Immortality and Life’s Purpose

I’ve been recently reading and watching the works of futurists Ray Kurzweil and Jason Silva, and I am ecstatic about their optimistic predictions for the human race in the coming decades. I’ve also been coming across the claims of their detractors, and I want to highlight the most consistent statement made in response to the prediction that life will become indefinite as a result of advancements in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology in the coming decades; that people’s finite lives give meaning to their existence, and thus, immortality would rob us of the urgency of purposeful living. An existential crisis, in reverse if you will…

I would like to throw water on this ill-purposed sentiment, which shows more the speakers fear than a genuine well grounded and thought out response. It demonstrates a flaw that most generations of humanity seemingly propagate. That is, assuming the future will be the same as the past, both from a technological, but far more often, a personal perspective. The reason why we do so is simple. It’s how we’ve been evolutionarily programmed to see the world. We are predisposed to correlate data, extrapolate trends and events, and find meaning among our conclusions; either in our jobs, communities, or relationships, even where none exists (one example relevant today; rationalizing your work predicament when you don’t like it). In essence, these default modes of thought, springs forth from our pattern-recognizing minds, as well as a want of certainty and comfort…It’s shortsighted in a few ways, which is (evolutionarily) normal as our bodies really only care about food, water, and sex, never thinking more than a few days ahead. Evolution didn’t prepare us for culture, cities, technology, and the sedentary modern lifestyle.

Lets start with the history of average lifespans: two-thousand years ago, the average life span was twenty-three years. Two-hundred years ago, the average life span was thirty-seven. One-hundred years ago, it was pushing fifty. Today, it is pushing (and in some places, exceeding), eighty.

The detractor hits his first roadblock here. A farmer living two-thousand years ago apparently has a more purposeful life than any of us today. Waking up at dawn, sleeping at dusk day after day, all the while performing backbreaking work in the interceding hours of sunshine. He more than likely loses a few of his children to disease, and maybe even his wife. His ignorance from a scientific, moral, agricultural, and technological perspective terrifies him, and he gets lost in make-believe stories of gods (or god) relinquishing his control over his life.  [The infant mortality rate was anywhere between 50-300 deaths per 1000 births in peak of the then-civilized world, Rome]

Now, of course, an argument may be made that the current average is the sweet spot. Barely reaching thirty was one extreme, and living indefinitely is the other, equally invalid extreme. But that viewpoint suffers from paradigm of now. Of assuming we know better now than those in the past (and who’s to say people weren’t saying this 100 years ago?), and those yet to come in the future. I beg to differ. The difference between living to eighty and living to twenty is an educational mindset, which instills a sense of self-defined purpose, both of which informs and directs your outlook in life vis-a-vie knowledge, wisdom, relationships and happiness juxtaposed with the occasional suffering may-haps.

Imagine living to eighty in the squalid conditions of that poor farmer-chap. A life that would merely be a trebling of his trials and tribulations, with rarely a moment’s peace, nor comfort to speak of. If he stopped his backbreaking work, he starved to death. Now consider living to eighty in modern-day New York with its (relatively) carefree living, education, peace, and prosperity. If one is successful enough in this capitalist world, one can enjoy the fruits of their labour, pursue their passions, learn new things everyday, interact with like-minded people, watch TED, and pursue many other explorations of modern life that expands their geographic and mental boundaries. If one is unlucky enough to be on hard times, your fellow apartment-dwellers provide you a minimum bedrock of sustenance and shelter. So you can clearly see the vast gulf between the two lifestyles. In the former, life is lived day-to-day, with death and disease always lurking nearby. In the latter is relatively carefree, with Starbucks, the Internet, TV, cinema, books, and the time to make meaningful relationships rooted in emotional interconnectedness, rather than the survival-needs of centuries past. There is a clear difference between living a meagre existence and living prosperously (not just from a materialist perspective). It is clear that the farmer would have the same reservations about living to eighty, as many today, having to live to a thousand. The difference is not that life wouldn’t be desirable, but their mindset is not applicable, nor able to imagine, the ethical, moral, personal, and intellectual framework of the future.

But even today, our lives only seem carefree juxtaposed against the subsistence of our ancestors before (and during) the Industrial Revolution, where hitting forty-years was a veritable milestone. Today, we still have disease, uneven and wasteful distribution of resources, crime, death, poverty, and many other factors that impact and reduce societal health. A billion people go to sleep hungry every night (with 10.9 million children dying of hunger each year), three billion people living on less than a few dollars a day, while a couple of billion more on less than $10. In the developed world, we have obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (among others) that retard life’s potential for millions, as well as killing millions every year. Many of us labour away at jobs we hate, many more scrape by, and only a few truly do that which they aspire too. This picture of the modern world is changing rapidly, for the better, and technology is the reason. Now let’s take our world-view into the future that Ray and Jason think we are moving into, and see why the detractors are short-sighted.

