How long would you want to live, if you could choose? According to inventor Ray Kurzweil, the ability to determine your lifespan is within reach. Dr. Oz talks with Ray about his book The Singularity Is Near and his belief that technology will conquer disease, create new resources and lead to a new way of thinking about longevity.
Technology is changing so rapidly that humans won't be able to keep up unless we merge with the technology we're creating, Ray says. People are already living with machines in their bodies, he explains, citing computers implanted in the brains of Parkinson's disease patients as an example. Using technology that matches biology in intricacy, like experiments involving blood cell-sized computers in animals, allows us to go beyond the limitations of biology in terms of longevity, Ray says.
Health and medicine have become information technologies, making them subject to what Ray calls the law of accelerating returns, or the doubling in power of these technologies every year. The rapid increase of knowledge will lead to an understanding of how major killers like heart disease, diabetes and cancer work, as well as the development of tools to prevent and cure them.
Although more people will be living longer, Ray says the same technologies that extend lives will create more resources to support the population. "We receive 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to fill 100 percent of our need," he says. He believes that full-scale nanotechnology, which should be functioning within about 20 years, will be able to fulfill all the material needs of an expanded biological population.
If Ray's theories are correct, it won't be long before lifespans begin to lengthen. "According to my models, we'll be adding more than a year every year to your remaining life expectancy within 15 years from now," he says. "It's not a guarantee of immortality, but it will change the metaphor to the sands of time running in, rather than out."