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Manjusri
September 5th, 2012, 07:06 PM
The other day my biology teacher gave us a homework assignment titled 'Is Sammy Alive'? The worksheet depicted a scenario in which a person named Sammy received numerous injuries and diseases, and went through some non-convential treatment.

The worksheet really intrigued me, and i was curious to see how you guys would answer the same worksheet.

Below is Sammy's story, please take your time to read each scenario and answer after each paragraph with an explanation as to why you chose whatever answer you have.

--

Sammy was a normal, healthy boy. There was nothing in his life to indicate that he was anything different from anyone else. When he completed high school, he obtained a job in a factory, operating a machine press. On this job he had an accident and lost his hand. It was replaced with an artificial hand that looked and operated almost like a real one.
Is Sammy Alive?

Soon afterward, Sammy developed a severe intestinal difficulty, and a large portion of his lower intestine had to be removed. It was replaced with an elastic silicon tube.
Is Sammy Alive?

Everything looked good for Sammy until he was involved in a serious car accident. Both of his legs and his good arm were crushed and had to be amputated. He also lost an ear. Artificial legs enabled Sammy to walk again, and an artificial arm replaced the real arm. Plastic surgery enabled doctors to rebuild the ear.
Is Sammy Alive?

Over the next several years, Sammy was plagued with internal disorders. First, he had to have an operation to remove his aorta and replace it with a synthetic vessel. Next, he developed a kidney malfunction, and the only way he could survive was to use a kidney dialysis machine (no donor was found for a kidney transplant). Later, his digestive system became cancerous and was removed. He received nourishment intravenously. Finally, his heart failed. Luckily for Sammy, a donor heart was available, and he had a heart transplant.
Is Sammy Alive?

It was now obvious that Sammy had become a medical phenomenon. He had artificial limbs, nourishment was supplied to him through his veins; therefore he had no solid wastes. The kidney dialysis machine removed all waste material. The heart that pumped his blood to carry oxygen and food to his cells was not his original heart. But Sammy's transplanted heart began to fail. He was immediately placed on a heart-lung machine. This supplied oxygen and removed carbon dioxide from his blood, and it circulated blood through his body.
Is Sammy Alive?

The doctors consulted bioengineers about Sammy. Because almost all of his life-sustaining functions were being carried on by machine, it might be possible to compress all of these machines into one mobile unit, which would be controlled by electrical impulses from Sammy's brain. This unit would be equipped with mechanical arms to enable him to perform manipulative tasks. A mechanism to create a flow of air over his vocal cords might enable him to speak. To do all this, they would have to amputate at the neck and attach his head to the machine, which would then supply all nutrients to his brain. Sammy consented, and the operation was successfully performed.
Is Sammy Alive?

Sammy functioned well for a few years. However, a slow deterioration of his brain cells was observed and was diagnosed as terminal. So the medical team that had developed around Sammy began to program his brain. A miniature computer was developed: it could be housed in a machine that was humanlike in appearance, movement, and mannerisms. As the computer was installed, Sammy's brain cells completely deteriorated. Sammy was once again able to leave the hospital with complete assurance that he would not return with biological illness.
Is Sammy Alive?


*Also please be aware this is a fictional story, and never happened

CourtingErmine
September 5th, 2012, 07:29 PM
Uhh, so many things wrong with this. He died after the car accident. There's no way someone can really survive between what had happened.

Iron Man
September 5th, 2012, 07:30 PM
Sammy sounds like an unlucky bastard...

Anyway, I'm not really sure what would make having artificial limbs or organs would reflect if Sammy is in fact alive. Sounds like the Ship of Theseus paradox to me.

Simply put, when the last living part of him (his brain) is replaced, I suppose that is when he is no longer alive?

FreeFall
September 5th, 2012, 07:31 PM
I had this in school!
No. Sammy died. He died slowly and piece by piece. He went from being human, to totally being constructed out of man made material. He was alive in the sense that he had the control over his mind still, I think, he could think freely of human intervention or programming...wait are you taking answer for your homework? I kid, I kid. Alive; being able to reproduce, is organic, grow, actively function, change, and die. Sammy, before his brain died, was able to to do one of those just like my calculator. Doesn't make my calculator alive. But both can die, one I can just pop batteries into or leave in the light. His brain was the only thing about him that was alive.

Also, Sammy's lucky to have lived as long as he did with how much sailed his way like that.

xXJust Jump ItXx
September 5th, 2012, 07:37 PM
Talk about crazy... I think he would of died around the middle, maybe at the car accident!

Noirtier
September 5th, 2012, 08:03 PM
Biologically speaking, Sammy was "alive" until his organic, living brain was replaced by a computer. It was at that point that Sammy biologically died. However, I believe that in such a case, one's will would have died long before this point, and at the point that hope was lost, he died in a metaphorical sense. For me, that point would be once the kidney dialysis began, and the heart failure occurred. This is merely my input on the subject :P

Korashk
September 5th, 2012, 08:32 PM
My answer is maybe, but probably not. It all depends on whether the computer they replaced his brain with is biology-based.

darkwoon
September 6th, 2012, 12:45 AM
Of course, he's still alive. The definition of "life" does not take into account the material used to make it.

