the three step immortality program
Step one, live for a while. Step two, something. Step three, something else that should do the trick.
Just three steps to everlasting life? Here I was, thinking there would be a lot more than that but apparently all we need to do is live until 2045, use mysterious nanotechnology that will somehow slow down or reverse the aging process, and then integrate with computers so much so, we’ll become immortal. It’s simple, easy and missing about a few hundred steps that will be needed to overcome all the technical challenges involved with taking over for nature and managing our lifespans through cutting edge science. It’s not that the idea of trying to use technology to radically extend our lives is a bad one or would never work. It’s just that we need realistic blueprints instead of vague plans based primarily on wishful thinking and sweeping assumptions.
When I work with IT projects, these kinds of ideas used to drive me up a wall because they make no consideration of what it really takes to get from one major step to another. Ray Kurzweil is a “big idea” sort of person and little issues like the actual research and development are things he expects to simply be there as per his schedule. But that’s not how it works in the real world. The problems he dismisses so casually in his prognostications take a long time to be properly resolved. Humans are very complex organisms. Using a vast swarm of microscopic machines to maintain our bodies on a nearly molecular level is much easier said than done. Not only are we dealing with very advanced biology, we’re also working with chemistry and physics. To build and test the requisite technology, work out all the bugs and carry out all the necessary studies to confirm whether it has the desired effects, would take a lot more than a few decades.
Maybe sometime in the far future, when we truly know and understand the fundamentals of how we age, what we can do to mitigate the effects of the process, how we can effectively change genetic wiring for a fully grown person and understand how to cheaply create trillions of nanobots on demand, we’ll be able to make some of Kurzweil’s dreams a reality. I know pushing this into the far future makes me seem like a close-minded killjoy, but all I’m saying is that we need to realize the sheer complexity of the task at hand before we start predicting when exactly we won’t have to worry about death by natural causes. Instead of trying to shoot the idea of trying to give humans unlimited lifespans down, I want to point out the real challenges we’ll have to face so we know what to tackle in our efforts to make it happen. And I would really appreciate it if futurists and the reporters who breathlessly run to cover their bold announcements, would at least mention a few of them as well…