Futurescape (2013) s01e03 Episode Script

Cheating Time

We gather here today in front of friends and family Woods: What a nice, young couple.
Well, sort of.
I mean, certainly nice, but young? Well, the parents are well over 200 years old and the bride herself celebrated the big 2-0-0 just this year, and it's not her first time at the rodeo.
She's been married five times.
Him? Seven.
Sort of like Hollywood.
Officiant: For richer, for poorer, in good times and in bad, untileternity.
Woods: Did you notice something missing from those wedding vows? No "In sickness and in health," Because in the future [Applause] There is only health.
No "Till death do us part," because in an age where there is no aging and death has been pretty much managed, obviously their wedding vows take on a whole new meaning.
In short, imagine a time when "Forever" really means forever.
-- Captions by VITAC -- CAPTIONS PAID FOR BY DISCOVERY COMMUNICATIONS [ Cheers and applause ] What is old age? Sickness? Wrinkles on our skin? Alzheimer's? Well, to some degree, all of it.
But if you could replace a failing heart like you would a rusty muffler, get new skin like you would a new paint job, it could fundamentally change the way we view sickness and aging, and keep us forever young.
Dr.
Kaku: Throughout history, the most powerful men in the world could build and destroy empires.
They controlled the fates of millions of people, but there's one thing they could never conquer, and that is aging and death.
It was the great equalizer, something that all humans share.
When that changes, the consequences are hard to imagine.
Dr.
Depinho: The fact that we've essentially doubled life expectancy over the last century, we're now entering into uncharted territory for who we are as a species.
Woods: Nature has a cruel way of letting us know we're getting old.
But now a new technology is bringing us one step closer to the promise of eternal youth -- or at least the appearance of it.
Dr.
Kaku: Imagine if we could do away with wrinkles, sagging skin, and lines naturally -- not by nip and tuck, but by literally growing fresh, new skin.
It's where the end of aging will begin.
Woods: At wake forest University, Dr.
Anthony atala has converted an ink-jet that used to print documents into a machine that could print living human skin.
It's called bioprinting.
Dr.
atala: Instead of having a cartridge that has ink, you're using a cartridge that has cells.
The printer is able to print the skin one layer at a time in the right organizational structure that's present in your very own skin.
We can print a segment of 8x10 skin in just about an hour.
Woods: Each cartridge is filled with different types of cells cultured from the patient.
A scanner generates a precise 3-D map of the two layers of the patient's skin -- the dermis and the epidermis.
The printer uses this guide to spray the first layer of cells, called fibroblasts.
These are the structural framework of tissue and create the dermis.
Once these cells organize into a tight matrix, the printer lays down the epidermis.
Made of keratinocyte cells, this top layer of skin is our protection from environmental damage.
The printing technologies that we have developed have been really aimed towards healing burns or traumatic injuries.
Woods: Soldiers scarred by IEDs, firefighters burned in the line of duty, anyone who has suffered devastating skin injuries will be as good as new with one visit to the doctor.
Of course, this technology also has some enticing cosmetic possibilities.
Lightman: A large part of our brain is set up to look at nuances in the face.
And the ability to replace the skin around our eyes and our forehead, where people are beaming their gaze and looking at us with great intensity, will change people's perspective on us.
Allhoff: If some of the visual symptoms of aging went away -- if everybody looked like they were 22-years-old -- how would we interact with people? Would it change how we look at people? Would it change how we look at society? Cascio: How does society react to the presence of people that we know are elderly? It's gonna be very strange for people to hit their 40s and realize that their parents look younger than them.
Glenn: It will be possible to lie about one's age at an interview because you won't be able to tell what one's age is by looking at them.
Perhaps you would like to look like you have wisdom, and being 50 is not a bad thing.
You'll be able to pick the age at which you wish you appear.
Woods: But can the promise of eternal youth be more than skin deep? Work is under way to engineer a world where hospitals become human body shops, where a 70-year-old can get a brand-new kidney, liver, or heart.
