Mechanical immortality

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George Hasara – Columnist

“Do you want to live forever?” If asked this question, you might hem and haw before answering. After all, forever is a pretty long time and a lot can happen between now and then. The question of immortality may escape the realm of the hypothetical if British futurist Dr. Ian Pearson is correct. He predicts that by the year 2050, the technology will exist to download our memory and presumably our psyche as well, into an android body. (Which is not to be confused with an android phone.) Pearson says that it will be possible for us to attend our own funerals as a machine. But, he doesn’t say whether or not we should leave flowers. While 2050 is given as a target date for mechanical immortality, Pearson believes that it may take another decade before the price is affordable for the masses. Heck, if you are going to live forever, who cares how long it’ll take to pay off a bill? Car loans are now as long as eight years and that doesn’t seem to faze anyone. Being a “futurist” is good work if you can get it. Pearson claims a high success rate in visualizing the future, but the best I can tell, his crystal ball doesn’t have any better optics than anyone else. However, his forecasts are certainly thought-provoking and conversationally engaging, with concepts of manned space travel to Mars by 2030 to the use of exoskeletons within a decade that will enable us to perform super-human feats of strength. The human to android option is intriguing. I have a titanium knee, so I have a leg up in that direction already. An ever-expanding array of artificial devices from pacemakers to prosthetics are currently in use, serving to prolong and improve the quality of life. At least in incremental terms, most of us are not adverse to after-market parts being installed in our body for better performance. Is there a difference between wanting to live as long as possible (in reasonably good health) and wanting to live forever? The quest for immortality has a bad rap. In literature and film, it seems that it’s always the bad guys, from vampires to billionaires, who seek immortality. They are bloodthirsty, both literally and metaphorically. However, I can’t think of a more practical and powerful instinct than survival. The futuristic android version of “the fountain of youth” is a variation on the theme that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden and the “tree of life.” Science has been wrestling with what consciousness is exactly, and why it even exists. Nevertheless, there are those who theorize in replicating it and transferring it between a living being and a mechanical one. I don’t think Pearson’s prediction is going to pan out. Our mind may very well be more than the sum of its parts. A soul, spirit, psyche or whatever you want to call it, is unlikely to be digitally remastered, and we will have to be content with attending our own funeral in the traditional way. Contact George at georgehasara@yahoo.com.

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