I was startled while cruising on Facebook to hear my laser jet suddenly come to life on its own and print two documents. The first page was titled “Self-Test/Device Configuration” and, among other categories, informed me that 10,963 “jobs” had been printed.
I love reading Smithsonian magazine because, like the place itself, it’s full of an awesome array of substance. I enjoy it so much that I gave my 12-year-old grandson a subscription as a Christmas gift. I’m sure the stories about the re-evolution of the wrists of birds, shipwreck treasure, lasers fired from the international space station to determine the height of trees, and our national unending fascination with Amelia Earhart’s disappearance will resonate, and stick, in his young and curious brain even more so than mine. However, there was a recent article that I’m pretty sure I will not soon forget.
Nearly hidden, and printed in a smaller font than the main articles, was a diminutive column entitled Small Talk. Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, was quoted: “Humans will disappear within a century or two. I don’t think we will be destroyed in some nuclear or ecological catastrophe. Rather, we will upgrade ourselves into something different. It is high time we start thinking about this very seriously.”
I read that Mr. Harari is a teacher, scientist and historian (and now an author), so I respect his intellect. Nevertheless, my immediate, and quite angry, response to Mr. Harari’s posited statement was this: Whatever happened to the 100-year lifespan we Baby Boomers were promised? Actually, I’ve seen in print, and from credible sources, that if we Boomers take reasonably good care of our health, we should easily cruise right past 100 years.
Further, our grandchildren are expected to live to 125 or 150 years. I’ve been planning my entire future based on that. When my grandson asked me, in his beyond-his-years pragmatism, how long I intended to live, my answer was that I would live to be a centenarian, then evaluate whether I was having enough fun to continue beyond that milestone. He thought that was an excellent plan.
And now we humans are expected to disappear and upgrade? I’m thinking the “something different” would be a robot sort of creature and I don’t like that one bit. I let the youngsters be all aflutter about cars of the near future that drive themselves although I have nothing but praise for the idea of household androids who take on all the tedious tasks of cleaning and snow removal. That technology can’t come soon enough, especially since a Nor’easter is predicted for tomorrow. But I don’t want to become a robot myself. And I don’t care for the idea that my grandchildren might never get their 125 or 150 years of being human before they morph into Something Different . . . something they may not even get to vote on.
I’ve always been a bit of an activist so maybe I should encourage others to rage against the machine, do not go gentle into that good night, and resist becoming a robot sort of creature? Or I could just take my 100 years and ta-ta, thanks for the memories. At any rate, Yuval Noah Harari is definitely right about one thing: It is high time we start thinking about this very seriously. I personally plan to lose a lot of sleep about it tonight.