Technology dominates the modern world and the future is going to be about technological advancements. Amidst this, scientists and researchers are contemplating the idea of achieving immortality through technology. We humans get to live at the cost of inevitable death. However, advancement in technology has allowed us to live longer. This has further prompted us to explore the possibility of everlasting life, and therefore the investments in research and development of these projects. But the questions remain, “What does immortality entail, and can technology make us immortal?” Let’s answer these inquiries in the next section.
How do we define immortality?
There’s debate on the actual definition of immortality. This is because even if humans aim to upgrade their brains and bodies, they cannot live beyond the end of the universe. While it’s unlikely that any of us would witness the end of the universe, the thought itself hampers the idea of immortality. That makes us wonder whether we can survive that event. Also, some argue that immortality is already achieved. They say this in comparison to philosophers and great people, who are not among us, but their creation still has an influence on us. They are people who “survive” death through their legacy.
Digitalization of human minds
When it comes to immortality, different schools of thought have distinct beliefs. The philosophical-thinking people believe that the human mind and body are separate. With this belief, the idea of immortality cannot be turned into reality as the essence of the human spirit cannot be digitized. However, those that believe human life is merely physical are hopeful that the brain can be preserved to digitize, eventually allowing people to remain alive or be reborn. In simplest terms, our cells age, which is why our body does too. The advancements in technology have allowed us to live longer.
However, scientists anticipate that once we cross a certain age, the body will lose resilience. This means the body will be unable to recover from injuries or illness, thereby leading to death. But even if in some ways we can stop the cell from aging and get the ability to prevent disease, there are other factors that can harm the body. One of these is the external environment. Humans are prone to deadly accidents and drastic climate change which has a direct impact on them. Scientists and researchers have thought this through and suggested several options for dealing with these issues. Let’s analyze some ways in the following section.
Technological ways of achieving immortality
As you can see, we don’t necessarily need to remain physically alive to achieve everlasting life. Here are two ways scientists and researchers propose technology can make us immortal.
Researchers are exploring the path of reaching virtual immortality by scanning the human brain and transferring it into a computer. In fact, in the OpenWorm project, the neural connections of the roundworm were mapped into the software. This software was then programmed to direct a Lego robot, which appeared to behave like a roundworm. While there’s no comparison as roundworms have 302 neurons and a human has 86 billion, it might still be achievable with more advancements in Artificial Intelligence. Being able to transfer the human mind into a computer and uploading to the internet would be a major step in achieving immortality.
However, there’s a paradox with the concept of uploading the human mind. As described in a thought experiment, the human mind may or may not survive the upload process. In the case of survival, then the digital copy can’t be that person as they are still alive. Whereas, if the human mind doesn’t live through the upload process, then it won’t be that person but only their digital double. Furthermore, there are several risks associated with digitizing. The replacement of physical reality with digital one would require a lot of computational power. Also, there’s no guarantee that the digital realm won’t be switched off or deleted.
Turning into a cyborg
You might have heard about cyborgs or cybernetic organisms from sci-fi movies. It is one potential way of achieving immortality. People consider the human body as a weakness so replacing it with technology promises a better future. Over the years, people have incorporated technology into their bodies. For instance, Dr. Peter Scott Morgan turned himself into a human cyborg when he was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. He underwent complex surgeries including a laryngectomy and inserting a nasogastric tube directly into his stomach. He did so to take the vital functions away from the organ which would fail because of the diagnosis.
Also, he operates the computer with his eyes through eye-tracking technology. While existing scientific evidence showed that people with Motor Neuron Disease can survive only a few years after the diagnosis, Dr. Peter Scott Morgan is changing that by deciding to exist as a cyborg. He is currently 64 years old and is hoping to be alive at least until he turns 80 using technology. Cyborgs are often termed as hybrid beings, half human and half machine. Some even refer to them as creatures of social reality and fiction.
Another example of a cyborg is Neil Harbisson. He was born color-blind, which changed when he had an antenna implanted in his skull. With this antenna he can see infrared and ultraviolet, sensing colors that cannot be detected by the eye. Also, he is the world’s first legally recognized cyborg. The public is accepting of the idea of technology and human body union for medical reasons. But, when it comes to experimentation and artistic reasons, the acceptance rate is low.
Can we expect to become immortal?
While there’s so much uncertainty around the immortality topic, the advancements in technology such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and biotechnology demonstrate the potential to bring an end to death. Moreover, several tech giants are investing in research projects of understanding the biology of aging and ways to combat it. To summarize our study, organ replacement, stem cell therapy, and neural uploading can help us achieve our goal of immortality.