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Medicine advances quickly enough that something miraculous years ago is now considered normal. Remember the debates over various fertilization procedures? The debate over consciousness is stepping from academic to real. It is now possible to grow human brain cells outside the body. That’s an objective accomplishment that raises a subjective challenge. We have no measurement of consciousness. Subjectively it is easy to argue that one brain cell doesn’t represent a completely conscious human. It is also easy to accept that a fully-formed and naturally-grown brain is probably conscious (though even there issues of comas arise.) Where’s the border? The border wasn’t an issue when we were only growing a few cells, but now collections are grown to the size of small beans that independently interact with other small cell clusters. As with concepts like life versus death, “common sense” definitions begin to fail when technology advances faster than our definitions. There’s no significant data to report, but this is a critical milestone in many fields outside biology: philosophy, spirituality, mental health, transplantations, abortion, etc. The debates are complicated and will take years to resolve, while the technology and unregulated researchers may run ahead.

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