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IEET > Life > Access > Enablement > Innovation > Health > Vision > Futurism > Contributors > Dick Pelletier

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Why I View the Future with Optimism


Dick Pelletier
By Dick Pelletier
Ethical Technology

Posted: Dec 29, 2012

Science is all about asking questions, exploring problems that confound or intrigue us. However, satisfactory answers can’t always be found in today’s media that far too often focuses on cases of technology gone awry, filling readers with more hopelessness than hope.

The majority who read my weekly Published Article and Opinion pieces are ‘boomers and seniors and their comments, which rank more than 3-to-1 favorable, often include the belief that with good care and a little luck, they, personally, might live to enjoy the “magical future” mentioned in my writings.

I feel strongly that when we reach the 2030s, many of America’s older people, having benefited from stem cell therapies, genetic engineering procedures, and molecular nanotech miracles, will regain much of the physical ability and youthful appearance they once enjoyed during their early 20s.

In this writer’s vision, life extension goals are simple – to slow down and eventually eliminate all diseases, including aging. Nobody likes to be handicapped with sickness, disease, or an aging body; and tomorrow’s technologies hold great promise to remove most of these conditions.

I will admit that my articles are aimed at positive aspects of science and technologies, and touch lightly on negative factors. Some of the more forward pieces might even be considered excessively optimistic in the minds of critics, but this extreme positive slant is by design.

Many followers of my columns have voiced dreams and hopes for tomorrow’s technologies, that one day, biological rejuvenations that can extend health and mental acuity, will become available, allowing them to survive and become part of what promises to become an amazing 21st Century adventure.

Positive futurists believe that as we travel through the next three-to-four decades, science and technologies, many already in beginning stages of development, will not only eliminate most diseases, including aging; but with a better understanding of consciousness, mind-copying could become reality by late-2030s, which would remove nearly all risks of death. Say goodbye forever to the Grim Reaper.

Under this scenario, most of Earth’s 7 billion inhabitants would look forward to a life expectancy measured in millenniums, not years. Admittedly, this picture describes an unusually bold future, but the technologies are in place now to turn this rosy image into reality. Comments welcome.


Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.
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COMMENTS


“Some of the more forward pieces might even be considered excessively optimistic in the minds of critics, but this extreme positive slant is by design.”

Right, this is to be taken into account, though it is difficult to explain to the public; which is exacerbated by,

“today’s media that far too often focuses on cases of technology gone awry, filling readers with more hopelessness than hope.”


I can’t even talking to midwesterners anymore, not because they are necessarily foolish in their urge to live in the past despite material progress—but because perhaps I am mistaken in the time-frame; perhaps they know or sense (no way to communicate with them concerning this) that I am looking to far ahead. they may see it as one step at a time… e.g. if they don’t enjoy long lifespans perhaps their progeny will.
In other words though their backwardness is real perhaps their prescience is underrated. When writing for local newspapers there’s a feeling of ‘he who says something in public is willing to make a fool of himself’; that is, he has no clue of outcomes but, rather, of possibilities—which means his hunches, guestimates, aren’t necessarily more significant than football and baseball prognostications and the bets wagered on them.
A lesson in humility.
We shouldn’t neglect mention of dystopia. Will keep it brief by recalling what was written in book, ‘The Sovereign Individual’, 15 years ago: the great possibilities of tech meet the nemesis of crime. A hardened criminal isn’t reachable, the whole idea is to tell others what to do but not have them be told; they are in absolute rebellion to the point they will destroy someone who gets in their way.
We have to take the ‘Clockwork Orange’ scenario seriously, not ignore it hoping it will disappear.

 





I’m very much in favour of advances against aging, and have recently stumbled upon this website.

>>>“with a better understanding of consciousness, mind-copying could become reality by late-2030s, which would remove nearly all risks of death. Say goodbye forever to the Grim Reaper.”

You seem to be a smart person, but I’m sorry to say, this absolute nonsense. A copy of you is not YOU, it’s a copy. You don’t feel any joy or pain of that copy, it is an absolutely distinct being. Let’s get real.





