Taking the Long View: Immortality and the Technological Singularity

Ken Wilber Audio, Conversations, Futurism, Perspectives, Science & Technology Leave a Comment

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The maximum average human life span is currently 82 years. Imagine if that were to double or triple over the next several decades! Then, consider the implications of human life being extending toward 1000 or 2000 years. What would your life be like now if you had been around to hang with Plato or Jesus, to witness the rise and fall of the great early empires, or to take part in the Renaissance or Enlightenment?

What would your life be like if we extended this forward in time instead of back? What if you lived for another few hundred or thousand years? Would you bear witness to the end of disease, the coming of an integral age, the creation trans-human cyborgs, the end of poverty, the enlightenment of the planet — or maybe even flying cars…?

Speculation of this variety forms the basis of this recent Loft Series talk, where Ken gives himself permission to geek-out on one of his favorite topics. But, to be clear, it’s not all conjecture; he’s fueled by recent anti-aging and longevity research reports, which, in addition to predicting lifespans beyond 200 years in just a few decades, also report no theoretical reasons preventing extensions into the thousands of years a few decades after that. In his typically humorous and sometimes flippant style, Ken riffs on the implications of such radical life extension. On the one hand, we’d face novel challenges: economic and lifestyle issues posed by a population that’s either employed (or retired) for hundreds of years, population management concerns, resource depletion, and the increased psychological stress from fear of accidental death, to name just a few. And on the other, novel affordances: a stronger impulse toward interior development, the end of degenerative disease, and, at some point, instantaneous access to all information.

Ken’s trans-human future scenario paints an alluring and frightening picture of a four-quadrant tipping point:

  • In the LR, we have Ray Kurzweil’s singularity, an asymptotic infinity of technologic convergence, predicted to occur in the next few decades;
  • In the LL, the oft-rumored ten percent tipping point of integral values, culture, and ideas;
  • In the UL, a rapidly expanding and deepening awareness of growth, transformation, and development through states and structures;
  • In the UR, disease-ending nanotechnology, radical life-extension, and human/computer interfaces borne from advancements in artificial intelligence.

Taken together it’s a picture of change, tetra-meshing across all four quadrants and fueled by the push of eros toward increased novelty and emergence. Whether this push is toward greater dignity or greater disaster is as of yet unknown, but chances are you might live long enough to find out.

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.

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