In search of “longevity”–a buzzword now echoing through the hills of Northern California–Silicon Valley billionaires are running liquid capital into cryonic vats and genetics laboratories. They’re popping supplements, receiving hormone treatments, even pumping young blood into their veins. For all their feverish effort, eternal life remains a distant fantasy.
Seekers of immortality are saddled with their own bodies, the physical brain, the fact of entropy. Eventually, things come apart; cells stop dividing, DNA mutates, organs miscarry. In a piece for The New Yorker, Tad Friend neatly divided the “Immortalists” into two camps: the Meat Puppet, who “believe that we can retool our biology and remain in our bodies”; and the RoboCops, who “believe that we’ll eventually coalesce with mechanical the organizations and/ or with the cloud.” Both groups face potentially insurmountable challenges. The Meat Puppet struggle against the laws of nature and personnels of deteriorate. The RoboCops, who speak of “uploading” minds as if by zip file, are stuck with the complexities of consciousness. But there may be a third route forward, a workaround that sidesteps some of the problems of the first two and targets subjective experience. Call them the Time Hackers.
Like the RoboCops, the Time Hackers want to tap into your psyche. But their aim isn’t to transfer the mind–“the ghost in the machine”–elsewhere. Instead, the Time Hackers want to modify consciousness, deceive the ghost inside your head, and attain you feel as though you’re living forever. Their object of study is time perception, and their inspiration comes from a story machine commonly used in science fiction.