Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

The thought of immortality is just doing my poor head in

This news just in: we're all going to be immortal by 2045. Better order some more milk. This really mucks up my plans. In 2045, I'll be 88, which means I'll be doomed to an eternity of right-wing opinions and micturating in my habiliments.

Actually, reading the small print, it says we won't need clothes in future. More on that shock news later.

Of course, not wishing to rile militant wrinklies, let me first acknowledge there are many 88-year-olds out there who are physically and mentally functional.

Still, it's surely arguable that, if you're going to be immortal, it'd be better when you're, say, 36, ie no longer young and daft, and not yet ossified.

The reason we're all going to be immortal is simple. Already I regret that sentence. But here goes: it's all down to computers.

By 2045, they'll be far more intelligent than us - incredible, I know; more intelligent than the species that draws up schedules for ITV - and it is yonder machines that will figure out how to stop us ageing and dying.

That's assuming they don't kill and eat us.

You don't have to take my word for this. Readers: "That's lucky." No, toppermost scientists say we're on the brink of humanity being changed, literally forever. You're thinking: "What's the catch?" Well, you wouldn't have a head or anything.

Imagine that. I don't want to sound sentimental, but I'm rather attached to my head. We've been through a lot together.

I can't see how, if computers can make us immortal, it has to be on condition that you don't get a head.

Worse than that, you won't even have a body. Hence, no need for underpants.

The body-less thesis is just one to emerge from The Singularity (I'll explain that in a minute, as soon as I find something to cut and paste), and is posited on the idea that we'll scan our consciousnesses into computers and, as Time magazine put it, "live inside them as software, forever, virtually".

At the time of going to press, I'm unable to confirm whether this means we'll still be able to go out for a pint.

A singularity, according to Time, is "a point in space-time - for example, inside a black hole - at which the rules of ordinary physics do not apply". I see. And the Singularitarians are a growing movement of brainy bods who now have their own university in Americashire.

Inspired by Raymond Kurzweil, bestselling author of The Singularity Is Near, they advise us to think outside the box - box, what box? - and wake up to the fact that, by 2045, the quantity of artificial intelligence will be a billion times the sum of human intelligence today. And that's including Katie Price.

The Singularitarians say there's nothing inevitable about death, and advise us to stop thinking linearly. Oh, all right.

Hang on, I'm going round in circles here. But even I can see this is going to have implications for religion and commerce (what'll happen to Markies if no one needs pants?).

Meanwhile, I'm going to treat my computer better, instead of calling it a useless electronic gewgaw and threatening to throw it out the window almost daily.

I've had a look round the back of it too. Still can't see where I'm supposed to put my head in.

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