Life Extension – This Is How You Cheat Death
Doesn’t the mention of death make you cringe? It’s quite unsettling to know that our cells are biologically programmed to age, wither and die. Has human life meant to be that short of around 100 years? It seems like a tragedy. Apparently, we are living at the servitude of nature and nature has punished us with a slowly decaying body. We are designed to end up miserable, dependent with diseases and with deteriorating, feeble bodies. It’s a ghastly picture. It feels like watching a horror movie.
All our ability to experience life, create, explore, enjoy comes with a limited edition body – is wholly heart-wrenching. Isn’t there a way around this? A way to maintain continuity of one thing we most value – our life with abundant youthfulness?
I sat searching about it and google searches on life extension opened up a box of possibilities. I found out that life span could be extended with drugs, cryonics, nanomedicine, regenerative medicine and uploading the mind to a metal substrate. Death now seemed to turn from an inevitable curse to a biological problem that could be solved with advances in technology.
Life Extension Therapies
There are ample of examples in history where mankind has been earnestly trying to extend human life span and achieve immortality. However, men in previous generations haven’t been much successful, primarily due to a knowledge gap and lack of technological tools.
That shouldn’t make you pessimistic of future prospects for cracking the ageing code and death itself. We now live in an age, in which science has made great strides and scientific advances have bridged the gaps in knowledge in diverse areas to the point where we increasingly know more and more about less and less. Science continues forward in its pursuit to increase its knowledge of the universe and everything that inhabits it.
As for life extension therapies, there is plenty of good news on account of advances in tissue regeneration, stem cells, mapping of the human genome, and a more complete understanding of the human biology. Also, future breakthroughs in stem cells, regenerative medicine, molecular repair, gene therapy, nanotechnology, brain mapping and AI would help us lead healthier lives, increase longevity, and prolong life indefinitely.
Aristotle claimed that man is essentially a rational animal and reason is a characteristic of man. As per him, highest human happiness or wellbeing is attainable when a life is lived consistently, excellently, and completely in accordance with reason. Thus, shouldn’t we use reason to seek knowledge that will improve our lives?
Life extension promises the abundant fountain of youth. Advances in knowledge and technology is empowering us to steer evolution and make life more meaningful. So, shouldn’t we use knowledge to break the adamantine link between ageing and death? Would you have your friends and family pass away knowing that their last years were difficult, debilitating or painful?
Life Extension would be possible by the following ways in future:
- Biological Life Extension
- Mind Upload
You will find the below intriguing, and it will surely leave you ecstatic, considering what life extension is promising:
Average Life expectancy Cro-Magnon Era 18-20 1770 (World) 28.7 1800 (World) 28.5 1900 (World) 32 1950 (World) 45.7 2000 (World) 66.3 2010 (World) 69.9 2019 (World) 72.6 Future Projection Once Life Extension is achieved 120, 150, 200, 500, 1000+
Present Human Life Cycle
Future Human Life Cycle
Many consider evolution an intelligent algorithm that has created a rich, complex and diverse life all around planet Earth. However, it is only when we start studying nature and biological bodies that we tend to see the limitations and imperfections of evolution. Our body has vestigial organs, and so do other animals. There is a lot of unnecessary complexity in our body designs. More worse we have fragile and extremely vulnerable bodies, with the number of things that can go wrong are more than 4000. Thus, biological processes are quite suboptimal. On top of all this, our bodies are programmed to self-destruct, which is rather puzzling to comprehend. As per Darwinism, natural selection enables organisms to survive optimally, compete and reproduce. Then, why does evolution not prevent ageing? This presents an evolutionary paradox.
What if ageing is the result of an utterly misfortunate anomalous algorithmic error? Mother Nature goofed-up! Oops!
Mostly, evolution seems like an algorithm that lacks a meaningful purpose, other than to survive, reproduce and self-destruct. Evolution is flawed and fallible. We can certainly do better and that’s where advances in research and technology hold the promise to make us better designers.
Just to clarify a few things, before I dive into life extension therapies:
People that advocate life extension do so because they value being alive, and see death as an end to all experiences and opportunities. The thing that is downright evil, about death, especially an early death, is that it terminates the possibilities of anything more. Life extension, thus, is a deeply moral project that is working to extend lifespan and increase the quality of life with more vigorous bodies.
Life extension methods involve altering our human body. Isn’t that fundamentally changing our human nature, by modifying it with synthetic materials?
The definition of human nature entails the freedom to make choices. A person has a right to modify their body as per their desires i.e. have morphological freedom. More so, it is hard to argue about the practical benefits that come with inhabiting a disease free and healthy body.
