Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Quest For Immortality: The Technological Fountain Of Youth

If there is one thing that humanity has always sought it is immortality, once through religion and mysticism alone, but now by technological means as well.  One of the most prominent advocates for technological immortality is Ray Kurzwiel, futurist, entrepreneur and currently Google's engineering director.

Ray Kurzwiel is a well known futurist and forward thinker who has stated many times that he plans on living forever.  He reiterated that statement yesterday in a talk given at a Wall Street Journal network conference in San Diego, making it clear that he fully believes immortality will be possible within his life time.
This may seem optimistic, but his ideas are based on the trend of exponential growth, here is a video of Ray explaining the growth of information technology:

Due to the pervasive nature of communications today we are experiencing exponential growth in a wide variety of technology, Kurzweil believes this will lead to breakthroughs in nano technology and biotechnology that will allow for humans to be effectively immortal.  The possibility of these technologies have been firmly established, the only thing in question is the timeline, one must wonder if the trend of exponential growth will continue or end with the maximum miniaturization of computer microprocessors.

Based on the ever increasing connectivity, it is possible to imagine that information technology allows all types of technology to grow at an exponential rate because of the increased innovation from decentralized creativity.  Based on the massive amounts of data collected by Ray Kurzwiel and the visible trends in DIY and crowd funding/sourcing, it is not hard to imagine that the exponential function will continue onward.

One of the other theoretical immortality trends that Ray predicts is the download of human consciousness into computers, this effectively allows you to transfer your consciousness from one body to another making your mind effectively immortal.  As controversial of an idea as this is it has relatively high amounts of support in the technology world and is considered the holy grail of cybernetics, this connects into the idea of an artificial intelligence singularity, which Ray Kurzweil also predicts in the 2040's, this is the notion of artificially intelligent computers designing more sophisticated version of themselves with exponential progress twords super intelligence.  Kurzweil and others in the field believe that this super intelligent computer will not be something outside of ourselves as is depicted in most sci fi, but something that we integrate with and become.

This is a complex and confusing vision of the future, it leaves us with uncertainty about ideas of the nature of self and the relativity of human morality, this is precisely why this technology and its implications must be discussed before they manifest.  Without proper preparation, the coming of artificial intelligence could spell extinction for humanity, but with adequate forethought, it could herald a golden age of peace and bounty.

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