This future will have exponentially growing technology, both increasing in power, and decreasing in cost. We have seen this curve already, and we are in the midst of it, though few truly realize its potential. The clearest example is the iPhone in your pocket, which is a million times cheaper, a million times smaller, and a thousand times more powerful than a $60 million supercomputer that took up half-a-building in size forty-years ago, as Jason is fond of saying everywhere he goes. Twenty-five years from now, these computers will be a billion times more powerful than today according to Kurzweil, as well as a hundred-thousand times smaller, and who knows how much cheaper, with increasingly powerful software and AI’s running on them. This will herald a sea-change in global human relations, as seen in the huge changes that are bought about due to increasing internet connectivity, information technology, and mobile phone usage in our economies and well-being today.

The economist Jeffrey Sachs has said that the mobile phone is the single most powerful tool to lift people out of poverty after observing over many years, fourteen isolated and impoverished towns in Africa that were introduced to mobile phones. Each 10% penetration in mobile phone ownership heralded a 0.6% compounded growth in GDP. Mobile phone sales in Kenya in 2000, was 17,000, and by 2010, was 18,000,000, in the process transforming the country, creating new industries, new jobs, new information, and new ways of living. Another study by the UN further reinforced that point, saying that cell phones are the most effective advancements in technological history to lift people out of poverty.

Jumping over to the Internet. Today in 2012, we have two-billion people connected to the Internet. By 2020, that number will jump to five-billion. In the last fifteen-years, according to Mckinsey & Co, the Internet has contributed 15% to the GDP’s of the G8 with a few others, and an article in the JordanTimes notes that for every 10% penetration of Internet usage in Jordan, GDP grew between 1-2% compounded.

Poverty is almost equated with isolation in many places of the world. Poverty results from the lack of access to markets, to emergency health services, access to education, the ability to take advantage of government services and so on,” Sachs said. “What the mobile phone — and more generally IT technology — is ending is that kind of isolation in all its different varieties.” Jeffrey Sachs

Running parallel to the relentless progression of these two-forces, is that of machinery and AI, which are both getting to the point where they will begin replacing service and factory jobs, which yes, in the short-term will disproportionately affect fiscal prosperity, but in the long-run will remove the need of the rat-race to begin with via deflationary economics, i.e., technology making resources cheaper while still expanding the pie [this is the story of technology since the Industrial Revolution]. If just access to information and communication can herald such momentous change in just a few short years, imagine the changes we can expect ten years from now. Every year, information technology becomes twice as powerful without an increase in price. Ten years from now, it will be between five-hundred and one-thousand times as powerful as today. Referencing modern IT history, between 1988-2003, computer scientist Martin Grotschel analysed the speed of standard optimization problems by computers, and documented a mind-boggling improvement over that short time span, which broke down into two factors. Processor speeds improved by a factor of one-thousand (just like we’ll get in the next ten-years), and software algorithms, which became forty-three-thousand times faster over the same period. Both factors combined made computing forty-three-millionfold faster. With parallel-computing and multiple-cores gaining more and more prominence in the coming years, it’s not out of the question to expect more, in point-of-fact, it may even accelerate.

One of the most disruptive technologies on our horizon are Google’s self-driving cars. These magic-machines will replace taxi drivers, chauffeurs, truck drivers, delivery businesses, and even negate the need of families to own second or third cars to ferry everyone around. Economic pain is the first thing that comes to the mind of most people, and the politicians and naysayers will be the first to jump on it to exploit it. But consider the other side of the coin: efficiency and safety. These cars will save untold amounts of oil and gas by vastly improving efficiency, travel times will be cut down, congestion and traffic jams will be no more, pollution and smog will decrease significantly as only a fraction of the cars will be on the road, and most importantly, accidents, injuries, and deaths will all but disappear. 1.3 million people die in car-accidents every year, and 90% of those accidents are human-based in studies conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This number is projected to increase to 1.9 million people by 2020. Over a million-lives per-year could be saved, not to mention many more millions of injuries, and trillions of dollars in savings everywhere along the supply chain as a result, and even outside it in healthcare costs, foreign policy, traffic light maintenance, etc. Surely, that is worth some short-term economic pain, especially in light of deflationary economics making anything produced as a result of technological-progress cheaper, meaning your dollar goes further. [Remember the super-computer example, which was a billion-fold increase in price-to-performance in forty-years]

Increasingly intelligent software, coupled with increasingly agile machines will be able to perform complex tasks typically reserved for people, as shown in this quote in the NY Times article, More Jobs Predicted for Machines, Not People:

“Faster, cheaper computers and increasingly clever software, the authors say, are giving machines capabilities that were once thought to be distinctively human, like understanding speech, translating from one language to another and recognizing patterns. So automation is rapidly moving beyond factories to jobs in call centers, marketing and sales — parts of the services sector, which provides most jobs in the economy.” – Steve Lhor [Emphasis mine]

