Immortality

Will we ever be immortal?

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In less than fifteen years she prophecies of those who foretell the victory over death and the triumph of a non-biological life form are likely to be true. Google's slogan "we're going to kill death" is not just an advertising slogan. For unbridled technology is moving inexorably towards the moment when we will be more than human. From repairing our organs to making them, from collecting our thoughts to downloading them onto artificial forms, the day is not far off when we will be able to declare that we have abolished death. That we have fulfilled the Promethean dream of immortalizing what is most precious in us.
 
Ae announcements follow one another. Not a day goes by without people talking about a startup capable of implanting our personality in a robotic clone, a biotechnology laboratory claiming to be able to reconstruct a human liver and other organs thanks to a 3D printer, a Facebook or a Google claiming to have recruited the cream of science to reach the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence. The flow of information is relentless. It's deadly.
Our maternity wards, if they still exist, will they display on their pediment the motto imagined by Houellebecq in The possibility of an island "Welcome to eternal life! » ?
 
Let us first refresh our memory to cite a few examples of technological advances that lead us resolutely towards this end.

Resurrection

Humaia young Australian start-up claims it can resurrect the first human within 30 years by implanting his personality and memories in a robotic clone.
 

 
The president of the company, Josh Bocanegra, states : " We use artificial intelligence and nanotechnology to store data on conversation styles, behavioural patterns, thought processes and information about how your body works from the inside out. " promises the site of the Australian start-up. In other words, at the time of your death, your brain would be kept alive and implanted in a clone. Better still, nanotechnology could make it possible to repair or even improve brain cells. Instead of being damaged, your brain would become more and more efficient over time.

Cloned brain

Martine Rothblatt is the head of the American biomedical company United Therapeutics. She created a humanoid robot and connected a brain clone, a digital copy of a human being's memories, to it. That being is none other than his wife, Bina Aspen. The project is named after her: Bina48. The video of the experiment, which has already made its way around the web, is amazing because it shows Bina48 holding a conversation, responding, feeling according to past memories and ambient emotions.
 
 

Manufacture of living things

A few months ago, we met for UP' Professor Franco. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Paris-Sud, former head of the surgery department of the Antoine Béclère de Clamart hospital, head of the translational hepatology unit of the DHU Hepatinoiv, at the Pasteur Institute. He is one of the great figures in the construction of organs and tissues from stem cells. He heads the CellSpace association, which promotes research in the field of tissue and organ biobuilding. So he's not a fantasist. In this interview, he quietly talks to us about a new, fascinating and somewhat disturbing world; that of stem cell engineering, biomaterials, micropatterning and bioprinting, bioreactors and modelling of living things. Professor Franco thus states that we are already partly capable of reconstructing our organs, liver, kidneys, skin, heart and why not brain from our stem cells and in 3D printing. He explains how scientists around the world are making giant steps forward in the field of bio-engineering, bio-printing and the reconstruction of living things.
 

READ IN UP' : Professor Franco: "We know how to rebuild the living"

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is a fascinating technological theme. All the more so when it's the Silicon Valley giants who, with their billions of dollars, are investing in the sector. And are, inevitably, making giant strides.
Between the two mastodons Google and Facebook, the battle is raging in the race to develop artificial intelligence. The goal is not (yet) to create intelligent humanoids capable of performing functions and services for which humans will soon be overwhelmed. No, the immediate goal is to make computers as intelligent as those who use them. Computers capable of understanding what you want and perhaps before you are aware that you want it.
Scientific research is not an insignificant activity. Especially when it comes to artificial intelligence. Researchers are working on subjects that will change our culture, our way of being. But they don't necessarily know what they're doing. This may seem paradoxical, even insulting for their work. In reality in these fields which produce evolving algorithms, which considerably accelerate the progress of machine learning, there comes a time when the machine produced creates its own code and its own logic.
 
