Never say, "Never say never."

by phil on Thursday Oct 7, 2010 5:31 PM

Immortality machines

I had another sci-fi thought today. In 1971, the decorated Vietnam veteran John Kerry asked the Senate, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Today, I wonder, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die, ever?"

The experimental rock band Tortoise has an album titled, Millions Now Living Will Never Die. I like to ask futurists whether that's true or not. If it is true, how many millions? Anybody under the age of what? 5? What if it's 27 (one year younger than me)? I don't want to be part of the last mortal generation dammit! Ray Kurzweil believes that anybody around 50 years old today has a chance to live forever. The idea is that average life expectancy is increasing by 0.4 years every year. But that rate is also increasing, and soon it will be half-a-year every year, and then 0.6, and so on until life expectancy increases by more than a year every year.

If there was an immortality machine with limited capacity, would there be rationing? Would there be riots?

Perennial problems

I like how in Minority Report, which is supposed to be set in the future, the common cold still hasn't been cured. Some people like to think about enduring products, I like to think about enduring problems. For example, I just spent 10 minutes contorting my body while untangling cables in order to hook up a DVD player to a HD TV. I predict that in 2020, this won't be fixed. In fact, it'll be worse. Grandma still won't be able to use the remote control.

Innovation vs. the Government

My dad has an interesting idea that deals with both the housing crisis and immigration. He said, "Why don't we give a green card to anybody who is willing to buy a home. There are all these people in India, who are saving up hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a home in the crowded cities of India, and they'd love to pick up any of the US foreclosures and get a green card at the same time." Unfortunately that's the kind of brilliant idea that's weird enough to work, but lacking a large enough scope to interest any American politician. There's probably a hundred small ideas like that, if lumped together, would be the equivalent to some giant economic recovery bill. But unfortunately politics doesn't operate like Google, where little ideas get incubated, nurtured, and then massively supported. Innovation and politics are like water and oil. In which case, I can sympathize with the aversion to Big Government.

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