Farming will begin to move underground, into cities, and into people’s homes in hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics. Each of which uses at least ninety-percent less water than in-ground farming (which uses 70% of sustainable water-use and is projected to increase by a further 90% by 2050 with current practices and technologies). It will be location-independent, and will be vastly cheaper in terms of labor, materials, distance-to-market (they will be inside cities), and supply chain. The price of food will get cheaper and healthier. This technology could be exported to every nation: a village in Africa could grow all their own foods without need of importing anything, as the environment will no longer dictate what, if any, crops can be grown. In-vitro meat production [artificially growing animal meat using stem-cells from animal muscle] will entirely replace the need of farm animals, factory farms, and the thousands of billions of kilograms of feedstock needed to feed and fatten them up (which will go to feeding people instead). Each 15 grams [1/2 oz.] of meat requires 100 grams [3 oz.] of vegetable protein. As a result of decoupling the price of meat from corn, soy, and grain, as well as transportation, and not to mention the plethora of externalized costs (i.e. costs not accounted for in the supermarket price) such as nitrogen runoff, pollution, and other factors that negatively affect the environment, will result in the price of meat plummeting. That is, the price of meat, and even fruits and veggies, both environmentally and fiscally (which are the same thing; we’ve separated them but nature hasn’t) will be significantly reduced, having 7–45% lower energy use, 78–96% lower greenhouse gas emissions, 99% lower land use, and 82–96% lower water use. The forty-percent of farmland in use around the world today can be returned to nature (which will have the added bonus of filtering out CO2, pollution, and increasing biodiversity which may put a damper on the sixth great extinction currently occurring).

There is a clear progression here. Technology is the only human endeavour where trends in the past reflect the future. So imagine life in the future where all our material concerns are practically non-existent, where our knowledge is infinitely larger than it is today. It’s said by 2050, ninety-percent of what we know will be discovered in the interceding years. And of course, the arbiter of free and open exchange; our humble Internet, full of knowledge, will ever expand everywhere and into everything. Since 1995, the Internet has more than doubled in size each year with seemingly, no end in sight. Soon, it will start to spill over into everyday life; Google Glasses being the most visible example, due to be released next year.

This clumsy existential crisis of purpose in response to futuristic explorations are no different from many of those in the past that seemingly led nowhere such as food production not increasing to feed everyone, and my personal favourite from Jason Silva, the moral panic in response to the invention of the telephone. Another great example by Jason: Socrates, in his day, worryingly thought that writing down one’s thoughts would lead to atrophy of the mind, since nobody would ever need to remember what they wrote down, and thus, everyone would become dumber by the act of putting feather and ink to papyrus.  But with hindsight, we saw that people became smarter, knowledge travelled farther, events were recorded that survived the sands of time informing us in the present of the past. It helped others built upon the work of those they had no hope of ever meeting, due to distance or time. The collaborative process, both in trade and in knowledge, intersected, interbred, and co-evolved in such a way that we continually increased our knowledge base, which resulted in millions of inventions and insights, which solved many of their problems, eventually eradicating them. In the process creating more problems that forced new thinkers and specialists to repeat the process again and again until the present. Now we find ourselves solving new problems (climate-change, biosphere degradation, food-production, freshwater supplies etc), but with the continuation of the same technological and scientific processes, which are becoming exponential in nature, we will continue to meet the problems of terrestrial life. At this point, if we haven’t by then, we will (or some among us) leave the planet, and propagate into the Universe, spreading humanity far and wide.

The Universe is practically infinite. Our planet is just a speck of dust in a tiny solar system, orbiting an average sun, in a normal galaxy of 400-billion other stars, in a sea of a 100-billion galaxies that weave and web their way across the observable universe. In the future we find ourselves inevitably barreling towards, most of our material, physiological and ethical concerns that we preoccupy ourselves with today will be overcome. We will have ever more time to foster and expand our relationships. Our tools of learning will be designed to circumvent our mental barriers, allowing us to learn at exponential rates. Our foods will become healthier, and so will we, making it easier to fully use and expend our mental and physical energies. All of our biological limitations will be overcome thanks to bio-tech. As our technology increases, so do our boundaries, and consequently, the possibility of a purposeful and fulfilling life, contrary to the naysayers. The paradigm of now has never held more than a momentary grasp on time, what makes anyone think it will do so now? As Stewart Brand so eloquently puts it, “We are as gods, and might as well get good at it.” Life is coming, and it will be more beautiful than any of us can imagine.

It is no surprise that in the last four-hundred years, human culture has evolved more rapidly due to our technological advances. They are not separate events. Our moral, ethical, and personal intuitions have evolved because of technology, which allowed us to focus and talk about new and exciting issues and information bought into view with each technological upgrade. This is what technology gives us, the ability to see that which we couldn’t see before either due to the shortsighted preoccupations of work, disease, war, poverty, or any other issues. This will continue into the future, uplifting us into the rapturous awe of the universe, consequently alleviating us of today’s many problems.