Dr.
kraft: In the future, we're integrate better stem-cell and tissue-engineering technologies with things like 3-D printing and computer-aided design to build truly personalized organs on demand.
Woods: Solid organs are the ultimate goal, but a lethal roadblock stands in the way -- the blood vessels.
[ Heartbeat ] Blood much reach nearly every cell of an organ, like the liver where both wide arteries and capillaries just two .
0002 of an inch in diameter course through.
Bioprinting at this degree of detail requires some of the most exacting filament architecture in the modern world.
That is why Christopher Chen of the University of Pennsylvania has turned to the masters candy makers.
Dr.
Chen: Candy manufacturing technologies basically use some of these same principals.
You see these sort of glassy sugar design patterns.
So we definitely use a lot of the know-how from that industry.
Woods: Not only do they use the same technology as the candy makers, the main ingredient they use to build the intricate network of blood vessels is just as sweet -- sugar.
Dr.
Chen: We were looking for something that would leave behind filaments.
And filaments have to be able to dissolve and leave behind material that is not going to be toxic to cells.
Sugar comes out, it hits air temperature and at air temperature, it's immediately freezing in place.
That allows the sugar to keep its own structure in even very complicated 3-D shapes.
Woods: Once the sugar-vessel structure hardens, it's covered with cells.
Water then dissolves the sugar, and hollow tubes are left behind.
These are the organ's blood vessels.
Dr.
Chen: We were really excited to see that we could get blood flowing through these structures at the velocities and at the pressures that we would expect to see in human tissue.
Dr.
kraft: I imagine services in the future where you'll take a skin biopsy or give some white blood cells from your blood.
Those cells will be sent to a lab.
They'll be turned into your own organs, ready to go in the case of an emergency or a critical medical situation.
Woods: This will save thousands of lives, but it may also encourage some hard living.
Cascio: The risk that a lot of people worry about, is that this will lead to a culture of irresponsibility, that people will be willing to take greater risks with themselves, knowing pieces can be so easily replaced.
Lightman: You could actually replace an organ before it fails.
So, for instance, if you're gonna be engaging in a heavy bout of drinking [ Vomiting ] You may want to replace your liver ahead of time.
Woods: You thought your college days were wild? Try it when you're 70.
Eventually, organ replacement could be as common as getting a facial or a haircut.
If you have cataracts -- maybe you're near-sighted -- simply order new eyes and replace them.
But replacing old parts with new ones will treat the symptoms, not the causes of illness.
With an invisible world of microbes and viruses surrounding us, mortality still lies in wait, but what if we can protect ourselves against an enemy we can't see And eradicate contagion forever? Woods: There's no easy path to the fountain of youth.
So, if these newlyweds are going to stay just as youthful for another 100 years, they're going to have to be vigilant against all the forces of aging, and if you look a little closer, you'll see those forces are everywhere around us.
The only way to protect our bodies from sickness and disease is to build and impenetrable defense.
So, even on the biggest day of her life, a bride's veil is part of the fight against bacteria, disease, and toxins.
In the last 150 years, our life expectancy has doubled, and this is because we learned something about the invisible world of germs.
We learned something about sterilization, antibiotics, and vaccinations, and this has allowed us to extend our life expectancy, and soon we'll double our life expectancy once again by monitoring our bodies at the microscopic and genetic level.
Woods: That protection is on its way, and nanotextiles are the key.
If you look here, you can actually kind of see the tailored cone.
It depends on the polymer solution that you're spinning.
Woods: Fiber scientists at Cornell University are changing the way we fight the battle on aging by creating fabrics that capture microbes and toxins.
Frey: Nanofibers are thousands of times thinner than these typical fibers that we have around us in everyday use.
Our group is looking at its use for capturing viruses out of air and out of even people's breath.
Woods: Margaret frey uses some of the smallest fibers in the world, made of polymers and metals, to create this revolutionary fabric.
A human hair is something like 40,000 to 120,000 nanometers in diameter.
