On two assumptions:
- As long as humans exist, we will want to live longer. This seems like a natural consequence of neo-Darwinist understanding of evolution. Perhaps there’s a way for genes to replicate without human longevity, but I doubt it.
- Given indefinite time, technology will tend to improve in the long term. This prediction does not hold up in the short term – many times in human history progress was lost. But on the net, whenever society has allowed for progress, in the Antiquities, during the Enlightenment, and in the late 20th century to now, the pace of improvement in technology has been enough to offset those moments of regression. Technology will continue to improve.
Given these two assumptions, there are only two possible fates of the species:
- We will go extinct, and be unable to pursue technological progress, or…
- We will invent immortality.
If physics permits it, either we will learn to live forever, or we will die out before we find it.
I think this is an interesting inevitability, not just for its direct implications, but because you can also make a similar case for lots of other advancements in quality of life that humans naturally want, like a cure for cancer or ever-faster ways of traveling.
I think we should measure our technological and societal progress against these truly universal rules of progress, against what is fundamentally possible, rather than what is possible in the near term, because our intuitions of the latter tend to be quite wrong. It’s hard to predict what knowledge we will discover, and it’s relatively easy to predict what’s possible by currently known laws of nature. From this perspective, we are only scratching the surface of where we can be as a species of technology and masters of nature.
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