Practical Immortality

It is a little bit disturbing when you go back to places that you knew in your youth and find that all traces of them have been erased. It makes me wonder how long it will take after I die before all traces of my existence have been similarly eradicated. One of the reasons that I write is to attempt to capture pieces of myself so that they may live on beyond me.

It would be better to live indefinitely myself but that is a possibility that may not manifest during my life if in fact at all. My mother used to call realization of ones immortality “Seeing the elephant”. I recently researched the phrase and found it had a somewhat different meaning. It had become a macro for realizing one’s mortality in my family lexicon so it is still the phrase that comes to mind when I contemplate my mortality.

There have been many developments in recent years that hold forth the potential for what is often called practical immortality. The meaning of the label is that death due to old age and known sicknesses will become extremely rare if not nonexistent. Death from accidents and murder will still happen but human life expectancy will rise exponentially.

Another potential avenue for achieving functional immortality is through uploading yourself into a digital storage facility for later restoration to a physical body. Other variations on that scenario include merging with a computer such that when the organic portion of yourself expires you remain as a wholly digital entity.

Another interesting possibility is that as we develop the ability to merge with computers we will simultaneously develop high fidelity digital communications facilities such that we can share our thoughts with each other, a digital telepathy so to speak. A possible evolution from that might be a merging of all minds into a massive ubermind.

Such a development might not suit all people. There might be rugged individualists that choose to maintain their individuality. That leaves us to ponder the question of what it might be like to be an individualist in a society comprised largely of a single mind.

The other question that arises from the possibility of practical immortality is how would our perception of time change? Would we have enough memory to remember our whole life or would we only remember the recent things that have happened to us or the most important things that happened in our life?

I have many books I want to read, movies and tv shows I want to watch, places I want to travel to, people I want to meet, things I want to do, and there is so little time in the course of what we now consider a normal life time to do them all. I wonder if practical immortality would be a blessing or a curse.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

The Future’s So Bright…

If I’ve learned anything from reading, and watching, science fiction all my life it’s that anything we can imagine we can eventually accomplish.  For example, in the late sixties a show called Star Trek featured hand held communications devices that the crew of the Enterprise used to routinely communicate with each other wirelessly. Ok, so this wasn’t that far fetched. We had radio transceivers that could do that job. The were called walkie-talkies.

The thing that was missing was the infrastructure to allow the solution to scale to the point where everyone could have their own communication device, we call them cell phones, and could talk to practically anybody else on the planet. Not only that, but these cell phones now embody computers, cameras, music players, as well as no less than three radios on different bands for different purposes.

The cell phone exists because Gene Roddenberry imagined it and some engineer decided that he could build it. What’s next? We already have self driving cars. We are well on our way to building fleets of space ships with which to colonize the solar system.

Our electronics gets smaller and smaller. Intel just announced a CPU chip with eighteen cores on it. And while I sit here wondering what we’ll do with eighteen cores on a single chip, another part of my brain is remembering the old adage that applications expand to consume all resources available to them. The question becomes what will we be able to do with eighteen cores?

Artificial Intelligence is another area of rapid advancement. We have been predicting the advent of Artificial General Intelligence in science fiction for many decades. Now, it seems like it is actually going to happen in the near future. We have an entire stable of specialized AI applications. For instance, face recognition, sound recognition, pattern recognition, just to name a few.

We have Siri, Alexa, and Echo, all listening to hear what we are asking and searching the web, one of the more surprising developments of the last decade or so, for any and all knowledge know to mankind. Gone are the days of bar bets about who recorded what song and when? Or who played Billy Mummy’s big sister on Lost in Space (Angela Cartwright)?

In short, all of these wonders, even search engines started life in the fertile imaginations science fiction writers. If you want to know what new product tomorrow’s headlines are going to announce just dig out your back issues of Fantasy & Science Fiction or Analog Magazine. At the rate we’re going, we’ll have a hard time remembering what the world was like ten years ago, much less fifty.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

The Future’s So Bright We’ll Have to Wear Shades

We live in exciting times. Earlier tonight I was sitting on the couch with my iPhone laying on the tray in front of me. I was watching a YouTube video. I was listening to the audio through a pair of Bluetooth headphones so that I wouldn’t disturb my wife. All of a sudden I remembered the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where Frank Poole and Dave Bowman were eating and they each had a pad that was displaying video.

We are living the science fiction stories of our youth. And it’s happening because engineers are taking them not as fantasies but as specifications. They are using them to fuel the engines of creation that our modern consumer society has become.

One person that is working these miracles of engineering is Elon Musk. He has figured out how to take a vision for a future product and distill it into steps that can be achieved with technology just beyond our grasp. As he pulls together the team of innovative entrepreneurs to realize his vision he uses the returns from the initial product to fund the evolution of it into the original product he envisioned.

He has done that with Tesla and SpaceX and is embarking on a new venture to do the same type of thing with a company called Neuralink. Neuralink is out to develop the brain machine interface that will turn us all into omnipotent geniuses.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m ready to sign up tomorrow if he had the product built and ready to go. Unfortunately, there is a long development road ahead. The first beneficiaries of Neuralink’s technology will be people profoundly handicapped by such conditions as a stroke or a spinal chord injury. This will start a positive feedback loop where the more we are able to enhance the mind machine interface, the better we will understand how the brain really works and the better we understand how the brain works, the better we’ll be able to make the interface.

Eventually we will merge, first with the machines that will have become our mental appliances, and eventually with each other. When there is no room for misunderstanding in the interface, we will have a practically infallible channel for communication.

No, I’m not that naive. We will figure out some way to have misunderstandings. Or perhaps they will be disagreements more than misunderstandings. The important thing is that they will be on a much higher level of shared understanding than our mere verbal and body language can communicate.

That, in a nutshell, is my hope for the future of the technology that Neuralink is working on even as I write this. I hope they get it right. The future is bright if they do, and a nightmare if they stumble. I am the eternal optimist. I have faith that they will get it right. Mostly.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

It’s October, Surprise!

It’s the 4th of October and I haven’t blogged yet this month. I’m falling off the wagon. This post will fix that. I’ve got an appointment with my therapist this afternoon. I don’t know what I’ll talk about. Perhaps I should make a list.

I wish I had an appliance for making lists. Something like a N800 maybe. I thought that Backpack would be the place where I made list but I keep forgetting to use it. I use it but not as much as I thought I would. I think the key to using it more is that I need ubiquitous access to it.

For instance, from a cell phone. Except that I hate typing on the cell phone key pad. The iPhone is a step in the right direction. It’s too expensive and won’t work with my service provider. I also hate that it costs air time for web browser access. If it’s a premium service, I won’t use it for such ad hoc activities as making lists.

It’s interesting to see the value propositions fluctuate with time. What is it worth to me to be able to make lists accessible from anywhere. Oh and email access is important too. I guess I could start exploring sending email to my cell phone when I want to remind myself of something.

I could use my web hosting system as an “always on” source of this ubiquitous goodness. The only problem is that by the time I finished implementing my little list/reminder system I would have implemented most of the functionality that Conduit is promising (assuming they ever finish it).

This ramble probably only makes sense to me. I may edit it so that it makes sense to someone other than me but I want to go ahead and post it so that I have an October post up. What a funny little competitive streak I’m exhibiting here.