Live forever?

I rarely watch television news or, save the football, anything much at all on the small screen. But if anyone can find me 5 minutes of TV more interesting than the following interview with Futurist Ray Kurzweil, my gratitude will match my surprise.

A taster: the next wave of your immune system boosters could be micro-computers – nanobots – many times more powerful than today’s smartphones yet many times smaller; small enough to swim through your blood vessels and, upon encountering a threatening pathogen, they will download the appropriate data and software required for combat.

Wildly speculative? Thanks to the exponential progress being made in computation power – it has and continues to essentially double every year while halving in cost – Kurzweil makes a quite specific forecast actually. 2027, 15 years from now to be precise: the year the inevitability of death as we know it could end; the year “the sands of time run in” and one year more is added for every year lived.

Learn why:

Watch Futurist Ray Kurzweil on Singularity on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

If you’ve been wondering how long until the next iteration of the smartphone is embedded into your forearm, or pondering the release date of an attachable app that can augment the capacities of your brain, well friend, after listening to Kurzweil, you’re thinking smalltime.

Assuming we’re approaching this “singular” moment where human and artificial intelligence meld, exciting and frightening new questions and possibilities arise. Here are few of mine.

If we can download, as Kurzweil suggests, each day’s memories, saving them to an external server for insurance against a brain injury, how long until we no longer need our bodies at all?

If we can store all our memories on an external drive, imagine the possibilities for a ‘memories DJ’ app, enabling mixing and moulding our thoughts with another’s – including the dead. Now that’s seeing the world in the shoes of the others – minus the shoe expense.

But what about the risks? Could the state subpoena externally preserved memories as evidence in court? Could prospective employers demand access as ‘character’ tests?

Never mind the opportunities such technologies would provide a police state, we must beware the temptations these innovations elicit in our own evermore intrusive and authoritarian liberal democracies.

Live forever starting 2027? Perhaps. But live in privacy? Goodbye to all that.

If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend this documentary on Ray Kurzweil, Transcendent Man.

Strategic Communications Consultant, located in Washington, D.C.