To all the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and inventors, I salute you, and thank you for the life and opportunities I have…

This is one of my favourite videos by Jason. It beautifully encapsulates the varying paradigms of the human-race over the last few-thousand years (as well as the universe in the billions of years before), and shows how it may change in the future.

12 comments

  1. I feel compelled to comment here. While I haven’t read or heard what either of these gentlemen have to say on this subject, I will respond to your summarization. I wonder if you paraphrased the arguments against correctly in your first paragraph by stating that “people’s finite lives give meaning to their existence.” That sounds like a gross oversimplification.

    One can easily make the argument that the more we connected we become to technology, the less connected we become to each other and to our world. In fact there’s a great TED talk along these lines. Being connected (emotionally/spiritually, not technologically), in essence, is what makes life more meaningful, not how long we are able to live and how much knowledge we are able to accumulate. The deeper more meaningful relationships we have with others (or even with just one other person) makes life worth living, not our capacity for knowledge and age. As we move closer to singularity, I fear (and fear is the right word here) that we will lose our ability to connect with each other. That we will become so connected/infused with technology, so dependent and distracted on scattered bits of information, that our capacity (or willingness) to experience raw, unbridled emotion and empathy will diminish, leaving us empty shells of what our ancestors once were.

    1. While it is an oversimplification in words, it is not in meaning from how I’ve understood it. The general rebuttal usually is, ‘life is short, so don’t waste it’, or ‘you only live once’, or ‘work gives people a sense of purpose or meaning’ etc etc or any other one-liner that could be made to the finality of death.

      As for the technology argument replacing our interconnectedness. One can easily make that example, yes, but it is shortsighted and I cannot disagree more. This results due to the short-term lineal thinking that is inherent naturally in humans, which is why it is so hard to grasp exponential growth. Yes, in the last twenty-years, this has been the case. We have flocked to our computers, laptops, mobile-phones, kindles and so forth. You are incorrectly extrapolating that all technology will follow the blueprint of the last few decades, that is, becoming bigger and more invasive. In the future, technology will be invisible as it becomes miniaturized (we are literally in the first few baby steps so far, a computer 25 years from now will be a 100,000 times smaller than today but a billion times more powerful).

      Our computers will turn into our contact-lenses, and the desktop computer, the ipod, the laptop, the ipad and all the rest will cease to have relevance except to collectors. Rather every flat surface will become a make-shift computer, or it will be done inside your brain via nanotechnology enriching the mundane world around you. You will be able to share your emotions with your wife and child (your actual emotions, not approximations). Think about that, you won’t have to inadequately express your love for them in words, you will make them feel it. You’ll have inter-cranial video-calls with your friends and touch them from thousands of km’s away. You could have a family reunion in a virtual world indistinguishable from the real world, no matter how far apart you are. Instead of the yearly family reunion, you could have one every month. Far from distancing us, it will bring us closer. We won’t have to expend our energy in mundane jobs, which decreases the energy we have to spend with our families. We’ll be able to feel the pain of other peoples and cultures, removing the differences that our genetic irrationality artificially creates to separate them from us. How could war exist? We are living in the most peaceful time in all of human history (watch the TED talk, ‘The Myth of Violence’) and technology is the factor that instigated this, allowing us to culturally, morally, and ethically evolve, by alleviating the need of violence in expanding the resources we need, thus removing the need to kill, steal, and deceive.

      With these technologies infusing our emotional partnerships ever more tightly into our being, so it will be so in regard to the Universe and science. We will understand so much more the science of the cosmos, giving us that wonderful feeling of awe. There is an experiment from Stanford that shows that the more awe we experience, the more empathic, altruistic and happier we become, which forces our brains to upgrade our mental schematics (watch the 3min video titled “The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck) which will affect, for the better, our real-world relationships, thus making them more meaningful.

      And think how much better we live today as a result of technology. Extrapolate this out to the future, and this will make our lives richer and far more satisfying than living a luddite existence, or even going back to the technology of 20, or 50 years ago.
      Think of the way people lived 2,000 years ago without technology. Barely living to thirty, making babies to have them work the field instead of for loves’ sake, and making many babies because many of them died before the age of five. Where is the emotional interconnectedness here? 200,000 women die today because of maternal mortality, and even more children die as a result of that. These deaths are easily preventable with basic medical knowledge. Or the age-old practice of perpetuating violence due an irrational fear of being attacked first, due to scarcity of resources. The examples are endless.

      Your fear is misplaced, and if not misplaced, only temporary. Technology will be invisible before we get to the singularity, and technology will amplify the love, forgiveness, and interconnectedness that we are possible of showing for each other, bridging all differences between all people, finally culminating in a world-civilization not based on governments, rule, violence, and fear.

