We’ve talked about wearable tech and digital health, and how using all of the amassed data can be put toward providing a better quality of life for those suffering chronic health issues. Near-term goals promise to make life better for all humanity, but what is the endgame? It seems clear that the path is intended to lead to a humanity whose lifespan is massively extended.
Human evolution and technological innovation are moving forward hand in hand as a means of solving the age old conundrum of why we have to die—and how to postpone that inevitable end. And it is widely believed that tech could provide the key to the next great evolutionary leap forward for humanity.
Like the pharaohs of old, many entrepreneurs are backing scientific endeavors that will not just improve quality of life, but quantity as well. Prolonging human lifespans beyond decades and into centuries. Possibly even attaining immortality of a sort.
Yes, I did just say immortality.
How will immortality be achieved?
Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel is one of these “immortality backers,” having invested millions into longevity research. Thiel has stated that he hopes to live to be 120, and is following a strict dietary regimen that includes taking human growth hormone pills as a way to achieve that goal. He’s invested $6 million with Dr. Aubrey De Grey’s Methusaleh Foundation, a non-profit working to increase the human lifespan. De Grey stated in 2008 that he believes there may already be a human alive who will live to be 1,000 years old, through a combination of technological improvements and genetics. Is that person you?
We’ve already seen some of this progress, in the way we can use wearable tech to monitor heart rates, blood pressure and other such factors on a day-to-day basis. Even IBM Watson is being looked at to provide health advice through a smartphone app. You’ll be able to ask it for advice on diet, exercise and more. All of which, on the small scale, can assist in extending a person’s life. Apple Health is already on board by providing iPhone users a way to track a variety of data through the smartphone’s functionality.
In the medical field, doctors are finding tech to be a way to get detailed data, without the necessity of difficult and invasive testing. John Nosta talks about how much easier it is to draw blood gases now than in the good old days of just a few years ago. “But now, a simple sensor can instantly provide the same critical information with ease and accuracy.”
Extrapolating from there it really isn’t such a huge leap to envision a day when the medical profession will be able to perform complicated diagnoses and treatment remotely.
Transhumanism as the path to immortality?
One of the more interesting paths being examined as a way for humans to radically extend their lifespans is Transhumanism. The idea that through the melding of biology and technology that human beings will be able to transcend the current limitations of their biology.
One of the forerunners of the transhumanism movement, futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that technological enhancements (nanotechnology, synthetic organs, etc) will lead to a human race that measures their span in centuries. Kurzweil believes that the technology is only decades away. In fact, he believes it strongly enough that he has made plans to have himself cryogenically frozen if he dies so that he can be revived and enhanced when the technological breakthrough occurs. Talk about forward planning!
Russian multi-millionaire Dmitry Itskov is taking this more radical venue even a step further. Itskov has founded the 2045 Initiative, which has set itself on the path to what it calls “neo-humanity.” The project is seeking to improve technology to the point where a person would be able to transfer their consciousness to a technological shell and live on forever in an avatar unaffected by the ravages of time. Go to their website and you can click on the “Immortality Button” and begin crafting your own personalized avatar. Would you want to “live” on—and on, and on—that way?
Are we ready?
Clearly the steady march forward in technology means that our ability to live longer, more fruitful lives will continue to grow. The question then becomes, is humanity ready for a virtually immortal lifespan and can the Earth handle an indigenous species that no longer follows the natural cycle of life and death?