Rambling Thoughts Emanating From a Sentient Life-form
Mankind’s fear of death probably ignited dreams of immortality long before Ponce De Leon’s famous quest for the Fountain of Youth, no doubt long before the Bible’s stories of Adam and Eve’s loss of same as a result of their indiscretions. Scientists are working even today searching for ways to prolong lives, perhaps “cure” death. Most religions offer some form of immortality as a reward for faith.
What would be the limitations of extending life indefinitely?
Medical science continues to make new advances and discoveries which alleviate the frailties of the human body. Diseases arising from pathogens may soon be eliminated, other infirmities whose origins lie within the complex human genome may follow. Alas, all these advances simply prolong life rather than imbue immortality.
The human body, somewhere within it’s structure seems to possess a timing mechanism, perhaps in the genome, which leads to an inevitable decline (Perhaps telomeres). The immune system, the rebuilding systems, of the body at some point becomes not quite as efficient, allowing cellular deteriorations to accumulate faster than they are repaired. If this problem can be solved through genetic means, our bodies may become nearly immortal. There remain other hurdles to traverse.
Some scientists put the capacity of the human brain at around a million gigabytes. If our brains worked like a digital video recorder this would be enough space for around 300 years. Since our memories leak, lose information which is considered not important as well as those we might like to retain, the capacity in years of a human brain might not be calculable. No doubt it has an upper limit, but who knows what it might be. Still… could it service during the unlimited span of an immortal life if present problems with decay are solved? Logically, more storage space would be needed at some point in an immortal lifespan.
Perhaps some extension of the human mind, at least the physical storage hardware, could be devised. At first installing ports in the back of the head for plugging in memory storage devices constructed to be compatible with the way human memory works, would suffice. After many millennia one could imagine the physical limitations that might arise: a head so heavy it could not be lifted. Perhaps storage afforded by means of a hookup via something akin to present Wi-Fi to an outside storage repository would provide a solution. Mobility would be limited unless the range of this “Wi-Fi” were improved over today’s technology many fold. Thought processes may lengthen in duration, depending on the distance from such a source, in any case.
That reminds me of a story about someone who claimed to be abducted by aliens. As he/she laid upon their examination table screaming, the alien abductor scientist looked down upon them and seemed to only realize the frantic state of the human after about 8 seconds, rather than instantaneously as we might. Perhaps they were hooked up mentally to a distant source… or simply automatons, remotely controlled.
Assuming that the problem of memory storage could be solved, there are still other hurdles to jump. One problem is that of our robust procreation. With our present production of baby humans coupled with immortal lives, a point would soon be reached where one’s nose will always be in the back of someone else’s head. How can you convince humanity to limit procreation to only match those who die due to accidental death? Presently I see no remedy to our growing over-population as many societies only see value in continued growth. How can you tell one group that they must stop creating more mouths to feed if their group is in a minority where population is concerned? Equal representation would have to fall by the wayside, perhaps through convincing everyone, finally, to look upon humans as only one species, which we truly are, and abandon the concept of numerous races.
Memory and population problems solved, we then must face the mortality of Planet Earth. What will we do when our wonderful source of light and heat, the sun, good old Sol, begins to expand in about 7 billion years or so and swallows up Terra-Firma, having previously burned off the oceans?
With our wonderfully expanded consciousness we may have already planned for the eventual demise of our star. Many years previous to such an event, which would be preceded by many early signs, we might have already constructed immense vessels, so large as to contain the entirety of humanity. Using such vessels we would travel, becoming a galactic entity rather than being confined to one small spot of the Universe. We might linger momentarily, watching the final death throes of our mighty star, then, separately no doubt, each ship containing a portion of humanity, would set out looking for habitable worlds, younger stars, perhaps seeding proto-worlds with life as we go.
The final hurdle, perhaps impassible, is the point where pockets of low entropy available within the Universe decline and disappear. Towards the end it could be imagined that within the Universe around remaining pockets of low entropy (Isaac Asimov concept), a humanity much different than now, might reside. These beings might have reached levels of intellect beyond our feeble imaginations now and could be capable of devising a way, inconceivable as it seems, to re-initiate the process, and begin the Universe anew.
Perhaps tomorrow someone will approach you with a hypodermic full of immortality. Would you accept it? Granted, life is boring on many levels, stressful presently, but if life could be made exciting, worthwhile, comfortable, would you take the chance? If it rejuvenated you as well as granting immortality, making you youthful forever, would you be interested? Is life immortal better than death eternal? Existence better than non-existence? Consciousness better than oblivion? Religious concepts of immortality aside.
Ancillary musings: Same source.
-Considerations in reference to the scenario where we have expanded our consciousness by utilizing a Wi-Fi connected memory storage device.
What if the mainframe went down due to some malfunction or power outage? Would we become, depending on how much of our actual personality is on the mainframe, raging hysterical screaming non-sentient crazy creatures until such time as service is restored?(There might have to be a default state, similar to sleep, which restricts movement) Backup facilities along with backup power supplies would seem a necessary preparation. Since actual mechanical devices seem prone to interference from outside electrical fields perhaps the storage facilities will have to be of organic construct. Immense brains, or masses of brain tissue, grown in large fluid filled containers, able to expand with need, would possibly solve the problem.
Would this Wi-Fi connected to the storage devices be hack proof? Imagine a species hi-jacked through such a means. Thorough encryption would be necessary.
-Large spacefaring vessels… Space exploration to planets around distant stars will require more than one life time. Perhaps space exploration should begin with the construction of moon sized spacecraft. The initial families will depart, knowing they will live their lives in their entirety within the vessel, and that it will be their descendants who will arrive, who knows where. (Would you sign up?) The spreading of humanity out into space is a necessity, lest, in one cataclysmic event, the whole of humanity ceases to exist.
Can you imagine the immense amounts of materials that would be needed for such a craft? We might be better off hollowing out the moon and sending it on it’s merry way. Perhaps we might use an asteroid from the belt between Mars and Jupiter, for the sake of those who find the moon romantic, or the tides necessary or useful. (They may have been necessary when life began)
-In reference to the hypodermic full of immortality? Suppose that rejuvenation wasn’t possible and only a cessation of the aging process were available? Would the elderly infirm even bother? Old forever?
Could the secret to immortality be as simple as an on and off switch within our DNA? If this was so then you would think by now, through evolution, there would have been at least one occurrence in nature. Maybe there has been and that individual has died in a useless war, or is in hiding.
-Universe re-creation? If our existence continued would the human race be perceived as Gods to any emerging sentient life-form? Any sufficiently advanced technology might seem as magic or as the supernatural by the less advanced. (Arthur C. Clarke, paraphrased)
Could this already have happened with another race?
I welcome any similar musings from any Life-form, android, robot. The only qualification being that you have reached a level of sentience at least the equivalent of the average human.
Time travellers: No spoilers please! Keep it to yourself.