I recently read WaitButWhy again: specifically, I skimmed through their super cool post about cryonics (preserving yourself after death to be revived) and Elon Musk’s new venture, Neuralink (aka, merging ourselves with AI). Below are some of my thoughts.
Exciting things! They are both ways of making ourselves semi-immortal: stopping time and digitising ourselves. Tim (the author) got really carried away with the future, about how we can preserve humanity. I first started getting a weird vibe because, why are all these posts so anthropocentric (human-centric)? What about our environment, the other species on our planet? Tim seems to dismiss it by going “tough luck, look how we repressed the other animals, now let’s make sure we don’t end up getting dominated by AI”.
Valid, but so incomplete. WaitButWhy has amazing posts, but I can’t help thinking that it’s really skewed towards us. It’s not wrong, of course, but I think we’re beyond that. The future Tim imagines feels very…technology centred. Which I think is what’s going to happen, but what of the animals, the plants? Surely there is value to our planet beyond just humanity and as a vessel for us to exploit.
Are primitive things inferior? I don’t think so.
About cryonics: I don’t feel the need to want to extend my life. It seems to be a little bit of a fear of missing out; for me, I don’t need to live to see the future for me to be happy.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t see nothingness as that bad an alternative to living. To me, it’s just…neutral. Just another thing I could be.
That being said, cryonics would offer people the choice to die when they want to. A useful one, I suppose.
Is the meaning of life, of technology, simply to extend our lives? I don’t think it should solely be for humanity, or for our individual lives.
About Neuralink, and merging ourselves with AI: the big problem now is to make AI that benefits us, that inherits our moral values. So, why don’t we just become AI?
Boom. It felt like a natural conclusion, and it didn’t really surprise me. Thinking and communicating with others would be so much faster: brain to brain communication? No problem! Can’t write? No problem! Just beam your idea over to the convo partner’s brain. Cool, right? Everything would be faster and more accurate. We’d also lose a lot of jobs but create new ones along the way.
We’d lose the skill of expressing ourselves via writing, art, dance, because we won’t need to anymore. Is that a bad thing? I think a small group of artisans would still preserve these art forms, as a niche. Creating something concrete, that’s not just in your brain, would still have its rewards. I still think the challenge of this sort of communication would be a fun one!
All this thinking has put me in a state of Zen. To me, it now doesn’t matter what I do or what other people do. Why think about these things, when there are far bigger, more interesting topics to mull over? It helped me put my days into perspective: how tiny our worries are, when these are the things we may see in the future.
At the end, I was asking myself, “what is, then, the meaning of life?” there doesn’t seem to be a proper end goal, per se. We develop technology for the sake of technology. Because it seems to be a nice, shiny thing to chase (but of course it brings benefits too: we lead more comfortable lives). The things we care about in our daily lives all seem trivial, all seem amusingly childish. It was surprisingly calming: because it showed me that whatever path I take, it’s okay because life was originally meaningless anyway, and life as we know it is going to change radically anyway. There is nothing that life should be, so live your life however you want.
Interesting things to think about on a day off. Give those articles a read if you enjoy speculating about the future we may have, based on cutting edge science. It’s much, much better than social media. 😉