      I strongly suggest you watch those two videos I mentioned above:

      TED: The Myth of Violence (15 mins)
      The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck (3 mins)

      Sorry for the super-long response. Chat soon B…

      1. I’m not discrediting the benefits modern technology has on the human species or even on the Earth as a whole, but it has it’s place, and that place is not necessarily all encompassing. It is so much more complicated and there are cases (one of which you brought up) where this simply has not been true. The way you state so matter-of-factly that we will be able to enhance our bodies in various ways and that it will be the same or better than the way nature has evolved is an expression of faith in technology that is religious in nature. Technology has it’s place, but natural processes have their place as well, and it is the harmony of the two that, in my opinion, will provide the most optimal outcome for the evolution of the human species.

        I’ll give you two examples where, so far at least, technological advancements have failed us: nutrition and pregnancy.

        Let’s start with nutrition. Nutritionally speaking, we are the least healthy generation in all of human history, which is why heart disease and cancer are two of highest causes of death among people in the world, and it’s only getting worse. Modern agriculture and technology in farming practices has caused the nutrition content in our foods to decline substantially over the past 150 years. We also consume more and more chemicals that are meant to destroy pests and bacteria of which many long-term side effects are yet unknown. Irradiating our food drastically reduces nutrition content and changes the chemical structure of food. Even microwave cooking can result in negative nutrition. When we compare our current diets to our ancestors, who traditionally ate local whole foods and foods in season, we are nutritionally challenged to say the least, and the future looks bleak. Now enter Genetically Modified Organisms, another “advancement” in technology that has been shown to cause cancer when consumed by rats, and probably other diseases and side effects yet to be determined. How can we make a statement on the future of technology in this area?

        In comes pregnancy. You know how we feel about modern medicine and pregnancy. Modern medicine is phenomenal at addressing reactive care, but it does not address preventative care at all, and it treats pregnancy, something so completely natural, like an illness that needs to be cured. Western doctors promote unnatural birthing methods, such as the cesarian section and administering epidurals, which lead to complications and many more deaths which can be avoided by simply giving birth naturally. More than 60% of women have cesarian sections in the US today, and less than 5% as a result of a complication during labor. Even when complications arise, the woman’s body has failsafe mechanisms to try and finish giving birth naturally and to begin healing itself the second the baby is brought to breast for its first feeding (such as accelerated blood clotting).

        My point is this… How can we have faith that technology will “enhance” our ability to feel and experience empathy and emotion when we know so little about what human consciousness is, not to mention the effects of doing so? Why would we want technology to do this for us when we are instinctively capable of doing this ourselves? Moore’s law applies to technological change and should not necessarily be extrapolated to encompass every part of our future existence so as to provide a foundation in which we are ignorant of the consequences to our species. The consequences of our actions are often discovered far too late in the process, and if we move in the direction of enhancing ourselves in certain areas, we may reach a point where there’s no turning back.

        1. While I did not spell it out. The view of technology as a result of the singularity, will instinctively be complimentary. It will not replace us (it eventually will but thats a ways off, and it won’t be forced). At the beginning, we’ll augment our intelligence. We’ll upgrade our blood cells making them 1000% more efficient. We may upgrade our stomach making them more efficient at converting calories to energy (which will result in needing less food)…This technology won’t replace evolution, it is the next evolution. Evolution has spawned another evolutionary process via itself. Maybe replace is a better word. Evolution is not the holy grail when it comes to our biology. There are many parts of our design that is faulty, outdated, no longer in use, dangerous. We are merely developing the tools to update it. Will mistakes be made? Possibly, but it’s only by doing that we can get better.

          When it comes to GMO’s, I am starting to differ in opinion to what I had a few months ago. Yes, Monsanto and what their doing is pushing it way too far. But according to studies, billions of people are still alive because of GMOs, so this “advancement” as you put it has resulted in numerable benefits that far outweigh the bad (so far). Just because one company is playing dangerously with GMO’s, doesn’t mean all GMO’s are bad. Nuclear fission technology is neither good nor inherently bad.. But you can make clean energy with it, or nuclear bombs with it. GMO is the same, and so far, the good outweighs the bad. It’s a bit heavy to say we are the least healthiest generation of all time, when we simultaneously have the longest lifespans, isn’t it? 100 years ago, the average lifespan was 46.5 years. 200 years ago, it was 37. 2,000 years ago, it was 23. Today, it’s 80 (in the developed world). I’d rather to live to 80, than 50, 40, or 30 simply because my quality of life today is better than even the kings and queens of 100 years ago, so in that regard, I don’t regard myself as less-healthy. By the way, that recent study study that grabbed world attention recently with the tumors in rats due to GMOs, was rife with scientific inaccuracies. The lead “scientist” refused to publish it to the peer-review journals before media publication…and thus forsakes his study as being called science. He did so scientists couldn’t have a crack at it before the media ran with it publishing it everywhere… It’s just like that rat-study from “Forks over Knives”, they want headlines and attention and will do anything to get it. (The 5% casein rats in the movie that didn’t get cancer, all died painful deaths before even one of the cancerous 20% casein rats even died [and died a comparatively far-less painful death], but they don’t mention that part, they just say the 5% rats didn’t get cancer). One last thing, there is a study out there that shows that even though our food is less healthy than say, 50 years ago, we have more access to it (and thus the vitamins and enzymes) that we are still better off than if we didn’t have the green revolution, since our bodies can fight any pesticides and unnatural substances better as a result. GMO’s are here to stay, we better get used to it, perform the necessary studies to ensure their safety (being conducted now) and tweak nature to minimize our footprint in the world. The sooner we do this, the sooner the world gets back on its feet, and perhaps we can even stop the sixth great extinction now by giving back 40% of the worlds surface that we have taken away from all her animals and plants to feed ourselves. Organic food production will increase that 40% and increase the great extinction. This is a compromise I believe we have to make it.

