Coming soon – the day when we live forever
Should we be excited about the future? A podcast by academic technologist Balaji Srinivasan has caused a stir with its vision of how our lives will be transformed in the ultra-digital age.
Balaji Srinivasan is both a successful entrepreneur and a highly respected academic. He has several degrees in electrical engineering and chemical engineering, and teaches at Stanford University in California. These are some of his key predictions:
Living longer. Srinivasan argues that the ultimate goal of technology is to help humans live for ever – and much more progress is being made than people realise. “You’re genetically wired to die – so maybe we can unwire that.” In the 2020s, there will be breakthroughs in everything from curing deafness to reversing ageing. People will keep information about their genomes on their computers so they can track problems with their bodies.
Children working. It used to be common for children to be sent out to work until laws were passed to stop them from being exploited by employers. But Srinivasan believes that work helps children learn responsibility and grow up faster – and since they can work online from home, their parents can protect them from abuse.
Establishing truth. At present, the internet is plagued by fake news. The way forward is to create “crypto oracles”: depositories of reliable information which are safe because they are widely shared, and have digital hallmarks showing who posted what when, so that nobody can falsify the record. Statistics about the pandemic, for example, would be indisputable because everyone would have access to the original data.
Should we be excited about the future?
Some say yes. Srinivasan is right to say that the internet and technology could be put to far better use than it is now.
Others argue that Srinivasan’s vision is a bleak one. If humanity is to survive, we need to engage more with the natural world and less with the digital one.
- How would your view of life change if you knew you were going to live forever?
- In some countries, children still have to work in factories. Imagine you are one of them, and write a diary of a typical day.
Some People Say...
“Our future is more like the 1800s and 1700s than the 1900s. We’re going into reverse.”Balaji Srinivasan, American entrepreneur and academic
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Most agree that we are moving towards what Srinivasan calls a “decentralised” way of life. He believes that the age of the “9 to 5” person, who travels to work every day and remains there for a defined period of time, is over. Instead, more of us will operate from home, and work – as he does – for 16 hours one day and hardly at all the next. The flexibility that the internet gives us has been recognised: in his words, “We are finally achieving our destiny as digital people.”
- What do we not know?
- Whether the world will be fairer in future. Srinivasan believes that technology is a great leveller: devices become cheaper all the time, and anyone can educate themselves through the internet. But Srinivasan sees state regulation as the enemy of innovation, while critics argue that it is needed to protect people – including children made to work – from exploitation.
- Someone who engages in business at their own risk, rather than working for someone else.
- The genetic material that makes up an organism.
- Laws were passed
- In Britain, the 1802 Factory Act limited the amount of time a child could work to 12 hours a day. Another act in 1878 made it illegal for those under 10 to work at all.
- Places (buildings, offices and warehouses) where things are stored for safekeeping.
- Marks stamped on articles of gold, silver or platinum showing them to be genuine.
- To alter; to change a truthful element so that it no longer represents the truth
- Unable to be challenged or denied.