We Need To Extend Our Lifespans To Truly Be A Spacefaring Species

What’s more likely, transhumanism or light-speed travel?

Tweddlr
Predict
3 min readJul 17, 2020

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In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the crew finds three people from the 21st century cryogenically frozen, and brings them back to life. Picard and Data recall that cryogenics were a fad of the time, and that people in the 24th century no longer have any desire to live longer or forever.

Although the episode attempts to show how advanced the human race has become, it also makes little to no sense. In Star Trek cannon, apparently some guy figured out warp speed on Alpha Centauri, but it would take 100 years to even reach that planet at our current top speed.

Currently, humans in developed countries have an average life expectancy of 80–90 years, but we spend the first 20 figuring out what we want to do with our lives and the last 20 (usually) retiring ourselves from a career. In most cases, we only dedicate 40 years to that career.

In space terms, that would be about 30 journeys to Mars, if you simply went there and back. Looking further than Mars, say Jupiter’s moon Europa, and that’s only three trips there and back.

Considering most have no interest in life outside of their hometown, it seems highly improbable that millions of people will dedicate decades of their life to sitting in zero gravity for a benign research or re-supply mission. And even less will dedicate themselves fully to colonising a barren, hostile planet.

It comes down to the question proposed at the start, is transhumanism more likely than light-speed travel?

A graphic of how Neuralink’s computer-brain interface would work

Transhumanism is already receiving some traction, in the form of interlinking a computer with a human brain, which may improve mental capabilities and memory. Prosthetic limbs are getting smarter every year, and Segway creator Dean Kamen is working on a human organ factory.

It’s not inconceivable to see a not-so-distant future where, instead of waiting for another human to donate an organ, it is replaced by a factory made one. Same with limbs. Attaching a machine to a human brain is more of a long-shot, in more ways that one.

Comparatively, light-speed travel is nowhere near reality. There are many theories on how to get objects (with people inside) to move faster, but they are still concepts, while transhumanism is at least in the experimentation phase in a few instances.

Even getting rockets to go moderately faster, with different sorts of propulsion engines, has not been tried. We are still running on 1960’s speeds, although that may improve in the next 20 years as the private space market continues to accelerate.

If we are unable to reach a speed in which travelling to the ends of our solar system or to a nearby system is possible within a standard lifetime, then it appears the only solution is to vastly extend our lifespans.

This is not a socialist agreement between all humans, employees or countries. There will be many who do not want to extend beyond the normal 100 year lifespan, but for those who see their life in the stars, it may be the only way to move us further than our current orbit of the ISS, Moon, and Mars.

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Tweddlr
Predict

Analyst at Business of Apps. Previously RT Insights, Digital Trends, ReadWrite. Leeds and Lincoln Uni alumni