A few months back I was watching a documentary based on the book The Elegant Universe, and in one of the sections, the concept of a wormhole, which would basically enable one to move from one point in space time to another through connecting tunnels was being discussed. The simplest consequence of presence of such wormholes for the lesser humans who are not physicists would be the ability to travel from the two connected points without spending any time! This, if ever is to be a reality, would take very long, say at least two hundred years from now. The presenter of the program, Brian Greene, was apparently very excited about this possibility as he would be able to travel from his residence to his workplace (both in New York) in “no time” (quite literally!). Excited, yes he ought to be at such possibility. But two hundred years from now (at the earliest)? Not sure.
Though, the program was excellent in its analogies and gripping for how it dealt with widely disparate schools of physics, from classical, through, quantum physics and general relativistic physics to the theory that has been receiving mixed reactions at the possibility of being a “the Theory of Everything”– the Strings Theory, which attempts to basically combine quantum physics (which deals with the forces acting at relatively short distances, i.e., subatomic level, viz., electric, magnetic and strong nuclear and weak nuclear forces) and general relativistic physics (which gives a very accurate description of the only force acting at long distances–the force of gravity).
Well those details are not the purpose of this post. What that fantasy of traveling in no time made me think was how in taking a futuristic view of the world around us, we tend to take a very limited view of the spheres in which the human life would change due to the development of new technologies. I feel, quite obviously, that it’s not just technology based on physics and engineering would evolve radically. The human race would also have benefit of advances in medical sciences, neurology, nutrition, human psychology, communications, etc. All these technological advances cannot occur in isolation; they are bound to have some (at least) implications on the very essence our lives would hold for us. Issues like what purpose does life hold for us, what/who is admirable, the need for human intelligence, the extent of communication between humans, human aspirations, average lifespan, the type of prevalent medical disorders, the nature of day-to-day problems and conflicts would all have changed beyond recognition by that time.
The first question that came to my mind when Brian Greene made that statement about traveling through wormholes, was would we need to travel? Then, would we need to work? What would be the nature of that work? How many of us would really need to work?
Picture this: you get up in the morning, and pop a pill that has all the nutrients that you’d require for the day. You’re seated in a chair, and an apparatus (let’s call it Experience Simulator or Expulator) aims light beams at your brain that make you experience whatever you want to. This is the 126th year of your life, and if the Expulator detects that you don’t have adequate desire to live on, it will aim beam at some specific neurons that would fill your brain with the desire to live. It might also consult with some database to confirm if you’re really required by the human race in any capacity in which you could contribute, or if in terms of cost-benefit ratio, if you’d still be desirable any longer to the human race! Or if your contract to live had expired! (More about this later, though)
All the infectious agents would have been eliminated, ageing would have been stalled or retarded to such a rate that there would be a real possibility for the majority of people to “get bored” of their lives. And needless to say, there would be no medical disorders.
No experience would require you to leave your chair–be it of playing in the ground, having your favorite food, some violent outlet just for the kicks of it, or one of those kinky fantasies. Nothing would be out of bounds. No doubt, everyone would be happy and content or whatever they’d want to feel at any given moment. One could also not argue that these “experiences” would be artificial as they’d be produced through the same mechanism by which we experience “reality” as we know it today(!), i.e., stimulation at the appropriate synapses.
One could question, would the Expulator be available to all?
I believe, any technology becomes widely accessible (in terms of both rate of production and the purchasing power owing to its affordable cost) a long time after its advent. This itself would ensure universal accessibility.
Okay, returning to the original question, would you require to travel? No, of course not! Think of all the reasons to travel:
- To do work. With such advanced technology, you certainly won’t require separate workplace to work at.
- To meet someone. You could always switch on the Expulator, and meet that someone just sitting in the chair.
- To visit a place. Now don’t make me count what all your Expulator could do!
But I think I’ve left out so many significant issues. The human race could know by that time, what it means to be perfect. Perfect brains and perfect bodies would be order of the day or the century. Any aberration would simply be a manufacturing defect! Would we really require to work? What would be the incentive to work? Remember: though difficult it is to imagine it without having your very own Expulator, it could make you feel and experience any and everything that you’d like to experience. It would make you feel tired, sleepy; it could give you the same pleasure as discovering a new galaxy! Basically, it could make you feel that you work! My guess, is the incentive to work would be actually knowing something more. Developing better Expulators, synthesizing more and more experiences to enrich Expulator’s database, continued fight against infectious agents, protecting the human race from real dangers, like comets, asteroids, aliens(!). But why would someone work, if the Expulator could simply make the right neurons of the reward center in your brain fire at will? Out of sense of duty? Would it become incumbent on a few to do some compulsory thinking as decided by some lottery system?
But the most important question that arises is what would be the incentive to live? I’m not sure, how horrifying it sounds to the reader–this piece of my fantasy is from a very sterile point of view. I, though, find the picture quite complete save the minor details like how electricity would be produced; how that nutritious pill would be produced; how ageing would be stalled; how the infectious agents would be eliminated (believe me, this is the most likely spoiler in my fantasy of a “perfect” future!), what would happen to other species? Would everyone have equal status in the human race as all would be perfect, and by extension, effectively identical? What would be the effect of knowing that all the experiences are simulated at will? That there’s no external (to one’s most personal aspirations for one’s life) purpose to life, other than the continuation of the human race, which in turn would have or may not have any purpose depending upon how one views the role of human race in the affairs of the Universe, and if one feels that the Universe is “supposed” to be some way or the other.
Is there something missing in this picture that’s rendering it incomplete? God, may I propose? The purpose of life could be known to God. What if God had a purpose that we don’t know of? What if I/we end our lives, and it turns out to be one horrible mistake? So, why take chances and just not live on? As it is what’s the harm of living, more so with the Expulator around?
The person who smokes knows that the “kick” they get out of smoking is nothing but nicotine doing its wonders. Does that make them quit? Ditto for cocaine, alcohol, or morphine. Does this sound similar to our Expulator? May be. I really don’t know. Life, as I always say, indeed, is addictive.
It would be amusing to know what it would be like to “live” in such a world. And it also amuses me to realize I won’t exist to verify it for myself!
PS: Surprisingly, I didn’t require an Expulator for this piece of armchair philosophical fantasizing!