Zoltan Istvan was my favorite presidential candidate in 2016. He toured the country in a bus modeled to look like a coffin, with the message that death is a curable disease.
And it’s not just people on the fringe who are involved in the anti-aging cause. There is a sister company of Google called Calico whose goal is “tackling aging.”
Ray Kurzweil, inventor, senior engineer at Google and holder of 21 honorary doctorates, has written a book called Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. At age 69, he expects technology to improve enough in his lifetime that he will live forever. (In the meantime, he takes extremely good care of himself!)
But hold on a second. While we’re waiting for Istvan, Calico, and Kurzweil succeed, let’s take a moment to ponder the possible dystopian consequences.
I wrote recently about impossible things being accomplished by simple means. When I was young, one of the seemingly impossible feats in the animal kingdom was birds that can navigate over hundreds or thousands of miles. Now we know it’s simple. Birds have a sixth sense. They can “see” Earth’s magnetic field just as easily as you and I can see light. Scientists have even found the magnetoreceptive cells and the neurons they’re connected to.
Tuck that wonder in your mind as I move to another front.
There’s a movement afoot called transhumanism, whose adherents advocate enhancing the human body with various gizmos.
When you think about it, the ways we already enhance our capabilities are myriad. We extend our memories with pencil and paper. We strap ourselves onto bicycles and into cars to improve our efficiency of motion. We improve our eyesight with contact lenses, and our hearing with hearing aids. You could even say that a Google-equipped computer extends our brains to tap much of the accumulated knowledge of mankind.
That’s all great, but it only improves the senses and capabilities we already have, and only as long as we’re using the device in question. Transhumansists aim for more. They don’t just want to improve or repair what we have. They want to make us more than we ever were, and they want it to be permanent.
Finger Magnet Implant
One of their first innovations has been to install in humans the magnetic sense that birds have. Well, not quite. So far, the results are primitive: just a piece of magnetic material in the finger that gives a tingle in the presence of a magnetic field. It’s not hard to imagine, though, where this is heading. How long until we have GPSs built into our bodies instead of our cars?
Do you think this is a good idea, or is it “playing God”?
If you favor the idea, what new senses or capabilities would you like to have?Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Introduce chlorophyll into our skin so we could make supplemental energy from sunlight and water. Could be very handy for troops who have to function at high levels of performance in harsh environments.
- Modify the body so we could breathe underwater. If lungfish can breathe on land and in the water, why shouldn’t we?
- Install sensors that can detect minute variations in other people’s skin conductivity, from a few feet away. Integrate the sensors with the circuitry of a lie detector. You could probably detect subtle changes people’s voices, too, and send that data to the lie detector.
- Flying, of course, but that’s probably less practical than the others.
What do you think?