Dying sucks. It’s a sad fact of human existence. When you’re young, the inevitability and permanence of death are hard to conceptualize, but experiencing the deaths of loved ones sure makes it real in a heartbeat – or lack thereof. Despite our impotence in the face of what is surely an inescapable fate, humans have been trying to find ways to avoid death since time immemorial. Modern medicine and digital media have come a long way, but the fact remains that we’re all just going to rot in the ground someday – that is, unless one of these kooky scientists proclaiming the advent of human immortality turns out to be right. This week, yet another self-proclaimed “futurologist” has issued his prediction for the strange, immortal future humanity likely has in store. Will we really soon be able to cheat death with the help of technology?
These latest predictions were made by engineer and futurologist Ian Pearson who has been a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society and a fellow of both the World Academy for Arts and Science and the World innovation Foundation. He claims his predictions have been shown to have “about 85% accuracy when looking 10-15 years ahead.” In an interview with The Sun, predicts humans will be able to cheat death by the year 2050. Well some humans, anyway. The rich ones. The really, really rich ones:
One day your body dies – maybe you get hit by a bus or a nasty disease – but it doesn’t matter, because your mind will still be there. You’ll be able to use an android body instead of the organic one you just lost. For normal people on everyday salaries, it’s more likely that you’ll have to wait a little longer. By 2060, people like you or I will be able to buy it, and by 2070 people in poor countries on modest incomes will be able to buy it.
In his prediction about human immortality, Pearson cites three emerging technological trends which have the potential to indefinitely extend the human lifespan, or at least the lifespan of human consciousnesses: rejuvenating body parts with anti-aging gene therapies or swapping out body parts for lab-grown replacements; digitizing the human consciousness and downloading it into biohybrid android sleeves à la Altered Carbon; or developing technologies which will allow our consciousnesses to exist forever in virtual realities. I don’t know about you, but that last one sounds the best to me.
While these kinds of transhumanist predictions are great material for sci-fi and surely have led to some generous research grants, I can’t help but wonder if these are merely some kind of new techno-religious belief system emerging. These kinds of technological immortality sound a lot like concepts of the afterlife, reincarnation, or the soul tossed around by many world religions. Will we really ever be able to digitize the human consciousness? Do we really want to? Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.