EDITORIAL

Who Welcomes the Future?
[This editorial, in much the same form, appeared in the December 1999 issue of Life Enhancement. It has been modified to reflect a slight change of tide, but essentially, it remains the same in its profession of optimism for the future. At a time when—because of the financial crisis—many are turning to pessimism, it needs to be said . . . again.]

hose who help themselves to extra portions of life—or want to—will find the future inviting. While the uncertainty of just how it may unfold may be cause for fright—as an example, track the grey goo hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario in which out-of-control self-replicating nanotechnological robots ecophagically consume all matter on Earth while building more of themselves—fear is not new to history. The point remains, the future awaits thrilling and unpredictable advancements for those who are prepared to take their lives into their own hands and extend the boundaries of what it means to be alive.


Humanity+, the premiere issue, available at www.humanityplus.org
A growing band of visionaries who congregate under the banner of transhumanism1 have taken the lead in redefining what it is to be more aware, more intelligent, more alive, more of everything that is worthwhile. Writing in 1957, biologist Julian Huxley defined transhumanism as “man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.”2 To achieve their aspirations in helping to bring on a better future, Human Plus advocates have posited the need for superintelligence (SI)—an intellect that is much smarter than the best brains now operating in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom, and social skills. Their views represent a radical new approach to a style of thinking that embraces predictions of the future as if they were not only possible but inevitable.

The search for SI and more of everything is based on the premise that the current state of the human species does not represent the maturity of our evolution but, rather, its infancy. This approach, however, is not for everyone, especially those who have a political stake in the aggrandizement of minimal expectations, or those who resign themselves to the weary notion of doomsday. To the contrary, SI involves an orientation that uplifts the human spirit and strives to craft the opportunity of every moment into a realization or fulfillment of a person’s maximum potential, and then some, and then some . . .

Millennium Summer


Perpetual summer requires an SI understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the world.
As longevists—and sympatico-transhumanists—we would prefer to witness the end of the traditional life cycle as soon as possible: let the seasons turn back on themselves from Spring to Summer to Fall to Summer to Spring. Winter is not welcome. The very concept it embodies is reflective of aging, the wearing down of the machinery of life, and the end of growth. While throughout history, Winter’s knell has been the final outcome for all who have lived, many of us now believe that death is no longer inescapable.

When the 20th century began, the average life expectancy in the United States was 47 years. Now, as we enter 2009, it is approaching 80. In Japan, it is now estimated to be 82. Laughably, most “experts” believe that little further extension remains and that, perhaps, it might reach 83 or 84 by 2050. How wrong they are! The limit of their vision does not take the kinds of breakthroughs that are bound to occur into consideration. In many ways, they are as obsolete as flat-earthers and do not understand (or in many instances, even care to understand) the revolution of accelerating returns inexorably moving toward the event horizon or singularity in store for the future. Nor do they reflect upon the marginal advantages of nutritional supplementation and the inevitability that it will lead, for those who prepare, to crossing the bridges to gene therapy and ultimately nanotechnology . . . for health too is subject to the revolution of accelerating returns.

As Moore’s law—the power of computer processors doubles about every 18 months—has underscored, science is moving forward with leaps and bounds. So with its progeny, human inventiveness. Beyond the realm of nutritional science—and the products that we believe may now make enough of a difference to propel us into the future—are potential biomedical breakthroughs in so many areas that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. To name a few, there are gene therapy, bacterial cell-surface layers, DNA engineering, biomimetics, nanotechnology, robotics, biotechnology, cryonics, and telomere manipulation, plus undoubtedly many things that are still totally off the map. But they won’t be before you know it.

Naysayers, skeptics, and curmudgeons may argue the insignificance of it all, and ask us, “Why would anyone want to live for more than 83 or 84 years?” All the while, they assure us that they are not now, nor have ever been, card-carrying members of the flat-line society . . . but we know better. We may be out on a limb, but we are hopeful about the 21st century and are confident that, in retrospect from the not-so-distant future, it will be known as the Century of the Fulfilled Expectations.

Live long and prosper,

Will Block

References

  1. See http://www.transhumanist.org/
  2. Huxley, J. “Transhumanism” in New Bottles for New Wine, London: Chatto & Windus, 1957, pp. 13-17.

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