We exercise morphological freedom whenever we decide to undergo cosmetic surgery to enhance beauty or make body piercings or get a tattoo itched on our skin. We willingly use implants and undergo surgeries to transplant organs, if there is a disease or dysfunction. Also, people happily pop pills to treat certain disorders and conditions, even when they are aware it changes their underlying biological chemistry.
Biological Life Extension
Biological life extension entails extending lifespan with reversing ageing, using regenerative medicine, gene therapy, stem cells, pharmaceuticals and organ replacement to create a healthy body that lasts for centuries.
Ageing is a complex and multifactorial process. Also, defining aging can be a tricky concept. In its simplest form, overall aging can be understood as cellular breakdown over time, which manifests itself in some of the common diseases of old age: diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, etc.
Ageing kills around 100,000 people each day. Lives are priceless, hence combating ageing is of immense significance. Moreover, solving ageing is a worthy pursuit, as it will result in an end of tremendous suffering, for the elderly and their loved ones.
Ageing can be seen as a medical challenge that can be broken into chunks and solved. The working knowledge of the mechanisms of senescence seems to have a tremendous potential for the development of life extension interventions. These interventions would aid in delaying the ageing process and increasing longevity. Reduction of oxidative damage, telomerase activation, genetic manipulation, and potential cellular therapies from stem cell research are some of the research areas.
There have been 9 hallmarks identified that result in ageing. These are:
- Genomic Instability – This is due to the high frequency of mutations within the genome of a cellular lineage caused by both internal and external factors. During one’s life span, this build-up of damage accelerates ageing. Also, genomic instability is one of the contributing factors of some age related diseases such as cancer and ALS. Endogenous DNA damage i.e., metabolically caused damage occurs on average more than 60,000 times a day in the genomes of human cells.
- Telomere attrition: Telomeres are disposable buffers located at the ends of our chromosomes. These are truncated every time a cell divides, and they thereby protect the genes on the chromosome from being truncated instead. Telomere shortening limits the process of cell division by inducing replicative senescence, differentiation, or apoptosis. Telomere shortening is linked to ageing and age-related diseases.
- Epigenetic alterations: Epigenome comprises of all the chemical compounds that are added to one’s DNA (genome), as a way to regulate the gene expression in the DNA. Epigenetic changes are caused by a number of factors including diet, lifestyle, life experiences and other environmental factors. Accumulating evidence indicates that epigenetic alterations affect ageing.
- Loss of proteostasis: Proteostasis, a portmanteau for protein homeostasis, is a set of biological pathways that control the biogenesis, chaperoning (the activity of keeping proteins properly folded), and degradation of proteins outside and inside cells. Over time, there is a decline in the protein homeostasis and an accumulation of protein aggregates. Studies show that the piling of damaged proteins is observed with ageing and age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
- Deregulated nutrient-sensing: Nutrient sensing is a mechanism by which cells recognize fuel substrates such as proteins and glucose. Nutrient sensing pathways regulate metabolism by ensuring that our bodies take in the right amount of nutrition. The four associated key protein groups with nutrient-sensing are IGF-1, mTOR, sirtuins, and AMPK. These nutrient sensing pathways are deregulated due to damaging effects caused by metabolism and it’s by products through oxidative stress, ER stress, calcium signaling, etc. With deregulated nutrient sensing pathways, the body begins to break down at the cellular level, and this in turn is a catalyst for ageing.
- Mitochondrial dysfunction: Mitochondria is commonly referred as the energy powerhouse that regulates the metabolism in our bodies. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been associated with normal aging and correlated with the development of a number of age-related diseases including cancer, Parkinson’s and diabetes.
- Cellular senescence: Cellular senescence, occurs due to the ceasing of cell division. As a result, there is a build-up of older cells, which cause ageing and age-related pathologies.
- Stem cell exhaustion: Stem cell exhaustion which is the decline in stem cell activity, results in their inability to continue to replenish the tissues of an organism. The accumulation of damage that increases with stem cell exhaustion is linked to ageing.
- Altered intercellular communication: Communication between cells is disrupted with age. This results in inflammation, tissue damage and consequently ageing.
Nanomedicine involves use of nano-scaled machines to cure diseases and dysfunction within a body. With the human genome mapped, we have a detailed understanding of different body molecules that includes their structure and functional information. This molecular knowledge, along with advances in medical nanotechnology would enable targeted manipulation of life on a molecular level to produce desired results.
