Aging, Health and the Long Term
One of the great thinkers on the future is Ray Kurzweil, author of The Age of Spiritual Machines, and The Singularity is Near. A couple of years ago at a meeting of the World Future Society I heard Ray speak, and after the talk during Q&A, a 90-year old man in the audience asked, “How much longer will I need to live, in order to live forever?” It sounds like a crazy question, but Ray had argued that given the current rate of advance in biotech, nanotech and medical IT, it is logical to assume that at some time in the relatively near future the human life span (which has more than tripled in a few hundred years) will begin to increase one year for every year that goes by; in other words, life extension into the infinite future. In aswering the man’s question Ray said, it looked like to him about ten years – that if you could hang on for ten more years, then life would begin to extend another year on an annual basis.
Now, this seems too optimistic to me, and if it is indeed a probable future is not likely to be real for some 25 to 100 years. Never-the-less, when we consider the current societal impacts of aging, and then ponder a world in which 100, 120, 150 years old might be common, then we imagine a new world.
A leader in the study of the potential of nanotechnology, Ray was recently interviewed on the future of human health. You can access the audio and the transcript here at Living on Earth. In the interview, Ray discussed among other things the prospect of nanomachines integrating with biology and becoming part of us:
Ah, if you talk to a human in 2035- biological human- they’re going to have a lot of non-biological thinking going on inside their brain- it’s going to be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking. And the non-biological thinking will expand because of this law of accelerating returns not because it’s self-replicating, because that’s just the nature of our technology- it doubles in capability every year. But in my view it is still human thinking. It’s an expansion of our civilization, which has always been a human-machine civilization.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.