I had a sudden moment of realization earlier this week that I will probably never die. I don’t mean this in the sense that this webpage or my memory will last forever, but that I physically will not die (and it’s just as likely you won’t either).
I have thought a great deal about the future; if you look at the subheading of my blog it reads “Think in Potential” which is a nod to this. I think about where things are headed more than where they are right now. The iPad 2 is exciting, but what will tablets do in five or ten years is more interesting.
Naturally I came across Ray Kurzweil, who is the king of potential thinking, at some point. I didn’t know the term, but I had become a “Singularitarian” (defined by Kurzweil as “Someone who understands the exponential growth of technology and what that might mean and is thinking about its implications”).
“When I was a student at MIT we all shared a computer and it took up a whole building,” says Kurzweil. “The computer in your cell phone today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful… And what now fits in your pocket, 25 years from now will fit in a blood cell, and will be again more powerful and millions of times more cost effective.”
His appearance in Time magazine a few weeks ago re-stimulated my thinking on the topic and while I was walking to lunch on Wednesday it hit me. I will be alive in 2045 and my parents probably will too.
I’m a bit skeptical that everything will go to exactly according to plan—we can’t predict what the world will be like in a few months, so 30 more years is like an eternity—however, I have plenty of faith that Kurzweil’s predictions will come to fruition. Even if it takes 20 years longer than he says, it won’t really affect anything (keep in mind that medical science will have improved a great deal in that time, allowing most people’s life spans to increase).
It’s a bit odd to accept this. I walked around the rest of the day feeling that while I’m certainly not the only one with this knowledge, you don’t run into people like this every day. Everybody is taught at age three when your fish dies that it’s just another part of life, that grandma and grandpa, mom, dad, and eventually you will die.
Now all of the sudden that may not be true now… Am I just supposed to sit here and watch the Penguins play a hockey like nothing has changed?
What does that do to my career? Is the current format of education prepared for this? What about religion and life after death?
This is not to say that people will be “immortal.” Smarter than is possible now and longer lasting, yes, but not Superman. As someone who is also working on preventing the aging process, Aubrey de Grey puts it, “The fact that tomorrow may be our last day may still be true, there will still be trucks to walk under.”
I was skimming the iTunes store on Friday night looking for a good documentary to rent, just like most students do prior to spring break week, and featured on the front page was Ray Kurzweil in a film about him called Transcendent Man. It’s downloading right now…
For the full video see here.