Augmented Humanity And The Quest For Immortality
It’s human nature to change nature. It seems part of our core program. We have the ability to imagine abstract things and then shape and mix the reality around us to create something new. As if we were gods, we have been intervening nature through history, cocreating our planet through arts, science, and the power of our fertile imagination.
And when it comes to intervening our human nature itself, we don’t think it twice. We humans have never accepted to be limited by what was given to us by nature, biology or genetics. We love the term AUGMENTED HUMANITY to call this behavioral trend, present at many levels throughout the history of humanity.
Humans tamed fire to see at night and extend their days, to cook meals and gain access to new nutrients otherwise impossible for us (like wheat). With fire, we created glass from sand, and then shaped it into lens to see better, get closer to smaller objects, and see beyond to the stars. If someone had troubles to walk, we created walking canes, then crutches, then wheelchairs, and then bionic legs. And so on the advances of technology at the service of augmenting our humanity.
We want to see farther, run faster, be smarter, remember better, communicate further, jump higher, dive deeper… and live longer.
THE MYTH OF GILGAMESH
Historically, Gilgamesh was a king of the Sumerian city-state of Uruk that ruled between 2800–2500 BC. He was a major hero in mesopotamian mythology and became famous as protagonist of a poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh.
In that poem, after the death of his loved friend Enkidu, Gilgamesh is heartbroken and decides to go on a quest to defeat death. After many adventures with gods and demons in the underworld, he returns to Uruk, defeated in his quest for immortality, but reconciled with his own mortality.
He accepted the inevitability of death and transformed himself from a tyrant into a good king, willing to be remembered by his good actions, and the progress and wellbeing he brought to his people. The moral of the fable is clear: death is inescapable so we should all live for the best and resign to it… Or not?
SENS PROGRAM, PROJECT GILGAMESH AND THE HUMAN BRAIN PROJECT
What if death is just a curable disease and not our fate anymore? What if we start seeing aging as the gradual accumulation of damage due to the continuous usage of this machine called body? What if we see death as the result of mistreated systems malfunctions that lead to the unsustainability of the body operations?
Fight Aging. That is the mission of the SENS program (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) and the Project Gilgamesh, two interlinked initiatives devoted to the research of radical life extension and the education of the public about the topic of immortality as a scientific possibility and a moral imperative.
One of its main spokespersons, Dr. Aubrey De Grey, a biomedical gerontologist, thinks aging is something that we shouldn’t accept as normal. If death is prevented by doctors every day in the world, aging should be treated as well, as a curable illness, with all the commitment of the Hippocratic Oath.
Humanity has been using sciences like chemistry, biology, physics, mechanics, and technology in general to prevent aging successfully. We have extended our average lifespan to more than 80 years and counting. We have come to a point where in developed countries our current kids will surpass the 100 years barrier without making any effort or special prevention, just because of the general advances in medicine and nutrition.
SENS and Gilgamesh Project have joined the efforts of different scientific disciplines and initiatives, such as nanobots, DNA reprogramming, stem cells, drugs, robotics, computer sciences, and many others, to replace natural selection by intelligent design.
They work in three main lines. The 1st way is through biological engineering, the reprogramming of our own DNA, or that of external cells, to change and enhance its natural functions and intervene in the deteriorating process of the body. The 2nd way is through the use of inorganic mechanisms to replace parts of the body with pieces of technology, such as bionic ears, limbs, and eyes, connected directly to our brains.
And the 3rd way, probably the most radical one, is the full dispensation of the organic components of our biological bodies, replacing them completely with non-organic components. That is, the transference of our human minds to computers, as stated in the mission of the Human Brain Project, which aims to recreate a complete human brain inside a computer, with electronic circuits emulating the neural networks of the brain.
A BRAVE NEW WORLD
Will this happen within 5, 50 or 500 years… Who knows? The most probable scenario is that we will achieve this singularity so gradually and progressively that we won’t even notice the change. In the future, immortality will probably be seen as something normal, in the same way we have tripled our lifespan in the last 200 years and now we see normal to live up to 70+ in full shape.
As Yuval Noah Harari states in many of his texts, when we think about the future we normally think about a world where people, identical to us, enjoys better technology, such as laser guns and spaceships. Yet, the revolutionary potential of future technologies is to change the homo sapiens itself, including our bodies and minds.
