We Will Be Our Own Robot Overlords
The other great episode of Note to Self was about transhumanism. If you’re not familiar with transhumanism, it’s a movement for using technology to live a better, longer life. I bet you’re thinking, “Oh, I use apps on my phone to lead a better life. I guess I’m a transhumanist.” But slow down, cowgirl. There’s a little more to the story.
It’s really about using technology to extend your life or capabilities. It’s about better living, through science, but like really really really through science. Think about every human limitation: Our need for food and sleep, how quickly we can move, how far we can see. And then think about addressing that need with science, such as removing our normal, healthy eyes and replacing them with robot eyes that can see miles into the distance. Or, probably more accessible in the here and now, attempting to extend a person’s life span or cheat death indefinitely.
I’ll admit that while I don’t even cover up my grey to visually extend my youth in an easy, cost-effective way, I am intrigued by the idea of using technology to extend life. Would I actually participate if it became possible? I don’t know. But it’s really interesting to think about.
I guess what it comes down to is this: If a loved one becomes ill, and there is a treatment for their illness, we expect them to do that treatment in order to extend their life — both for their own gain and for our gain, too. If I became ill, I would accept the treatment not just for myself but because I feel I owe that to Josh and the kids (as well as my parents and siblings).
Would it follow that we would feel we owed ourselves and our loved ones the acceptance of these practices if they became mainstream? If it was common to replace your heart with a robotic heart at 60, would you do it for yourself or your loved ones, or would you allow yourself to be one of the throwbacks who gracefully ages and dies at what would be — at that time — young?
I can’t say never because I wear glasses that enhance my vision, and if my doctor told me tomorrow that I would die without a mechanical heart, I would take that mechanical heart. Moreover, I would still feel human even with that mechanical heart.
But I can see from that statement that it’s a field of grey; how much could I replace before I stop feeling like myself, and what if it was just to live better and not live longer? As in, what if there was nothing medically wrong: Would I take the robot eyes just to see farther? And since we clearly do things now to live longer, what is the age where we would be okay with death vs. feeling like we need to keep taking these steps to extend life and extend life and extend life.