Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Nanobots are Coming

Ray Kurzweil is a fitness freak. He takes 250 supplements every day, along with at least eight glasses of alkaline water. He also drinks 10 cups of green tea and measures a plethora of fitness indicators.

Kurzweil, a 56-year-old scientist and inventor, wants to live forever.

But his rigorous diet and exercise regimen are not supposed to do that for him. No, he just wants to live long enough, about 20 more years, so he can take advantage of what he predicts will be a new, life-extending technology. Within 20 years, Kurzweil says advances in nanotechnology, the science of the extremely tiny, will have permitted the creation microscope robots that can be injected into the bloodstream and repair any tissue.

Nanobots, as he calls them, which will be about the size of a red blood cell, can be injected by the millions into the bloodstream where they will go around and repair anything within us that is damaged. In addition, we will be able to upgrade our genetic code simply by downloading the latest version of it from the Internet. The nanobots can then install it for us.

So is Kurzweil a crackpot scientist?

Not at all. He's a recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize, a major achievement for inventors, and he won the 1999 National Medal of Technology Award. He is a published author, having written in several magazines, including TIME. He was even inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002. And he has written a book which is a combination of a guide on how to live a healthy lifestyle and an explanation of his human immortality prediction.

To be sure, some of his fellow scientists believe he may be a little overzealous. They hesitate to call him a quack, but they point out that his predictions may not be in line with current technological trends.

But Kurzweil has history on his side. In a 1990 book Kurzweil predicted the development of a worldwide computer network and of a computer that could beat a chess champion. Both of those predictions came true within his predicted time frame.

But even assuming Kurzweil is accurate in his predictions about extending human life indefinitely, would that really be a good idea? After all, the planet is overpopulated now in places. How would immortality figure into a population problem?

Kurzweil believes that technology will develop along ways that will be necessary in order to solve such future problems. He has almost total faith in technology to solve all our human needs if only we develop it openly and democratically.

And who would opt for this shot of immortality? Certainly not everyone. Although most people say they do not want to die, most people accept it as inevitable and would be loathe to extend their lives much beyond current limits.

Personally, I would be one of the first in line to join the nanobot bandwagon. Although, in practice, they wouldn’t guarantee immortality since they couldn’t prevent you from being hit by a truck, they at least would have the potential of doubling, even tripling, current life expectancies.

As long as the little buggers keep you healthy enough to enjoy it, why not live to see the future?

1 comment:

Alan Gray said...

Great post Jerry.

Kurzweil is a little strange, but aren't we all? I'm having so much fun doing what I do that I want to keep fit and healthy long enough to see if nanotechnology will live up to its promise.

For now, I'm looking after my diet and fitness, so another 20 to 30 years for me seems easily possible, but the question is - at 72 or 82, will I still feel the same way?

I hope so and my Low Carb Recipe site is helping me prepare.

I'm 52 and 175 pounds, non-smoker, no coffee or alcohol. (maybe I'll die of lack of vices).

Alan.