Deep within the sci-fi dreams of eras past, prospects of immortality were designed around drinking from a fountain of youth, utopic cascades of magical water with the ability to keep your flesh fresh and mind working at ease through linear time.
No one ever thought then the possibility of living forever might actually be in allowing our physical shells to die off, burying the single-use transports after they succumb to the unbeatable rigors of nature and then allowing technology to do the rest. Because arms, legs and a crooked nose do not a human make. It’s what’s inside of us that counts, if we’re to believe anything motivational posters taught in school.
This is the basis of a growing theory to eternal life. In the future, if billionaires, tech giants, genius engineers and Hollywood all get their way, brains will exist not in grey matter with a finite lifespan, but in the cloud. Or maybe on SD cards, of sorts. In twisting the impossible, possible, souls may one day be stored alongside porn and bank transfers — unaffected by passing cosmic happenstance. God-like even.
“The proposition that we can live forever is obvious,” says longevity entrepreneur Arram Sabeti to The New Yorker. “It doesn’t violate the laws of physics, so we can achieve it.”
The concepts of “mind uploading” now found in binge-worthy shows like Altered Carbon, Black Mirror and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams aren’t anything new. Thinkers have theorized for decades this might be our only chance of survival as a species. The world’s problematic realities now are simply driving billionaires faster in their quest to “fix the problem of death,” as some have called it.
PayPal cofounder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel has his teams researching immortality one way: whether or not blood transfusions from healthy young’ns is the key to eternal life.
Dmitry Itskov, Russian entrepreneur, billionaire and founder of New Media Stars, dreams of another prospect: the day his team at 2045 Initiative finishes mapping the brain so it can be uploaded to a computer, technology that would allow him to live as an “immortal holographic avatar,” he says.
Itskov is sure this will be completed in less than 30 years.
And then there’s Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil, singularity pioneer and all-around Silicon Valley rockstar. In a 2016 interview with Playboy (an eye-opening read if you ever get the chance), he gives an even shorter timeframe than others. He thinks in less than 10 years, humanity will begin to take major steps toward immortality.
“We’re merging with these nonbiological technologies already,” he says in the interview. “I mean, this little Android phone I’m carrying on my belt is not yet inside my physical body, but that’s an arbitrary distinction. It is part of who I am — not necessarily the phone itself, but the connection to the cloud and all the resources I can access there.”
In a way, he says, we’re already in the process. People hardly exist anymore without carrying around an enormous library of information, crudely uploading our thoughts whether it adds value to the whole or not. And what of your friends? Their entire lives exist in your pocket, sometimes exclusively, each one of us validating their existence there through simulated emotions, blue fingers and hearts.
At this point, it’s not if, it’s when these scientific explorations come to fruition, further delving into the answers humanity has sought for thousands of years.
Who are we? What are we? And what do we do next?