          As for pregnancy, I agree with you, but as you stipulate at the beginning of that paragraph. “so far at least, technological advancements have failed us.” The operative words are ‘so far’, but while that may be so, in the west, our maternal mortality (as well as our infant mortality) deaths have dropped over 99% in 100 years…That is a huge advancement no? but there is still more, but at least women and child aren’t dying in such vast numbers anymore (between 200,000 – 2 million women die every year in the developing world because they don’t have the same medical practices as us). So we have come a long way, and we still have a long way to go. But again, your view (i believe) is shortsighted. Medicine is reactive now, but it is in its infancy still. Dr’s, scientists and entrepreneurs are moving to proactive care (theres a great TED on this too but I can’t remember the name but they are doing a huge experiment in the chicago health care system). Big Data, mobile phones, and the computing revolution are going to be hugely responsible for one of the biggest leaps forward in medical care in the history of humanity.

          As for religious faith in technology…come on, thats a low-blow. I do nothing on faith and you know that. I read into the research, the data, the opinions, and make an informed decision. You jumped into this debate by admitting you know nothing of either side of what I was discussing, and come in here on faith 😛 Religion is faith in things that cannot possibly be known… Technology is everywhere, and we have solid data, both empirical and evidential, hindsight and increased quality-of-life that has quadrupled our lives over 2000 years, feed billions of people (who would have otherwise died), increased quality-of-life for even the poorest people (in developed countries at least).. If you want to call me religious for running to where the trends are going, then so be it.

          Have you ever heard of that story about the inventor of chess presenting his game to the king? The king was so pleased that he asked the inventor to name his price. His price was a piece of rice on the first square, 2 pieces of rice for the 2nd, 4 for the 3rd, 8 for the 4th. By the 31st square, the count was over 1 billion. By the 64th, the amount of rice would have been bigger than Mt. Everest. Then the King killed the inventor.

          But that simple exponential expansion, is the story of technology. Information Technology come into existence about 1958. According to the book, Race Against The Machine, the 31st square was 2006. The world we live in is 1 billion, 2 billion, 4 billion, 8, 16, 32, etc etc you get it. This will completely transform the world (not to mention save it). This is an unstoppable force, and nothing short of a nuclear war will stop it.

          So to sum up, we will combine with technology. Augmenting ourselves where nature has fallen short (which is a lot more places than you think), and use it to catapult ourselves in the Universe, and became the Gods, as Jason Silva puts it.

          Another thing I want to mention. You know that everything you do from morning to night is technological in nature? Or least 95%. Apart from pissing, shitting, and feeling emotional (though emotion is amplified via technology). So technology has already subverted everything we do… You and I are not old men right now because of medical and agriculture. technology. Language is a technology, the alphabet is a technology that allowed ideas to spread far and wide, the shovel, the car, the home, food (even natural food is only accessible to you because of technology), the phone call, the email, this website.. Me and you owe our existence to technology. It has subverted evolution, and became the new evolution. Evolution has created a new evolution vis-a-vie the ape, homo sapien. Technology is as natural as us, and it has given us life.. So yes, there may be unforeseen consequences, as there surely will be, but the great thing is that as our technology increases in power, so too does our power to react to unforeseen circumstances. Information Technology is taking over everything in the world, even that which is not digital yet, but our biology, at its basest level, is itself an information technology, telling us how to grow, act, and interact with the world. We need huge technological innovation to reduce our footprint on the planet, stop the great extinction, increase quality-of-life for the 5-billion people not lucky enough to be born in the west, stop the millions of people form dying of hunger, malaria, dengue, and every other disease. I cannot envision a scenario where we don’t need more technology that is not hugely immoral and inhumane, which will result in one of the worst chapters of human history.

          I love this discussion, and I’m sure we’ll discuss it over endless days next time we meet. Send my regards to H&S.

          1. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention faith. There is no faith. We need to discuss, debate, explore, create, and speculate the progression of technology in regards to our virtues, to what we want it to do (or need it to do). We direct it to where we want it to go. Faith is for the lazy. Intent is what we need. I encourage you to watch any video (you’ll find plenty on youtube) by Ray Kurzweil or Jason Silva, or read ‘Physics of the Future: How Science will Shape the World by 2100″. The book will blow your mind, but I know your busy so a twenty-minute video might need to suffice.

