Ray Kurzweil calls himself futurist, meaning that he knows how to predict the future of technology. Actually, what he does is adjusting his predictions as time passes, when he sees that they won’t be fulfilled, as I explained in a post on the horizon effect, which dealt with his predictions about artificial intelligence.
Lately, Kurzweil’s predictions have expanded their scope to medicine. One of his obsessions is that we are about to become immortal. At first he thought this would happen when we will be able to download our consciousness into the memory of a computer, and continue living inside it after our biological death. A few years ago, he predicted that this would take place before 2035.
No longer so confident in this prediction (2035 is around the corner), he now expect us to be immortal shortly before 2050, when he will be 102 years old, so that, by delaying the fulfillment of his prophecies, he begins to risk not to be able to see them.
In a widely publicized interview with Computerworld, Kurzweil now expects us to become immortal through the development of a family of nano-robots that will be injected into our blood and act as a new, much better than our original immune system, detecting and attacking all possible pathogens and cancer cells before they can affect us. Without diseases, we would be immortal. Let's look at a paragraph about that interview:
|Imaged prepared by Waquar Ahmad|
Futurist Ray Kurzweil said that anyone alive come 2040 or 2050 could be close to immortal. The quickening advance of nanotechnology means that the human condition will shift into more of a collaboration of man and machine, as nanobots flow through human blood streams and eventually even replace biological blood, he added. That may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but Kurzweil, a member of the Inventor's Hall of Fame and a recipient of the National Medal of Technology, says that research well underway today is leading to a time when a combination of nanotechnology and biotechnology will wipe out cancer…
That figure, 86% hits, is provided by Kurzweil himself, and in my opinion is far from being real, as Kurzweil usually does not score failures, just delays the date of his predictions. The headline of the story (Nanotech could make humans immortal by 2040, futurist says) would be more suitable if it had been replaced by the following: Ray Kurzweil delays by 10 years the date when we will attain immortality.
|Normal and cancer cells|
One must be very optimistic to think that in 30 years we will be able to design a better immune system than the one we acquired during a 1000 million years evolution, after a never ending arms race between multicellular beings on the one side, and pathogenic microorganisms and cancer cells on the other. Also remember that these organisms are quite capable to adapt to new situations very quickly, so they would probably find ways to escape from our nano-robots, whose software would have to be constantly changed to adapt to them. I think it probable that we will never be able to defeat them completely.
Finally, overcoming disease is not enough to achieve immortality, we must also stop aging. Otherwise, as I said in last month’s post, we would live for 100 or 110 years, and then die. Too many advances, to be achieved in just about 30 years.