The background noise of our personal, inevitable doom, is the undercurrent in our lives, always tugging at our subconscious, reminding us that we can’t escape it. We can’t live forever. Unless of course you expect that Ray Kurzweil is correct and at some point in the next 40 to 50 years surviving humans will be able to live on inevitably, aided by assorted pills designed for specific tasks, genetically remodeling ourselves to slow or even reverse aging, and fending off disease and disorder in our bodies.
It is dubbed “The Singularity.”1 A proposed time, in the not so distant future, when, it is said, artificial intelligence will exceed human intelligence. The Singularity is based on, and compounds, an exponentially increasing growth of technology and medicine, expanding the arena of Moore’s Law2, which refers to the exponential increase in computer technology. And if you think about it, it doesn’t seem too hard to comprehend.
By then, or maybe because of then, nanotechnology will have developed to the point that armies of microscopic robots will be sweeping our arteries clean, and patrolling our inner workings for viral and bacterial evildoers. Our personal soldiers will take no prisoners, and spare no mercy. I welcome it. My own reserve arsenal to assist my natural immune system? Bring it on!
Our immune system, incredible as it is, and naturally evolved, identifies and reacts to a threat, then it remembers that threat for future reference. But the process is a crash course. The immune system has no real “heads up,” except for vaccinations, a wonderful scientific advancement that has proven immensely beneficial to humanity yet, sadly, are now sometimes avoided by ignorant parents who listen to the likes of Jenny McCarthy.
Ignorance, on some level, may endanger us all, but just imagine what could be possible with scientific advancements like nanotechnology. Our immune systems could have a backup militia to help in the fight against disease. We could be healthier. But that’s not all, we’d have new medicines at our disposal to stop aging, or reverse it. Scientists at Harvard Medical School have successfully reversed aging in laboratory mice.3 Our physical health could be managed, and in that future world, many of us could thwart death inevitably, maybe live forever. Of course, getting hit by a car is another story.
But for now here we are, “each of us,” to quote a line from Free Will by the rock band Rush, “a cell of awareness, imperfect, and incomplete,” living our lives with the awareness that one day, in our future, we will stop living. That’s a tough thing to consider, and many of us do a great job of not considering it at all. But I think we rob ourselves by not pondering our own death.
Singularity aside, we’re all looking down the barrel of the same gun. And, not that it has equal potential of The Singularity, let’s put any notion of an afterlife aside as well. This world is the only one we will ever know, and our individual life is the only one we’ll ever experience. Doesn’t knowing that life is not forever make it that much more valuable? All we see and hear, all of the people we love, are ever more precious because our experience with them is limited. For now…