Before humanity can develop methods to copy minds, more of the mysteries of consciousness must be unraveled.

Some believe that this challenge could be met by as early as the 2040s or mid-century; others place this milestone at 100 or more years.

When might this happen? As a positive futurist, I believe we will understand enough of this mystery by 2050 to develop a mind-copying system that could be used to maintain life should disaster happen to a person’s body.

After uploading the mind-copy into an android body, would it pass for the original person? I believe that it would be close enough to satisfy most relatives and acquaintance.

After all, the alternate is to allow the person to die; how cruel would that be?

Comments welcome.





If you just copy the mind you just allow the person to die anyway.  That’s the point you’re seeming to miss.  Have you considered a situation were someone has his/her mind copied and the person is still alive while the copy is existing?  If someone experimented with that it could prove that mind copying/uploading is not really preserving you and that is is all just a vain illusion.





@Christian,

I like your comment; you always seem to see things intelligently.

The main application I see for this futuristic technology is to allow a person to continue their life after suffering a disaster that would bring about sure death. In this scenario, death may be no more disruptive than a bee sting. The person would immediately awaken in a new body not even realizing they had died.

Now, will this technology attract healthy people who simply want another copy of themselves? Probably, although it may take tomorrow’s enhanced brains to justify this application and to consider all the repercussions.

However, we have a long way to go before mind-copying can be realized. Right now, neuroscientists cannot even define what consciousness is; let alone understand how it works.





“However, we have a long way to go before mind-copying can be realized. Right now, neuroscientists cannot even define what consciousness is; let alone understand how it works.”

We can all agree on the above.

 

 





Couldn’t you find a way to “transfer” the mind from the dieing body instead of just copying it.  That way you know for sure that “you” are saved and not just a copy.  Like I said if people wanted to make a mind copy of themselves (I wouldn’t know why) it would raise the issue if the person is actually being preserved or not.





@ Christian..

Your point is valid, but to reason with the possibilities of mind uploading you must firstly face the question “who am I?” for yourself, using objectivity and integrity, only you, your-Self can rationalise this?

Self-awareness or Self-reflexivity, loosely understood and termed as Consciousness, is the phenomenon of emergent and evolved mind to reconcile this reflection upon it-Self?

Consciousness precedes Self-awareness, yet what is your mind without the mechanism of your biological brain? What is this spark of life beyond DNA, complex protein chains and potential energy stored as fats?

So ask your perceived Self, honestly, “who am I?” if you can quantify/qualify this with a reductive statement, then there is hope this information can then transcend and endure?

You, your-Self merely endures from each moment to the next anyhow, through the grace of uninterrupted energy flows in your brain, and death is essentially the disruption of this energy?





One of the efforts launched to unravel consciousness’ mysteries includes IBM’s Blue Brain Project, which scientists hope to create a computer simulation of the brain. Although challenges are great, the ambitious researchers believe they will complete the project by 2030. The key lies in decoding the cerebral cortex, the seat of cognition, which contains 22 billion neurons and 220 trillion synapses.

A computer capable of running software simulations of this nature doesn’t exist yet. Research will require computational capacity of 36.8 petaflops and 3.2 petabytes of memory, which experts predict could become available by 2020 or before.

Although there are many benefits that may arise from the Blue Brain Project, the primary objective of simulating a brain in a computer is to understand how our 100 billion biological neurons give rise to who we are. Experts believe that this knowledge will transform humanity beyond our wildest dreams.





“You, your-Self merely endures from each moment to the next”


So there is no permanent self, but rather a diachronic self? and one might say we live from one nanosecond to the next? Plus we cannot possibly imagine what the ‘self’ will be in the distant future?





“So there is no permanent self, but rather a diachronic self? and one might say we live from one nanosecond to the next? Plus we cannot possibly imagine what the ‘self’ will be in the distant future?”

Exactly, so the Self that you wish to upload exists only momentarily, (each moment to the next), with values based on past experience, long term foggy memories, and volition ultimately twisted and shaped by determinism and of your present situation?