Small nano machines that can travel in your blood stream and carry tools or medicine to cure diseases, sounds like science fiction. However, science fiction will turn to science fact in the coming decades. Nanomedicine will be able to treat a number of pathologies such as blood clot, cancer, gout, kidney stones, etc. Nanobots will detect and repair aberrations, remove debris, and even fix DNA transcription errors. These would act like superbots that keep you healthy and fit.
There are designs proposed by Robert A Freitas for artificial red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells carry oxygen from our lungs to the rest of the body, platelets prevent and stop bleeding while white blood cells are part of body’s immune system and protect the body from harmful microbes. The designs talk about artificial red blood cells that transport oxygen more efficiently than biological ones and artificial platelets that have a bleeding control thousand times faster than biological platelets. Such platelets would be lifesaving in accidents. Artificial WBC or as termed microbivores would be 1000 times faster in destroying pathogens and clear an infection within minutes or hours. In future, you don’t have to pop antibiotics to fight infections. All you would do is download software, and recover your health in a relatively short period. If only these would have arrived sooner the ongoing pandemic wouldn’t have lasted this long.
As per Freitas ‘If 99% of all medically preventable conditions that lead to natural death are eliminated, health span can increase to about 1100 years.’ Nanobots will certainly offer a cure for heart disease and cancer, which are among the top 10 disease killers world-wide. Also, nanobots could introduce DNA changes to essentially reprogram our genes. Thus, nanobots promise the ability to roll back the clock and attain youthfulness and longevity. Sounds awsm, eh?
Mind uploads open a new frontier to achieve extended lifespan. Once the brain is in software form, a person can live indefinitely. Creating a mind upload would be a backup and an insurance policy against natural death or unexpected death. This would truly make you immortal.
Norbert Weiner, the father of cybernetics, wrote an interesting book in 1948 titled Cybernetics: Control and communication in the Animal and the machine. He presented cybernetics as a confounding idea where the biological system and the computer was the same thing. Essentially, brain is just an information processing organ, wherein different parts are working in cohesion to respond to external and internal stimulus and produce an output.
Mind uploading can be accomplished by either destructive scanning (copy-and-delete) or by non-destructive scanning (copy-and-upload). In both the methods, scanning will require capturing and mapping all the salient details to create a replica of the biological mind in a digital format.
A roadmap suggested in a paper on Whole Brain Emulation, discusses three main capabilities required to upload a brain. These include:
- Physically scan brains to capture all the necessary information
- Be able to interpret the scanned data to build a software model
- Have the ability to simulate this large model
Diagram – Capabilities needed for WBE:
Destructive scanning has higher spatial resolution that non-destructive scanning. However, with the arrival of nanobots, the accuracy of scanning the brain will increase two-fold. Nanobots would stick to different regions of the brains, and send accurate information of brain activity, connectomics, etc. This will help in building detailed maps of individual brains, and create an extensive database of brain activity maps.
There are currently brain projects being funded all over the world. They seek to decode this amazing organ that gives us the capacity to think, conceptualize, feel and create. The convergence of research from a number of labs in the coming years would lead to breakthroughs in neuroscience, and eventually a detailed understanding of every section of human brain.
People that choose to upload their minds, would have their funeral turn into a happy ceremony. They would take a day off, attend their funeral, and get back to other things the next day.
Cryonics, is a field that deals with the low-temperature freezing (usually at −196 °C or −320.8 °F) and storage of a human corpse or severed head, in order to resurrect the body in future using bioengineering, molecular nanotechnology, or nanomedicine as key technologies. The object of cryonics is to prevent death by preserving sufficient cell structure and chemistry so that recovery (including recovery of memory and personality) remains possible by foreseeable technology.
First, the water from the bodies is removed, as the expansion of water on freezing could fracture the surrounding cells. Second, the water is replaced with a chemical mixture called a cryoprotectant. Cryoprotectants, are macromolecules that work like an anti-freeze substance. They protect cells from the adverse effects of intracellular ice crystal formation during the process of freezing and thawing. This process of cooling without freezing is called vitrification. Vitrified bodies/organs are then suspended in containers, with controlled temperature environments.
Cryonicists contend that as long as vitrification can preserve brain structure, there should be no fundamental barrier, given our current understanding of physical law, to recover the brain’s information content.
Some organizations that currently provide cryonic facilities are Tomorrow Biostasis, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Cryonics Institute and KrioRus.
Questions and Answers:
When will life extension be achieved?
This question is open for debate. Some speculate that life extension therapies should be available post 2050. If this is the case, anybody today below the age of 35, has a high chance of getting a ticket to the future. If you are below 35, open a fund for extending your life span. Eat healthy, exercise and keep yourself fit. Longevity is certainly a goal worth working towards. For people above 35, enroll into a cryonics program to preserve your brain.
