Ray Kurzweil has made the prediction that within 12 years humans will have begun the process of merging their biology with the very technology that rests within their smart-phones, leaving them smarter, healthier, and more immune to decay than ever before.
While evoking optimism and excitement on the surface, this prediction beckons the question of just what objective humanity is seeking. For Kurzweil, the promise of life extension is certainly on the horizon. This is the man, one could argue, who fits the character of the aging professor out of the film Prometheus. You know, the guy who was cryogenically frozen or something until he reached the lair of humanity’s creator whom he thought would bring his aged body back to the vigor of his younger years.
Like him, Kurzweil has been taking careful steps to preserve the little life he has left, taking some 150 vitamin & mineral & enzyme supplements daily. Apparently he thinks that if his biology can hold out just long enough for the technological singularity to occur, he will attain immortality.
My take? I say dream on.
The rule of the universe is mutability. Change and impermanence is the nature of all. Even if technological progress can afford us miraculous life-extension modalities, they won’t permit identity to go on forever. Consciousness will change, and if identity will change, then why does one wish to cling to life? Also, bear in mind that the creation of AI really marks the advent of a new, unprecedented form of consciousness. To merge with this AI will constitute the abrogation of one’s concept of self. Immortality in this respect kind of defeats the whole point doesn’t it?
Secondly, it must be understood that these technologies will not be accessible to the whole of humanity as suggested in the Daily Mail. All throughout history it has been observed that the greater achievements of the sciences tend to be dispensed to the wealthy, privileged, and powerful. It is only after the powerful have satisfied themselves that the bread-crumbs of technological opulence are then thrown down to the ‘precariat’.
What must also be kept in mind is the reality that technological improvements are actually hampering further progress as we devastate the very ecosystem which we depend on for sustenance. I don’t find any reason to be optimistic about Kurzweil’s predictions. What I see is a man who fears his own death, and will meet it one way or another.
Within the Bansenshukai, Fujibayashi offers up the wisdom of Wu Zi who said that if you put your life above all, ‘you are sure to die’. I resonate with this precept. Do not seek after immortality, but rather, do away with your fear of death. Only then can you live life well.