The Self or information that you wish to upload and preserve is the Self that you are right here! right now!.. no, I mean not just then, right now.. no, I mean not just.. yadda yadda..

So the question begs.. “why” would I then want to preserve this fleeting image of Self identity? .. Christian indicates vanity.. perhaps? yet I would still base all these hopes on fears.. of the unknown factor - death?

let’s face it.. when you die, you die don’t you? In your last throes and struggling breaths, if you had opportunity, wouldn’t you at least have some hope of success.. what is there to lose.. except your mind?


ps. Once parties can agree as to what Consciousness actually means, then progess can be accelerated?

Clue.. your mind is everything and all, yet your mind has to be firstly “conscious” of it’s surroundings to help it orientate and define the difference between subject and object, divide this into duality, and reconcile with Self-reflexivity using “I” as pretext?

No one as yet can overcome or reconcile the problem of mind/body duality, (and who knows, we may never?), and yet, perhaps there is no need to overcome this, just have belief that your mind may perpetuate in different substrates.. after all, if you don’t believe it will ever work for you.. especially in your last moments breathing.. then it won’t will it?

 

 

 

 





Thanks people for the intelligent posts. They certainly whet my mind.

Here’s my take on how the future could unfold: I believe that as we get further into the 21st century, technology will enable me to add more and more non-biological parts to my body to prevent diseases. The difference between my human self and machines will blur. However, I will always consider myself human; not post-human or trans-human; just human.

By century’s end or before, humanity could evolve into a new species living in powerful self-repairing bodies with a lifespan approaching immortality, which would include preserving memories by uploading minds into new bodies should disaster happen to existing bodies. Suffering unwanted death would be only a distant memory from our crude past.

However, here’s a question I’ve been pondering. As we become non-biological entities, would we still want to reproduce and if so, what might the procedure be like?

New people may be necessary, especially if we begin populating space. One possibility would be to select the desired age of the child, ‘clone’ a body (or bypass the child mode and clone an adult); and then upload simulated consciousness and memories into the new person.

Now, would these simulated people be considered human or machines? This could provide us with a different approach to defining intelligent life.

It’s difficult for me to imagine, with much accuracy, how an overwhelming future like this will unfold.

With artificial intelligence advancing exponentially over the coming decades, the future may get wild; but I welcome the excitement.

Comments welcome.





Some big questions!

Shiny chrome body or perpetual biological clones? And children too?

Some of those ethical questions, especially the angst of immortality, pain, death, re-birth, and memories, are explored in Battlestar, including human/machine procreation and aspirations towards a hybrid child. In fact BSG leaves very little out. A real treat for any not yet seen this?





Shiny chrome body. By this time in our future, biology will not be efficient enough for the human body.

Thanks for the tip on BSG; I’ll have to start watching it.





There’s still the issue of procreation.  I hope to exploration in my novel series I’m working on.  Any ideas on how that can be achieved in nonbiological humans?





A little typo accident.  I meant to say “explore that”.





Dick, as a person who does not tend towards a sunny disposition I find your idea of purposely being optimistic, even though the clouds are rather dark at the minute, somewhat uplifting.

I’m just curious what about those of us who are unlikely to live long enough to benefit from longevity/immortality treatment? Are you a materialist or does your optimism extend to possible existence after death? What do you think of Tipler’s ideas that our remote descendants may be able to engineer a post-death existence for us all in the far future, the so-called Omega Point?

To other posters, as regards the philosophical problem of copying/ uploading there is another possibility. Say that in the future we are able to connect human minds together via an AI network (not necessarily a hive mind resulting, though I reckon there would be a tendency towards that). If the minds are thus linked then the memories, experiences and ideas of the collected individuals would flow together and so if anything happened to one body then the person would not die but their mind would remain within the network perhaps to enter another body at a later date. The brain and nervous system would be destroyed but the pattern of energy which had flowed from the biological neurons to (the hypothetical) artificial ones would live on. A long shot I know but it would seem, at least in principle, possible to overcome the problem of making a copy with a view to living on.