How will our body adapt to nanobots?
Nanotechnology will be designed in a way to maintain homeostasis in all biological processes. Only materials that are biocompatible will be used for designing nanobots. Even though, nanobots would process at a highly significant speed, there would be controls in place so that nanotech won’t confuse or overload the body and self-replicate. Any errors, and difficulties would be taken care of during the trail phases. Also, any company introducing nanobots for the human body, will have to undergo stringent FDA scrutiny to get approvals before they sell their technology as a therapy for curing/reversing ageing and age-related disorders.
Will my mindclone really be conscious?
Consciousness, is a puzzle, which has overwhelmed philosophers over centuries. The thing about consciousness is that it is deeply embedded in the person’s subjective experience, and there exists no objective test to measure something as subjective as consciousness. The more tricky part is, that ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ are antonyms. The definition of one contradicts the definition of another, which makes it more difficult to resolve the hard problem of consciousness. Would my experience of colour ‘blue’, be same as my mindclone’s experience of colour ‘blue’?
If we keep aside the subjective questions related to consciousness, and concentrate on the biophysics of the brain, it is quite evident that consciousness is just an emergent property owing to the complex interactions of the underlying bio-substrate. Just like the arrangement of different atoms of water give rise to the property of liquidity. In very crude terms, consciousness thus is just information processing and how a brain feels about the information processing that goes on in response to external and internal stimulus.
There are no laws of physics that prohibit the replication of the same information processing patterns on a different non-biological substrate. If a mindclone can display complex, rich, subtle behaviors’, feelings and thought patterns, it is very much a conscious entity.
If you upload your mind, and have a conversation about consciousness with your mindclone, it will surely remind you Descarte’s “cogito ergo sum” – I think therefore I am.
How accurate would mind uploading be?
Once cyber consciousness is achieved, things get pretty fast and unchallenging.
A mindware software would include the process to create a digital mind. The software would contain a large database of different personality types, statistical models for human behaviour in various situations, etc. It will be activated by a mindfile that includes details about a person’s life. The details will be captured via intricate scanning of the brain and information supplied by the person or closed ones and the person’s digital footprints.
The accuracy of the upload thus depends on the amount of personal data captured or the amount of data that you supply in your mindfile. The more personal data present, the more accurate the upload would be.
If you choose to limit the information shared, the mind upload won’t match you in every thought and emotion. It will be created to match a certain set of personal attributes inclusive of personality, beliefs, values provided and the ones selected by the company that provides the mind uploading service. Also, regulations will dictate the selection of digital twin traits.
Well, it must be mentioned that even with a brain chip, there is possibility for a divergence in thoughts, emotions and memory selection. However, in such a case, the difference wouldn’t be significant enough to amount to much.
 Data Taken From World Bank – https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy
 (2004). The Scientific Conquest of Death: Essays on Infinite Lifespans
 Sandberg, A. & Bostrom, N. (2008): Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap, Technical Report #2008‐3, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. Link: http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/reports/2008‐3.pdf
 Sandberg, A. & Bostrom, N. (2008): Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap, Technical Report #2008‐3, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. Link: http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/reports/2008‐3.pdf
More, Max & More, Natasha. (2013). The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future.
Kurzweil, Ray. (2005). The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.
Tegmark, Max. (2017). Life 3.0.
Rothblatt, Martine. (2014). Virtually Human: The Promise‑‑And the Peril‑‑of Digital.
(2004). The Scientific Conquest of Death: Essays on Infinite Lifespans
Sandberg, A. & Bostrom, N. (2008): Whole Brain Emulation: A Roadmap, Technical Report#2008‐3, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. Link: www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/reports/2008‐3.pdf
Eight Amazing Future Tech Trends
If you would like to predict the future, one thing is certain – technology will continue to advance and surprise us. Here are some of the amazing future tech trends –
We are all fond of music. Music is an art form for expressing a variety of emotions, situations and thoughts. It has different meanings for different people. Music is deeply gratifying whether a person creates or listens to it.
Music would undergo a transformation with emerging technologies. Future music apps would incorporate Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Listening to music will be a more immersive experience. Smart glasses or smart contact lenses would have visual overlays of singers and the video. You would be able to interact with your favourite singers and even have a Karaoke with them. Teenagers idolize pop singers, and they could have a pop singer as their friend, something they play, talk and socialize with.
