During the first decade of the 21st Century the drive to achieve human immortality has picked up steam.
Some see the achievement of immortality by 2050 at the latest. A number of ideas now exist concerning bridging the gap between a finite lifespan and one with a trajectory that never ends.
Various age researchers believe the key is in DNA and its markers. Others are concentrating their research efforts in techniques that will regenerate human cells forever without loss of critical biological information. Still others see silicon and steel as the way to never die…uploading the brain into a virtual world where human thought and personality survives forever.
A few have a twist on the latter idea: they want to upload the mind and then download it again in a new body, either human or android.
TIME magazine recently featured a cover story that shook many people up, "2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal."
Now the formal recognition of a movement towards immortality has arrived. The movement has been in existence for decades, but has never had a name. TIME staff and editors have christened the proponents of life everlasting as the "Singularitists."
TIME's definition of singularity is: “The moment when technological change becomes so rapid and profound, it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history.”
Sounds impressive, but what does that really mean for the future of Mankind, its revered institutions, politics, cultures, and economics?
The TIME article is actually a disappointment for anyone familiar with the ongoing Transhuman Movement that's propelled certain scientists and borderland researchers into an obsessive quest for real immortality. Their search for a modern day "Fountain of Youth" has actually taken on the feel of a 21st Century quest for the proverbial Philosopher's Stone.
The Singularity Movement has now gained fresh momentum with a new generation of enthusiasts seeking to circumvent the way of all flesh.
A generation ago, immortality gurus like Robert Ettinger hitched their wagons to the cryology movement. While cryogenic suspended animation may yet hold some promise of long-range success, it's still far from achieving even a semblance of true immortality. Right now the true cryo-believers are frozen solid, immersed in liquid nitrogen, waiting.
The Singularitists don't want to wait.
One of the current outspoken spokesmen of the Singularity Movement is Raymond Kurzweil. TIME's article centered around him.
Kurzweil's grand vision encompasses a complete, irreversible transformation of humans. When the transition occurs, he proclaims, it will herald the end of the human race as we know it.
Lev Grossman, who wrote the article for TIME writes about the transition period:
"When that [the achievement of super-powered artificial intelligence] happens, humanity—our bodies, our minds, our civilization—will be completely and irreversibly transformed. He [Raymond Kurzweil] believes that this moment is not only inevitable but imminent. According to his calculations, the end of human civilization as we know it is about 35 years away."
It's a timescale that many other Transhuman proponents and Singularity believers tout. Not all agree on the methods to get us to that monumental turning point though. Some see it happening without the need of machine intelligence as the catalyst.
But keeping with the vision of Kurzweil, Grossman continues: "Maybe we’ll merge with them to become superintelligent cyborgs, using computers to extend our intellectual abilities the same way that cars and planes extend our physical abilities. Maybe the artificial intelligences will help us treat the effects of old age and prolong our life indefinitely. Maybe we’ll scan our consciousnesses into computers and live inside them as software, forever, virtually. Maybe the computers will turn on humanity and annihilate us. The one thing all these theories have in common is the transformation of our species into something that is no longer recognizable as such to humanity circa 2011. This transformation has a name: Singularity."
And there is the vision of Singularity: the transformation of Mankind into something beyond Man. A dimensionless ghost in a virtual machine. Or perhaps something like it.
On the surface, all this would seem to lead to a burgeoning growth of a super-human race, A nirvana on Earth—and eventually in the heavens—where immortals achieve wonders once only dreamed of by the ancient Greeks and Romans who endowed such powers upon their gods.
Indeed, even the nation's most prestigious think-tank, the RAND Corporation has written at length about these very godlike prospects in their futurist white paper: "The Global Technology Revolution: Bio/Nano/Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015.
In RAND's summation they almost wax poetic describing the potential world of wonders, including the ominous inclusion of a "necessary" application of cloning and eugenics.
"The results could be astonishing. Effects may include significant improvements in human quality of life and life span…continued globalization, reshuffling of wealth, cultural amalgamation or invasion with potential for increased tension and conflict, shifts in power from nation states to non-governmental organizations and individuals…and the possibility of human eugenics and cloning."
Eugenics? Enforced population control? Well, why not? After all, many Transhumanists are against overpopulation, for the introduction of eugenics, and the ultimate control of the teeming "masses."
Of course the Transhumanists will be the ones in control.
Most Transhumanists actually envision a supreme, immortal elite—a dream disturbingly similar to the nightmarish visions embraced by the Third Reich. And like the Third Reich, they embrace the concept of eugenics.
The idea of eugenics arose during the 19th Century. It was promoted by an elite clicque that believed the common man was an impediment to the higher purpose of Man. One such proponent, Frederick T. Gates, sums up the ultimate purposes of eugenics in his "The Country School of Tomorrow" sharing this chilling insight with his readers:
"In our dream, we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our moulding hand. The present educational conventions fade from our minds; and unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or of science. We are not to raise up from among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians. Nor will we cherish even the humbler ambition to raise up from them lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we now have ample supply."
A super-race of benign godlike elite? No, what the eugenists shall do, in essence, is subvert, manage and control Mankind. They will rule supreme over a "folk" that will be fashioned from birth to be groveling, humble, grateful little worker-bees at the beck-and-call of the mighty overlords and masters-of-mind that rule them evermore.
“The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures,” predicted Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics.
Curry's frightening idea was incorporated into H.G. Wells' vision of the future as laid out in the classic novel "The Time Machine." In that world the "attractive" were the effite Eloi and the "ugly goblin-like creatures" the bestial Morlocks.
Will the Singularitists vision actually come to pass? They are striving to make it a reality.
Will immortality and mind-melds with advanced machine intelligences really be a leap forward in evolution, or just some futuristic form of an e-Frankenstein in a soulless brave new world?
Only time will tell.