Manjusri
September 6th, 2012, 03:53 PM
wait are you taking answer for your homework? I kid, I kid.

Haha, no i had this worksheet a few nights ago. :)

Also in case anyone was wondering my answer was: No. Sammy is no longer alive once his body is no longer able to maintain homeostasis without the use of man made materials. He is, however, alive in the sense that he's able to communicate and share his personality as he did when he was biologically living.

Of course, he's still alive. The definition of "life" does not take into account the material used to make it.

Scientifically speaking it does. Once something no longer follows the 8 characteristics of life it is rendered dead.

darkwoon
September 6th, 2012, 04:10 PM
Scientifically speaking it does. Once something no longer follows the 8 characteristics of life it is rendered dead.
I admit I've never heard of "the 8 characteristics of life" in my biology course. Actually, last year's course started by saying there was no general agreement about a precise definition of what "life" is. I guess this is a case where there's a significant difference between school programs in your country and mine.

Manjusri
September 6th, 2012, 04:25 PM
I admit I've never heard of "the 8 characteristics of life" in my biology course. Actually, last year's course started by saying there was no general agreement about a precise definition of what "life" is. I guess this is a case where there's a significant difference between school programs in your country and mine.

My mistake, 7 characteristics. There are actually guidelines to life, which follow those 7 characteristics. A list of them can be found here. (http://infohost.nmt.edu/~klathrop/7characterisitcs_of_life.htm)
Whether or not your country teaches these characteristics are beyond me, however they are believed by the scientific field of biology, and are a universal concept.

Korashk
September 6th, 2012, 08:46 PM
My mistake, 7 characteristics. There are actually guidelines to life, which follow those 7 characteristics. A list of them can be found here. (http://infohost.nmt.edu/~klathrop/7characterisitcs_of_life.htm)
Whether or not your country teaches these characteristics are beyond me, however they are believed by the scientific field of biology, and are a universal concept.
The 7 characteristics are more of a guideline than anything. Not hard classification. It's because so many of them are subject to circumstances. For instance, older people and those born or made sterile can't reproduce. Diabetics can't produce insulin and maintain homeostasis, etc. These facts don't make them suddenly stop being alive.

FreeFall
September 6th, 2012, 09:13 PM
It's not like that though Korashk. 2/7 you're still alive. 1/7 you're still alive.
At least I was taught that as long as there's even so much as 1 thing out of that 7, it's alive. I was taught 6 of those things, back in my day, when Pluto was a planet. Aha anyways, 0/7 either means it's died or was never alive in our organic sense.

Gigablue
September 6th, 2012, 09:25 PM
Yes, he is still alive. There are certain conditions for life and he meets most of them. They are as follows.

Homeostasis. The ability to maintain a stable internal environment. He may not do it is the same way other people do, but he still maintains a constant environment.

Organization. The traditional definition is being made out of one or more cells, but I think even if he doesn't have cells, he still displays organization. The synthetic parts that make him up are without a doubt highly organized.

Metabolism. The ability to use energy. He may use a different form of energy, electrical rather than chemical, but still uses energy to carry out tasks and maintain order.

Growth. Maintaining a rate of anabolism equal or higher than that of catabolism. He might not really grow, but his anabolic rate is equal to his catabolic rate, so he will not decrease in size.

Adaptation. The ability to change to fit external conditions. He is still able to do this. Not in the same way as other people, but he could change parts of himself if necessary.

Response to stimuli. This is self explanatory. It's also clear that he meats this condition. If you can observe him doing anything, he is responding to stimuli.

Reproduction. Also, self explanatory. He doesn't meet this condition, but that doesn't mean he isn't alive. We don't consider infertile people to be dead.

Since he meets nearly all of the conditions, he is alive.

Haufen
September 7th, 2012, 05:35 PM
Experience, memories, personality, intelligence, skills, etc. are all in the brain, so as long as your brain is working and intact you are alive.

So when speaking of the character and the person Sammy as himself then Sammy was alive up until the last step, when his brain was replaced by a computer.

darkwoon
September 7th, 2012, 07:23 PM
Experience, memories, personality, intelligence, skills, etc. are all in the brain, so as long as your brain is working and intact you are alive.

So when speaking of the character and the person Sammy as himself then Sammy was alive up until the last step, when his brain was replaced by a computer.
But if the computer has the exact same memories, skills, intelligence, and feelings as the brain it replaced, wouldn't it be right to consider that computer and its cybernetic body to be "alive" ?

Professional Russian
September 7th, 2012, 07:24 PM
No i dont think hes alive. atleast biologically that is because hes all computerized