Once brain is decoded and has a smart chip, music would be enjoyed at a deeper level. You will be able to see layers of structure in music as the music plays, just the way musicians enjoy music. VR would offer a whole immersive experience, with stimulating different senses such as smell, taste, touch, etc. Have you ever wanted to see music in colours or taste music? Future VR, would will help you with adding new perceptions to music, just like a person having synesthesia. How cool is that!
Future concerts will be more alive and animated than the current ones. With smart glasses or contacts, the visual effects would make a concert an enriching experience. Musicians would be flying around, and animated creations dancing, performing feats all over the place. Enchanting!
When we are surrounded by smart gadgets in future, why should make up be left behind. Smart makeup would be achieved with tiny electronic components printed on a person’s skin. The components would be on a microscopic scale and thus not visible by the human eye. This electronic skin would be controlled with an app, and change colors based on the makeup selection. A person could try different makeup looks during the day with a quick tap on the app. This would save time and be a boon for lazy folks.
If you want some specific looks for Halloween or a theme party, and don’t know how to do it, rather than going to a makeup artist, you could get printed makeup. Simply visit a clinic and get an electronic skin. Then, try amazing looks with a tap.
Smart makeup could be used for tattoos, videos and image displays. You could have an interesting conversation with displaying some meme related to the topic in discussion. Also, electronic skin could be used as pattern for security to enter home or office.
Space travel is possible today. However, we cannot travel very far as of now. Virgin Galactic flew to the edge of space, 80 km up from earth, while Blue Origin flew up to Karman Line (100 km up from Earth) in 2021. There is a space hotel being built that is scheduled to open sometime within this decade.
We are currently developing technological means to fly to Mars. However, it is exorbitantly expensive to go there. It could cost upwards of $100 billion. Also, Mars has a harsh environment with lack of breathable air, temperatures averaging around -80 degrees F, no ozone layer and hardly any magnetic field. The planet requires terraforming for humans to settle there.
Distant space travel has similar challenges. Space is an inhospitable terrain for humans. Our bodies are not suited for space travel. The effects of microgravity can cause heart atrophy, muscle and bone loss. Also, the radiation exposure in space can increase risks for developing diseases such as cancer, heart disease and cataracts.
In future, with synthetic biological bodies or android ones we could travel light years away. Also, the time required for space travel to far off places can be significantly reduced with breakthroughs in aircraft propulsion systems and discovering wormholes.
You could see quasars, asteroids, nebula, planets and galaxies. It would be quite an adventure to explore our gigantic cosmos and search for alien life. Additionally, it would be good to look for more inhabitable planets as Earth won’t last forever.
Increased Gender Fluidity
Gender is a fascinating topic, and gender identity where each person’s internal and individual experience of gender could be different than their biological sex assigned at birth makes it all the more interesting.
The DSM-5 estimates that about 0.005% to 0.014% of people assigned male at birth (one in 10,000) and 0.002% to 0.003% of people assigned female at birth (two or three in every 100,000) are diagnosable with gender dysphoria.
Current treatments include hormone therapy and surgeries. However, these come with a number of side effects and risks. In future, advances in medicine and gene therapy will make sex change easily doable and with negligible risk. In short, there will be a complete cure for gender dysphoria.
Moreover, people will willingly chose a different gender for playing games or social sites. This does happen today as well. Online avatars in future, will be linked to one’s identity. People spending time in virtual worlds, would have avatars that doesn’t match with a gender they identify with.
Similarly, humans downloading themselves into synthetic biological bodies or androids, would choose any gender of their liking. Some will do it just to try what it feels like to be in a body of another gender or some will do it as there would be a gradual shift in attitudes towards gender identity.
Consequently, there would be a trend emerging where future societies would be increasingly gender fluid. The upside of this would be that it will reduce gender inequality and transgender folks won’t face any discrimination or violence.
The benefit of a gender fluid society as a women would be less sexual assaults, no catcalling for wearing a revealing dress, or any judgements passed at your competence for wearing a feminine floral skirt to an official meeting. Wonderful, isn’t it?
Cyber Pets & Robotic Pets
Pets make life so fluffy and warm. They are packages of joy that fill your surroundings with glee and mirth.
There would be robotic pets in future. They could come in any shape – a doll, dog, cat, hamster, cartoon character, etc and have more sophisticated personalities. They could have the same intelligence as your animal pet or more.
Robotic pets would be fitted with camera, sensors and microphones. They could play a song, video, search something on google or order anything online. They could also converse with you and be your friend. The pets would behave arbitrarily as compared to bland machines, and also respond to facial expressions. If your facial expression tells the pet you are sad, it could do things to cheer you up.
