“The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, social, and personal. We want our wishes to come true; we want the universe to care about us; we want the approval of those around us; we want to get even with that s.o.b. who insulted us at the last tribal council. For most people, wanting to know the cold truth about the world is way, way down the list.”
We like to believe we are past the time when wizards and shaman can make a living telling the future and conjuring miracles. We’re not like those primitives in our history books. We’re all about facts and logic. We rely on big data and analytics to tell us who won a ball game. No relying on the scoreboard for us. After all, who among us has not told our Facebook friends how much we bleeping love science!??
That’s all nonsense, of course. We’re just as prone to magical thinking as the people of prior eras. Instead of the court astrologer, we have economists. Instead of guys promising to make lead into gold, we have guys like Ray Kurzweil telling us we will live forever.
Ray Kurzweil, Google’s chief futurist, laid out what he thinks the next few decades will look like in an interview with Playboy.
Kurzweil is one of the biggest believers in The Singularity, the moment when humans — with the aid of technology —will supposedly live forever.
He’s chosen the year 2045 because, according to his calculations, “The nonbiological intelligence created in that year will reach a level that’s a billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.”
But even before 2045, Kurzweil thinks we could begin the deathless process.
“I believe we will reach a point around 2029 when medical technologies will add one additional year every year to your life expectancy,” he told Playboy. “By that I don’t mean life expectancy based on your birthdate, but rather your remaining life expectancy.”
As the boomers move closer to the grave, the market for life extending miracles grows. Inevitably that means the charlatans move in to fleece the desperate and stupid. Kurzweil has been working this racket for a number of years now and he is good at it. So good that he has a multi-million dollar perch at Google as “chief futurist” which sounds like something I’d write if I were making fun of someone like Ray Kurweil.
My observation is that forever life is a male thing. Most men I know started fretting about their health once they hit their middle years. They quit drinking, smoking and started exercising. The neologism MAMIL does not exist by accident. I see these guys every weekend in the summer, kitted out like they are on the Tour. P. D. Mangan is making a living popularizing research on anti-aging. My guess is his audience is all male.
My hunch here is men used to seek glory as the way to live forever. Die in battle and spend the afterlife with the gods. Alternatively, go out as a hero to your people and be remembered forever. In the Christian era, heaven waited the men who were defenders of the faith. Today being a hero or dying in battle is not in the cards and no one believes in an afterlife, so men want to literally live forever.
Women, in contrast, don’t seem to be into the living forever stuff. They want to look good forever. That makes some sense biologically. Females of our species are wired to gain the attention of males. Looking young and sexy is therefore the biological goal from the start. Extending that out into middle and later years would extend the “life” of the female. I’ll allow that I could be all wrong about this.
The funny thing about this is that science knows very little about aging, in terms of why our bodies age. But, there’s money to be made in pretending we’re close to figuring it out and arresting it. From that Kurzweil article:
A lot will have to happen in the next 30 years to make that a reality, but Kurzweil isn’t fazed: He predicts that nano machines capable of taking over for our immune system (to fix problems like cancerous cells and clogged arteries) and connecting our brains to the cloud will be available by then.
He likens that change as the next step in our evolution, the same way our ancestors developed to use the frontal cortex 2 million years ago. The benefits, according to Kurzweil, will be significant.
“We’ll create more profound forms of communication than we’re familiar with today, more profound music and funnier jokes,” he tells Playboy. “We’ll be funnier. We’ll be sexier. We’ll be more adept at expressing loving sentiments.”
Notice the future is always a scaled up version of what the futurists think is cool. Many of my neighbors would like to create more profound forms of killing rival drug dealers, more profound gangster lyrics, etc. The funny part of Kurweil’s future is that most of us will not be in it. His paradise will be more highly selective than Allah’s. Maybe the rest of us will just have to be satisfied being re-animated zombies.