 
Will we always be able to understand and control machine language? We're getting into science fiction paranoia. And yet eminent minds led by Stephen Hawking warned us last year in a now famous " open letter "against an uncontrollable escalation of artificial intelligence, encouraging careful and thoughtful research.
For his part, Bill Gates, while pointing out that a quarter of Microsoft's research is devoted to artificial intelligence, wonders how we can not be worried. When you do research on artificial intelligence, you have to ask yourself the question: "How can you not be worried? What happens... if she emerges? "
What are we afraid of? That from a certain degree of complexity, systems consciousness will emerge. We have been warned for a long time: when the computing capacity of computers is such that it reaches or surpasses the level of the human brain, the machine will be able to make autonomous decisions. The most credible experts say that in 2050, very close to that time, according to Moore's Law of Exponential Rise in Computing Capacity of Computers, the machine will be so powerful that consciousness will emerge. Ray Kurzweilone of the technoprophet gurus hired by Google in 2012, calls this moment the singularity point.

READ IN UP' : The Brain Wars

The Demiurgic Illusion

These examples show the extent of the technophile illusion of abolishing death. Why is that? Romain Gary said that " if men lived forever, they'd go crazy... ». What is this idea of equipping ourselves with technological means that would put us in a demiurgic position, that would put us on an equal footing with God?  
 
Cardinal Jean Danielou, when he took up his academic chair said: " only works of art are immortal. ». Michelangelo, Vinci, Picasso are immortal. Because they knew how to make objects that do not perish. But deep down, contemporary technologists, like artists, seek to create autonomous objects. To create a work of art is to create a work that closes itself, that will live its life by itself. Which will, beyond the smallness of individuals, endure.
The technologist is in the same position: he creates objects that have the virtue of being autonomous. This is the case in robotics or nanotechnology; objects with the virtue of self-preservation and self-production.
 
 
This race to progress of machines that would one day reach its point of singularity leaves man distraught, but also humiliated. The philosopher Günter Anders, in his luminous work The Obsolescence of Man spoke of "Promethean shame". This shame that overwhelms men when they discover that their techniques are beyond them and... deny them. Our machines are getting better and better every day. They will be able to endure, far beyond us. We are troubled by this. Because this phenomenon is upsetting all our certainties. With Descartes, we thought that we men were the masters and possessors of nature. For its greater good or for its greater evil... But today, and even more so tomorrow, it is the machines that possess and control us. The technological race that we are witnessing is hunting down immortality and, in doing so, forces us to renounce our humanity, that is to say, our finitude.

"Kill death"

"Killing death" is a foolish slogan. Because if we kill death, we kill life. In one of his lessons, Jankélévitch taught us the similarity between the words "precarious" and "precious". Without death, life would not be precious.
 
 
So why do we put so much faith in technology and machines? Why does the fantasy of immortality promised by technology trouble us so much? Why do we rely on them to satisfy our desire for eternity? The Philosopher Jean-Michel Besnier tries to answer: because we underestimate ourselves. Because contemporary man suffers from "the fatigue of being oneself".
With the fantasy of transhumanity, man has become obsolete. Günter Anders was right.
 
In his race for immortality, man is giving way to a new species that will have a triple privilege: first, to no longer have to be born. Cloning and synthetic biology technologies cancel out the chance of life. Secondly, no longer needing to suffer. Disease will be overcome, and when an organ in our body fails, it will be replaced like a common spare part. And finally, no longer needing to die. Because then we'll know uploader our consciousness on unalterable materials, on other forms, to allow the perpetuation (illusory but the transhumanists believe in it) of the individual, of the individuation that we are.
Transhumanism is interesting as a symptom of what we think of ourselves today. It says a lot about self-hatred and the desire for an ideal. Michel Houellebecq in The possibility of an island was not mistaken in combining admiration for biotechnologies with that fundamental depression, that fatigue of being oneself that characterizes the twilight humanity that we seem to be today. Let us try to mobilize ourselves to prove him wrong.
 

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