So, we're making things that are hundreds of times thinner than a human hair.
Woods: The key is surface area.
A sugar cube has about the same surface area as a half stick of gum.
But fill that sugar cube with nanofibers and it could now cover one and a half football fields.
So, if we want to be able to capture something out of the air, maybe e.
Coli, maybe viruses, this just gives us hundreds of times more chances of catching it, because that surface area is so much bigger.
And I'm going to turn up the voltage to 15 kilovolts.
Woods: The secret is in the weave, a super high-tech process called electrospinning.
Electrospinning is basically made by just applying an electrical charge, a high electrical charge, 10,000 volts, to the surface of a liquid and pulling tiny, tiny strands off that liquid and then solidifying them into these nanofibers.
Germ-killing nanofibers can be woven into the fabric of hospital gowns, or we can wipe food-preparation surfaces by nanofiber cloths that can reveal the presence of bacteria.
This means no more flu season, no more allergies, but of course this also means that we'd become very dependent upon our clothes to protect us from sickness.
[ Beeping ] Lightman: It could be bad for you, because this microflora is the kind of thing that actually helps us with our immune system and it attacks some of the nasty things that get us.
If you don't have that there to help you, then you're screwed.
Woods: The cells in our body are only 10% human.
The other 90% are bacteria.
It's an entire ecosystem of microbes living in and on us, many of them vital to our health.
So these fabrics must provide more than protection from microbes.
They need to be smart enough to distinguish the good microbes from the bad ones.
Textiles are now having sensors woven into them -- biological sensors, radiation sensors that could easily signal, "Danger, danger -- radioactive material in the air.
" buttaro: The material moves.
It responds by creating a voltage, which can be applied to many different sensors.
You're gonna see the voltage response as those ticks.
Woods: Microstrands are conductive.
So it's possible to make a circuit to carry information.
Tiny embedded computers can identify and destroy only harmful bugs.
Every tick indicates voltage moving through the material, generating enough power to charge a simple sensor.
In the future, we'll be able to put on a shirt that, when we're traveling, say, in a plane, that will monitor our health and let us know if we're fighting a virus or some sort of infection.
Woods: Putting on clothes in the morning will be like suiting up for battle.
But if we're on guard 24/7, what effect will it have on our minds? If we knew how many harmful things there were in the air because we were getting a signal, we'd realize how much harmful material there is to be worried about and we might want to stay inside.
Cascio: It may become a situation where we have this induced hypochondria.
We're going to be inundated with all this data that, unless we have some real context, could appear really frightening.
Dr.
kraft: So, we're entering this era where you're able to capture your health and medical-related data almost 24/7.
I might be a health, kind of, "Healthcare GPS.
" better prediction, better prevention, and better personalized prevention will really shift that curve such that many of those diseases that lead to actual death are staved off further and further.
Woods: But, even if we build a fortress of protection around us, there are still destructive forces within us, diseases that have lain in wait from the day we were born.
Combating sickness directly, at the cellular level, will take an army powerful, intelligent, and incredibly small.
[ Whirring ] [ Beeps ] Now, if your computer's ever crashed, I'm sure you've stood in a line just like this, but this place isn't for hardware fixes.
This is line for human repair.
No more E.
R.
no more drafty hospital gowns.
Medicine in the future will be more like the I.
T.
Department.
Even cancer is no big deal when you've got a team of doctors and a pharmacy coursing through your veins.
[ Beeps, whirs ] Dr.
Kaku: Nanomedicine has existed for decades.
We know them as vaccines -- that is, weakened viruses that provoke our immune system.
But what's now being developed is the next big step -- smart cells that lie in wait, ready to fend off any intruder as soon as they're detected.
Woods: Imagine combining the skill and intelligence of a surgeon with a computing power of robotics to create a miniature medical army, a fleet of nanorobots that can search and destroy genetic diseases, cancer, and Alzheimer's at the source.
At NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, a nanocapsule that can watch over your body has already been created.
Dr.
