You Will Not Live Forever

“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.”
–John Derbyshire

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.

37 thoughts on “You Will Not Live Forever

  1. I was a Marine in my early 20’s in the First Gulf War. A part of my insane young brain was disappointed that the war was too easy and that we never got the glory of the real war with the Soviets. The real disappointment was that I would make it out of the 20’s alive and gradually mellow into middle age before fading into old age.

    I would pay a lot of money to get my 23-year-old body back. It was fun being insane and chasing glory.

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  3. “Ray Kurzweil, Google’s chief futurist,”

    This is a signal to short Google!

    The funny thing about this is that I read alot of futurists too. And 2045 seems to be their consensus prediction by when the human race will be extinct.

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  5. I should have added that I do believe that the cloud people have been going to Kurzweil’s Singularity U lectures for the past few years and he’s got them hooked. The reason that they — as Wretchard has observed — seem to be kicking the can down the road is that they think that if they survive the next 20 years, they’ll upload into immortal bodies of pure energy. No real need to pay off all that pesky debt, right?

    It’s kind of a twit of the year contest between the nanotechnologists, the genetic engineers, and the matter haxors. One of those groups might win and radically transform existence, but like the original Monty Python skit, none of them may survive and in an extra plot twist, they might take the rest of us with them.

    Roger, WILCO, over, and out.

    • You’re on to something. That pesky debt is meant to fund immortality, after they provision the luxury survival bunkers.

      • In 1844, when the leading lights agreed that the Judgement was at hand (that’s why all American denominations are Millenial), the rich began outfitting vaults to survive Jesus’ return. Perhaps the Public Protestants are repeating an old theme.

    • When the Montgolfier Brothers launched their first hot air balloon in 18th century France, one of the nobles watching the event lamented that, “In a hundred years people will learn to live forever and we will all be dead”.

  6. So if the introduction of cells from the young (blood cells and other cells) stops aging in its tracks, which some studies have indicated, then there should be a healthy black market for the 1% to keep themselves going for a bit longer. The rest of us, probably not so much. If people are willing to fight tooth and nail for material wealth, imagine the battles for an extended lifespan. “Selling one’s body” gains a whole new meaning. If one wants to go full tinfoil hat, imagine a world where the young unborn are harvested, and health care in old age is denied to all but the very wealthy. As if that could ever happen….

  7. Every time i read about “The Singularity” i have to
    learn a new definition of “The Singularity.”
    No two authors ever use it the same. Same same for “posthumanism.”

    • Hopefully as a singularaitish post human android in the shiny happy
      future i will be able to spell my own name right on the first try.
      Meh, none of the futurists ever see a future with people like me innit anyhow.

  8. Heh. I love how we assume technological man is immune to magical thinking. Travel in India sometime — the Computer Science PhD who has your job, and upon whom the grid depends, routinely consults astrologers (the biggest of whom live like rock stars). And you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a zillionaire hedge fund manager standing waist-deep in the Ganges right next to a herd of shitting cows, splashing himself and chanting, just downstream from a burning funeral pyre. The only difference between East and West is the smell (and not for long).

  9. In the year 1900 the lifespan of an American male was 40 years and death was due largely to infection. Antibiotics changed that, and as we near the end of effective antibiotics perhaps we will live shorter lives again. We have had a good run.

  10. Kurzweil is a fraud, but the idea of living forever is mesmerizing to the giant Godless egos in the cult. They don’t know it but living forever would be hell, literally.

    • It may be entirely possible that the aging clock (there is one) will be turned off, but that clock is not the life clock, which is a different safeguard against immortality. It’s as if nature finds immortality to be an abomination. It is. The fact is, if I knew I was going to live a few hundred years looking good, nothing would ever get done. Alfred E, Neuman’s creed would rule (until extinction). Life is an audition. The Director is sitting there yelling “next”.

      • I saw a show on a turtle conservation project in the South. They capture the turtles, measure, inspect and make sure they are healthy. Some snapper get quite big. They caught one that weighed 200 pounds. They found in it a musket ball that they dated from around the Civil War.

        If human lifespan stretched to 200 years old, a lot less would get done. No one would be in much of a hurry.

        • Some years ago, there was a science fiction movie called Logan’s Run where people were only allowed to live up to the age of about 30-years. A flashing light in their hand signaled their time was up. I would propose we implement a similar system system for our political leaders so everyone knows when it’s time to toss them out. The “use before” date on food is a great system, and for politicians, it would prevent them from becoming a potential health risk to the rest of us.

      • “…nature finds immortality to be an abomination.”
        Putting on my tinfoil hat. The whole Universe is alive – and can’t die, though that is its all consuming desire. “Creation” is thus its mechanism for having the “illusion” of death – the life/death cycle.

  11. When predicting future technology, Jules Verne always often to mind. His stories of flying machines and atomic powered submarines were true prophecy. Today however, we seem to have hit the technological wall. Most of our current technology actually is so much “been there, done that” but now it’s just faster, more reliable and with produced with improved materials. Take flying as a perfect example; 100-years ago aircraft were wooden framed, fabric covered, unreliable and slow. Today, despite the advances, we still do it exactly same way we did 100-years ago. I find it difficult to believe anyone living today will see an equivalent to what our grandfathers saw in the last century – from horses to cars to landing on the moon; exponential technological changes in a single lifetime.

    • Well, we have the new Lizard Overlords to look forward to. Otherwise; Democrats that don’t lie and pay for the things they give the underclass out of their own pocket, Music pulling out of the nose dive it’s in and producing artists at least as good as Armstrong or Porter, the men of Europe find their balls and follow the true heirs of Charles Martel, Hanger Danse and Don John.
      In short before we can push beyond the achievements of the pass we need to stop the decline of the present.

