You may have heard techy types, or science fiction fans talk about something called the singularity. This refers to the supposedly coming point in time when machine and mankind will become one being, and we will achieve the next stage of our evolution. This is not necessarily a new idea. It has however been picking up steam as research into artificial intelligence and robotics expand exponentially every year.
The same people who advocate in favor of the singularity are not new themselves though. In fact, they belong to a group that goes back thousands of years. This group is the strange mingling of agnostics and non-believers who would try to make God’s of themselves and their fellow man. They seek enlightenment and immortality through the means of men, through earthly fallible things.
This isn’t much different than the ancient practice of alchemy. The lead is now the mortal body and the gold is now a more perfect machine that we can live in. There are any number of ways that are being pursued to achieve these ends. There is the idea of slowly supplementing our bodies with mechanical parts. This is probably the most benign, I would never argue against improving prosthetics, or denying patients in need pacemakers and similar life saving technologies. There is also a more sinister but logically similar pursuit, the ability to digitize the mind and then download it into a robotic form. If you would rather though some would even prefer that you just upload your mind into a computer and enjoy the paradise of a programmable artificial reality.
With an exception for life saving measures of the first approach, we should think seriously and skeptically about all of these pursuits. The fear that drive this research and development is all rooted in our mortality and the awareness of death that so few creatures seem to have. What purpose would our lives serve if we were to achieve this fusion of flesh and steel? Why would we want to exist into perpetuity? Death is certainly a scary thought, but can any of these actually allow us to escape it’s shadow either?
I do not want to die, and I would be confident wagering that most people do not. Even these technological solutions aren’t built proof however. Wouldn’t an EMP or a computer virus be the perfect genocide in such a world?
Hypothetically speaking say these were addressed though. We have achieved immortality through technology. Why would we want this? We lose the purpose and the thrill of living when we have no conclusion. All stories end eventually, nothing exists forever in the same former, nor is it meant to. Each of us gives way to a family and a legacy that already allows us the most immortality we should want. If we are forced to live forever I could foresee a hundred percent suicide rate. Part of the nature of consciousness is guilt. It is far better to live and die with a God that will forgive us than to live forever with the undeletable knowledge of all the evil we do through out the course of our lives.
It is more likely every month that we could see this singularity in our life times. I am not a Luddite. I am not opposed per se to technological advances. This being said, it is of the utmost importance that we have a civilizational conversation about what life is, and the value of death before we make the mistake of eradicating it all together.