I made a point to do some reading last week. The results were dangerous in that they got me thinking
Two pieces, in particular, caught my eye and captivated a chunk of my brain. (Note to self: Sounds like a potential alibi for being more of a jerk than usual lately.) In the first, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil – you may know him from those Best Buy commercials featuring the people behind smartphone technologies – predicts that immortality may be only 20 years away. That is, Kurweil thinks we’re approaching the point of being able to use nanotechnology to both prevent our bodies from breaking down, but improve them to the point of being able to accelerate intellectual progress
The second is an opinion piece from the New York Times (I know; how educated of me) entitled The Busy Trap. Basically, it talks about how damn busy we all are and what we can do to change that. As a husband, father of 3-5 children, sports writer, blogger, fitness nut, neat freak and cosmopolitan man, I certainly qualify as excessively busy. And I think about it all the time because it just doesn’t seem healthy even if it has become normal.
Put those two ideas into one tired and twisted cabeza and this is what happens …
I’m not sure I’m down with immortality. At least, not as life goes right now. The pace we put ourselves through is predicated on the idea that it won’t last forever. At some point, we’ll be able to retire, to drink coffee and play golf and eat dinner before 5 p.m. in order to get a reduced rate. It is the light at the end of the tunnel.
But if nanotechnology will enable us to live forever, does that mean we’ll work forever? Because that sounds like something that happens in Hell. This bothers me more than the idea of overcrowding (where will all the people go if not everybody dies?). I mean, I might want to die if I’m going to be a slave to this grind for infinity.
For this to work, we’d have to reboot our psyches, which seems more difficult than it sounds. Take social media, for example. Social commentator/off-color comedian Adam Carolla has (don’t laugh) said that the reason people get bothered by derogatory comments on a message board and pay attention to TMZ is that our minds are overwhelmed. None of this stuff existed 25 years ago, and our biology hasn’t adjusted in a way that allows us to handle all of the junk that is coming at us.
Methinks sudden immortality could be the same way – it would be too much too take. We’d need time to process, for starters. (Especially me. I can’t even decide if my daughter can have a play date without sitting alone and rubbing my temples for 3 minutes.) We may even need some sort of life road map, a book of suggestions on how to manage our time and our lives because the way of doing things (go to school, work like crazy and then retire) would no longer apply.
Sadly, immortality (or significantly shorter lifespans) might be the only development that could get most of us to slow down. The NYT piece properly notes that most of the busyness is self-imposed. This blog is a perfect example. No one is requiring me to do this nor am I being reimbursed for my time. It’s merely an emotional outlet and a practice rink for my craft. I could stop at any time. But that won’t happen. Instead, I’ll continue to believe it’s worthwhile either in talent development or enjoyment or networking. If anything, I’ll blog more rather than less.
That said, a huge chunk of my time is occupied by my home life: Cooking, cleaning, laundry and parenting. This is a change from, say, the 1950s when guys (purportedly) did very little child rearing. And it’s a change for the better, in most cases.
The only catch-all I can think of that would make me less busy? Drive, the desire to work hard and do well and earn rewards. I’m the kind of guy (read: idiot) who loses vacation days every year because he doesn’t use them all. That I can change (although I probably won’t). But to stop pressing at work or at home or at the gym just to be less busy … that’s going to take as much programming as immortality. It’s generational. My maternal grandfather put himself through college, one semester at a time, while raising a family so that his kids could go to college and have a better life. My parents made good on that, and my DNA implores me to do the same (even though it’s unlikely) so that my kids might be in position to take it one step further
Except … now the future might look completely different than we’ve assumed, and generational habits may be more detrimental than helpful.
It’s enough to make me stop reading.