while we still don’t know what it is.
No one knows, but it sure seems interesting.
But for now, I think we’re good.
Thanks for reading,