There’s good news for anyone under the age of 40. You’re not going to die… at least that’s what Dr. Ian Pearson believes.
In fact, Dr. Pearson says that anyone who’s alive by the year 2050 will be able to “live forever,” thanks to new technologies. Let’s take a closer look at what science is doing to help people become immortal.
From scorpion oil to spiderweb elixir to drinking gold, there’s no shortage of concoctions humans have sampled in their search for the fountain of youth and the quest for eternal life. But of course, they’ve all fallen short.
Dr. Ian Pearson says that’s about to change.
He believes we are very close — just decades away — from achieving immortality. Dr. Pearson is a full time futurologist from England who has been on the same mission for nearly 30 years: tracking and predicting developments across a wide range of medical and environmental sciences, business and technology, as well as society and politics.
Immortality is no longer science fiction, in his view. It’s the result of huge strides in science, technology, robotics and artificial intelligence. Dr. Pearson believes that discoveries in these areas will give us three important ways to achieve immortality.
New Body Parts Printed Out
Dr. Pearson points first to biotechnologies that will allow us to replace badly functioning organs with new ones. This isn’t like organ donation of the past. Human donors won’t be needed.
Scientists internationally are investigating what it looks like to load 3D printers with human cells and create new organs.
Body parts could also be renewed continually by using genetic engineering and other technologies that prevent cells from aging, or that even reverse aging.
“No one wants to live forever at 95 years old,” Dr. Pearson says, “but if you could rejuvenate the body to 29 or 30, you might want to do that.”
Live in an Android Body
These days we can hook up almost every device to a computer. Well, by 2050 our body won’t be any different. Dr. Pearson says we’ll be able to link our bodies to a machine and use a ‘human brain/cloud interface’ to connect neurons and synapses in the brain to vast cloud-computing networks in real time.
Sounds a little bit like the plot of the movie The Matrix to me. Or maybe The Terminator. Because if you die, says Dr. Pearson, no worries. Your mind has already been stored on a computer. It can be uploaded to cyberspace and downloaded to an android.
“The mind will basically be in The Cloud, and be able to use any android that you feel like to inhabit the real world.”
What’s more, androids will be highly realistic and human-like by then.
Similarities to Hollywood cinema aside, Dr. Pearson makes it all sound very appealing. He explains how you’ll be able to choose an android “just like a hire car,” and download your consciousness into it so you can be in any place in the world you want, such as spending an evening at the Sydney opera house in Australia.
And since our minds can be replicated as many times as we like, there’s no reason why we can’t inhabit many androids at the same time.
At first, costs will be very high, but by 2060 Dr. Pearson predicts they will have fallen dramatically and most people will be able to not just hire, but own one or more androids. For variety, these can be of different ages and genders.
However, Dr. Pearson warns there may be a limit to the number of androids we can own.
“You wouldn’t want to live in a world where there are millions of Kardashians walking around, where they can afford to do it and nobody else can.”
With that being said, it looks like society’s elitism may remain immortal as well.
Live on Virtually
The final method of achieving immortality is simply to choose replicating yourself and not bother with an expensive android. You can just live online in a virtual world.
Dr. Pearson assures us that we “could have a fantastic life online, [having] as much fun as you could possibly imagine.”
The futurologist is certainly not alone in his vision; most everyone working in this field sees the same or a similar future.
The first method will be the most appealing to people keen to extend their lives as we remain flesh and blood human beings, but the other methods? Speaking for myself, I’m not sure I would want to be plugged into a “matrix” or live on as an android— even if I could become Arnold Scharzenegger, the good android version, of course.
Some of these ideas have been kicking around for a long time and are hot topics for people interested in achieving some kind of technological “immortality.”
It does seem likely that there will be the ability to grow or manufacture replacement organs and this may considerably prolong life. I believe some form of this is coming in the near future.
But the idea of downloading your consciousness to a computer, including an android, is much more contentious as things now stand. Researchers and philosophers are furiously trying to resolve the whole question of what consciousness is and how the body produces it.
They’ve made impressive strides, but they’re still a long way from having the answers, and even farther away from figuring out how consciousness might be replicated and moved about. Until we know a great deal more than we do, the idea remains pretty much science fiction.
Ultimately I don’t think the experience of being human can be detached from having a human body. Hunger, the enjoyment of food, sex, love, anger and other emotions, and a host of other aspects of being human originate in the rest of the body, not in the brain or in the process we call “thinking.” The brain merely thinks about these things, it is not these things itself.
Are we going to program the computers to feel some simulation of sexual attraction or hunger and feed it to our detached, floating consciousness so that we somehow simulate the experience of being a living, human body?
Whatever it is these technologies are eventually able to replicate or simulate, I think the experience is going to be quite a bit different from the experience of being “you.”