Tyrades! Immortality: Right Around The Corner

Friday, October 2, 2009

According to London's Daily Telegraph, American scientist/futurist Ray Kurzweil thinks you may soon be bouncing a little Terminator-like cyborg on your knee.

Kurzweil believes that within a mere 20 years our understanding of genetics and computer technology could turn us all into superhumans. Within 25 years, a person could make Olympic sprints for 15 minutes without taking a breath, SCUBA dive for four hours without oxygen, or write a book in two minutes. And if you're really clever and wear horn-rimmed glasses, you could fool the heck out of that ditz Lois Lane.

I understand that mankind's knowledge is growing by leaps and bounds (the Law of Accelerating Returns, Kurzweil calls it), but projections can come up embarrassingly off-target. In 1965 the producers of "Lost In Space" took it for granted that by 1997 humans would be traveling the 4.37 light-years to Alpha Centauri, rather than scrounging for enough money to return to the moon.

Kurzweil acts as if every single person would share in the progress, but I see it as another case of the haves and have nots. Think your insurance would cover a bionic nervous system? ("Sorry. There's a preexisting condition -- we've already paid for our around-the-world cruise and need all the profit we can get!")

Try not to be jealous of the rich. I'm sure they'll tastefully make only the most absolutely vital improvements. ("Come on, Judith, let's go through the '15 new body parts or less' checkout lane.")

It's appealing to think that you can get a high-tech synthetic liver or cerebellum at the drop of a hat, but there will be lingering doubts. You'll be lying there on the operating table and suddenly Kanye West pops up. ("Nooooooo--Beyoncé deserves this organ more, you fools!")

Kurzweil gushes about mankind soon being able to stop and reverse the aging process. Is the world ready for octogenarians who could pass for homecoming queens? ("There, studmuffin, I've got the handcuffs attached. What? No, I'm not planning anything kinky. I'm just making sure that for once I have an audience when I start reminiscing about everything that used to cost a nickel.")

Suicide counselors will have steady employment in Kurzweil's brave new world. If you had to listen to that &^%$#@ Six Million Dollar Man sound effect every time you jumped, anyone would think about ending it all.

Kurzweil's immortality promise brings all sorts of questions. How can overpopulation be avoided? When will retirement begin? If no one dies, how will Chicago have enough voters for a decent election?

Mostly, I wonder what this stuff about computer chips will mean for my wife the biology teacher. Will she someday begin a lecture with "Bill Gates' theory of evolution teaches that it all began with Pong..."?

In a statement as provocative as John Lennon's observation that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ, Kurzweil insisted that nanobots will replace blood cells and do their work "thousands of times more effectively." (A spokesperson for the Almighty countered, "You have to understand, the original circulatory system was a no-bid contract.")

Don't' let me stand in the way of the progressives. ("Hurrah! Mankind is finally immortal. Let's build ourselves a monument out of rock like...I don't know... in that asteroid coming over there. ASTEROID?????")