Saturday, June 26, 2010

Immortality at last

The Economist last week had a survey article on the state of Human Genome research ten years on from the original announcement. The prediction is that soon anyone can have their full genome transcribed for $1,000 in a process which will take 15 minutes. And that opens up some possibilities.

Let's suppose that in 200 years time it's a routine matter to clone an individual from such a genome description: I'd be really interested in being around then.

- Did we discover intelligent life 'out there'?
- Do we finally have a theory of everything?
- Are the starships departing on their light-year journeys?
- Are we surrounded by artificial intelligences?
- Have England finally won the World Cup?

Perhaps I should leave a modest sum in my Will to be invested in bringing about my resurrection (along with a the digital transcription of my genome)?

A couple of points.

1. I expect as a matter of course that before my genome is cloned there will be a basic editing sweep designed to fix all the obvious mutational flaws: any propensity to cancer, heart disease etc. Works for me.

2. It has been argued that what I'm buying here is a twin, not myself getting a second life 200 years on. But I don't buy that: it's me really - the only things which will be lacking are my personal memories - just information. But I'm sure there's enough data (e.g. in blogs like this) to reconstruct my life the first time around. Some smart AI system could edit it all together into an immersive 3D movie-like biography and after my future cloned-self had experienced it I'd be in the same situation that I'm today (namely I have rather partial and biased personal memories).

3. In theory I don't have to get my genome transcribed, any biological sample (such as hair) would do. But the digital version strikes me as being much more reliable. Perhaps the smart thing is to do both - it's conceivable there could be some data thrown away in the current transcription process (such as 3D DNA conformation).

Anyway, it seems to me that for $1,000, effective immortality will shortly be here at last. What's not to like?


While I'm about it, why not accept some additional pre-cloning genome-transcription editing to improve my memory, IQ and general ability to handle abstractions. After all, understanding the successor to 'String Theory' is going to take some serious smarts.

Perhaps when the edit is finished they could do a search on the genome database and find out if there were anyone else alive at that time who had an essentially identical genome to my improved version (it wouldn't surprise me).

In that case, I'm already experiencing my second life without the bother of getting cloned after all. Perhaps in that case I should just arrange for an email (or whatever replaces it) to be sent to that person - with my biography as an attachment!