Eternal Life 5

August 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

And de Grey’s de-greying methods are not the most radical route being proposed to eternal youth. Other scientists believe that our future lies in silicon enhancement — not breast implants, but computer implants that will turn our bodies into immortal self-healing intelligences.

“Transhumanists” believe that by around 2045 we will have achieved this through a mix of nanotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence. One of the movement’s leading figures, the inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, puts his faith in the development of nanomachines tinier than atoms that could be deployed in the human body to repair the ravages of time. It is starting to happen, he says, pointing to deep-brain stimulation machines used to combat the symptoms of Parkinson’s and cochlear implants to cure deafness. We are, he says, already becoming part-cyborg.

In future, he claims: “We will have millions of intelligent robots the size of blood cells going inside our body, keeping us healthy from inside, augmenting our immune system, going inside our brain through the capillaries, without surgery, putting our brains on the internet, giving us access to vast amounts of knowledge and so on.”

Kurzweil does not simply talk good technology. As an inventor, he developed the first f latbed scanners and speechrecognition technologies. He also sincerely practises what he preaches. Kurzweil, 63, takes more than 200 pills a day in the hope of extending his life sufficiently to benefit from the first breakthroughs. If the pills fail he has signed up to have his head cryogenically frozen after death, to be thawed in a more technologically advanced age. “I have enough trouble pursuing my interests while I’m alive and kicking,” he has declared. “It is hard to imagine doing that when you’re frozen, but it’s better than the alternative.”

But is it really better than death — being turned into a cyborg, eating dog food, having your head frozen or being injected with graveyard bacteria? The options are all there (or at least, nearly there) if you want to stay young for ever. Then again, suddenly I’m getting nostalgic for the idea of just ageing gracefully. Eternal youth. We spend millions of pounds every year chasing this ever-elusive dream. But could the answer lie in eating a new brand of dog food? If the idea seems too undignified, how about swallowing an extract of graveyard bacteria, undergoing bone-marrow swaps or giving your brain a silicon implant? Deranged as they may seem, these ideas are at the forefront of serious scientific efforts to achieve humankind’s oldest and greatest ambition — to keep our minds and bodies young.

Eternal Youth 6

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