My friend Shannon and I often joke (but secretly really hope) about getting robot bodies in the future. I look forward to a day in the future when I’ll be able to transfer my brain over to a robot (thus becoming a cyborg).
There is actually a group trying to make that happen. It’s called the 2045 Initiative. Their goal is to help humanity achieve immortality by transferring ourselves into hologram avatars at the end of our lives. Basically, if heaven doesn’t exist, we’ll create it ourselves. Actually, probably more like we’ll create our own ghosts.
I have a problem with “transferring consciousness”, since technically I’d still be dead. It’s the same reason I don’t consider clones to be a form of immortality, or any means of “downloading” your brain. You see if I buy a book, and it burns up. That book is gone. It doesn’t matter if I buy a copy, IT’S STILL A COPY!
I am, however, looking forward to one of their goals which is transferring your ACTUAL brain into the body of a machine. I figure as long as my brain is alive, so am I.
Then I started to think about repairing your brain.
Everything in life decays, breaks down, dies. But what if you could repair your brain. What if you could replace parts of your brain with tech. Take a chunk, replace with tech. At what point are you actually dead? How little of your brain would have to still be there to be considered “you”.
Then I started to think: you would never know you died. Technically speaking, every time you wake up, the only reason you assume you’re the same person you were when you went to sleep is that you have all the memories leading up to the moment you went to sleep. Not counting naps, I could have been replaced with a clone around 13,000 times. I’d never know. (These are the thoughts I have clean, sober, sugar, and gluten-free. I wonder what they would be like if I were stoned?)
You should really follow the 2045 initiative on Facebook, even if you’re not into becoming immortal. They post lots of articles on advances in medical/biological/robotic science. This one caught my attention (I was going to say caught my eye but didn’t want to make a bad pun – which I’ve now done anyway).
A retinal implant that could restore sight to those who lost their sight due to disease and old age. Amazing!
The line that caught my attention, though, was this one:
“Hopefully, when these devices are available for FDA approved use, total loss of eye sight from macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa will be a thing of the past within 10 to 15 years.”
I believe the biggest impediment to my future cyborg self, and human immortality in general, is that technology advances very quickly, but approval of devices for use on humans takes a long time.
Think about cell phones. 15 years ago they were bricks that made calls and maybe sent texts (for which you paid by the text). Now they are mini computers that surf the web, record and send videos, and can store more data than my first computer!
The approval process for a device implanted on or in a person can take years. Check out this article about bionic body parts. Again the time delay is the thing:
While Vawter can’t bring his bionic leg home just yet, Simon and her colleagues hope to roll it out for home trials in about five years. Devices that rely on brain implants will take longer, possibly a decade or more, experts say. But who knows? If January’s clinical trial for CNEP’s prosthetic sleeve proves successful, things “can move really quickly,” Ganguly said.
Five years is a long time in technology. Most people don’t even own the same car for five years. By the time the bionic leg is approved, it would normally be obsolete. But it won’t, because you can’t make advances until it’s live. So while a normal device would go through multiple generations over 15 years (still using the 400 MHz Pentium II processor with a 4GB harddrive?), and software might go through 6-7 generations (are you still running Windows 98?) in 15 years, the bionic leg controlled by your brain will barely be going into beta.
I do know that the FDA has tried to create an “innovation pathway”, and they’re riding a tough line between medical advances and safety. They’re blamed for not approving enough items, then also blamed when something they approved ends up not being safe. I’m glad I don’t have that job.
But with technology advancing as fast as it does, how do we help move things along at a more rapid pace, while also keeping people safe?
I wish I had the answer to that, but I don’t. I just know that I’m looking forward to 2045 when I’ll be turning 68. Just a year older than this guy is now.
Or the same age as Tom Selleck and Steve Martin are right now. Not a bad age to move into the new body. Especially since I’d be entering retirement (if I’m lucky). 68, the perfect time to take up free running with my new bionic limbs.
Anyway, if you read my last post you probably know that I want to achieve immortality to read more books. True story.
What do you think about humanity being able to choose immortality? Would you want to live forever? A couple hundred years even?