This might help you with your plot problem Christian. Within the collective networked minds a virtual reality world (somewhat like second life I suppose, but of course much advanced) is set up. Within that world virtual babies/minds are born. They experience a life of seventy years or so growing and gaining experience and then ‘die’. Then their minds join the ‘real world’, something like escaping from the Matrix and join the non-biological human race(who are partly within the network and partly in their non- biological human bodies). Within the virtual world there are religions promising a life after death of course.

Hey ... do you suppose ...





@Taiwanlight,

Thank you for your thought-provoking post.

I do not believe in any version of life after death. Most of them smack too much of religion which goes against my humanist’ beliefs.

I definitely support the notion of a ‘global brain’, which may one day become possible as today’s Internet evolves through the decades ahead.

I also support the idea that within the next century or two, humanity, after evolving into a non-biological form, may adopt a digital existence; not requiring matter of any kind. We would not even need a planet to hang our hat on.

In fact, there may be other intelligent digital lifeforms lurking about in our galaxy, waiting for humanity to join them in a ‘federation’ of sorts.

I realize that this sounds more like science fiction than science, but two hundred years ago, who would have dreamed of today’s entertainment and communications systems?

As to concerns about living long enough to benefit from this futuristic scenario: in his book “Fantastic Voyage, Live Long Enough to Live Forever”; futurist Ray Kurzweil outlines a plan where older people can achieve this future.

If people maintain good health today, oncoming technologies, such as stem cell therapies, genetic engineering, and nanomedicine miracles expected between now and 2030, could keep their bodies ‘patched up’ enabling their survival into this remarkable future. Under the Kurzweil concept, living an indefinite lifespan may be possible for most people alive today.





@ Christian,

After shedding biology and evolving into sentient machines, humanity may want to spread its populations to the stars.

One way to accomplish this would be to send a team of explorers to a distant star system where on arrival (and using local resources), they would reproduce by the millions. These copies would then travel to the next set of star systems and repeat the process, until every corner of the galaxy boasts human presence.

This scheme would require advanced artificial intelligence, molecular self-assembling nanotech, and new propulsion systems; anti-matter, beamed energy; or maybe harnessing wormholes.

Each group would explore the star system in which it found itself, find planets with environments compatible with artificial life forms, then begin building a society that copies Earth life.

One idea would be to create new human/machines as children, teach them love, and watch over them until they are old enough to function independently. This new generation would then be free to develop its own civilization in this faraway place, mimicking much of the current version of Earth culture.

Could the future unfold in this wild manner? Stay tuned!

Comments welcome.





But how would you go about creating unique minds instead of just copies of the originals?  After all you need fresh, new minds in order to progress and not be stuck with the old (as Intomorrow might call it, stuck in the past).  what I imagine is that instead of just “shedding” its biology, humanity might want to do is find some way to literally “mere” its biology with its technology and retain the best traits of both.  Imagine evolving i to computer viruses, malware, worms, etc a well as electromagnetic pulses from either solar/deep space radiation or man-made weapons.  This scenario may also be desirable due to the kind of brain we want; one that can process big data like modern supercomputers and deal with complex problems without dependence on any software land think non-linearly like are current brains can.  Back to children making, this “fully organism and fully machine” as I’d like to call it could best ensure that humanity is produce new minds instead of just repeating old ones.  Tell me what you think.





@ Christian,

I believe that future non-bio humans will find little need to ‘copy’ consciousness, memory, emotions, etc. when creating new people, especially children. Their goals may be better served by ‘simulating’ a new mind that would fill the ‘individuality needs’ of the new person.

Of course, as humanity merges with its machines, only the best traits and abilities will end up in the final product; a near perfect human. And remember, we’re talking of a future time when technologies may easily have eliminated issues like viruses, malware, worms, etc.

We shouldn’t confuse this future time with our present world. Once the problem of unwanted death becomes resolved, scientists will be free to address, and one by one, eliminate many of the challenges that we face today.

By the end of this century, sporting brains that process information billions of times faster than today’s ‘mushy’ neurons can; we may look back and wonder how we ever survived this crude 2013 world.

Comments welcome.





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