    • Mom was born in 1916 in a covered wagon while Grandma was on a cattle drive.
      Could not agree with you more.
      Mine was the first generation in all of human history that did not have to store food for the winter.
      Of course we were going to f**k it up.

      • So this should scare you too; we have a generation that doesn’t even know how to grow food, let alone preserve it.

        • @ Notsothoreau – I would agree with respect to industrialized countries. No where in America or Europe do people live entirely off what they produce. However there are still plenty of people in third world countries where they live off only what they can produce. Ultimately, the less dependent you are on technology, the better. But we are way past that point now.

    • Someone told me a while ago that the great inventions that propelled human life forward were virtually all done between (roughly) 1875 and 1950. You may well find examples outside that time scale but the essence is that this brief ‘golden age’ set us up. All we have done since is refine the inventions, for instance our beloved tinterne is based on the phone network and even wi-fi is only radio waves: sure, they have been fashioned into a new use but all we do, maybe for a long time to come, will be based on those 75 years.

      • I’ve read that there was a telegraphy-based Internet-like network in London in the late Nineteenth Century.

  12. If you are looking for good fictional treatment contra Kurzweil and contra immortality, I highly recommend Greg Bear’s Vitals. Once you get that the whole thing is an extended metaphor for the human immune system (various characters represent lymphocytes, messenger cells, cancers, etc), it’s a pretty fun read. I came out of it fully agreeing with the author: an “immortal” human == a cancer — and in a less metaphorical sense than you might suppose.

    • I kinda liked “Nature’s End”. It touched on aging/beauty prolongation that worked out FINE,
      1. You weren’t rich.
      2. You didn’t faithfully get the mothly “treatments”.
      3. “Somebody” in gub’mint decided to have your electronic medical records deleted, and/or freeze your electronic credit payment assets.
      Yep, they had autonomous cars too!

      • Big fan of Bruce Sterling’s “Holy Fire”. Beauifully written. Favorite scene is our newly young heroine on the catwalk, happily sneering at the audience, because she actually had been a young woman during the terrible Plague years of the 2020’s.

      • For a dark humor look at anti-aging technology, read Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer Dies the Swan

    • “an “immortal” human == a cancer”

      Particularly since George Soros is most likely to be the first, followed by other well connected fascists and lots of (D)irtbag politicians who will get the treatment on the govt expense.

  13. I have said this before, but I have lived through several big predictions. When a child, I was told I would have a flying machine of my own by now (ok, yes we have drones but not something I can easily take the family out in, which according to the art would be when men in trilby hats and still wearing neckties took their clean, smart family out in their own helicopter to wave and smile at the improbably all-white neighbours). Then when I was young man I had to prepare for global cooling and a new ice age (which would promise to be tough, living as I was in the north of England) and then I had to get ready for global warming where even the north of England would be roasted to a crisp before it was deluged by polar bears, or something.

    In between there were all sorts of predictions, including small going to be beautiful though the portions and televisions got bigger for the fat folk, and another one if we let the world in to live on our small island and paid for them to do nothing but bring their culture with them, we would all be deliriously happy. Oh yes, and the EU too would help us be better people with the kindest laws ever devised.

    Funnily enough, not one of them has come to pass, so the only prediction I can believe in is that predictions are hard, especially when they involve the future.

  14. I suspect this is s male thing because women tend to live longer than men. And this is wished for by young men, because they are not dealing with the aches and pains you get as you age.

    My maternal grandmother lived to be 99, but spent the last ten years of her life bedridden. I really have no desire to do that or extend my life if my mind is gone.

  15. Our bodies age because they are supposed to. Evolution works for the benefit of species, not individuals. There has to be some turnover in the population to ensure adaptation to changing environments. The more stable the environment, the slower the turnover rate.

    Maybe humans someday achieve some “singularity” whereby they achieve a form of immortality, maybe we replace ourselves with machine intelligence. I really doubt that anyone alive today will ever see any such thing.

  16. Exactly how will the ‘Singularity’ help when the next big asteroid hits the earth and the reset button is pushed?
    If a tenth of the money wasted on welfare, drugs, sports betting or those bad George Lucas movies had been spent on a viable space program then I might have hoped that the Human Race had a future. Now, not so much.

    • Actually I used to think this, but now have to come to the conclusion that the space program was always a dead end.

      Mars is the one other planet in the “goldilocks” range of orbit around the sun where life can exist (Earth is at the hot end, Mars is at the cold end), but Mars doesn’t have a magnetic field, so you can forget about terraforming it. Even if Mars was terraformed, its a third of the size of the Earth, so at the rate human population is increasing at the most it will absorb two generations of Africa’s population increase. And humans were able at the most to get spacecraft past Earth’s magnetic field half a dozen times, and apparently we lost the tech, so we are a long way from terraforming Mars in any case.

      Other star systems are something like a gazillion light years away, and nothing can go past the speed of light. So to get to them, assuming they have habitable planets, means building space arks where humans live and die in self sustaining environments for generations. None of the attempts to build a fully enclosed self-sustaining environment on Earth has come even close to success.

      So we are stuck here.

      • Yes, that’s the glass half empty viewpoint.

        On the other hand (I said space, not travel) in orbit and in micro-gravity there is quite a lot we could do, while at the same time getting some of mankind’s eggs out of the one basket.
        Solar isn’t as stupid in space as it is on the surface. And nuclear is a no-brainer. There’s water and carbon and energy. There are single asteroids that contain more metal than the human race has smelted in it’s entire history. Once off the surface we’ll have time and resources. And a gravity well to toss spontaneously generating Democrats, bureaucrats and other single (brain) cell life down into.

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