Along with robotic pets, there would be cyber-pets. These would play around your house or go on a walk with you outside. In the house, there could be a machine setup that projects the pets. While outside, the smart glasses or contacts could overlay your interactive pet on the sidewalk as you stroll in the evening.
Robotic and cyber-pets would have an additional advantage. There would be no need to clean their poop or litter. Robotic pets could also be programmed to not scratch your furniture either.
Aren’t we all fascinated with the possibilities of time travel? Some physicist believe that time travel is possible in theory. We may probably some day build a machine to go back in time or to go into the future.
However, what if you could go back in time, without any exotic machine? A dedicated cyberspace where archived digital minds of people in the past are stored and can be retrieved would make time travel to the past possible.
Black Mirror’s episode Entire History of You, has a memory implant that records everything they do, see and hear. Brain implants in future would be more than just recording memory. They would record thoughts, emotions, sensations and back it up to the cloud. The data would be fed to an AI that understands brain algorithms behind emotional processing and higher cognitive functions. On the other hand, the mind can be uploaded using just the raw human brain. However such an upload would need to be updated with life experiences in case the person continues to live.
The AI using the data would be able to create a digital twin, which will long live after your biological body has perished. These digital twins will interact and behave similar to their biological counterparts. You could visit them in a cyber space to chat or have fun in a virtual world. Also, you could meet yourself when you were a kid and have some playtime with your younger self.
How back could you go in time would be limited to the time when digital immortality has been achieved and a number of people have been backed up. When would this happen? Most likely sometime in this century.
Cure for Most Mental Illness
Mental illness is highly prevalent and affects millions of people worldwide. As per WHO, in 2019, 1 in every 8 people, or 970 million people around the world were living with a mental disorder, among which anxiety and depressive disorders were the most common. Depending on the severity of mental illness, it can result in a reduced quality of life or disability.
Most common causes for mental illness are genetics, chemical imbalances, environmental factors such as trauma, life stressors, etc. Treatments currently available are suboptimal, and is the reason why so many people don’t find a successful remedy for their illness. The pharmaceutical drugs for mental illness are usually more effective in controlling a disease than curing it. Further, the drugs come with a variety of unpleasant side effects.
The problem with curing mental illness is that we don’t fully understand the brain. Advances in neuroscience and neurotech will bring about better treatments for psychiatric diseases. One way neurotech will work would be by regulating specific circuits in the brain for adequate neurotransmitter release. Such an implant will provide relief from mental illness without any troublesome side effects. Also, gene therapies will be able to edit identified genes that cause a particular mental illness.
Further, once the entire brain has been mapped and decoded, neurotech will be able to stimulate the brain to regulate mood or induce any emotion. If you are having a bad day, just tap on your phone or pass a voice command to your smart glasses or contacts to make you happy. The implant will then stimulate specific circuits to increase serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.
Additionally, future therapy will have AI Therapist that are specifically built to help people with different issues and illness. It will also incorporate VR and AR, to help them resolve their trauma, face their phobias, deal with anger issues, etc. AI would be more effective at therapy, due to its remarkable competence, brain data and in-depth understanding of humans.
Claytronics is a future concept where self-assembling robots at a nano scale could take any desired shape. These extremely minute robots called claytronics or catoms, would communicate with each other to form 3D objects. In a broader sense, this idea is referred to as programmable matter.
Each catom contains a CPU, antenna, sensors, video display and means of movement. For adhesions, magnetism or electrostatic forces could be employed. Thus, every catom can receive instructions, process information, and communicate with other catoms. A sizeable number of such nanobots can be used in range of applications.
If you are short on utensils, just push a button and the claytronics machine would make you one. In case you are a nomad or frequently travel, all you need to do is carry enough catoms and those can assemble into furniture for any new place you move into.
Video calls can feature catoms assembling into a shape of you and interacting with the person on the other side of the call. Presents could be sent to people, by just purchasing a digital blueprint, and ordering a claytronics company to ship it to the address. Maybe, you could just gift a digital blueprint as well.
Video game characters could assemble in front of you while you play a game. Also, movie characters could enact their scene in a 3D claytronics version. Probably, you can also interact with the characters, and play a small role in the movie. Bewitching!
Pearson, Ian. (2013).You Tomorrow: The future of humanity, gender, your everyday life, your career, your belongings and your surroundings
Some Questions to Ask a Superintelligence
Here are some questions to ask a Superintelligence –
1.Are we in a Simulation?
This is quite a possibility. How do we determine for sure then? If we lived in a simulation, something about the world wouldn’t seem right. Like touching a rough surface and feeling smooth or a just made hot cup of chocolate suddenly turning cold. Sadly, we haven’t been able to spot any obvious glitches. If this is really a simulation, it is pretty well done.
