The coronavirus may have you thinking about your mortality. At the end of the day, humans only have one life on this planet. Even more so, we are pretty fragile, prone to disease, destructive, and a bit stubborn. Since the beginning of time, humans have longed for “eternal life," - the ability to extend one’s life and youth far beyond its current limits. Nevertheless, you have to give humans their props for increasing their species life expectancy across the board over the last 200 years.
For the uninitiated, life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a particular age. Yet, as you are probably already wondering, how long can humans live? According to Our World in Data, the average life expectancy is 72.6 years. Yet as you are probably aware, there are select groups of people across the world, especially in wealthier nations, that have well exceeded this number. Some people have gone on to live 100 years, 110 years, and even beyond, with Jeane Calment of France living 122 years and 164 days.
But can humans live even longer? If you could, how long would you want to live? 200 years? 500 years? Maybe a full millennium? Though this might seem like a bit of science fiction, technology could advance to the point where humans could live forever. In fact, some futurists argue that if you make it to 2050, you are probably not going to die. So, stay inside, please.
Do you want to live forever?
Futurist Dr. Ian Pearson has gone on to argue that by using the power of technology, humanity might be able to merge our minds with machines, making our bodies obsolete. You could end up attending your own “body funeral.” Pearson paints the picture of this future, stating, “One day, your body dies, and with it, your brain stops, but no big problem, because 99% of your mind is still fine, running happily on IT, in the cloud. Assuming you saved enough and prepared well, you connect to an android to use as your body from now on, attend your funeral, and then carry on as before, still you, just with a younger, highly upgraded body.”
And this is just the beginning, beyond 2050, there could be many different ways you may be able to preserve your mind and consciousness. Humans might just switch to different humanoid bodies after a certain period the same way you might buy a new car with new features. Or thanks to projects like Neuralink, your mind may just be a few simple clicks away from downloading yourself into a computer or robotic body. Maybe thousands of years from now, all of humanity may decide it is better for humans to live in a massive megastructure that practically generates our own reality.
Today that is what we are going to explore. There is plenty of technology out there that could potentially change the entire direction of humanity, posing the question; will humans eventually be able to live forever?
You could live in a brand new android body
Like most of the things on this list, this sounds like something out of a science fiction film. Yet people like University of Southern California’s Theodore Berger, Duke University’s Mikhail Lebedev, and Alexander Kaplan of Moscow University, all believe it’s possible. There are already companies out there working on ways to link our minds to machines. At the moment, there are more practical reasons for this. like offering those who have mobility disabilities the ability to live more normal and fulfilling lives.
However, it can go even further than that. “The mind will be in the cloud, and be able to use any android that you feel like to inhabit the real world,” says Pearson. It could get to a point in which you can hire an android body for the day. Rather than travel to Jamaica, just upload your brain to an android stationed in Jamaica. Or maybe there is a great concert that you want to see, but the band is in another city thousands of miles away. You may be able to simply upload yourself to experience the show. The result of this is that humans may never need a fleshy body again.
3D printing limbs and organs
3D printing has come a long way, virtually impacting almost every major industry across the world, including healthcare. Just in the past couple of years, researchers from separate organizations and private institutions have found ways to 3D print organs. A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel unveiled a 3D printed heart with human tissue and vessels just last year.
Companies like Skorpio Medical have gone as far as to begin research in the realms of 3D printed limbs. In the near future, you may be able to simply renew a body part when it goes bad. Your body gets more and more limited as you get older. Advances in biotechnologies could put an end to this. Even more so, genetic engineering could eventually prevent the aging of cells or completely reverse it altogether. Lose a finger? Simply print a new one? Need a new arm? Call up a doctor and have them reinstall one.
Cryogenic freezing has its fair share of skeptics, but over the years, the scientific community has slowly embraced the idea. Now, you cannot freeze yourself yet and wake up, but there could be a future in which you simply put your body on ice for extended periods of time to be awakened on a given date or time.
This could come in handy during trips to distant planets hundreds of light-years away. Nevertheless, cryogenic freezing is simply an option for people who want to freeze their bodies when they pass away with the aims of bringing them back during a time period where science makes it possible. However, there is some research that centers around using cryonics to slow tissue aging.
Creating a virtual world
You have probably heard it before, but we are probably living in a virtual world, at least that is one people who buy into simulation theory believe. However, in the coming age of electronic immortality, living in the virtual world may become an alternative to living in the current one. Think of it like that episode of San Junipero from the popular Netflix series Black Mirror. Perhaps in the future, androids are extremely expensive, but the cheaper alternative is to have some humans uploaded into a cloud-based virtual reality system, a place where you could spend all eternity living in peace with an avatar of your choosing. Most people already “live on the internet,” so in most cases, it is just a matter of time?
But, what could come after creating a virtual world? Though this could happen far beyond 2050, we are talking thousands of years; it could be possible. In short, humanity might be able to simulate reality on a universal scale using what is known as a matrioshka brain. Based on the Dyson sphere, a matrioshka brain is a hypothetical megastructure proposed by Robert J. Bradbury. The idea was proposed when imagining the type of highly advanced civilizations that are out there in the universe as this would be an impressive Class B stellar engine, employing the entire energy output of a star to drive computer systems.
Our entire species could be uploaded on this computer system able to simulate reality and remake the universe as we know it. Though this idea may seem far from reality, the idea of uploading the mind to a computer seemed like a distant fantasy at some point.
Humans can evolve into cyborgs
One of the lesser-known projects that Elon Musk is working on centers around the star-up Neuralink. The company has ambitious plans to directly link brains and computers using a simple, noninvasive device that we can install in our brains. The current fascination with brain-computer interface centers around helping those with neurological mobility issues. However, Musk’s project extends far beyond that. The eventual goal is to create a "digital superintelligence layer" to link humans with artificial intelligence. As stated in the Neuralink San Francisco presentation, "Ultimately, we can do a full brain-machine interface where we can achieve a sort of symbiosis with AI."
But why stop there? Developments in robotics and prosthetics could open the gates to human-robot hybrids. You may be able to simply go in for a procedure to get bionic eyes, a robotic arm, new legs, etc., all with features that suit your needs and wildest dreams. Just like a toolbox, you could be able to switch out different arms, fingers, and legs for different activities.
Do you think it will be possible for humans to live forever? Share your opinion in the comment section.