Loftus: This is the NASA biocapsule.
It's one of our latest inventions here at ames research center.
Woods: Dr.
David loftus is one of the minds responsible for ushering in the next generation of life-extending medicine.
The biocapsule is a container for living cells that allows us to transplant those cells into the human body.
Woods: Originally invented for astronauts, the capsule is designed to monitor the body, detect illness, and deliver medicine on the spot, like a miniature hospital, roaming your body 24/7.
The contents of the biocapsule would be cells that are programmed to respond to some threat to the health of the astronauts.
We envision implanting the capsule in the thigh or in the forearm.
Woods: To survive the hostile environment of the human body, these capsules are built to last.
Biocapsules made of carbon nanotubes are quite strong.
They're even stronger than steel.
They're very bio-inert, and that's important so that the cells inside are completed shielded from attack by the host immune system.
Woods: These carbon nanotubes are just .
001 the width of a grain of sand.
They're also incredibly flexible, allowing them to bend into exactly the right shape.
They're made through a very simple procedure that involves filtering a solution of carbon nanotubes against a porous meshwork filter.
Once these capsules are formed, the entire cylindrical structure is about a millimeter in diameter and 10 millimeters long.
Woods: With new advances, this tech will only get smaller, perhaps down to the size of a single cell.
But already nanocapsules have enormous potential to protect us from the enemies within.
Dr.
Loftus: The cells inside might be programmed to release Insulin, for treatment of diabetes, for instance, or might be programmed to release molecules that will treat cancer.
Stanford and other institutions are developing small robots that can literally move through your blood stream.
In the not too-distant future, start to see those types of nanotechnologies embedded in our own bodies.
Woods: Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, huntington's disease -- any disorder that we're preprogrammed to suffer could be detected and destroyed long before it can even begin to do damage.
Our conventional notions about how one provides medical care would have to be completely thrown out the window at that point.
Allhoff: You could release medicine before people even know that they're sick.
So, instead of going to see doctors, we might go to see technicians who tinker with our I.
T.
Rather than interact with us.
Dr.
Kaku: Like the polio vaccine today, everyone will be injected by nanodevices at birth.
You'll be protected from day one.
They're gonna have little, tiny transceivers, little tiny antennas.
If you wanted to update this with the latest software, you can do that wirelessly.
Woods: In the future, the term "Senior" Won't mean 70.
It might mean 115.
Nanotech will bring about the end of human illness.
We obviously have examples of supercentenarians, but there seems to be a bit of a cutoff -- let's say 115 or so.
There's still a big question -- can we get over that bump? Woods: A world without sickness may also give rise to an unsettling reality.
Barring some horrible accident, the human life-span will be extended but relatively fixed.
Without diseases and illnesses, all of us will have roughly the same number of years.
Knowing the date of our death will make it appear to be much shorter as we barrel toward the last tick of our clock.
Dr.
kraft: I think anytime you have something that feels scarce and short, you appreciate it more.
Death is an element that helps us appreciate life.
Woods: Living in a world without sickness and disease has been the goal from the time of ancient medicine men, but even when that dream becomes a reality our bodies will continue to wither away; our energy and vigor will fade.
But there may be a way to tap into a powerful system that controls our body's engine and reverse the devastating decay of youth.
Woods: In the future, centenarians won't be the exception.
They'll be the rule.
But there's still an evolutionary fuse burning towards a catastrophic end, when our bodies self-destruct at the cellular level.
You have to get rid of the old to make room for the new.
So, we accelerate our decay after sexual maturity.
It's very hard to slow that down.
Woods: As our biological clocks tick steadily towards our demise, we'll have to overcome evolution's own design to maintain the energy and vitality of youth.
It turns out, the latest breakthrough in anti-aging tech is already here.
The single best way we know of now to slow or even reverse the visible signs and the nonvisible signs of aging is exercise.
Woods: Exercise has positive effects on just about every aspect of our health, our energy, and our mental well-being, but there are limits.
