Extra Life

A Short History of Living Longer

Steven Johnson 2021 / 612.68 JOH Sherwood Public Library

A book that might be more readable if it wasn't designed as a PBS documentary tie-in. Still, well written and interesting. It provides numbered notes, references, and chapter title headings; better than many recent non-fiction books.

One page 243, Johnson worries about raising life expectancy, and the damage population growth does to the environment. Will more young centenarians overtax the planet?

Perhaps, but it seems more likely that vigorous centenarians will push to make the world better than the best they can remember over their lives. Only ignorant short-termers give no thought to the future. "Better" does not equal high consumption; instead, it implies happy coexistence.

Given the rapid growth and multi-axis improvements in electronics, I expect that we will become neurologically connected to our devices - the boundaries of our minds will expand over vast physical distances, and far into space. When affordable expansions become cheaper and faster and more durable than neurons, that is how our at-birth neuron brains will grow into cyber/cyborg brains, better capable of connecting with other intelligences, and also with the information processes used by nature. We will not only create artificial lifeforms, we will artificially experience what they experience, and eventually what any part of nature experiences. Our minds will grow far beyond the boundaries of our skulls and our nearby environment. Hands and communication devices are far too limited, and future minds will escape those limits.

We will also VASTLY expand the boundaries of nature, to encompass more of the mass of the solar system, and eventually all of the Sun's power output for the creation of personal experience.

The Sun emits 3.8e26 watts. A human brain consumes 20 watts, and less than half of that signalling and connecting; for all 8 billion of us that might add up to 8e10 watts, a tiny fraction of the 17e16 watts that the Earth captures from the Sun. We use vastly more energy to manipulate our environment, but we are growing more efficient at that. The entire Earth and all its living processes AND lifeless spaces AND reflection back into space consume less than 5e-10 of the Sun's output.

Practically all the energy emitted by the Sun is emitted into empty space, never touching matter again, forever. Two billion times as much energy (the "currency of life") is uselessly wasted as hits the Earth. For comparison, a single (full stop) period on a hardback page in Extra Life is about 0.4 millimeters in diameter, an area of 0.126 mm² . The pages in the book have 150mm x 227mm of surface area, and there are 324 page sides, including end papers. The total surface area of Extra Life is 11 million mm², so a period is 1.14e-8 of all the page surface.

So, a full stop period is 23 times larger in Johnson's book than the Earth is in the Sun's sky. And human cogitation consumes a tiny fraction of an "energy period" - on this book page scale, 8e10 watts × 11 million mm² / 3.8e26 watts is 2e-9 mm² or 2000 square nanometers, 25% of the cross section of a single COVID virus compared to all the pages in that book.

So, think about a COVID virus compared to all the pages of a book, and imagine the growth potential of "infecting" the entire solar system with intelligence. That intelligence will consider the living Earth as an excellent use for the power it captures from the Sun, and will spend far more energy protecting the Earth and increasing its longevity.

Humanity's long term goal should not be to regress to some mythical primeval existence (prehistoric humans wiped out almost all the megafauna, as well as human variants like the Neanderthals), but to protect the Earth billions of years into the future, in the manner of loving and benevolent children caring for their elderly parents. And do the same throughout the rest of the Galaxy, multiplying the possibilities by another factor of 100 billion.

We will protect the Earth, not merely because it is "The Right Thing To Do", but because it is the Fun thing to do.

ExtraLife (last edited 2022-04-24 06:10:47 by KeithLofstrom)