If the proximate purpose of technology is to reduce scarcity, the ultimate purpose of technology is to eliminate mortality.
Balaji describes his idea of the ultimate purpose of technology in this essay:
Life extension is the most important technology we can invent. To get there, we must build the infrastructure to tirelessly evangelize for technological progress.https://t.co/8xjrrrmHKf
— balajis.com (@balajis) July 19, 2020
In an episode of the North Star podcast by David Perell, he explains this idea further. Skip to 1:26:56 to listen, or open the transcript below to read.
David: Why is life extension the essence of technology?
Balaji: Ah, I’ve written an article on this, balajis.com, “The Purpose of Technology,” and it’s a non-obvious claim, but let me see if I can get there in a sentence. Which is, if the purpose of technology is to reduce scarcity, then the ultimate purpose of technology is to eliminate mortality.
Let’s break that down. The first part, if X then Y, right? If the purpose of technology is to reduce scarcity… Why do we say that? Well, every technology that you’ve ever heard of, it’s usually described as, this makes something faster, or cheaper, or better, lighter, that type of stuff. And why is it better if it’s faster? Why is it better if it’s cheaper? So if it costs you a dollar and it used to cost you $100, that means it takes a hundred X less money, but that also means it takes a hundred X less time because your life, at least some of your working life has turned into money, right? You spend an hour doing consulting, you got some money out of it. And rather than spending 100 minutes of your life, you spend one minute, now of time on using this because the technology improved it, it went 100X faster.
There’s actually a movie by I think, Andrew Niccol, called “In Time” that explored this idea of time as a currency. He puts in various dramatic hooks to make it seem like some people are hoarding time and immortal and others aren’t, but I don’t think that actually has to be scarce. The point being, that if you’re doing all these things in tech to reduce scarcity, the ultimate scarcity reduction that gives everybody back lots of time is life extension or reversing aging and that should be technically feasible now.
Thus, Balaji argues, the ultimate purpose of technology is to eliminate (non-accidental) mortality. To reverse aging. And it may now actually be possible to do this:
The problem is that not many people are aware of this, nor think it is possible.
The world: So, aging is impossible to change, basically there's nothing we can do to...
Longevity scientists: We engineered a mouse to live 2x longer than normal!
The world: ...as I was saying, aging is impossible to change, there's nothing we can do — Laura Deming (@LauraDeming) October 7, 2020
To reverse aging, and thus to achieve the ultimate purpose of technology, Balaji argues we need to evangelize technology:
"We need to take time out of our busy days to make the case, repeatedly and with high production values, that technological progress is the most important thing we can do for broad-based prosperity and economic growth, and for life itself."
"Put another way: we may not get life extension or the whole suite of transhumanist technologies (brain-machine interfaces, stem cells, CRISPR gene therapy, and more) unless you, personally, evangelize them online. Not just tweets, but articles."
Ending death should be the highest priority of technology. We now know that reversing aging may actually be technically achievable.
It’s also important to make life extension tech widely accessible, like a vaccine, for ethical reasons and to build the largest possible coalition. https://t.co/9MDPs5EKFm — balajis.com (@balajis) July 14, 2020
Some excellent resources to start learning about Longevity are linked below:
- Laura Deming's Longevity FAQ
- Jackh's Anti-Aging: State of the Art (Dec 2020) post
- Nintil's Longevity FAQ
- Milan Cvitkovic's Longevity Write-Up