When our bodies overheat, an internal shutdown mode is triggered to protect our cells from thermal damage.
This biological safety mechanism forces us to slow down, stifling our performance.
The older we get, the quicker our bodies reach that thermal tipping point.
One of the things that was puzzling to us was the fact that temperature could have such a huge impact on performance.
Woods: At Stanford University, scientists have invented a device that can bypass the internal shutdown mode, allowing us to exercise longer and age more slowly.
Put some insulation on.
[ Man laughs ] You're still too happy.
It's too hot in there for me.
We had one subject that did 1,000 push-ups for his 60th birthday.
Woods: The secret is the cooling power in this innocuous-looking glove.
It performs a fundamental but tricky task -- it cools our core.
Burning calories generates heat, raising the core temperature, a process that can be sped up using a 106 degree hot room.
This rise in temperature triggers an enzyme responsible for metabolic activity in muscles.
Grahn: These enzymes had an optimal temperature range, but if you went slightly above that, they shut down, and it stopped the metabolic process.
We thought, "Oh, this is fantastic!" this is an autocontrol mechanism on a cellular basis that prevents cells from thermally self-destructing.
Woods: These enzymes force our bodies to switch off at a thermal tipping point, one we reach long before our muscle are completely exhausted.
If the core can be cooled rapidly, it's possible to trick the body into rebooting, kind of like when a computer overheats.
But we don't have built-in fans for cooling.
So, grahn turned to the next best thing -- our biological radiators.
Grahn: Underlying the non-hairy skin regions are a unique set of vascular structures that enable a large volume of blood to flow directly beneath the skin surface.
If you're overheated, your system wants to get back to normal.
Woods: The glove cycles cool water around the hand, releasing heat from the blood.
From here, the chilled blood travels directly to the heart and cools the core in as little as three minutes.
In this case, the subject went up very rapidly and then stuck his hand in the device, and core temperature drops like a rock.
Woods: With his temperature back to normal, the athlete can return to the treadmill and perform as good as new.
His energy and stamina are restored.
With every step, the aging process in his cells is slowing.
Grahn: What we found is the training responses was greater with cooling than has been reported with steroids.
You can take just the average person and increase their performance capacity by 50%.
You can take really elite endurance-type athletes and you can double their performance capacity.
Woods: This tech works regardless of age.
So, it could be possible to build muscle, work long hours without tiring, and project physical confidence in your 80s, 90s, or beyond.
Imagine 100-year-old engineers who could work comfortably in the scorching heat of the Sahara desert.
Or imagine an 80-year-old general who can fight right alongside 20-year-old recruits.
Allhoff: Would it become harder for young people to find jobs because the older people wouldn't retire as early? The ambition of youth would be pushed back.
Uldrich: 100 years ago, most kids were working by the time they were 15.
Today, many aren't even finding productive work until they're 26 and, you know, even later.
Glenn: We cannot continue to populate the earth the same way.
The earth will not be able to sustain the population.
Woods: This device would radically extend the limits of human strength and endurance.
The physical divide between old and young will shrink with a longer-living, vigorous population.
But is it possible to stop aging in its tracks or reverse it altogether? A true fountain of youth will flip evolution on its head and stall the gears of our biological clock.
[ Indistinct conversations ] Woods: Looks like fun, but this isn't your typical bon-voyage party, because the youngest member of this bunch is centuries old and the punch Is poison.
Now, what if this were the only way to escape life, because when eternal youth is the norm, we may actually have to seek out death.
So, the question is, will our will to live survive the test of time? Allhoff: When I think of life extension, one of the analogies that resonates with me is vampires.
And you think about what vampires who have been around for, say, 400 years -- what do they do with all of this time? Because we die, we have a need to make our lives meaningful.
If we didn't have a natural life-span, we would have very different ideas about what it means to have a meaningful life.
Woods: Today, a life that never ends may be within our grasp thanks to do the discovery of an antiaging elixir found right inside our bodies.
Dr.
