It was in the paper this morning. A number of techie billionaires are trying to find a way to extend life to at least 150 years, if not forever. Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, is quoted as saying, "Death has never made any sense to me. How can a person be there and then just vanish, just not be there?" Their objective, according to the newspaper article, is to "use the technological tools with which they created an information revolution to upgrade what they consider to be the most complicated piece of machinery in existence: the human body."
I had to look at the cover of the newspaper. For a moment, I thought I was reading The Onion.
There's something wrong with this picture, no matter how you look at it. Fortunately, the bioethicists agree with me. Even Bill Gates thinks their priorities are screwy. I foresee some challenges if this ever comes to pass. (though I'm confident it won't come to pass)
I hope, as these techies are donating millions so they can live and tech on forever, they are also looking at ways to make the planet live on forever. If not, they'll have to work on the ability to colonize other planets.
Now they are embracing Peter Thiel's (cofounder of Paypal) plan for a floating city in the middle of the ocean outside the reach of any human government. I'm sure he'd be relieved to hear I'm not interested in joining them. My idea of Utopia definitely would not be living with a group of wealthy immortals.
Even if you just live to be 150, when do you retire? Are you planning to work till you're 120? Peter has an answer to this, too. He feels people stop trying because they think they don't have enough time: "Because they are 85. But that 85-year-old could have gotten four PhD's from 65 to 85, but he didn't do it because he thought he didn't have enough time."
I don't need to comment on that one.
In the United States, our life expectancy is already better than that of 161 other countries. There are also 41 countries whose inhabitants can expect to live longer than we do, but the difference between our #42 (79.56) and the #1 country (Monaco at 89.57) is only ten years. If we lived in Chad, we could expect to live only to age 49. We're not doing so badly as it is.
These billionaires may think they are doing good for everyone, but it seems to me it would become one more way to divide the rich and the rest of us. Not everyone will be able to afford these human upgrades. Heck, most of us can't afford the tech upgrades. The last automatic upgrade we went through was called puberty. As upgrades go, it had some nice features, but it messed up the rest of the system for a number of years while we figured it out.
In some countries, technology is cheap. I know of people living in poverty in Nepal and India who have cell phones, but they do not have clean water. It seems to me, spending millions of dollars to find a way for billionaires to live forever cheapens human life. What would happen if Peter, Larry & Co would, instead, spend the time, energy, and expertise to find a way to keep our planet alive and healthy so there will be a place for humans to live?
What if they would spend their money to help all people on this earth have easier, better lives in the time we are given?
I prefer a different kind of immortality.