The Last Human Death
So this guy Ray Kurzweil believes that we can achieve immortality through backup. Yep, that’s right. Walk into a phone booth, pick up the receiver, dial your private number and a backup of your mind is uploaded to Telkom (or any one of competing providers). There are all sorts of packages on offer – post-paid unlimited backup, pre-paid backup-as-much-as-you-can-afford-right-now, there’s a free annual backup which however has a hefty fee when you wish to restore, and so on.
So how did we get here? Well, according to Kurzweil, the rate of technological advancement is growing exponentially and so by around 2040, computers are going to surpass the human brain in intelligence and sheer processing power! Imagine that. The computer is now the boss of you. So why should we bother with Vision 2030 when obviously the machines are going to be taking over shortly after that? Now the story goes that when the super computers check in, we’re going to figure it’s easier for us to merge with them rather than compete, so we’re going to have all sorts of implants that allow seamless interoperation between our biological selves and the new machine parts. Oh and these computers are tiiiiiny, on the nano-scale. Those of you that have watched Stargate SG-1 (or Atlantis) are familiar with these miniscule robots called nanites that run around inside your brain doing all manner of operations like boosting your memory capacity, increasing intelligence, maintaining your health and sometimes even rewriting your DNA.
Having all this wonderful technology inside us isn’t much fun if we’re just going to get hit by a car and the story ends. Enter backups. We shall want this. The idea that you can upload your mind (memories, personality etc) to the cloud for safe keeping. Imagine being able to backup your brain after that awesome first date and can re-live it in exceptional detail some time later. Think of all the uses of a backed-up mind. If you get car-jacked and want nothing of that horrifying experience you can simply pick a backup copy to restore and the memory is gone. There are downsides too. Picture the scene where the US soldiers are celebrating the successful killing of Osama only to have a live broadcast from the man himself coming through on CNN. They didn’t get the backups!
Apparently the advancements in technology shall be so incredibly out of this universe, that it shall be possible to craft a suitable replacement body to host the downloaded mind. A kind of artificial reincarnation – only this time you are certain not to come back as a dog. Even if you wanted to, your human memories would just confuse it. And why would a dog need to remember how to eat with a spoon anyway. This immortality thing doesn’t just end there, however. If we can actually store the mind in a machine, isn’t it possible for that mind to actually live in the machine? Instead of having some passive storage state awaiting future download, the mind can simply take up residence in the cloud and dispense with the physical world. Live in a virtual world no longer encumbered by the laws of physics.
So what happens when more and more people find it preferable to exist inside machines rather than boring old terra firma? Well, the population of what we used to call humans shall continue dropping. The diehards who shall not hear of a machine existence shall inevitably, die. Eventually there’ll be this one incredibly old woman – perhaps one hundred and fifty years – whose life has been extended by technology, but has absolutely refused to have any backups of herself. The last bona fide human. Why do I think it’ll be a woman? Well for one, Kurzweil wants to download into a woman’s body. No idea why, but I bet he’s figured they’re more resilient, and since immortality is so dear to him, then a female body should be his best bet. Secondly, it’s kind of fitting for the last human to be a woman.
She’s in some health care facility. The whole world knows the end is near. All news channels are tuned in to her bedside. Those who can afford have been downloaded into physical bodies and can watch the whole thing in person. By now humans number in the tens of billions. There’s a lot more real-estate on earth if your dwellings just occupy a folder on a hard disk somewhere on the internet. In any case, why limit yourself to earth if you can just travel the vastness of space as software in a spaceship? Wherever they are living, all ‘humans’ take a moment to witness the passing of the last of their ancestors. The last human to die.