Hemispheric Horror

An (intense) hypothetical debate question for Ben Carson, posed at SSC:

One of your most important achievements as a neurosurgeon was inventing the functional hemispherectomy, a treatment for epilepsy in which the epileptic hemisphere of the brain is severed from the healthy hemisphere and the body, allowing the healthy hemisphere to have full control of the body free from any epileptic interference. Children who get a functional hemispherectomy sufficiently early will be partly paralyzed on one side, but they will generally not have seizures, or will at least have less of them.

Standard hemispherectomies remove the epileptic hemisphere from the body, but that tended to cause hydrocephalus, so your technique left it intact but severed all of its sensory and motor connections, leaving it present but inert.

But an anonymous neuroscientist on Reddit expressed some concern that just as the functional hemisphere seems to develop full independent personhood after the split, so the epileptic hemisphere may do so as well. Obviously it remains impaired by the epilepsy, but it’s not seizing all the time, there will still be comparatively lucid intervals.

So my question for you is – what do you think happens to that person who is in an empty hemisphere, locked out of all sensory input and motor control? Do you think they’re conscious? Do you think they’re wondering what happened? Do you think they’re happy that the other half of them is living a happy normal life? Do they sit rapt in unconditioned contemplation of their own consciousness like an Aristotelian god? Or do they go mad with boredom, constantly desiring their own death but unable to effect it?

Also, a follow-up question. You solve paediatric epilepsy by severing all connections between right and left, declaring one unhealthy and leaving it to rot, and turning complete control over to the other. Given that you’re trying to become President, that has obvious kabbalistic implications. Do you stand behind those kabbalistic implications or not?

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