“Dying isn’t something that is acceptable in the 21st century.” That’s the opinion of one advocate of the wave of technologists researching ways to stop the process of ageing and help us to overcome death. But at what stage does scientific breakthrough become intrusive, immoral and downright creepy?
I recently attended the FT’s Camp Alphaville event in London that saw a host of innovators, economists and corporate financiers convene on a scorching hot summer’s day to talk about what’s next in various industry sectors. Moving on from the fact that a suit and tie was not appropriate dress for a garden event in 37 degree heat, I got to grips with a talk from Zoltan Istvan. He’s a futurist and 2016 US Presidential candidate who, if he has his way, will completely change human life as we know it.
It’s a movement called transhumanism and it incorporates technologies that will help us to one day cheat ‘Father Time’. Everything from cryogenics and robotic hearts to cranial implants are being discussed as tools that will help us defeat the body’s natural course of ageing or even resurrect us at a later date when the science allows us to. But where does it stop?
Sure, we’re already on board with wearable technology that measures our health data – just ask Gfk who says that 51 million wearables will be sold this year. But what about bio hacking where chips are implanted into our bodies to track hydration, body temperature or even diseases? Would you be freaked out or would you embrace an innovation that might save your life?
A robot that could cook your dinner sounds cool, but what about one to which you could upload your entire thoughts, enabling you to live forever as a machine even if you did kick the bucket?
Those of us who are curious about the extent to which technology can improve our lives can’t help but be intrigued by theories of this kind. The majority of them won’t materialise tomorrow but there are two things that we can take away from this. Firstly, we have only scratched the surface of what is possible when great minds collaborate on ways of making us healthier and happier individuals. But also, in the future, we may find ourselves dealing with moral and economic quandaries that we’ve never had to tackle before.