Someday when the world is much brighter

My good friend (and future roommate) Mike Z. has been on me for awhile to download a recent Diane Rehm episode devoted to futurist Ray Kurzweil and his book The Singularity is Near. Tonight I relented and I’m glad I did.

For one thing, I always take pride in accomplishments by people named Ray. Even, begrudgingly, Ray Romano.

For another, the future is a topic of some interest to me. Particularly, a sooner-then-you-think future in which robots fundamentally alter what it means to be human. So you can imagine my joy at hearing a intelligent-sounding guy named Ray prognosticate about how nano technology will end mortality as we know it within 15 years.

Now you might think that, for me, that experience was a little like the choir streaming a podcast of the preacher’s latest sermon, but I have to say this has actually radically altered my point of view. Previously, I’ve thought the coming tidal wave of sentient robots would spell certain doom (and gloom) for us lowly biological lifeforms. Yet, despite the fact that Kurzwiel is neither an optimist or a pessimist, he’s got me imagining a spectacularly positive future.

Because, if you think about it, the quality of life that we humans have been able to achieve for ourselves so far merely on the strength of our brainpower has been pretty damn good. And the increase in that QoL has been exponential, just as exponential as our technological growth. In fact, I’d bet dollars to donuts that if you chart those two curves over the course of human history, they’d look absolutely identical.

So given that we will soon be able to amplify our intelligence to the point where our biological brains look downright puny, I don’t think it’s wishful thinking at all to believe that within 15 years we’ll have cured cancer, AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, and eliminated aging and death of natural causes. And when that’s happened, I see no reason why we can’t also instantaneously eliminate poverty, famine, and war.

After all, when we can all live forever — when infinite youth, not death, is as sure as taxes — why would we do anything other than pursue our passions and follow our collective dreams?