Disclaimer: this is going to get very weird, very fast. Maybe by now, you’ve tried VR in the guise of Oculus Rift or HTC Vive (if not, you can try it out easily - here).

It’s worth getting the practice in now, because by 2040, we’ll most probably be spending most of our time in "full-immersion virtual reality". Or at least, that's what Transhumanists think.

But don’t fret. Being able to keep ourselves occupied will be useful, because by 2045, the Singularity will happen, and suddenly we won't be the smartest thing on the planet any more.

Oh, and you’re going to live forever too. Told you it was going to get weird.


Transhumanists are Very Serious People.

Yes, they laugh and joke like you and me, but fundamentally, they’re dealing with Big Ideas that are So Big, they may not care about the latest Donald Trump gif from your WhatsApp chatroom.

Transhumanists would happily come to the pub with you, but conversation would probably drift pretty quickly from football to the concept of, you know, living forever.

That’s why they’re so serious. Life itself is at stake. Not just their lives - all of humanity’s. Transhumanists have realised that maybe – just maybe – they’ve been born just in time to merge with technology that’s around the corner.

But maybe we should put the jokes aside for a moment too. Transhumanism is also based around one very simple idea, that we can all get on board with immediately: hey, what if we just didn’t die?


Blood is thicker than our tech

Transhumanism is, at its core, the idea of taking technology and creating Humanity+.

Or to put it another way, becoming post-human. Transhumanists’ aim of meshing dumb brains, weak flesh and smart technology is partly driven by enthusiasm at making humans live longer and be better; and partly resignation: it’s going to happen anyway, so we may as well get on with it.

Humanity+ might not be the better you that you want (I'd be happy to stop at having blonder hair or a less enormous nose) but it’s going to be the one that you’ll get.

If you replace all of your brain matter with nanite technology – and you’re still aware of being you, just smarter – would you really care?

And the benefits will be tech marvels: struggling to learn German? Some microscopic machines in your brain will re-wire those synapses for you - it’s unglaublich einfach!

The Transhumanism timeline goes big, fast. The assumption is that the leaps in tech evolution are going to become a series of ever-faster blurs, and in the end you won’t understand them.

Take those brainy nanobots, Deutsch sprechen für dich in deinem kopf: those machine-neurones are better than the fleshy ones ones you grew up with – so why keep the stupid ones?

If you replace all of your brain matter with nanite technology – and you’re still aware of being you, just smarter – would you really care?

And with big idea like that at its core, Transhumanism philosophy follows a similar exponential curve to the technology it predicts.

One moment, you’re marvelling over a computer beating a human at Go, and the next, the world's turning into a giant computer, human beings are turning into pure intelligence, and intelligence itself is colonising the universe at light speed.


Unashamed About Ray

One name that crops up time and time again when you reach into the world of Transhumanism is Ray Kurzweil. If Transhumanists are essentially becoming human+ – their own gods – then Ray is God+. Tranhumanist-in-chief. The man they’ll follow into infinity.

Scientist, inventor, innovator, thinker, author, futurist: most mere mortals struggle to relate to Ray.

His more prosaic work has involved changing the world. He’s created machines that copy human skills: looking, reading and speaking. He invented the charge-coupled device flatbed scanner, the omni-font optical character recognition technology, the first print-to-speech reading machine for blind people, and the first commercial text-to-speech synthesizer.

He’s been peppered with awards from Presidents, has scooped up 21 honorary doctorates and is generally recognised as a living, breathing genius.

And remarkably, for Transhumanists, this work is not the reason he’s worshipped.

Because Ray’s also written a series of best-selling books that bridge technology and health with provocative titles like The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology and Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever.

Transhumanists love Ray because his message is: hey, chill – we’re gonna live forever, whether you want to or not.


Here’s an idea. If you do want to live forever, you’re going to need a lot of cash. So Transhumanists could do worse than dropping Ray an email and asking him what next week’s lottery numbers are.

Why? Because since the early 1990s, he’s made a series of rational, measured predictions that have eerily come to pass almost exactly how and when he described.

He’s made so many correct predictions that the Wikipedia page devoted to them is longer than that of Nostradamus. (Although it’s still not as long as the Wikipedia entry for the TV remake of Hawaii Five-0, because Wikipedia.)

In 1990, in one single book, he correctly predicted: the fall of the USSR, and the liberating, educating role technology would play in its demise; that by 2000, a computer would beat a chess grandmaster (IBM’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997); and that, by the early 21st Century, we’d all be hooked up to the internet via wireless connections.

Aware of his gift, and a master of publicity, Ray’s kept a running total of his successes: in 2009, by his count, 102 out of 108 of his predictions had come true.

So when Ray Kurzweil says that by 2039, we’ll be able to upload our brains to a computer and humans will be able to become “software-based”, we should probably take a moment to digest the news as a likely outcome.


A singular prediction

If it feels like the Qatar World Cup is a long way away, maybe it’s time to readdress your interpretation of time, the universe, and everything. Here's where the weird things start to get really weird.

And there’ll be no going back to how it was before.

The Singularity is an idea that Ray, and Transhumanists, toy with a lot, for good reason. It’s the point when technology takes over; when our technology gets smarter than us, and then starts making smart changes we’re not smart enough to understand.

BTW, It’s pencilled in for 2045. Better bring the washing in before the end of the world starts.

Oh, right - the Singularity essentially means the end of humanity. IN the "plus" column, it might also be the end of some more trivial ideas like “death”, “time”, “perception”, and “space” too.

Your question now is: what does “humanity” mean when being human isn’t confined to that boring and limiting born-live-die one-way curve? What if you and your conscious mind could be copied and pasted from that meat-bag you’re in now and into a shiny new device? The battery life would be better, at least.


Here’s some more predictions that Ray has made that you should probably pop into your phone’s calendar right now, as a fun way to mark off the days to the big jump to Humanity 2.0.:

2018: Let’s start with a blooper: Ray predicted that in 2018 ten terabytes of computer memory - about the same size as the human brain’s capacity - should cost a thousand dollars.

Hey, we’re ahead of ourselves - you can pick up a 10tB drive for $400 right now. Durrr, Ray!

2020s: Don’t get too smug at Ray’s previous swing and a miss, because in the next decade, we’ll be able to buy a computer as smart as a human brain for that same $1000.

And once computers start getting smart, it’s curtains for humanity as we know it: after that, they’re smarter than us, building better versions of themselves - and then they’re in control. But hey, for a thousand bucks, that's a bargain!

2030-2050: Ray’s pretty sure that a thousand dollars is going to get more meaningful in what it can buy. At this point, it’ll buy a computer a billion times smarter than all of us put together.

Other trifling changes in this period include the one where humans stop being flesh, and start being fog. Quick reminder: we’re also living forever at this point.

All those people who told you it was great to be alive in the swingin’ Sixties sound a bit silly now, don’t they?


Into the future

Fog-bodies, everlasting life (except you won’t recognise it as such) and Matrix-like VR compliancy. In conclusion: it’s all rather terrifying. Or exhilarating. Or maybe it’s just that we’re too dumb to understand it all.

So it’s probably worth getting acquainted with VR right now, and you can work your way up to replacing your body with smart fog later. But for now, at the very least, make sure you keep your phone OS up-to-date.

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