In a book published a few years ago, the doctor and entrepreneur Laurent Alexandre, defender of transhumanism, stated bluntly: “The growth of techno-medicine, and therefore our longevity, will be exponential.” According to him, “Life expectancy will double, at least, during this century”. To transcend our current biological limits, aiming neither more nor less at immortality. The trends in biotechnology and the statistics of our life expectancy have largely started to take off but does such a project – carried by scientists, computer scientists, billionaires from Silicon Valley grouped within the transhumanist movement – have any chance of success?
To answer this question, let us pay close attention to what Ray Kurzweil, Bill Gates’ future guru is saying. He is an entrepreneur, inventor and futurist that has stood by Gates’ side a number of years as an advisor on all things about the future. To add to his credibility in this question, let us take a look at some of the technological advances he has predicted in recent years. In 1990, he predicted that the PC would have the ability to answer questions by downloading information wirelessly over the internet before 2010. In 1999, he predicted that people would be able to talk to their computers using different keyboard shortcuts. In 2005, he predicted that we could translate languages real-time using virtual solutions. The most interesting part about this is that he was right in almost everything. But he had made yet another prediction that has to do with this very topic of discussion. He reveals what will happen in the next 25 years. Ray Kurzweil believes that human beings will become immortal through the implementation of nanotechnology and on machines’ ability to develop themselves through artificial intelligence. Because of this, he believes that we have a good chance to live forever, additionally he predicts that computers will be smarter than us people in 2029.
Where do we stand at the moment? Outside of technology, we have made significant steps in areas of medicine and biotechnology. According to an interesting summary of recent events in the field of extending life expectancies, Peter Kjällkvist of NyTeknik makes a number of interesting observations. “Metformin is an established diabetes medicine, which is now also used in clinical trials to determine if it can prolong life by making the aging process slower in patients. By removing living but stagnated cells, researchers Jan van Deursen and Darren Baker have extended the life of mice by 25 percent. Injections with blood plasma from young people have prolonged life and improved physics and cognitive abilities in mice by 30 percent. The injections have been done twice a week in the trial conducted by researcher Sakura Minami at the company Alkahest”.
But is this what we can expect?
A study published in 2017 in the journal Lancet, brings a serious downside. According to the model of a team of British epidemiologists at Imperial College London, by 2030, life expectancy at birth would have more than one chance out of two to reach 89 years for French girls , and exceed 90 years for South Koreans. Compared to the 2010 data, these are respective gains of “only” four and six years. Regarding life expectancy at age 65, the ranges are about the same: 26 years on average in 2030 against 23 currently for French women, and 27.5 years against a little under 22 years in South Korea. That means that this increase in longevity is not exponential.
It’s safe to say that, from the perspective of singling out contemporary developments in medicine and biotechnology, we are already approaching a trend that will see our lives extending by a number of years, but pure immortality – that is a different area in itself. Another question, similarly, arises from this: will this added computing power make human beings obsolete? It’s easy to reach immortality, that is, if you’re not mortal in the first place. David Pearce, the co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association has an interesting take on the future of transhumanism itself. “Transhumanism holds the belief that humanity would not be content with its genetic program,” he believes he knows, explaining that our technologies in pharmacology, genetic engineering and neurosurgery could one day allow us to anesthetize the mental pain of the same way that the bodies are well anesthetized during surgical operations. From there, “living longer will be more enjoyable”. Above all, to those who are frightened by the idea of immortality, he retorts that it remains a choice. “It would be wrong not to try” he launches full of confidence. Will we take advantage of these rapid steps in transhumanism and the advancements of technology and medicine or will we reach a stage in our understand of the world that accessibility to immortality is perhaps a boundary that should not be crossed once we reach it? Only time will tell…
Evolvera – always changing, always evolving.