The Case for Human Immortality

Original article can be found here (source): Artificial Intelligence on Medium

“Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day! No, no, man was made for immortality.”

— Abraham Lincoln

We can’t imagine the perks if we lived immortally. Think of the time we can devote to loved ones possibly even seeing our fourth generation or beyond.

Think of the possibility of touring the entire planet and the chances of making amends for the mistakes of our past. Imagine the unbelievable time-frame we’ll have to master as many careers as we want.

Man’s interest in immortality is definitely not a new thing on the block. From the elixirs of China and Greece, down to the Hindu ‘amrita,’ man has sought ways to prolong his life by antidotes in a bid to freeze the hands of the clock. This quest was often met disappointingly with shortening lives or even killing those subjects.

We all dream of living forever; it’s an instinctual longing. We’re lulled into the prospects of perpetual bliss with songs like, ‘forever young’ by band— Alphaville. We definitely want to thrive in youthfulness and beat the odds of ageing.

The trend for longevity is connected with falling life expectancies. The fact that the average life expectancy for those born in impoverished countries is around 67 years for males and 71 years for females is very worrying.

Let’s imagine the possibilities of a perennial lifespan. It is estimated that the current global population is roughly 8 billion. Assuming we lived for centuries or even never died, think of the impact this would have on our infrastructure and amenities—the congestion of public transport, the scarcity of jobs and the high rates of crime. A vile killer would have longer to perfect his murderous craft. Think about these.

If we lived longer, so will our marital commitments be. A man could marry a lady for 300 years, decide to wed another for 200 and on and on. With the possibility of more sexual relationships we can expect a spike in venereal diseases.

It also makes it difficult to facilitate pension arrangements if people lived extensively. Assuming we stopped working at 60 but lived till 500, it becomes impossible for any government to foot century-long bills.

If we lived longer, the quicker it is to deplete the resources that cater for a vast population who beat the grim reaper at his game. Food, water, shelter and everything meant to suffice for our basic necessities will never be enough. As a result this could backfire to starvation, malnourishment and disease.

Notwithstanding, we can’t belittle the immense benefits we’ll derive from a competent and seasoned workforce if people lived longer.

Think of the tons of money we’ll be able to save on healthcare. We could devise alternative avenues to channel billions of dollars sunk in ageing treatments and plastic surgeries into more needful ventures.

As hypothetical as the case for human immortality may sound, scientists are well making progress on this. It is even forecasted we could be on the brink of immortality by 2050—a possibility though.

There are a number methods to reach this goal. However, in the light of brevity here are a few techniques scientists are using to conquer the foe of our existence.

Cryonics

This is an effort to save lives using extremely cold temperatures on a person unable to be cured by today’s medical procedures. The individual is preserved in frigid conditions for decades or even centuries until a future medical technology can restore the person to full health.

Cryonics is based on vitrification—a technique where nitrogen gas and other chemicals are used to preserve blood, stem cells and semen. This same procedure is applied to preserve the human body for a long period of time.

Cryonics might seem like an idea extracted from the pages of a science fiction novel, however, it is actually credible, realistic and tied to principles of modern science. This experiment is predicated on the fact that medicine does improve exponentially with time.

People who have been cryonically frozen will be resuscitated and have their health problems cured with novel technologies. From then they could potentially live forever.

Presently, there are people in these deep-freeze chambers, some for years, others decades. They all await future technological advancements.

3D Printing Organs

3D printing is developing at light speed and may well be a promising trend in medical frontiers. This technology could soon be routinely used to print parts of the body that are replaceable like the human heart or kidney. Afterwards these parts are surgically implanted in the body.

Already successful progress has been made by a UK team in printing corneas (a part of the human eye).

Lots of lives could be saved or extended in those suffering heart disease or similar organ failures by using fat or collagen to print these human parts. Imagine perpetuating our lives by replacing failed organs as often as they disappoint us.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is the ability for machines to mimic human intelligence, learn from experiences, adapt new information and perform complex human-like tasks.

Ray Kurzweil, American futurist and inventor, forecasts that by 2029 machines will achieve human intelligence. He predicts we could enhance the human brain or bestow upon ourselves a god-like ability by implanting tiny robots in our brains that synchronises with cloud-based computer networks. This will mean looking like humans but with intelligence of cyborgs.

(Comfreak from Pixabay)

Universities and research institutes in the US are heavily funded to assist in discovering how we can deploy artificial intelligence, computer imaging and archiving to create duplicate humans. So you may die but your clone(s) can live infinitely longer than you.

Gordon Bell and Jim Gray from Microsoft Research have been studying digital immortality—how information a person had heard previously can be retained. They found this to be very possible as it requires less than a terabyte of storage to store this information in very good quality.

If we lived longer without amnesia (forgetfulness) imagine how effective and productive we would function as individuals. In other words, no matter how long we lived our brains will still be as excellent as a sleek microprocessor.

Can humans be immortal? Well, there really isn’t any reason why we can’t be like Abe Lincoln thought. However, there isn’t any technology at the moment that allows us to.

But the longer we remain on this planet, the more we are left to explore new technological terrains. Nonetheless, there is progress and I can definitely see the lights of immortality at the end of the tunnel. Can you?

© Valentine Nnebe 2020
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