The technological fountain of youth
In less than two decades, we could all be as robotic as my old soccer coach who had two metal hips and a cold heart. He also got perms, and he reminded me of Willy Wonka. I don’t want to be like that man.
But the best part wouldn’t be that we would be robots – because that would be pretty lame and nerdy and reminiscent of that horrible Bicentennial Man movie – but that we would become immortal. This is what Ray Kurzweil said this past week to the Telegraph in the UK.
Who is Ray Kurzweil? Wikipedia told me [and I astutely and independently verified] he is an “author, entrepreneur, scientist, futurist,” and I told myself, he is “friendless.” Just kidding, I’m sure he has at least one friend.
The premise of what Kurzweil is saying, according to the Telegraph, is that because of the rate in which we are gaining knowledge, “in around 20 years we will have the means to reprogramme our bodies’ stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse, ageing…Ultimately, nanobots will replace blood cells and do their work thousands of times more effectively.”
Whoop-de-doo! That sounds fascinating. Actually, this does: “Virtual sex will become commonplace.” Instead of regular porn, you can be even more pathetic…and still not have to use your imagination. Imagine that.
While thinking of this reminds us of all the dystopian novels we read in high school, instilling fear on what could happen regarding wars and governmental control in the future, I think the real problem is that people would want to live forever. Or even longer than the general 80 years that people usually get.
And this has been happening for centuries. In the sixteenth century, Ponce de Leon sought out the Fountain of Youth. Even Herodotus in the fifth century B.C. spoke about a special water that granted youth. In the past century, one of the main goals of science has been to figure out how to make people who nuke each other and gorge themselves with food live longer.
As long as they can. Good grief.
For most people, what gives life a purpose is that it ends. Not all, but for a lot of people, life is special because you have a limited time to do things, so you make it worth it. Yet, we still keep trying to extend life as long as possible, even willing to live in states which are not at all appealing to anyone, unless you like being immobilized experiencing dementia or senility.
The problem seems quite simply to be that most people are afraid to die, and want to extend that date as long as possible. We not only try to extend the actual lifespan, but also try to extend our quality of life at the end, in order to somehow rationalize extending it absurdly. Not to say that one should want to die, but as of now, and I imagine for a long time, we all are going to.
Unless we find a way to become cyborgs in order to evade this.
To many, religious people seem to grapple onto religion because “it is a crutch for the weak.” What they are saying is that they are afraid of death, and that they believe in a God or an afterlife because they don’t want to envision having nothing after death.
And I ask myself, what are we doing now by trying to extend life as long as it can possibly stretch, searching out Fountains of Youth, finding it necessary to live forever?
The answer to this question is undoubtedly something along the lines of, “life is good,” “life is fun,” “I want to experience more things.”
Well, if you could experience everything, you would. And then what? At some point, you are going to have done everything you want, and you will have met one too many people to realize what Sartre was talking about when he said, “Hell is other people.” And you’re going to realize what Mellencamp meant when he said, “life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.” The thrill will be gone.
The problem isn’t that one doesn’t want to extend their life as long as they can, it’s that people are trying to extend their life as long as they can because they are afraid of what all know will happen when death comes.
Ben Moriarty is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.