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EditorialsUp Front 02/15

Up Front 02/15

It’s surprising what triggers memories. This month’s National Geographic set me off on a gentle flashback to a time, many years ago, when my father would read that same magazine whilst sitting at our kitchen table. He would marvel at the vibrancy of the photographs, delight in the advances being made by the human race and be fascinated by the lives of other cultures. In my flashback I remembered following his nicotine coloured fingers as he pointed out photographs or read out captions. There was something vaguely romantic and manly about the discolouration caused by the cigarette smoke. Little did either of us realise that it would contribute to his early death. So when this month’s National Geographic arrived in our house I couldn’t help wondering how he would have reacted to a piece about how a time may come when nobody will have to die. A short piece about Byron Reese’s book, Infinite Progress: How the Internet Will End Ignorance, Disease, Poverty, Hunger and War suggested that since mortality is just a technical problem that we will eventually solve, there may come a time when humans don’t have to die. Promoting the premise that optimism is the most powerful force on the planet and that the world is in a better place now than it has ever been, Reese believes that much of what currently troubles us can be changed. He imagines a world without poverty, disease, famine, ignorance and war and suggests that these things exist simply because we have not had the means to solve them in the past, but that we will in the future. Despite the thought that living forever is currently too hard a concept to digest, a great deal of his argument is helpful, not least the need for positive thinking. Perhaps advances in technology can help alleviate or even dispense with some of the world’s biggest problems, but as Reese admits, it won’t cure gluttony, envy, vanity, pride or jealousy—unless those attributes turn out to be driven by something physical that we can change. In which case perhaps we can live in a glorious, timeless utopia. Which is not a new idea, but it may take other generations to overcome the feeling that it is a bit creepy.  FB

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