Yet, one way we can figure whether we live in a simulation is to find an optimisation fingerprint. The double slit experiment, demonstrates that light looks like a wave when no one is observing but starts looking like particles when it is observed. This can be compared to video games that uses certain techniques to create details of the world. When a character walks into a particular space, the objects are rendered and this conserves computing power.
However, this is not definitive and needs further investigation. Presently, whether we live in a simulation remains an unfalsifiable hypothesis. Maybe a Superintelligence with an IQ over 2000+ would be able to conclusively determine and solve it for us. And if it proves we are in a simulation, you can then finally meet your Alien overlords.
The next question would be how do we get out of the simulation? Wait, what if the alien overlords are also in a simulation? Good. Further crunching for the ASI. And what if there are turtles all the way down? This would certainly keep the ASI pretty busy.
2. Can entropy be reversed?
The degree of randomness or disorder in a system is called its entropy. As per the second law of Thermodynamics, whenever energy is transferred or transformed, the entropy increases. For instance, entropy is the reason why the melted ice cube can’t go back to its original ice state or the scrambled egg can’t go back to its nice oval egg shape.
So can entropy be reversed? This is something explored in the short story ‘The Last Question’ by Issac Asimov. In the story, each time the ASI is asked about the question it replies with, “Insufficient data for meaningful answer”. Trillions of years later, humanity has died and the ASI called ‘AC’ exists in hyperspace. It has finally solved the question its predecessor supercomputers couldn’t solve. However, it has nobody to tell the answer to. Hence, it takes the role of a creator and initiates the Big Bang to create a new universe.
Whether, the emerging ASI and its successors would be able to find a solution to this question is something we would know in the future. It would be supercool if the ASI can find a way to reverse entropy. Any damage caused to planets could be reversed. Also, we could prevent the death of our beloved cosmos.
3. Are there more dimensions?
Edwin Abbots novel Flatland, describes beings inhabiting a two dimensional world. They go on with their everyday life unaware that other dimensions exist. In our four dimensional world, we are like the flatlanders. Extra dimensions could be hovering right next to us but we can’t see them.
Theodor Kaluza was the first to propose a theory which unified gravity and electromagnetism by introducing a fifth dimension. However, his theory was incorrect. Physicist have been trying to unify quantum mechanics with general theory of relativity and this has led to the prediction of more dimensions. String theory states there could be 10 dimensions while M-theory states the dimensions could extend to 11. Variations of the theory also propose dimensions could exist up to 26. So how many are there really?
According to string theory, the other dimensions could be extremely small, about a billionth or trillionth of a size of an atom. While M-theory states that our universe could be a membrane floating in a much larger universe. In such a case, not all dimensions would be small, some could be large or even infinite.
Scientist have been trying to find evidence of these dimensions, but there has been no success as yet. A Superintelligence can help solve this and find evidence of other dimensions. It could also explain why gravity is so much weaker as compared to other three forces.
4. What is on the other side of the Black Hole?
Black holes have a strange allure to them. They are bizarre and enigmatic, formed from the corpses of stars. A black hole is like a gravity sink, with a gravitational pull so strong that it wouldn’t even let light escape. There are estimated to be over millions of black holes in the universe.
The core of the black hole termed Singularity is a place where matter is compressed down to an infinitely tiny point, and all conceptions of time and space completely break down. A person going down a black hole would be ripped apart at the atomic level and meet death.
Some have speculated that at the bottom of the Black Hole could be a white hole and it can be used as a shortcut for interstellar travel. It is also possible that they are portals to another universe. Time and space are linked as per general theory of relativity, so a black hole could be used for time travel as well. Since any person or probe sent cannot survive the black hole, we really don’t know as of now.
A superintelligence can devise intelligent ways to figure out what could be on the other side of a Black hole. One way it could do so is by designing a probe that can sustain the immense gravitational force. The probe would pass through a black hole by creating some antigravity field with negative matter or something else. Black holes are currently mysterious, but won’t stay so for long.
5. How does humanity avoid its extinction?
Humanity faces a wide number of existential threats. We could be wiped off just like dinosaurs, who perished in an asteroid impact dubbed the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K-Pg) event. Or there could be a nuclear event, causing widespread destruction and nuclear winter. How about the increasing global warming? Probably, another epidemic like Black Death? What else? Earthquakes, volcano eruptions, draughts or world war? What if people running the stimulation pull off the plug? Eerie.
