Who Welcomes the Future?

hose who help themselves to extra portions of life - or want to - will find the future inviting. But the uncertainty of it may be frightening - see Kevin Kelly's Out of Control, a book about the future evolution of everything. Nevertheless, in the future, thrilling and unpredictable advancement awaits those who are prepared to take their lives into their own hands and extend the boundaries of what it means to be alive.

A small band of visionaries who call themselves transhumanists1 have taken the lead in redefining what it is to be more aware, more intelligent, more alive, more of everything that is worthwhile. To achieve their goals in helping to bring on a better future, transhumanists have posited the need for superintellligence (SI) - an intellect that is much smarter than the best brains now operating in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom, and social skills. Their views represent a radical new approach to a style of thinking that embraces predictions of the future as if they were not only possible but inevitable.

The search for SI and more of everything is based on the premise that the human species does not represent the maturity of our evolution but, rather, its infancy. This approach, however,  is not for everyone, especially those who have a political stake in the aggrandizement of minimal expectations, or those who resign themselves to the weary notion of doomsday. To the contrary, SI involves an orientation that uplifts the human spirit and strives to craft the opportunity of every moment into a realization or fulfillment of a person's maximum potential.

As longevists - and sympatico-transhumanists - we would prefer to witness the end of the traditional life cycle as soon as possible: let the seasons turn back on themselves from Spring to Summer to Fall to Summer to Spring. Winter is not welcome. The very concept it embodies is reflective of aging, the wearing down of the machinery of life, and the end of growth. While, throughout history, Winter's knell has been the final outcome for all who have lived, many of us now believe that death is no longer inescapable.

When the 20th century began, the average life expectancy in the United States was 47 years. Now, as we near 2000, it is approaching 80. Laughably, most "experts" believe that little further extension remains and that, perhaps, it might reach 83 or 84 by 2050. Big deal! Not only is that figure unacceptable, it is, in all likelihood, quite wrong. That's because it doesn't take the kinds of breakthroughs that are bound to occur into consideration. Nor does it reflect the possible advantages for some people, for whom life extension is not a magic bullet but the culmination of  lifelong programs of supplementation.

As Moore's law - the power of computer processors doubles about every 18 months - has underscored, science is moving forward with leaps and bounds. So with its progeny, human invention. Beyond the realm of  nutritional science - and the products that we believe may now make a difference to allow us to bridge ourselves to the future - are potential biomedical breakthroughs in so many areas that it's difficult to keep track of them all. To name a few, there are gene therapy, bacterial cell-surface layers, DNA engineering, biomimetics, nanotechnology, robotics, biotechnology, cryonics, and telomere manipulation, plus undoubtedly many things that are totally off the map.

Naysayers, skeptics, and curmudgeons may argue the significance of it all, and ask us why anyone would want to live for more than 83 or 84 years. All the while, they assure us that they are not now, nor have ever been, card-carrying members of the flat-earth society, but we know better. We may be out on a limb, but we are hopeful about the 21st century and are confident that, in retrospect from the distant future, it will be known as the Century of the Fulfilled Expectations.

  1.  See http://www.transhumanist.org/

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