A couple years ago I had the great opportunity to meet and interview the famous futurist Ray Kurzweil – called “Edison’s rightful heir” by Inc. magazine and one of the 16 “revolutionaries who made America” by PBS. Kurzweil has published numerous books – including “The Singularity is Near” and “How to Build a Mind“. One of his lasting positions relates to extending human life – perhaps to the point of living “forever”…
Kurzweil, as you may know has strong ties to music. After graduating from MIT and inventing a reading machine for the blind in the 70’s, he met up with Stevie Wonder – who challenged Kurzweil to build a musical instrument capable of reproducing acoustic instruments (the result was the legendary Kurzweil K250 in 1983*).
Kurzweil is an expert at “pattern recognition” (he’s currently Director of Engineering at GOOGLE. APPLE user? Kurzweil invented the speech recognition technology behind Siri), and over time, he has devoted a substantial amount of energy to the discussion of technologies capable of extending life (called by some “transhumanism“). To say he is obsessed with longevity would be an understatement. Some great movies based on this life-extension theme include: Transcendence, Elysium, Avatar, The Matrix, and Terminator.
When I met Kurzweil at his Waltham office in 2012, I was amazed. His office was packed with memorabilia worthy of kings – photos with past Presidents, international technology medals, a signed painting by Grace Slick, a framed cover of TIME magazine, awards and press clippings EVERYWHERE. It reminded me of the scene in Caddyshack where a visitor to Chevy’s home discovers un-cashed checks of tens of thousands of dollars..”keep it” is his nonchalant response. Kurzweil appears to view his accolades in the same light. (BTW – the 3-part interview was themed “Music Making: Past, Present, Future“).
So, this brings me back to the original question – would YOU want to live forever? I guess I think about these things more often these days. For me, mortality brings with it beauty and appreciation – it makes me stop and pay attention to those traveling along this journey with me. You may ask – “what if everyone can live forever?” – my response would still question the quality of this existence. Would we still value art? Would we value personal expression? What would happen to our natural resources? Where is God/spirituality in this discussion?
So, in the end, my original question opens up even more (unanswerable?) questions. It’s definitely interesting to think about, and I’d love to hear your thoughts – would YOU want to live forever?! What would you do with all that time!?