Ivona Percec at the University of Pennsylvania is working with a mysterious substance called sirtuin, a protein capable of delaying the aging process at the molecular level.
Dr.
Percec: The sirtuin proteins were found to play a role in aging.
One of the best-known studies is where mice that were fed a diet that was restricted in calories had significantly longer life-spans.
One of the set of genes that were changed by restricting calories was one of the sirtuin genes.
Woods: Scientists realize that sirtuin genes are activated by the threat of starvation.
The genes produce a protein that shuts down other genes in the mice, conserving energy as they endure the famine.
The result? The mice live twice as long.
So, here we have the fat, or adipose tissue.
There is a huge benefit when you're working with primary human tissues because everything we learn is in native, normal tissues, and that has a fast translatability to medicine.
Woods: The first task for percec is to search the human genome to find out where sirtuins are interacting with other genes.
She's still gathering data but already finding huge differences between the cells of the young and the old.
Dr.
Percec: In young cells, the red, there is sirtuin 7 binding in areas where there are not many genes.
And in this same area, this protein is depleted in older patients.
So it's lost in those regions, and this is true across all of the chromosomes that we've looked at.
Woods: The chromosomes in human DNA contain about 3 billion genes, most of which much be kept silent to prevent the breakdown of our cells.
The sirtuin protein is like the national guard of our DNA, keeping these unused genes in lockdown mode.
So if sirtuins are called away on another job, like repairing DNA damage from a toxin, the prisoner genes in our cells light up, causing chaos and aging.
We hope to prevent aging in younger patients and recapitulate a more youthful molecular profile in older patients.
Dr.
Kaku: In a few decades, perhaps we'll take a pill to balance our sirtuin levels to make sure that dormant genes stay turned off, and this in turn could vastly increase our life expectancy.
Woods: Percec's ultimate goal would be a drug that can slow the decay of our cells as a result of genetic chaos.
But inside our DNA is a ticking time bomb, triggered by a biological clock we can't control.
Work is under way at md Anderson cancer center to master biological time -- research that has the potential not only to slow the aging process but reverse it.
The secret lies in telomeres, the protein caps on chromosomes.
They protect our DNA from damage, but they're not invincible.
Telomeres are the tips of chromosomes.
They help to maintain the integrity of our chromosomes.
And as we age, these tips become frayed.
They become damaged.
And when they reach a critical point of damage, chromosomes become unstable.
They trip the switch that leads to aging and age-associated diseases.
Woods: Dr.
Ronald Depinho is experimenting with ways to replace damaged telomeres using an enzyme called telomerase.
It has the potential to reverse aging in cells.
We asked a very basic question -- if we could flip telomerase back on and restore telomeres, would we have an impact on aging? Woods: Depinho's team bred mice that lack telomerase and let them grow into adulthood without it.
The mice quickly showed multiple signs of advanced aging.
At this point, the team reactivated the telomerase with injections.
Dr.
Depinho: What we were expecting was that we would slow the aging process, perhaps stabilize it.
And what we found instead was a dramatic reversal in the signs and symptoms of aging.
So, these animals which had a very feeble demeanor to them became much more active.
Their coat hairs were restored to a healthy sheen.
They became fertile.
Their cognition improved.
And many of their organ systems also became vital again.
They essentially went from being somebody close to their 90s to middle-aged.
Woods: Depinho turned back the biological clock.
But what exactly does immortality mean to a mortal mind? The thought of living as an immortal frightens many, many people.
I think people will probably ultimately want to check out, at some point.
Cascio: Our brains evolved in a physiological environment that had a limited life-span.
We didn't need to be able to remember anything past 100 years, roughly.
And if we can live to be 400, 500, 1,000 or more, will it be a situation where we can continue to remember our past, or will we be constantly reinventing ourselves? Woods: Biological immortality may be within the sights of science, but there's no surefire way to avoid death entirely.
Accidents, war, murder, pestilence, simple human error.
These will always be dark clouds looming over our mortality, but there may be a way to transcend our mortal flesh altogether.
