Merely a century ago it was considered unnecessary for surgeons to wash their hands before performing surgery because the link between germs and infection was unknown. Today, researchers at numerous research institutions such as Princeton and the California Institute of Technology have already succeeded in programming living cells to act as computers. Given the rapidly increasing pace of technological development, it seems possible to me that there will be a point in the future when we will be able to download human consciousness onto alternative hardware, thus expanding its lifespan. When discussing this idea with the octogenarians I meet while volunteering at the old folks home, I refer to this specific point in time as “Genesis 2.”
Before Genesis 2 there will be “the Age of Hybrids” and nothing gets old people more excited than the thought of bed. The Age of Hybrids involves the coupling of human life and technology but in a manner whereby consciousness still resides within the human body. We are already in this age. Today we have the technology to connect a robotic leg to nerve endings such that the prosthetic can be controlled by the human brain. Similarly, it is possible to route Mr. Hildebrand’s hearing aid directly to his brain, but he refuses to take off his hat. As the Age of Hybrids continues, we will see the predominance of technologies that not only help the disabled perform tasks the same tasks as the abled, but that will help all humans achieve tasks that no human could previously perform. Night vision lenses and the development of exoskeletons are examples of this type of “late hybrid” technology available today. Zimmerframes are not.
Genesis 2, the next step of human evolution will be characterized by networks of uploaded consciousnesses that give new meaning to the phrase “think-tank.” These networks will sell knowledge to those still in human hardware in the same way as McKinsey today sell their accumulated experience in a multitude of commercial quandaries to those experiencing them for the first time. Consequent profits will pay to expand the network and provide returns to investors. At home too, the advanced understanding of human consciousness, necessary to achieve Genesis 2, will facilitate the creation of multiple virtual realities to which we will joyfully escape in our free time with the same facility with which we today disappear into Civilization III. But running the clock forward, can such “think-tanks” and “virtual realities” survive without real life albeit hybrid customers and investors? As Mr. Hildebrand says during his proctology exam “where’s the money?”