Zoltan Istvan’s recent column for Newsweek sounds like something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel.
But the self-described secular transhumanist is perfectly serious in his posturing about the future of technology, life and death. Within 50 years, he believes scientists may be able to bring back people from the dead.
“After all, everything is matter and energy. And human life, human thoughts and human existence are mathematical, determinable calculations of that subatomic world of matter and energy,” Istvan writes.
“As a secular transhumanist—someone who advocates for improving humanity by merging people with machines—I don’t believe in death anymore,” he continues. “Most transhumanists’ number one goal is to become immortal through science.”
Though he does not lump himself into this camp, he says some transhumanists want to bring back every life who ever lived.
He explains why he thinks this may be possible some day:
Mike Perry, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science and is a part of the Society for Universal Immortalism, thinks an approximate nine-square-mile-wide memory bank could likely hold all the data of every person who has ever lived.
Nine miles of walled computer hardware may seem huge and conjure images of the Death Star, but the vast server farms China is already building may soon be larger in size than the Empire State Building. And the sheer computing power of these server farms will not be deterred from crunching the numbers necessary to configure various points in history of every subatomic particle. Then it’s just a matter of pushing the print button on 3D printers to configure a certain portion of one—that of a human body. Then just apply EKG shocks and CPR, and the human is alive again.
Istvan points to rapidly expanding artificial intelligence, including life-like robots and the possibility that smartphones could be “smarter” than humans within the next two decades. He says transhumanists also hope to meld their bodies with machines to become immortal.
“I even have friends who want to program their lost loved ones as holograms that can wander the house, say things and greet them when they come home from work,” he says.
But bioethics columnist and lawyer Wesley J. Smith does not buy into the bizarre predictions.
“Please. They would not be back to life,” Smith responded on Twitter. “They would all still be as dead and gone as dead and gone could be. At most, a robotic recreation, like the presidents at Disneyworld. @zoltan_istvan #neoroticfearofdeath”
Istvan says he believes that human beings are nothing special — “mostly just meat.” Yet, his desire for human immortality suggests that there is something unique and valuable enough about human life to want to preserve it. Whether his predictions will come to pass, though, seem unlikely.