The only problem? You have to die first.
[ Whirs ] Hey, sweetie.
How you guys doin'? I'm so glad you guys came.
Woods: Most people who come to a graveyard to visit their departed loved ones speak to them.
It's perfectly normal.
But in the future, the nature of that conversation may evolve because while aunt mabel's mortal remains are, indeed, buried beneath the ground, she isn't really gone.
Her intellect, her sense of humor, her memories are all still here, preserved for eternity in another form.
Dr.
Kaku: Our mind is the essence of who we are.
But perhaps one day we might be able make a copy of our mind and transfer it into a more durable structure.
This could make us immortal, and perhaps aging will be a thing of the past.
The idea here is that if we can figure out how to transfer the kinds of computations that are going on that allow consciousness, perception, et cetera, that you could then run them on any other equivalent type of device that can carry out those computations -- something that people would use to continue living if they feel they're coming to the end of their biological life-span.
Woods: Imagine creating a copy of yourself by uploading your thoughts, your feelings, and memories throughout your life.
Then transferring your essence to another platform.
It boggles the mind.
But a team led by Alice Parker at the University of Southern California has developed the first components.
They are copying the behavior of neurons, neural pathways, and synapses with nanotechnology.
The brain is huge in terms of the number of neurons and the number of connections.
Nanotechnology would make an obvious way to try to mimic the biology as closely as possible.
Woods: There are hundreds of billions of neurons and trillions of synapses in a 3-pound brain that process and store information.
Anything that attempts to replicate a mind, to capture its essence, must use equally small parts to perform the same tasks.
That's why Parker engineers the smallest man-made transistors in the world -- carbon nanotubes.
We've been able to use those nanotubes as transistors to mimic the synapse of a neuron.
We were able to show that they responded similarly to the way that the biological synapse responds.
Woods: Just like a synapse that fires an electrochemical signal when we have a thought, the nanotubes can fire electrical signals that can transmit digital information.
If Parker can structure nanotubes with the same complexity as our brains, she could make a potential backup copy of us.
But the greatest challenge is instilling a brain with the essence of what makes us human.
An artificial brain wouldn't be truly like a human brain unless it had other properties -- consciousness, motivation, and self-awareness.
Woods: Even when all those problems are solved, the new brain would still be a blank slate.
The brain that we would build would just be an infant brain.
It would be naive and not know anything.
It would have to learn.
Woods: But what if we could transfer the entire contents of an adult mind -- memory, life experience, identity -- to an artificial brain? A mind on a chip could actively think and communicate long after the flesh that once contained it is gone.
Koene: You could imagine how this could help with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, et cetera, right up to the point where you're dealing with the biggest type of brain damage that ultimately happens to all of us, which is when our brains simply cease to operate -- when we die.
Woods: A transferable brain would change everything we know about life and death.
You're not dependent on a biosphere that contains oxygen.
You're not dependant on eating food that we produce from that land.
And the truth is, in technological systems, nothing ever really has to die.
You will have some people who want to have copies of themselves because who would understand you more than a version of yourself? Woods: This is the dawn of immortality.
But that raises some pretty big questions, starting with -- is this something we truly want? Societies that have long-lived people stagnate.
They get very judgmental.
They get very isolated.
And so a world filled with people who never died would be a nightmare if we wanted to have a creative society.
Woods: Or will a clock that never runs out prove to be a gift? Smart: When is it appropriate for something to die? It was probably appropriate for us to die right after we'd raised our children, before we had culture.
Once we have culture, it's important for us to stick around and teach our kids.
And now I would argue we're on the edge of being able to preserve our entire life's memories with wearable tools and pass that on in a simulation of ourselves that our children will use to talk to when we're gone.
Woods: The inevitability of death has been a singular force driving human history.
No one wants to be erased by time.
So we work and struggle to achieve immortality by leaving behind a trace of ourselves, our culture, our art, our monuments, our love.
In the future, technology may offer us a shot at true immortality, but this time we may actually be around to enjoy it.