It is 2019 and practically everything we do on a day-to-day basis in our personal and professional lives is reliant on technology. Much of this technology is very recent. However, even tech that is a decade old is now so ingrained into our way of life that we cannot imagine what it would be like without it, and tech that is a hundred years old might as well be several thousand years old. Technology is advancing faster than most of us can wrap our heads around.
The Warp Speed of Technology
As noted by The Emerging Future, “Every twelve to eighteen months, computers double their capabilities, and so do the information technologies that use them. Governments and the largest companies in the world use Ray Kurzweil’s historical trends of exponential growth charts for predicting the future.” That chart is also known as representing the law of accelerating returns:
An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The “returns,” such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light. (Source).
These theories, developed in the very early 21st Century, have some pretty serious and real world implications for the way we at TSLMS approach our work in the industry and the educational opportunities we plan at SCALE Music City.
Human Aging and Technology
The same genius, and frequent award winner, Kurzweil suggested as recently as just a couple of years ago that there would be three technologies that will be the defining factors of our future. Each of these are intertwined with what all of us do on a daily basis.
Of all the technologies riding the wave of exponential progress, Kurzweil identifies genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics as the three overlapping revolutions which will define our lives in the decades to come. In what ways are these technologies revolutionary?
- The genetics revolution will allow us to reprogram our own biology.
- The nanotechnology revolution will allow us to manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic scale.
- The robotics revolution will allow us to create a greater than human non-biological intelligence.
While genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics will peak at different times over the course of decades, we’re experiencing all three of them in some capacity already. Each is powerful in its own right, but their convergence will be even more so. Kurzweil wrote about these ideas in The Singularity Is Near over a decade ago. (Source).
Interestingly, in 2013 there was a lot of buzz about whether Kurzweil himself is the recipient of plastic surgery – people kept noting that he looked younger and younger. The jury is out on whether he did or did not have work done (and we have no special insight into the facts). However, the man did suggest that in a very short time period from now these technologies will, in fact, change the way we age, as noted in this TED Talk:
Ray Kurzweil, in his best-selling book Transcend: nine steps to living well forever, explains what we can do today to achieve an indefinite lifespan. “By 2024,” Kurzweil says, “biotech upgrades will add more than one year of life expectancy to our lives each year.” Experts predict that older people may soon enjoy a disease-free indefinite lifespan with only accidents and violence as the primary causes of death. But the concept of enhancing bodies to reject aging causes some to ponder. On one end, human nature includes a natural instinct to improve oneself. On the other end though, it is through natural human form that we perceive ourselves. Conservatives believe that eliminating the ‘older look’ in our senior citizen populations could risk undermining our identity and dignity as human beings.
Nevertheless, advocates counter that no one wants to suffer the pain and agony of growing old with failing health; and Kurzweil reminds us that we are the species that always seeks to extend our abilities.
Throughout history, improvements in healthcare, diet, and environment have resulted in an increased average human lifespan. Today, healthy people can expect to live into their 80s and beyond, but advances predicted for the 2020s could enhance health and extend life to an indefinite time. During this next decade, positive futurists see an era of huge excitement for science and great hope for humanity.
The smart, sexy, strong years, once thought long lost, might soon be recaptured as we move closer to this future time. We will soon have at our disposal an awesome array of innovative medical technologies that promise to improve health and provide us with a lifespan that will one day approach immortality. Will abilities to extend life progress like this? Stem cell advances, genetic breakthroughs, bio-printing, and medical nanotechnology discoveries occur almost daily. Most positive futurists agree: “The dream of a stronger, healthier, younger-looking you by 2024 can and will be realized.”
In fact, it is no longer a shocker or even a serious cause of note to most people when they see that someone is celebrating a 100th, or greater birthday. Living into ones 90s is becoming quite normative and today there are over 70,000 centenarians living in the United States alone! The US is the leader in 100+ population count, with Japan second and the UK increasing their own very senior population by 7% a year(Source).
People not only want to live longer, they want to live better, and more beautifully, longer. This is where our industry can play a part.
The Technology We Need To Invest In
We hate to admit that we are totally smitten by Kurzweil, but we can 100% admit that the man has a point. He is a futurist and has looked closely at the technology of today, the technology of the future and how human desire to live longer intersects with said technology. In our estimation, any technology that gets us closer to mastering weiling the genetic code, all things nano, and the automation of robots are a safe bet. As these technologies emerge in ways that intersect with our industry we will work to keep you in the loop and bring the conversations out front. Afterall, none of us quite know what the future will bring but we all have a pretty good window into its exponential advancement.