In 1901, the average life expectancy in the United States was 47 years. In 2003, it was 77.6. In 2045, it may be forever.
As fantastical as such a notion may seem, it has enjoyed extensive media coverage lately, largely through the profiling of futurist Ray Kurzweil.
A prominent inventor and computer scientist, Kurzweil has spun a prediction of the future that seems more the stuff of Asimov than of probable reality—that by the middle of this century, the technology will exist for humans to “transcend biology by merging with technology” (Newsweek).
The human consciousness, embedded in a silicon chip; Kurweil calls this instant “The Singularity”. We would refer to it more casually as “immortality”.
The benefits of being a cyborg are tempting; certainly, superior intelligence and invulnerability to disease would be very much appreciated. Human progress would remain perpetually in the J-curve section of its exponential increase.
We could watch shoots age into Redwood forests, swim across the Pacific, learn the 2000+ languages spoken in Africa, all without regard to physical frailty or the foreboding ache of wasted time.
The opposition? Well, the life insurance industry sure won’t be happy (especially since it accounts for 5% of national GNP, the economy probably won’t be either).
And how would we define life without its consequences? A jail sentence would be shorter relative to eternity than the literal ones on this paper to War and Peace.
Some may be motivated to claim the knowledge of the world, while others degenerate into lives of overindulgence. Why not play with fire, drop out, and get high?
That melted hand can be replaced in the morning, and education can wait for another century or two.
In the meantime, we can experiment with as many people as wanted, hunting for spouses, for richer or for poorer, in rust and in malfunction, to love and to cherish, til meltdown do us part.
That this is a possible future and not just another dystopian novel is disconcerting. In fifty years, I may exist as a chip.
But I descend into frenzied neuroticism when my computer is infected with trojans. I can’t imagine the psychological damage it would do were someone to break into my room one night and hack my brain.
This opinion was written by Jessica Liu. The views of this author do not reflect the Temple City Voice or its staff. It was published in the Temple City Voice on July 10, 2009.