What happens when “Beam Me Up” becomes a thing of the past?


Scene from R.U.R. 1921

Here’s a headline that should catch our attention, “Google-Backed Singularity University to Hasten End of Human Race.” The crust of this article talks about the next generation of nanotechnology, the physics of black holes and the possibility of cyborgs becoming the norm. What is the concept of singularity? The author of this article gives this example: “Imagine an iPod Shuffle the size of a grain of sand implanted directly into your brain which writes its own music which is already mocked by your friends as out of date.” Perhaps the science fiction play by Karel Čapek (1890-1938), R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) that premiered in 1921, ushering a new word, “robot,” was not so far off. Of note is that Čapek wrote a different kind of science fiction that was less monster and more “think of the possibilities.”

Singularity University’s “mission is to assemble, educate and inspire leaders who understand and develop exponentially advancing technologies to address humanity’s Grand Challenges.” So what does that mean to those of us who are still trying to figure out how to shuffle our Frank Sinatra and Dizzy Gillespie tunes on our iPod? What are the Grand Challenges that we face as human beings? Can life be “life” without the four stages of birth, age, sickness and death that, up to this point, no one has been able to escape?

Perhaps SU’s grand challenges focus more on the quality of the four stages of life and not necessarily “immortality.” I cannot imagine replacing human spirit; especially compassion. And maybe that’s happening. SU plans to unveil “FutureMed” at a special conference this May that will focus “on game-changing exponential technologies which will revolutionize the practice of medicine and radically transform healthcare and the biomedical industry in the decade ahead.” With the cost of healthcare spiraling beyond our reach, new and innovative ways of treatment – and diagnosis – is long overdue.

As for becoming cyborgs and such, I think the Chairmen of the Board said it best.

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