Digital Immortality, Multiple Existences, Smart Pets, and More...
[Updated April 18, 2016]
Earlier this year, Dr. Ian Pearson made some rather bold predictions about the future of humanity. Dr. Pearson, self-proclaimed "full time Futurologist," has stated that humankind will have transformed itself into a new species by 2050. 'Homo Optimus,' as he has coined the name of our Posthuman existence, will be 'digitally immortal,' and will be a hybrid of biology and technology.
None of Dr. Pearson's ideas are new. Other futurists, most notably Ray Kurzweil have made similar predictions about our future. While Pearson's credentials are outstanding, he lacks the prominence and credibility that Kurzweil has built. Whatever the year 2050 may hold in store for us, let's take a quick look at some of Pearson's intriguing projections.
Pearson and others have predicted that technology will permit us to upload all of our thoughts and experiences into a digital repository, thus preserving our minds indefinitely, regardless of what happens to our bodies.
This form of transcendence has been explored in Science Fiction for decades, perhaps most poignantly in in Isaac Asimov's short story, "The Last Question" (1956). As of today, however, there is no hardware even remotely complex enough to hold something so vast as the human mind. Necessary developments may come within the next 34 years, although it seems unlikely.
Most futurists foresee human superintelligence as a fusion of the brain with a machine counterpart, giving natural intellect exponentially greater speed and computational ability. There are various means by which this might be accomplished. One is the insertion of electronic components into the brain. Another possibility is that implants will allow us to connect wirelessly to supercomputers, and 'borrow' processing power. Kurzweil has also explored this option, and anticipates that nanobots in the bloodstream may be the means of fusion with machine intelligence.
With the prospects of digital immortality and superintelligence through remote uplink, it follows that an individual will be capable of multiple existences. If the mind can be copied, it can be duplicated, and potentially placed into different forms. One's initial mind may continue to inhabit a human body, while replicas take on alternate manifestations such as Artificial Intelligence terminals, surrogate robots, or entities within any number of purely virtual worlds.
"This would allow people to have multiple existences and identities, or to carry on living long after their biological death."
This brings up an old existential philosophical debate regarding what constitutes the self. If the mind is stored, then duplicated, and transferred to separate modes of life, each instance becomes its own entity. Which, then, is the self?
Affinity to animals is a natural human emotion. Our pets seem to listen, understand, and even sympathize with us. The day may come when they will be able to answer back.
Writes Pearson, "Technology will be used to enhance pets and wildlife, with the potential to hear our pets talk or to increase their IQ, and to create real versions of kids-craze Furbies."
Pearson also foresees various means that will enable us to enhance our bodies, effectively eliminating disease, aging, and eventually attain physical immortality. Such developments include:
- Electronic Skin: Tiny implants between our skin cells through which we will connect directly to technology.
- Smart Make-Up: A membrane applied on the surface of the skin that will give a youthful, changeable look.
- Self-Healing: Nanotechnology that will monitor and repair our bodies from the inside.
The list goes on and on. Although much progress is underway, most of these projected technologies are merely conceptions that are far from realization.
The societal implications of such changes are paramount. If Posthumanism becomes a reality, it will alter the human experience forever. The Babel Singularity may be upon us. ◼
 "About futurology" Dr. Ian Pearson, FUTURIZON
 "Is technology causing us to 'evolve' into a new SPECIES?" Sarah Griffiths, Daily Mail  "Get ready for hybrid thinking" Ray Kurzweil, TED
 "Future Human Report" Ian Pearson
 "Scientist predicts that our dogs will be able to talk to us by 2050" Michael Moran, BT