Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we have personally wrestled with the concept of eternity lo, these many years.
In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, there's a long piece about the acceleration of technology. The author, Ray Kurzwell, predicts that by 2029 all chronic diseases will have a cure. He goes on to describe tiny computers embedded in one's skin and nanobots that will lodge in the brain that, when activated, will create virtual reality experiences.
I assume these include visiting Grandma and Grandpa on the old Appalachian farm, even though they've both been dead since 1987. Or perhaps touring the Grand Canyon. Or making love to Johnny Depp.
He says we will be able to live forever.
To which I reply: You are one loony dude, Ray Kurzweil.
Once again we face the ongoing spectre of elevating our species beyond the bounds of nature. We can live forever in bodies that will self-correct any medical problems we develop.
Um, excuse me. What exactly are we going to do about the Yellowstone Caldera? And if we figure that out, what happens when that bright star out there starts showing signs of age and eventually goes Supernova? Are we gonna fix that too?
Who gets to climb on the spaceship to go looking for a new planet to colonize? And who gets to be the first one to take off the disease-protecting suit and breathe the air in this world upon which we forcibly re-settle?
And about those nice little nanobots that will allow us to roam the Louvre without leaving the comfy old couch. Suppose they have a virus programmed into them that turns little old ladies like me (that's what I'll be in 2029) into Manchurian Candidates? Are you going to let some lil' old thing into your brain? And sit cooing over virtual memories of holding your firstborn while the next celestial object the size of Connecticut smashes into Albuquerque?
The biggest problem with our species is that we are short-term thinkers. Fix it fast, fix it now. Live forever.
Hey, there will be no living forever in physical form. Get over it and embrace the Spirit World. If that doesn't float your boat, imagine being hit by lightning or a falling tree 4,000 years down the road. Imagine how the hordes and hordes of poor people who can't afford the eternal nanobots are going to feel about your possession of an indeterminate lifespan.
Ray Kurzweil might be intelligent, but he's still a moron. That's possible. I've met plenty of people like that.
For more on your possibilities of making it to the Big Yellowstone Bang, go here:
I'm as afraid of dying as the next Joe, but I'll pass on the nanobot, thank you very much.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS
(One day it won't be there as geologic conditions change.)