Immortality and Musk’s Millennial Hope
The quest for immortality continues. Instead of the fountain of youth in Florida, we’re looking for it in the labs of Silicon Valley…
Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, who before that made his riches after taking PayPal public in 2002, wants to merge human brains with computers. This is nothing new.
He launched a new company that will figure out how to implant electrodes in the human brain with hopes of downloading our thoughts and uploading new information. In other words, he wants us to access our brains just like we do our computer hard drives.
He thinks humans will be “left behind” by robots and computers as they become more intelligent — and we don’t. So he wants to install artificial intelligence in our brains to help us attain higher levels of function, according to this article. He wants to start out with using brain enhancements to heal brain diseases, then move on to bigger and better things.
These people say the first products could be advanced implants to treat intractable brain disorders like epilepsy or major depression, a market worth billions of dollars. Such implants would build on simpler electrodes already used to treat brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
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If Neuralink can prove the safety and efficacy of technology it develops and receive government approval, perhaps it then could move on to cosmetic brain surgeries to enhance cognitive function, these people say. Mr. Musk alluded to this possibility in his comments last June, describing how humans struggle to process and generate information as quickly as they absorb it.
“Your output level is so low, particularly on a phone, your two thumbs just tapping away,” he said. “This is ridiculously slow. Our input is much better because we have a high bandwidth visual interface into the brain. Our eyes take in a lot of data.”
THE TRUE PURPOSE OF THIS GRAIL QUEST
Google futurist Ray Kurzweil has held similar visions as Musk has for merging humanity with computers for years. He thinks that this is the future of computing — and humanity. He has written a book called The Singularity Is Near (2006). The “singularity” is the point in history in which people become so united with computers and technology that they become “superintelligent,” beyond which the advances of technology become so rapid that we are incapable of even conceiving of such a future.
It can be thought of as the point in which finite time and history become united with the infinite.
As explained in this article, “This singularity is also referred to as digital immortality because brains and a person’s intelligence will be digitally stored forever, even after they die.”
The foundation for such imaginative wonders is solid; computing power has been doubling every 18 months — what is called “Moore’s Law.” A real-world example of this phenomenon can be observed in the graphics power of the iPhone 5s released in 2013, which has one billion transistors. It has double the number of transistors in the iPhone 5, which was released in 2012.
Three years later in 2016, the iPhone 7 was announced as having 3.3 billion transistors. Three years provides two 18-month periods. Therefore, the iPhone 7 ought to have 1 x 2 x 2 = 4 billion transistors. At 3.3 billion, maybe Moore’s law is showing evidence of slowing down a bit as we approach its limits.
The question of translating our brains into the digital domain raises ethical questions for Christians. First, is it even possible? What about the soul — what happens to it in this sci-fi scenario?
Men may deny the virtue of the flesh, but Christ upholds it: we are all going to be given resurrection bodies after the Final Judgment. They will be real, physical bodies just as Christ possesses (1 Cor. 15:52, Luke 24:39).
The dualist imagines two realities: spirit and matter. The “spirit” is superior to the “matter.” But orthodox Christianity denies this dualism. God created the material as well as the spiritual. We are supposed to prayerfully take dominion over the material earth.
Our non-corporeal heavenly states, after death, but before the Resurrection, are temporary (2 Peter 1:13-14). The physical, resurrection body is forever (1 Cor. 15:54).
ESCAPE FROM REALITY, ESCAPE FROM RESPONSIBILITY
And this is the crucial point: Christianity teaches that unbelievers despise God and do not want to live their lives according to his rules, but they also want to avoid the Final Judgment. Siphoning your brain off into solid-state circuitry might seem to them to be a good way of escaping the Final Judgment. They desire immortality, but they desire it on their terms, not God’s. The Bible provides a description of how we will become immortal:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [1 Cor. 15:51-53]
The humanist doctrine of the singularity, the melding of mind and silicon, tries to replace that moment of change sounded at the last trumpet.
Numerous scenarios of lawlessness could become reality. Digital worlds would now look and feel just like the real world. We couldn’t tell the two apart — almost like the matrix. One need not think very hard at the depraved desires which could be pursued without recourse until the heat death of the universe snuffs everyone out (according to humanistic cosmic evolutionary theory).
The Bible contradicts this theory. It promises a different ending. After all people who ever have lived are resurrected, they will be judged before the great white throne. Anyone whose name isn’t found written in the book of life shall be thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death.
Silicon will melt in that hot place. Imperishable resurrection bodies will not.