Your most likely cause of death is being switched off

This one’s short and sweet.

The majority of you reading this blog live in the USA, UK, Canada or Australia. More than half of you are under 40.

That means your natural life expectancy is over 85, so statistically, your body will probably live until after 2060.

By then, electronic mind enhancement will probably mean that most of your mind runs on external electronics, not in your brain, so that your mind won’t die when your body does. You’ll just need to find a new body, probably an android, for those times you aren’t content being on the net. Most of us identify ourselves mainly as our mind, and would still think of ourselves as still alive if our mind carries on as if nothing much has happened, which is likely.

Electronic immortality is not true immortality though. Your mind can only survive on the net as long as it is supported by the infrastructure. That will be controlled by others. Future technology will likely be able to defend against asteroid strikes, power surges cause by solar storms and so on, so accidental death seems unlikely for hundreds of years. However, since minds supported on it need energy to continue running and electronics to be provided and maintained, and will want to make trips into the ‘real’ world, or even live there a lot of the time, they will have a significant resource footprint. They will probably not be considered as valuable as other people whose bodies are still alive. In fact they might be considered as competition – for jobs, resources, space, housing, energy… They may even be seen as easy targets for future cyber-terrorists.

So, it seems quite likely, maybe even inevitable, that life limits will be imposed on the vast majority of you. At some point you will simply be switched off. There might be some prioritization, competitions, lotteries or other selection mechanism, but only some will benefit from it.

Since you are unlikely to die when your body ceases to work, your most likely cause of death is therefore to be switched off. Sorry to break that to you.

9 responses to “Your most likely cause of death is being switched off

  1. Nice post Ian. Glad to see some realistic thinking about this topic.


  2. Interesting and succinct. Thanks!


  3. This excites me massively! I love reading your articles on the eventual amalgamation of body, mind and machine. You are a daily inspiration in my life Ian. Thanks for your great work. You only seem to break good news for me, not the other way round…


    • Many thanks, and to the previous commentors too. I will try to write shorter succinct articles more often instead of the 2000+ worders.
      This is an interesting topic for sure. It’s a lot of fun speculating which of the many possible directions transhumanism will take us. New roads keep appearing over the horizon and details appear as the future comes closer. We’re limited to looking through fog and guessing what the vague shapes might be, but that’s better than not being able to see at all.


  4. When I look at the complexity of a single living cell (and all that I don’t know I don’t know about it), it’s difficult to imagine digital media being able to accurately replicate or recreate the workings of that solo unit alone, let alone billions of them operating in concert, no matter how much computing power we eventually create.


    • Mathematicians have recently argued that a digital computer such as we normally use today cannot be conscious. I would agree, but computers, electronics and photonics don’t have to be digital. In fact, the vast majority of people working in strong AI think it will need analog or quantum approaches to achieve consciousness. Your brain appears to use a large number of adaptive analog neural networks, with lots of chemical effects thrown in too. We don’t know fully how it works, but the functions of bits of it have already been replicated. We don’t have to copy nature precisely, just learn the bits we need and how to make synthetic equivalents. Using adaptive analog neural network approaches, and some evolutionary development, I think we will achieve it.


  5. I wish people wouldn’t interfere, leave it to the mothers to build and gestate.


  6. IOW, Beware the EMP.


  7. Why not just ration energy, so each person’s electronic mind runs a little slower than before?

    Why not take turns being “shut down”? Wouldn’t it be just like a dreamless sleep?


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