Let’s talk about immortality because it’s not achievable without taking AI into consideration…
It was saturday and I was listening to Leo Laporte talking to callers on his Tech Guy radio show and then I have heard him speaking advertisement about 23AndMe – DNA testing company, telling listeners that genes is what makes uniquely you.
That’s funny because previously, just couple minutes before that spoken advertisement, Leo was speaking to a caller and recommended 2-factor authentication to internet services and said that two-factor authentication (2FA) is a method of confirming user’s identity by utilization of 2 different factors: 1) something the users know, and 2) something they have or something they are!
So who you are? Are you your genes? It can’t be because neural network in your brain learns new stuff that is not in your genes. One could say definitely and literally: you are your body, consisting of both inherited traits (genetics) and acquired stuff from environment.
Some people could argue that you are not your body but you are your mind, or you are what you have created like kids or art or science or engineering, etc., but as Woody Allen said: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” In other words: metric for achieving true immortality is your body not dying because there is no technology yet to transfer your mind to cyberspace.
Couple hours before listening to Leo’s radio show I bought Saturday edition of The New York Times. Usually I don’t buy this newspaper, it was pure serendipity: usually I buy Financial Times, but it was sold out. However it paid off: in that issue of The New York Times there was article “The Men Who Want to Live Forever”.
This article, combined with Leo’s mention of DNA and 2FA, inspired me to write this blog post.
The reality nowadays is that several billionaires have 2 hobbies: one is owning property/houses in New Zealand and citizenship of that remote but safe country just in case big catastrophe would happen in USA, and second one: investing millions in immortality research. Some people even believe that with existing techniques like injecting stem cells or gene therapy they can achieve immortality or extensive prolongation of life even now – what’s not correct though.
There is naive belief that aging can be boiled down to shortening telomeres. So: the name of the company 23AndMe stems from the fact that humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes – a thread-like structures that look like letter X (see image above attached to this blog post) and that hold genetic code in form of DNA. Telomeres are compound structures at the end of chromosomes (visible in color green in the attached picture). Purpose of telomeres is to protect chromosomes from deterioration or from merging with other chromosomes. With age, telomeres deteriorate and thus body dies, so some people believe that by preventing this damage of telomeres, aging can be stopped and it may enable immortality. However the truth is that more would be needed as with age, apart from telomere shortening, also increasingly more and more gene mutations take place and accidentally mutated genes can stop functioning properly and can cause death.
So what does it all has to do with Artificial Intelligence?
Well, exactly, everything. Because soon absolutely everything will have something (or a lot) to do with artificial intelligence.
Here are my thoughts how Artificial Intelligence relates to immortality:
- it may well be that only scientific discoveries and understanding provided by AI can create or enable gene therapies or controlled reprogramming of human DNA that would lead to immortality. It’s not far-fetched too as already now first scientific discoveries made by AI have been achieved: NASA used Google’s Machine Learning to discover exoplanet. In future it may well be that AI will be dominating also science by discoveries that non-augmented humans will not be able even to grasp/understand.
- upload of human mind to cyberspace would de-facto mean that AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) with sentience would be achieved by AI and could provide immortality – as side effect. The only question would be whether this upload of human mind would be destructive for human body? Such upload would be achieved either by nanobots in human brain attaching to neurons in brain and “observing them” or by external deep scan of human brain. Note however that some people would argue that such upload of mind wouldn’t be true immortality because physical body and uploaded mind would be separate entities.
- 3rd aspect of immortality related to Artificial Intelligence is singularity: even if all those billionaires will succeed in achieving physical immortality, this might come to naught as post-singularity AI might terminate mankind, just like mankind terminates several species of animals by simply not really thinking that they are important. In other words: any striving or planning out to achieve immortality that is not considering upcoming singularity – is incomplete and naive. This blog post is not about how mankind could survive singularity but from the point of immortality it was important to mention singularity nonetheless.
Conclusion: it is very likely that mankind will be able to achieve immortality only thanks to AI but it is also absolutely certain that to maintain immortality long-term mankind will have to find a way to survive emergence of post-singularity AI.