Having always been in love with the natural world and the stories of those who have walked Earth before me, I constantly ask myself why we – as modern humans – have such an aggressive desire to alter reality and human experience. It frustrates me that we do not realize just how little time humans have to live and thrive on this planet – not in the sense of longevity and extinction, but in the sense that we have engineered the very anthropomorphic alterations to our survival that will ultimately homogenize the entire human race.
Allow me to explain.
Let’s talk about death. It is no secret that the search for immortality is as old as human life itself. However, what makes the modern search for this cure so intriguing and dangerous is that the solution to this age-old question may not be very far away.
Dr. Ray Kurzweil, famed scientist and inventor – as well as Director of Engineering at Google, an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and a recipient of 20 honorary Doctorates and honors from three U.S. presidents, has studied nanotechnology and the artificial intelligence revolution with the determination to live until the day of his own immortality. Seriously, that is no joke.
In fact, he writes about the millions of blood cell-sized robots (called “nanobots”) that will keep us forever young “by swarming through the body, repairing bones, muscles, arteries and brain cells” (Hawke). Moreover, his carefully constructed scientific models have been proven accurate, and the extent at which he is exploring the “exponential nature of technological advance” is truly turning the world of science upside-down. In his 1990 book “The Age of Intelligent Machines,” he predicted that the development of a network and computer would one day beat a chess champion; and indeed, that happened in 1997 when the IBM supercomputer “Deep Blue” beat chess champion Garry Kasporova. Similarly, Kurzweil predicts that the future of nanobots will be the pinnacle of intelligent machines –capable of destroying disease, rebuilding organs, obliterating the boundaries of human instinct, and not just simply slowing down and stopping aging…but reversing it.
But…ultimately, I am here to talk about humans. Not robots.
What I fear is that humanity, through an obsession in this age of biotechnological revolution to control and change the nature of the 20,000-30,000 genes in our bodies, will ultimately cease to allow humans to be humans.
Here’s something to think about: What will we do when the day of the undead finally does arrive? This question (and others) is raised by a recent documentary titled “Immortalists,” produced by William H. Andrews and Aubrey de Grey – two theorists. They pose the important question: “What will we do when some portion of humanity refuses to die?”
“Immortalists” Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDlVY8iLCek
Essentially, what I have to say is that, I believe science – and certain social movements and pressures – are collectively driving humans away from themselves. To be clear, I am an advocate of medicine, and am interested in the field of healthcare, but I believe society must discuss where to determine boundary lines in order to save humans from self-destruction.
Every individual person is born different – sexually, racially, linguistically, cognitively – and their story of birth (birthdate, place, time, family experience, language, culture) is just as important as the story of the course of their lives, disabilities, hardships, successes, and finally their death.
We live in a world where diversity seems on the surface to be our greatest concern – but while we see ourselves as fighting for that, we actually draw ourselves closer and closer to homogeneity every day. We are afraid of offending others, so we hold back opinions just to blend in with the crowd; we hide folklore and traditions in a large blanket of globalization; we hide behind computer screens because we cannot bear to face real rejection; and, we investigate and devise a future where our physical bodies are invincible to disease. Thus, going back to the documentary “Immortality,” Grey states that “Once we are really truly repairing [cells, organs, bodily functions] as fast as they go wrong, game over.”
And, that’s just it… “GAME OVER.”
So, what does it mean to be human? We live in a day and age where science fiction is no longer science fiction. It’s just science.
So…what are we willing to give up?
Hawke, Chris. “Coming Soon: Immortality?” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 13 Feb. 2005. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.