  2. Faith is not for the lazy, but rather for those who think in the longest possible term. Faith is for those who believe that the word good has meaning to it. Even further, faith is for those who embrace words such as morality, beauty, goodness and truth, and take them as a reality that is above and beyond material considerations, and that have their own meaning, not wholly determined by subjective experience. No matter how far technology will take you, all things end. There is no such thing as immortality, because entropy is always increasing, and the universe relentless in its push towards equilibrium. In biochemistry, equilibrium means you’re dead. The theoretical limit of lifespan aided by technology is the limit of the universe which will end in a cold emptiness long after the sun destroys the earth in a destructive flame. Even if we export life to other worlds, they will end too. It is the inescapable destiny of all living things in this universe.
    Faith then is not laziness, but an intellectual attempt to understand these impulses towards good, and the revulsion towards evil. Are they real? Or are they arbitrary? If they are real, they must be determined outside of us. If they are arbitrary, then what compels us to follow them, once we realize they are arbitrary? If we could truly be immortal, then they might have some eternal but practical meaning among those who would try to live a pleasant existence. But we cannot be immortal. Our universe does not allow that. So what are we left with then? Arbitrary statements of good and evil that can only serve a temporary purpose on any number of paths that all lead to the same end…nothingness. A place devoid of life, with no memory of anything that came in the age before. Faith then, is not laziness but an intellectual recognition that absent an immaterial reality, good and beauty have no real meaning of their own. If they have no real meaning of their own, then I am not compelled to respect anyone or anything on virtue of its own worth, but only out of my own feelings, or out of fear of the consequences. Faith, is the rejection of this view.
    The gravity of morals, of good and beauty, cannot be proven. Nay a belief that the soul is a fiction, that material being is the only being, is a rejection of morality, and any attempt to discuss that which is good, can only happen on the subjective plain, and is free to be rejected.
    But Faith holds that good is real. That the soul is real. That life is beautiful, and that beauty does not depend upon subjective interpretation, but is solid, with its own independent foundation. And it compels respect. Violation of this good cries out for help in a reaction that cannot be explained by science. Faith then, is a deep intellectual understanding of the world that sees a dimension that is reasonable, and must be accepted, but cannot by proven by the methods of science. To say that faith is for the lazy is in itself, a statement of the lazy.

    1. Hi Vince,

      Obviously I cannot disagree more. One, I believe your viewpoint om immortality is shortsighted. The universe will not reach maximum entropy for trillions of years, so if you want to underplay that emphasis compared to our current lifespan of 80, then so be it. At maximum entropy, time will no longer exist, the universe will become formless, so again,

      As for faith and goodness. You’re building up a straw man argument here and then shooting it down. None of it is, I’m sorry to say, relevant. I have no faith and I see the intrinsic value in goodness. I just see it without any ‘attachments’. I value it in and of itself. If I am good to others, it increases the chance of others being good to me. If I am bad to other, it increases the likelihood others will be bad to me. Some call this karma. You don’t need faith for this. I am moral without faith, and so are many others. You are insulting me and millions of others because of a subjective viewpoint based not in reality, but in your subjective experience, because you feel you would not be moral without it, but you can. I’m not trying to convince you otherwise to let go of your faith, but the audacity to presume that others cannot have it without this magical thing called ‘faith’ is shortsighted and simply not based in logical reasoning,

      Good is real, life is real, life is beautiful, and maybe none of it can be explained by science which deals in concrete reality (which isn’t concrete or solid by any measure anyway), but you don’t need faith to understand that. Thanks for your comment but I could not disagree more.

      1. See that’s what I love, this tired statement that faith is some magical thing (your words), disconnected from reality, and supposedly fueled by ignorance and fear. If only we could educate people then they would finally give up this nonsense of a belief in God. Except, it isn’t about ignorance at all, nor is it contrary to reason. But this is contrary to reason:
        “One, I believe your viewpoint of immortality is shortsighted. The universe will not reach maximum entropy for trillions of years.”
        Webster’s definition of immortality: “unending existence.”
        And my view of immortality is short sighted? I can’t help but find a bit of irony in that. If you don’t mean immortality, then don’t use the word immortality.
        Furthermore, if you are the one who said “faith is for the lazy” why are you so output because I “insulted you and millions of other people?” I guess its only an insult if I say it.
        And one last point, you misunderstand me if you take me to say that faith is required to see good and beauty. It is the other way around. The fact that faith and beauty are universally comprehended is what inspires faith. That I don’t need anyone to tell me that the sunset is beautiful, or that love is a wonderful good, and that torture and murder are horrendous evils is an amazing reality. Beauty and truth speak on their own. Faith does not tell someone that life is beautiful. Faith is the intellectual acknowledgement that the beauty we behold is a reality of its own, independent of the subject who beholds it. It is called faith because I believe it, even though it cannot be proved. To be a materialist, to believe that the soul does not exist, is to say that the beauty has no meaning other than the perception in a person’s thoughts and emotions, distillable all the way to the chemical reactions taking place in your body. This does not mean that all who deny the soul proclaim beauty to be devoid of independent meaning. But it does mean that such people are logically inconsistent, one might even say irrational.

