Brain drain

This is strange, an artist has sold his brain:

An artist has put his brain up for sale. But this is more than a mere stunt – investors could see a big payout. He just has to die first. Art and commerce have always been regarded as an unholy alliance, but conceptual artist Jonathon Keats has brought the two together in the most intriguing union ever by offering futures contracts on his brain. Up for sale are six billion neurons. His aim is immortality. The idea is that Keats, 32, sells the rights to his brain, and with it his original thoughts, for perpetuity. This relies on new technology – not yet invented – which will keep his brain alive and functioning, even after he has died. Unfortunately, copyright laws have watered down his plan for eternal life. Copyright in the US lasts for the life of its creator, plus 70 years.

Because he is breaking new ground, Keats had to figure out how to mould his plan to fit the conventional rules of the financial markets. He came up with a novel approach. Keats has registered his brain as a sculpture which he created thought by thought. Earlier this month, would-be investors were given the chance to inspect it first-hand at a gallery in San Francisco, California, where Keats set up shop. He had issued a prospectus beforehand and, to show due diligence, had a series of MRI brain scans showing clear areas of neural activity when he thought about such things as art, beauty, love and death. “The one that had the most activity of all was death,” he reveals. “I don’t know if it was primed by this project or whether death seems an interesting phenomenon. Probably the later because while I was there for my birth, I wasn’t aware that it was an interesting thing. I only have my death as one of these terminal points I can explore.”

This feels odd to me. It depends on your perspective: Is death an ultimate end, or the start of something else? If it’s the end of everything then this makes sense, if we can buy immortality on Earth, that’s the best we can hope for. I’ve been reading Peter Hamilton’s Reality Dysfunction series, and central to the story is the concept that people have immortal souls that survive physical death. That knowledge shocked factions into cooperation and changed the galaxy.