Do you want to live forever? And if you were ever offered the chance to do so, would you take it? These questions that were once intended only for contemplation are not some sort of pure imagination anymore. They became topics that scientists, sociologists, philosophers and people from many other fields debate about as we get closer and closer to the means of achieving longer life spans for human beings. The idea of “Post-Humans” is no longer science fiction.
The creation of “Post-Humans”
In 2004, the famous ethics professor Nicholas Agar wrote a book called “Liberal Eugenics: In Defence of Human Enhancement”. In this book, Agar argued that people should be free to enhance themselves as long as no obvious harm is caused. Six years later, he published another book called “Humanity’s End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement”. This time, the book was meant to shed light on the dangers of radical enhancement and the reasons why it should be avoided. This new position that Agar takes should give us an idea about how extreme the enhancement technologies are becoming.
Radical enhancement technologies might result in the creation of a new species: the post-humans. This would lead to some ethical implications since these post-humans might not necessarily share our values and desires. In other words, they won’t be humans anymore.
Achieving negligible senescence
The idea of radical enhancement and the creation of post-humans can seem very far fetched. However, there’s a lot of work and research revolving around ways to achieve negligible senescence and live much longer. This can be done in two ways: either by preserving the mind alone, or by figuring out a way to stop aging and live for thousands of years.
The human mind
Ray Kurzweil, an American inventor and futurist, came up with the Law of Accelerating Returns that applies to all technologies. This law explains how the rate of development in technology moves exponentially. Through the law of accelerating returns, Kurzweil assures that we will very soon have the means necessary to upload our minds into machines and live forever. This would ensure that even if our bodies die, our minds will never seize to exist.
The aging disease
Some scientists believe that aging is a disease we need to fix. One of them is Aubrey de Grey, who’s currently trying to develop rejuvenation technologies that will put an end to aging. To do that, he first clearly identifies the causes of aging which he calls the seven deadly things and proposes a solution for each of them. These deadly things are either problems with cells or with the way cells relate to one another.
The only issue that de Grey is facing is the lack of funds. His testable theories about how to reverse the causes of aging require huge amounts of money that de Grey believes are being invested in the wrong places. With enough research and money, we may end up being able to stay young for a very long time!
The human choice
Given that the technologies to enhance our human bodies are actively being developed, the question becomes: how likely is it that we’ll accept these enhancements?
Would you upload your brain?
The idea of having your thoughts preserved after your death may not be as pleasant as you may think. This scenario is similar to the one portrayed in the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back”. In this episode, an AI system attempts to simulate a dead character’s personality to preserve his presence after his death. However, it fails miserably because it couldn’t truly understand him and evolve as he would. Which leads to a simple question: will this uploaded mind be able to also encapsulate our soul and emotions? Or would it be nothing but a few ripples of who we truly are?
High risk, high mortality rate!
Achieving negligible senescence would most likely make people fear death a lot more. Because of that, they might end up developing a risk-free lifestyle that would radically truncate their existences. They might stop driving cars because this activity would be too risky, and might cause them to lose thousands of years of their upcoming life if they die in an accident. Agar fears that humans will end up giving up all the fun and adventure in their lives just for the sake of staying alive.
On the other side, humans are not very rational after all. The way we make our decisions isn’t based on extremely rational assessments of risk. Take for example the very large number of teenagers who drink and smoke despite the fact that this can kill them one day, risking by that the majority of their life. Another example that shows the greater risk of direct death is driving cars at insane speeds, which many young people do despite the threat this poses to their life.
Whether people choose an enhanced life or not might differ from one person to another. Personally, I’d love to live thousands of years. One of the things on my bucket list is to travel the world and see everything there is to see. With more years to live, I can travel a lot more and get to experience every culture around the world. What about you? Would you choose a longer lifespan over the one you have right now?