A Technobiological Renaissance is Shifting Immortality from a Philosophical Issue to a Serious Social Issue

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Vision examines the predictions of futurologists such as Ray Kurzweil who believe that advances in technology will allow humans to transcend their biology. Will these achievements bring us immortality or destruction??

Technology and immortality have a lot in common these days, if you look at new virtual reality communities like Second Life with close to 2 million real people who are leading virtual lives online there. Perhaps these folks, clamoring to live in a world of cyborgs, have already begun to transcend into the world of immortality, a social issue that has captured people's imaginations for centuries. The question now is - could a technobiological renaissance save us, or destroy us?

One leading British neuroscientist and Oxford professor of pharmacology, Baroness Susan Greenfield believes that, in this century, machines will eclipse humankind not only in brute mental prowess but also as broad-minded, deep-thinking.

In an article written by David Lloyd for vision.org titled, "And They all Lived Technologically Ever After," the author points out that how we live today in the Western world has been transformed by innovations -- from cars and airplanes to telephones, personal computers, the Internet, and now robotics and sophisticated medical procedures.

It's true that life expectancy has risen more than one year every five years for the last ten years. People born at the turn of the 20th century lived an average of 47.3 years, according to tables published by the National Center for Health Statistics, while those born in 1950, however, can expect to live 68.2 years. Anyone born in 2003 or after can look forward to 77.6 years of life.

Lloyd explores how futurologists such as Ray Kurzweil believe technology is speeding up exponentially, and therefore about to challenge the notion of mortality itself. Touted as one of the foremost inventors of our time, Kurzweil's most recent national best-selling book which he coauthored with Terry Grossman, entitled The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), has received widespread acclaim. In it he argues not only that machines will surpass human processing capacity, and thus become the most significant intelligent force on earth, but that this dramatic change is imminent.

But not only are machines changing dramatically but humans are also poised to evolve in remarkable ways according to Kurzweil. He believes that humans are on the brink of transcending their biology and that the final two of six epochs of human evolution lie ahead of us. Will these exponential strides in technology and bio-engineering allow humans to find the keys to immortality?

Lloyd and Vision are taking a look at just how this might change the world's perception of immortality and enlightenment. After all, the allure of living an eternal life has been around since the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known literary work on earth.

As Lloyd points out in his article, Kurzweil, an IT specialist, claims that the humanity of the future will not be constrained by physical or mortal limitations, and that the fifth and imminent epoch will mark the merger of technology and human intelligence, in that computer processing power and computer intelligence will be so immense that unenhanced human intelligence will be essentially outmoded. In other words, he and other scientists and futurologists seem to agree that once computers reach a certain point, they will be capable of artificial evolution and will take over the running of the planet in some respects.

The Bible has long warned that humanity will eventually progress into the deepest of trouble. For example, the New Testament foretells, "great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved" (Matthew 24:21-22). These are the recorded words of Jesus of Nazareth. He forewarned that humans would bring the species to the brink of annihilation. According to these words, were it not for God's intervention, the last "epoch" in our "evolution" would be destruction by our own hand. It's not hard to imagine that these rapidly developing new technologies might play a significant role in that scenario.

In the end, Lloyd tells us that the purpose of such warnings from scripture are not meant to scare us with nightmarish apocalyptic visions so we will be frightened into a self-centered "salvation." Rather, he notes in the verses that follow, we are encouraged in such a world to "watch" (Greek, gregoreuo--see Matthew 24:36-44; 25:1-13). The meaning is "to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one" or, metaphorically, to "give strict attention to, be cautious, active" (Enhanced Strong's Lexicon).

The scriptures invite each and every one of us to focus on our personal responsibilities and behavior in order to rescue us from the destruction that could otherwise overwhelm humanity. Immortality is no longer just a theoretical subject confined to the realm of religion and philosophy. Science has stolen the show from theologians and is making eternal life a real social issue that requires a deep moral and ethical discussion.

Contact: Edwin Stepp
Director of Development
Vision Media Productions
476 S. Marengo Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101
Phone (24 hrs): 626 535-0444 ext 105


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