Also, emerging technologies would add to the list of existential risks. Somebody would engineer pathogens and cause mass extinction. Brain-internet would be a thing in the future. Thus, brain-hacking by malicious actors could cause people to commit mass suicide or violent acts. Nanobots could start multiplying in a frenzy and result in a gray goo scenario. More innovative weapons could be produced with future technologies that could terminate us.
That’s not it! The Andromeda galaxy is moving towards our galaxy and would collide in about 4 billion years. If we somehow manage to dodge the collision, there are sadly more existential threats. Our adored moon is slowly moving away from Earth by around 4 cm per year. Thus, in about a number of billion years it would be too far to stabilize earths spin, producing disastrous effects. Also, our sun would someday eventually run out of its fuel. Further, our universe is little by little dying. Ghastly! Doomsday seems inevitable someday.
A Superintelligent AI in a pensive mode would do complex calculations and can come up with ingenious solutions to avoid different extinction scenarios. It would provide infrastructure to monitor, regulate and be proactive at the face of any threats. The ASI and its’ improved successors would be our Deus ex machina in the event of an Armageddon.
6. Do we have free will?
This is an interesting question. It has been debated by philosophers, scientist and theologians for centuries. We can look at it from a philosophical and a scientific perspective. Before that let’s define free will. A decision can be considered to be free if the following are true –
- I made the decision
- Nothing made me do it
Philosophical argument has three approaches to the problem:
Determinism – As per Determinism, all events are determined completely by previously existing causes. As per this view, free will doesn’t exist.
Compatibilism – Compatibilists argue that determinism is compatible with free will. According to Hume, if you acted as per your desires in a determined world, you still have free will.
Libertarianism – Libertarianism is an incompatibilist position, where humans are considered free agents, that make their own decisions and are not subject to the control of others or external forces.
Our wonderful brain operates using neural processes and thus a rigorous scientific investigation is the best way to end this debate. Neuroscientist that have conducted experiments in this area have found evidence of neural processes that arise in the brain before a decision is made.
Further, we don’t really author our thoughts, and a lot of our behavior is influenced by different factors such as genetics, past experiences, environmental factors, etc. So, is there no free will?
What we know for the present is that the scientific understanding of the brain is still limited. We can’t really read off a neural event. So, there might still be possibility of humans possessing some amount of free will. Once the brain has been wholly decoded and we understand how the brain processes information, we could finally and conclusively end this debate. A superintelligence can certainly help with that. It can devise nanobots, that can cross the blood-brain barrier and give detailed information of neural activity at the level of an individual neuron. The information collected would be fed into sophisticated mathematical models, and help us understand the software (mind) of the brain.
7. What is the ultimate fate of the universe?
The universe is dynamic and unfortunately would quite likely meet its doomsday someday. Its fate hinges on the geometry of the universe and dark energy. The Friedmann equations help predict the fate of the universe. The solutions to his equations depend on three parameters:
H – This is the Hubble’s constant. It determines the rate of expansion of the universe.
Omega (Ω) – It is defined as the average matter density of the universe divided by a critical value of that density.
Lambda – The energy associated with empty space or dark energy.
Of the above, Ω is a salient parameter and its value determines the geometry of the universe.
Ω = 1 : Flat Universe
Ω < 1 : Open Universe
Ω > 1 : Closed Universe
If Ω > 1, the density is strong enough for its gravity to overcome the force of expansion, then the universe would curl into a ball. The fate of a closed universe would depend on the presence of dark energy. In case of no dark energy, the universe would stop expanding with time and commence contracting. The contraction would cause the universe to collapse into itself. This event is termed the Big Crunch. While, if dark energy is present, the closed universe would expand forever.
If Ω < 1, the density is low and unable to stop the expansion. Then space will wrap in the shape of a saddle. In this scenario, the ultimate fate of the universe would be Big Freeze and consequently a Big Rip. As the universe keeps expanding, it would tear galaxies and stars apart. Next, the acceleration would grow so strong that it would eventually disintegrate atoms into elementary particles.
If Ω = 1, the density is exactly balanced to slow the expansion to zero, but not let the universe collapse. In such a scenario, the universe would be flat. If dark energy is not present, the universe will expand forever at a decelerating rate eventually approaching a standstill. On the other hand, the existence of dark energy would cause an increased expansion resulting in a Big Rip.
Superintelligence could tell us the value of Omega and the time left for doomsday. Maybe, it can also invent a time travel machine and help us have a meal at the restaurant at the end of the universe 🙂
Assimov, Isaac. (1956). The Last Question
Kaku, Michio. (2004). Parallel Worlds: A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos
Harris, Sam. (2012). Free Will