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Live forever, folks?

india Updated: Sep 26, 2009 22:11 IST
Indrajit Hazra

Has the idea of immortality struck you as something you can handle? Remember, it not only means that you never get to die, but it also means you having to keep yourself active enough forever so that you don’t get bored. As always, in case of emergency, there will be the bottle of sleeping pills option at hand. It’s just that natural death will no longer be inevitable.

Why such silly thoughts on such a happy day? Well, because Ray Kurzweil, a man whom Bill Gates considers to be the “smartest futurist on Earth”, has predicted that by 2029 — a paltry nine years after A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's annus mirabilis (no that doesn’t refer to Beyonce’s bottom) of 2020 and a mere five years after, if Sheila Dikshit’s long-term planning goes off well, Delhi hosts the 2024 Olympic Games — nano-technology will allow humans to destroy all the things like disease and organ failure that ultimately kill us if we take care not to be run over by a bus.

Kurzweil is a pioneer in text-to-speech technology who made a handsome package by developing high-end scanning devices that read out words and sentences. Not quite the regular Faust with a direct line to the Devil. Part of Kurzweil’s vision is stapled to what he calls his ‘Law of Accelerating Returns’ — which sounds like something that a banker thought up of in a particle physics experiment but is really about a ‘billion-fold increase in technological capability for the same costs in the next 25 years’.

To cut a very long story short, Kurzweil talks about blood-cell-sized nanobots — not to be confused with super-disciplined Tata Motors employees — now being tested on animals and in a few years time going into human bodies zapping tumours, cleaning up blood clots, operating on organs from inside. Effectively, sending the body (the brain included) for regular servicing and (optional) upgradations.

That sounds all very Hugh Hefner and Asimov. But my only problem is that this Kurzweil fellow has gone on record wanting to construct a genetic copy of his dead dad from the DNA inside his grave. And that’s not all — this clone will be retrofitted, says this very optimistic version of Woody Allen, with his late father’s memories as according to what the son, er, remembers him remembering.

I frankly don’t know enough about what state the science of immortality is now in. And I have a feeling my father wouldn’t quite like it at all if I refit his clone with my memories of his memories after he’s gone to the Great Lamplit Messy Study in the Sky. But here are five quick problems I see if people do decide to forego dying:

* Dying will be seen as an anti-social activity and people ending up dead, either by accident or by choice, will be seen as irresponsible people who should be put on life row.

* Sri Sri Ravi Ravi Shankar Shankar will have to switch to the telecom or the high-end silk brocade industry as the Art of Living programme will shut shop, as living a good life will become fantastically easy, once minor vices no longer pose as health threats. Big tobacco, in the meantime, will rid itself of any guilt — and lawsuits.

* Terrorists — Libyan or otherwise — won’t ever be freed on compassionate grounds. In fact, there will be a rising consensus in support of the death sentence for all kinds of crime, including, picking pockets, as life will become cheaper than it is now (yes, even in Uttar Pradesh).

* A global housing problem will result in a subprime crisis on a gigantic scale that will escalate prices to such an extent that the quality of life will plummet and everyone will kill each other.

* Economist John Maynard Keynes will look like a silly dead fool for saying, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”
Have a fab Durga Puja and Dussehra! Live long and prosper.