  3. We are not the point here. Life is the point and we are its guardians. Thanks to our inhuman treatment of one another, we are now for the first time in history, equipped to save the planet from celestial traffic accidents. That’s all folks. The rest is comedy, and our flaming egos supply is with plenty of jokes. We’re the big ugly bouncer at the bar door, you don’t like him but you’re glad he’s there. Once we’ve saved it, we need to clean up our garden, because it’s the only one. The only one. And we are a part of it; an essential part, as essential as your immune system is to your survival. We are the real heroes here, by default. But we are not the point. Unless and until we do this great work, there is no redemption for us. All the wizardry of Nature is counting on us; for it is the point.

  4. Future Studies as an academic discipline tells you that futurists themselves may be broadly categorised as optimists pessimists pragmatists, science and tech based or faith/ conscience based…..these are the prevalent-present tendencies for classification/ identification. The statement that faith comes as a consequence of beauty appreciation/ realisation ( from Vince) is interesting. Could we say that faith ( belief in the how , what, why, when of thought word action geared to work for successful outcomes..that allow us to proceed towards that which best promotes progress towards building .Mankind’s optimum future ) could be a combined consequence of a beautiful amalgam of people dedicated to advanced 1) sci – tech research- knowledge- life applications and 2) conscience- value- laden scrutiny and analysis and constant creative revision, reaffirmation …of the way we proceed, attendant consequences, achievements…?
    I ask for evaluation upon this…. Since faiths ( and political party procedures) are presently divided as is sci and tech…into life/ death – giving entities… neither area of vital concern can give us sufficient future trust-perhaps because there is insufficient scrutiny of both by conscience. Now conscience is something very relevant to the idea of how we may achieve a much desired, long awaited, universal paradigm shift…. We cannot move into a new system of things, more geared to present aspirations, needs,realities unless we gather sufficient critical optimum mass … of conviction….to tip the balance. Now hostilities break out amongst factions for just this reason…. They want to carry the day … Take things forward their way….by hook or by crook. And so we also have money talking…. Influencing swing votes….. And so our best inspirationally envisaged futures are compromised. Making money in the present is quoted as present morality….free market competition and greed….as against sustainable long term growth…. Better services for all. Some believe morality is what is good for me and my brother/ my society. As for globalism, people are deeply divided… The U N apparently functions by means of sanctions and missile/ troops on the ground, various inoculation and food/ weapon defence aids. … Politics, economics and military power are our ” guiding image/ ideologies” .
    Furthermore… How many people are led by personal conviction today and how many content to be led? Delegate responsibility. Hoping for transformation from a body outside the self…looking for the Redeemer who takes away not only the sins of the world but who will govern mankind. And how many are scared of this Redemption hope … of it all being abused by ” the Deceiver” ? This applies equally well to those who trust to advances in Sci – tech and to those who look to religious outcomes.
    Personally, i feel our best future hope lies in man’s unconfined quest for the liberated “Super Rabb”….super refined , development-defined conscience and we have many inspiring life examples of this …. which we should not turn into a kind of historic- hysteric stasis and immature dependency …the best thing we can do is free a slave, first to think speak and act in an unfettered way according to the perfect dictates of a rationally guided conscience… which may have one prime role model but which should be broad enough to acknowledge merit in many. What should guide… ? This- appreciation of the aspirations, possibilities and ” ultimately perfecting” role of what is manifestly best within and able to be achieved by mankind, together with relevant Sci- tech Education- Reading, comprehension and hands on physical, practical applications- experience. And we need to value and install or at a minimum instil the idea of a morally worthy, global- future – relevant – Beautiful Brotherhood ” – Meritocracy-leadership of Sci, Conscience and Faith rather than remain / become increasingly disappointed disillusioned and disgusted and divided with our present uncertain state of things.

  5. babylon, the roman empire, all the great empires, egypt etc..there are many who act and think like they are exclusive to this world, that fate lies in their hands alone. Well, i’ve seen the cloud, faces in the sky, stars come out from nowhere, and experienced many miracles that are unexplainable. A time comes when luck runs out, and your reputation is called upon. added to this, a series of numbers, all of biblical tone, have been coming up regularly. technology has turned on children, celebrities use any means to get along, and what we never expected to happen, is happening again and again. In a nutshell, we are under divine guidance, and the link between heaven and earth has been reconstituted. So whatever about the future, the only intangible the world over, is love, and as we get poor at creating it, we get nearer the day of judgement. i bet my life on certain things occurring, and can tell you with precision, we are near the precipice in terms of our ability to be human.if you want to check out some writings, of Godly inspiration, visit my blog, or google paddypicasso, happy days are near again. God is very real, bad news for many, great news for the few. so much for technology saving the world.

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