By mid-century or before, many future followers predict the pace of technological progress in genetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will become so fast that humans will undergo radical evolution. By the 2030s, we'll be deluged with medical breakthroughs that promise a forever youthful state of being.
"The year is 2032. You have just celebrated your 80th birthday and you have some tough decisions ahead. You can keep repairing your current body or move into a new one. The growing of 'blank' bodies has become all the rage, and by using your own genetic material, body farmers can even recreate your own youthful body at age 20." This scenario is from a blog by Google's top-rated futurist, Thomas Frey.
Frey believes that within 20 years, medical advances will eradicate, or make manageable most diseases. And shortly after, we will replace frail body parts with stronger non-biological tissues. Using stem cells, we have already re-grown bladders and throats, and "printed" new bones and arteries with 3D bioprinters. In short, Frey says, with the help of future technologies; no human should ever need to die!
Most positive futurists agree with this notion. Nobody wants to suffer the pain and agony dished out with today's healthcare. Tomorrow's medical care promises a much brighter and happier life. For example, using advanced technologies, burn victims would simply toss their charred skin and re-grow a new body.
This forward view of the future is not too difficult to imagine when you consider our past.
Humanity's merge with its technology began shortly after the taming of fire, and is still happening today. Many predict that the fine-tuning of our DNA-based biology aided by advanced artificial intelligence promised by the impending singularity will spark a powerful nanotech revolution that will redesign and rebuild our bodies and the world we live in.
Nanotech will change our physical world much the same way that computers have transformed our information world. Expensive products such as photovoltaic solar cells, will become so cheap in the decades ahead, that it may one day be possible to surface roads with materials that would also gather energy to power cars, an idea shared by Tesla's Elon Musk in this TV interview.
In addition, imagine machines that create low-cost clothing, medicine, food and most essentials, with only your voice needed to command the action. By early 2030s, home nanofactories will arrive.
Now bring on the most amazing impending revolution – human-level robots – with intelligence derived from us, but with redesigned bodies that exceed human capabilities. However, some wonder if we should fear these powerful creatures. This "Rise of the Machines" docudrama examines the benefits and risks.
Author Ray Kurzweil in "The Singularity is Near" explained how the human body might evolve. Today's frail body, version '1.0' has unacceptable failure rates (more than 50 million people are expected to die in 2014, most from age-related damages). Biotech and molecular nanotech advances from 2014 to late 2030s will produce a more durable version '2.0', immune to most, but not all of our killer diseases.
This brings us to version '3.0'. By 2040, people will add more non-biological parts to their bodies: robotic blood cells, cell repair machines, strong bones, muscles and skin; even new neurons made from carbon nanotubes. These changes will not take place all at once; they will occur gradually with market demands; but by 2050, most people will be enjoying life in non-bio bodies with zero failure rates.
Even if a destructive accident were to occur, nanorobots guided by tomorrow's artificial intelligence will quickly make repairs, or if necessary, format a new body with the patient's original consciousness and memories intact, allowing life to continue. By mid-century, living in a '3.0' body will render death no more disruptive than a brief mental lapse. Most disaster victims would not even be aware they had died.
Free from concerns over dying, humanity can now grasp the true meaning of humanness while enjoying the benefits of an indefinite lifespan. Many experts believe that as the future unfolds, we will become a space-faring society scattering our populations to the stars. And a few bold space exploration proponents predict that by mid-22nd century, more humans could live in space than on Earth. 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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