“The most amazing thing about the future won’t be the spaceships, but the beings flying them.” — Yuval Noah Harari
Our success in the quest for immortality will set the fire for a profound shift of paradigms. Every major religion nowadays considers death and the afterlife as the core of their sets of beliefs. What will happen when we become immortals as gods? What will happen to economy regulations when we cease to die and therefore accumulate wealth during our eternal lives? What will happen to political systems if dictators as Stalin or Castro are able to live forever? Or what would have happened to the world if we could have prolonged Einstein’s life enough to let him continue his work for another couple of hundreds of years?
And yet more, this other set of ethical questions. Who will have access to this technology? May it become a new gap between the rich and the poor? Will it add a new layer of inequity to the current quality of life issue, the same way the lifespan in undeveloped countries in Africa is still shorter than in the first world? How can we regulate and democratize immortality? Will it be for everyone? Then, what will happen with overpopulation and the availability of resources in our planet?
In the book Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the death of people is programmed as a mandatory retirement of the elders, no matter their social level in their caste system from Alphas to Epsilons. Nowadays, in this new world we’re building, with lots of questions to solve about immortality, at least one thing seems for sure: it will not be for everyone, but for those who can pay for it.
This is a story of the Futurists Club
by Science of the Time
Written by: Ivan Babic and Andrea Lobo Niembro
Ivan Babic, partner in Innovation and Founder at Business as Unusual, international speaker and a great storyteller. You must talk to Ivan if you want to challenge the paradigms of your organization at all levels. Expert in Marketing & Innovation, Entrepreneur and Startups Developer, he has created several methodologies and models applying the principles of the HUMAN-CENTERED approach and DESIGN THINKING to create new ways of doing business.
With more than 20 years of a very fun, exciting and successful career in creative industries, and with some failed startups of his own, he learned the hard way the lack of common sense in the business world. “After years working with clients of all sizes in Venezuela, Spain & Mexico, I realized almost everyone was missing the same thing: GOOD IDEAS. Everything seemed to be about finances, structure, technology and communications. They all had the pressure to innovate, but didn’t know where to head to.”
“The value equation happens inside people, it’s a multifactored subjective arithmetical formula. So, creating value is a combination of art and science. The art of understanding people, the way they think and behave, their beliefs and what they need. And the science of generating solutions to those problems, generating hypothesis, validating, iterating and collecting data to support it.”
Creator of ENTREPRENEURAS.COM a comic about the funny world of entrepreneurship & startups, and co-author of BEHAVIORAL TRENDS, a human-centered innovation & value creation game. He studied Communications at Universidad Católica (Venezuela) and is Master in Business Entrepreneurship from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Spain).
His favorite words: WHAT IF…
Andrea Lobo Niembro
There’s people in this world with a natural ability to empathize with others and fully understand them. There’s people that always act from their values and are recalcitrantly congruent even in the challenging times of flexible moral we’re living now. If you want to meet one of those human beings, always looking for ways to do good to people, let me introduce you to Andrea Lobo.
Trendwatcher, Human-Centered specialist and Partner at Business as Unusual, since 2015 she has created a set of BEHAVIORAL TRENDS, full of insights and needstates, to cluster markets from a post-demographic perspective and create real value propositions from there. Her vision over people is changing the way companies understand and apply the HUMAN-CENTERED approach to marketing, innovation, and business planning processes.
Andrea is an expert in Communications, the Human-Centered Approach and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which she’s been applying with excellent results among Private Companies, Government, Universities and Non-Profit Organizations. She has created several contents, tools and models based on her skills in empathy-rapport, active listening, persuasion, resilience, social responsibility, creativity, communications, and global vision. These abilities have allowed her to create a unique vision in the analysis of human behaviors and beliefs.
“A new strategic paradigm is needed for business. We need to shift the order of our priorities and start planning everything from a different P: PEOPLE, from a post-demographic perspective.”
Raised in a family with a strong commitment –and life testimony- to human development and social service, her life has been always about actively participating, learning and sharing better ways to help each other, solve problems in creative ways, and promote the innate tendency to become better human beings and consciously live in community.
She’s the “unusual” part of Business as Unusual.
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