Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sci-Fi I Want to See As Sci-Fact (Part 2)

More things often addressed in science fiction that I would like to see as science fact in my lifetime:

True Fully Immersive Virtual Reality

Whether it's a "holodeck" on the Enterprise, or the X-Men's "Danger Room", or even virtual reality piped directly into our brains a la The Matrix, truly immersive virtual reality has long been a sci-fi writers dream.  Who wouldn't love an environment where you could create an entire world from scratch, or modify the one you know into a place where you are only limited by your own imagination?  I certainly would. 

I imagine the technology that will bring this idea to us first will be some sort of direct brain interface.  It seems likely that decoding the way our brains receive information from our senses and learning to simulate those signals will be much easier to acheive than learning how to manipulate actual matter, as would be required to create a "holodeck" or the like, not to mention the enormous amount of power required for matter manipulation.  Of course, I don't think I'd be the first to volunteer for the clinical trails of early brain/computer interfacing.  First I'd have to see the technology refined and be sure I'm not likely to "download" a virus into my brain or short circuit myself or something perhaps even worse.  Given adequate safety assurances, though, I'd love to be able to enter a fantasy world at will, or meet up with internet friends in a virtual space of our own collaborative design. 

Of course, personal amusement is an obvious (and I think, non-trivial) use of such technology.  However, I think there could be many more serious uses.  Imagine being able to design a building (or vehicle, or what have you) simply by summoning the parts you imagine and commanding them into place.  Imagine being able to walk through your design and experience it as if it already existed in the real world before even beginning actual construction?  Of course, if the technology were easily available and sustainable, why build in the real world at all, at least for most things.  I can envision a world where large numbers of people exist primarily in virtual space, especially if it only differs from the "real" world in ways that are actually an improvement.  So many of us spend so much time online now it isn't hard at all to imagine us choosing to spend even more time in a space that could have all the advantages of the world wide web in addition to full sensory experience. 

Granted, we'll want to make sure there's someone or something in real-space keeping the whole system running. 

Human Longivity

Imagine living for 1000 years?  What about 10,000 years?  Scientists are making great strides toward unraveling the mysteries of why our bodies age and fall apart.  It seems reasonable to suspect that once we do understand the things that go wrong, we stand a good chance of fixing them.  I recently watched a TED Talk by a man named Aubrey De Gray, who believes that the first human to live 1000 years is probably alive already.  That may not be all that far-fetched an idea considering how technology seems to be advancing exponentially.  Interestingly, De Gray believes that the first human to live 10,000 years is likely only 10 years younger than the first to live 1000.  His reasoning is that once life expectancy is raised to 1000 years, barring accident, that is roughly 900 years more time for technical advancements to increase lifespan even further, and each increase is even more chance for further increase. 

Personally, I'm trying to live each day to its fullest.  After all, even if expected lifespan is increased to a million years, any one of us could be hit by a bus tomorrow.  Nevertheless, I'd love to know there's a chance I could be around long enough to see how mankind develops over the next millennium or two.

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