Sunday, 31 December 2017


From Science Fiction:

According to Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (London, 2014), human agelessness and post-organic intelligences may be imminent.

In Poul Anderson's sf:

aging is ended in World Without Stars and in The Boat Of A Million Years;

post-organic intelligences coexist with human beings in the Harvest of Stars Tetralogy and supersede humanity in Genesis.

I have referred to Anderson's ageless characters, Hugh Valland and Hanno, as "immortal" although they are not immune to either accident or violence. See Two Unaging Men. Harari contributes appropriate terminology:

"A few serious scholars suggest that by 2050, some humans will become a-mortal (not immortal, because they could still die of some accident, but a-mortal, meaning that in the absence of fatal trauma their lives could be extended indefinitely.)" (p. 301)

I think that John W. Campbell said, "The first immortal man has already been born." By googling, I found similar claims. See here.

See also Hanno, Lazarus Long And John Carter.


S.M. Stirling said...

I suspect that if you didn't age, you might eventually overload the information-storage capacity of your brain, and bollix up the long-term memory system.

That might be why John Carter doesn't remember a childhood!

Paul Shackley said...

Anderson's characters have different ways of coping with this.

S.M. Stirling said...

I find the ones in the BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS credible, because memory isn't fixed, even the long-term variety. It's reconstituted every time it's recalled, and in ways that continually modify it. For instance, recalling a memory tends to increase its importance vs. a vs. the rest of your stored information; so does a very strong emotional stimulus at the time the event occurs.

It's entirely possible to produce false memories that are indistinguishable from "real" ones, too -- and the process can be semi-conscious and semi-deliberate.

I suspect that if we ever have a state where everything is recorded in 'objective' formats, it will produce a lot of complications, because of the discordant effect with memory. I've had occasions when records or pictures flatly contradicted what I recalled.

Incidentally, this is already happening to a degree. The US military uses small helmet-mounted audiovisual recorders a lot now, for record-keeping and training reasons, so that noncoms and officers can go over actions in a way more accurate than the old process of verbal or written reports.

S.M. Stirling said...

Incidentally, combat helmet-camera footage is useful for research; it gets across the episodic, tedious, and occasionally utterly chaotic nature of combat, and how hard it is for the person on the ground to know what's going on. It may even exaggerate that, because you don't have the experience and ability to pick up clues that the people with the cameras on their helmets do.