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Scientists Believe Death May Be Reversible Through Computers and Robots | Joel Eisenberg

The Singularity’s theoretical merger of man and machine is opening new doors of science and technology.

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Author’s Note

This article is based on technology and science postings, and related media reports. All linked information within this article is fully-attributed to the following outlets: LiveScience.com, Metro.Co.uk, Dr. Ian Pearson, Futurism.com, Stanford Computer Science, Villanova University, and NPR.org.

Introduction

In his September, 2021 article for LiveScience.com, entitled “Will Humans Ever Be Immortal?” writer Patrick Pester states: To live indefinitely, we would need to stop the body from aging. A group of animals may have already solved this problem, so it isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Hydra are small, jellyfish-like invertebrates with a remarkable approach to aging. They are largely made up of stem cells that constantly divide to make new cells, as their older cells are discarded. The constant influx of new cells allows hydra to rejuvenate themselves and stay forever young,

Scientists have been studying the hydra with increasing fervor of late, which subsequently has rejuvenated legitimate studies of the concept of immortality.

Further, as with science-based biological studies on the matter, technologists have reverted to the Singularity to explain the potential of consciousness surviving the death experience.

From Metro.Co.uk, in a March, 2020 piece by Jeff Parsons titled “Futurologist Claims Super Rich Will ‘Live Forever’ by Implanting Brains Into Robots,” the writer elaborates on potentially the next sci-tech frontier for our country’s billionaires: In the future, ultra-rich individuals will be able to transplant their brains into lifelike robots and achieve a level of immortality. That’s according to noted futurist Dr. Ian Pearson who explained that these billionaires will be able to fund special silicone-based robots with special abilities straight out of what we consider science fiction.

Pearson credits the speed of modern technology for his estimate of 2060 as being the year consciousness transfer becomes mainstream.

Regarding the Singularity concept proper, Futurism.com published “Singularity: Explain it to Me Like I’m 5-Years-Old,” by Roey Tzezana. The article discusses the two pioneers of the theory: scientist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, and inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, author of “The Singularity is Near.”

As excepted from the article: In his book The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil basically agrees with Vinge but believes the latter has been too optimistic in his view of technological progress. Kurzweil believes that by the year 2045 we will experience the greatest technological singularity in the history of mankind: the kind that could, in just a few years, overturn the institutes and pillars of society and completely change the way we view ourselves as human beings. Just like Vinge, Kurzweil believes that we’ll get to the Singularity by creating a super-human artificial intelligence (AI).

In today’s science and technology communities, the combination of the biological hydra’s figurative immortality and the Singularity’s theoretical merge of man and machine have brought forth the idea that we may well have the tools to continue a form of life… after death.

Let us explore further.

On Consciousness After Death

In “Downloading Consciousness,” contributing staff of Stanford Computer Science explain why they believe the technology for this purpose remains far in the future: Current research in the field approaches downloading consciousness through several avenues. Projects such as IBM’s Blue Brain attempt to model the brain using artificial neural networks. Another avenue is that of brain imaging. Current brain imaging uses scanning technologies to create detailed maps of the brain. Achieving downloaded consciousness will require a much greater level of detail than that provided by today’s brain-mapping technology.

Moral and religious issues regarding experimentation in this regard are omnipresent. Such issues have been ongoing for decades, well prior to our current technology. See here for an archived 1968 paper from Villanova University, “Between Life and Death: Ethical and Moral Issues Involved in Recent Medical Advances.”

From the paper, which offers a historical perspective on the power of the medical community: As a beginning we might say that good medicine regards the patient always as a person and not as a mere object of experimentation. It respects the person’s attitudes toward life and death; it is interested in the quality of life and not only in absolutizing mere vegetative survival. It considers the patient as a person whose life has philosophical and theological implications that cannot be ignored by the medical profession.

Finally, NPR.org, in their interview piece entitled “The Reluctant Immortalist,” touches on the ethical conflicts inherent in the meeting of science and technology while offering a mythic perspective of the hydra: “A new animal that eventually got the name hydra after the monster of Greek mythology, a serpent with regenerating heads that was so hard to kill, Hercules himself could not slay it alone. And as more and more scientists observed this thing, the rumors began to build that the real animal was so good at regenerating, its cells so freakishly good at repairing, that it really might be immortal.”

The NPR piece consists of a dialogue between scientists and zoologists.

The takeaway for modern-day science is that between studying the biology of the hydra, and our increasing technological capabilities that may one day allow for a transfer of consciousness, mankind may be on the verge of superseding the loss of the human body.

For now, this is still the stuff of science fiction, but science fiction historically has had a tendency to become science fact, which is representative of both the fear and promise of man-made life continuation.

Conclusion

Though the concept of surviving consciousness remains an ideal for some in the science and tech worlds, and a religious-based fear for some in the public who believe man should not encroach on the role of a deity, nonetheless the field is receiving increasing attention.

Time will prove if Kurzweil and others who share the belief — and concerns — of continuing a form of life are correct in their assessment, or mere fantasists.

Thank you for reading.

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