The End of Aging As We Know It?

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | December 3, 2013

Wrinkles, fine lines and age spots are big business for marketers and their suppliers. No one knows that better than the attendees at our recent Anti-Aging Conference & Tabletop Exhibition (see our coverage on p. 54 in this issue). There were plenty of eye-opening presentations, novel products and services during the event, but it was another speaker, at another meeting, that had me scratching my head, wondering what the future will bring.

At last month’s Technology Transfer Conference by the New York Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, Jose Luis Cordeiro of Singularity University gave an eye-opening talk replete with robots, glowing plants and even woolly mammoths. Technological Singularity, or simply the singularity, is a theoretical moment when artificial intelligence exceeds human intelligence, radically changing human civilization and perhaps even human nature itself, according to its adherents.

Hogwash? Maybe, maybe not. Think about two of IBM’s technologies—Deep Blue and Watson. The first whipped Chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997. Now, anyone can access the Deep Blue technology on a smart phone. The latter crushed human opponents in “Jeopardy!” in 2011 and today has been drafted into the war on lung cancer to give patients a second opinion on their treatments.

Technology is moving fast, scary fast, but maybe it’s not that scary after all.

“Aging is a disease, but a curable disease and one that will be cured in the next 20 to 30 years,” insisted Cordeiro. “Aging will die. Death will die in the next 20 years. If you want to die, okay you can die. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”

What will kill death? Cordeiro said four technologies—nano, bio, info and cogno (a.k.a. NBIC)—will converge to radically change the world in which we live and die. Robots will not only become a part of our lives, they will become a key component of transhumanism, which predicts people will be able to transform themselves into beings with greatly expanded abilities.

“We are not the end of evolution,” insisted Cordeiro. “We are entering a post-human age where humans are enhanced!”

Wild stuff? Absolutely. But as we close out 2013, it’s a chance to pause and look forward to what the future holds for our timeless, perhaps ageless, industry.

Tom Branna
Editorial Director