Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday
Ashlee Vance, The New York Times (June 13, 2010)
The Singularity movement sees a time when human beings and machines will merge and overcome illness and perhaps death.
The tagline for this New York Times article is only partially correct. The Singularity movement and another group called the Transhumanists see death as a curable disease. Not perhaps. Not maybe. Absolutely fixable.
It’s interesting to see this (long) article pop-up since the proponents of the Singularity have been making their case for at least a decade now. If not longer. In a nutshell, the ‘Singularity’ will be a moment when humans and computer technology seamlessly coalesce, creating a whole new species of human. The entire end result is part of evolution according to Ray Kurzweil, the featured Singularian in the article.
I have been intrigued for some time by the arguments Kurzweil and others make, especially when it comes to lifespan. A number of Singularity believers talk about 700 year lifespans and/or the outright elimination of death. I don’t ever discount these ideas out of hand. It is truly impossible to predict where human biology will end up fifty or one hundred years from now. So, I actually think that eliminating death or greatly expanding lifespan might be possible.
The question to really ask is: why would anyone want to live 700 years?
Then you have the problem of age. If a person lives to be 700 years old, is their body also that old? The only way extended lifespan works is by either greatly reducing aging OR transplanting a person’s entire consciousness (including memories) into a younger body.
These futuristic scenarios are sometimes referred to as the Death of Death.
Humans are a long ways from accomplishing any of these biological makeovers but one thing is certain: a lot of people will die trying.