The Purpose of Technology

If the proximate purpose of technology is to reduce scarcity, the ultimate purpose of technology is to eliminate mortality.

The Purpose of Technology

If the proximate purpose of technology is to reduce scarcity, the ultimate purpose of technology is to eliminate mortality.

At first that sounds crazy. But let's start with the premise: is the proximate purpose of technology to reduce scarcity? Think about how a breakthrough is described: faster, smaller, cheaper, better. All of these words mean that with this new technology, one can do more with less. In the digital world, Google made information on any topic free to anyone with an Internet connection, and WhatsApp made it free to communicate with anyone. In the physical world, innovations like the Haber Process or the Green Revolution allowed us to produce more with less. In a real sense, these technologies reduced scarcity.

Now for the second half of the sentence, the logical implication. Is the ultimate purpose of technology to eliminate mortality? Well, mortality is the main source of scarcity. If we had infinite time, we would be less concerned with whether something was faster. The reason speed has value is because time has value; the reason time has value is because human life has value, and lifespans are finite. If you made lifespans much longer, you'd reduce the effective cost of everything. Thus insofar as reducing scarcity is acknowledged to be the proximate purpose of technology, eliminating the main source of scarcity – namely mortality – is the ultimate purpose of technology. Life extension is the most important thing we can invent.

And it's actually feasible today. It's been shown that we can extend healthy lifespans in mammals – and even reverse aging to bring people back to youth. Here's link after link after link after link on the topic.

If you want visual evidence that reversing aging is possible, here are photographs of people looking years younger as a side effect of a treatment for lung cancer:

You'd think there would be thousands of groups working on this, that all this would be international news. But you probably weren't aware of any of it. You probably also weren't aware of how far we've come on gene therapy, how much has been done in regenerative medicine, how advanced the latest bionic eyes are – or how deadly COVID-19 was as a threat until March of 2020.

A duty to evangelize technological progress

That is because people with scientific and technical backgrounds have not taken it upon ourselves to write about technological progress as a duty. We need to take time out of our busy days to make the case, repeatedly and with high production values, that technological progress is the most important thing we can do for broad-based prosperity and economic growth, and for life itself.

That starts with testing, drugs, treatments, and vaccines for COVID-19. But it goes far beyond that. Put another way: we may not get life extension or the whole suite of transhumanist technologies (brain-machine interfaces, stem cells, CRISPR gene therapy, and more) unless you, personally, evangelize them online. Not just tweets, but articles. Not just articles, but videos. Not just videos, but feature films. And not just a few films, but an entire Netflix original library's worth, a parallel tech media ecosystem full of inspirational content for technological progressives. A lifetime's worth of content that makes the case for immutable money, infinite frontier, artificial intelligence, and eternal life.

This may mean less focus on the businesses and personalities of technology. After all, do we care whether the technology for reversing aging is developed by a startup, an academic lab, a scientific consortium, or a solitary biohacker in their garage? No. What we care about is the goal of transcendence. If the technology ends up being completely free and open source, so much the better. A corporate vehicle is just one means to an end, not an end in itself. We may need to understand every detail of operating a business, but we can't get lost in those details.

The point of doing a startup after all is to build something you can't buy. Money can't yet buy you a trip to Mars. Or a neural implant. Or a medical tricorder. And at one point in the not-too-distant past it could not buy you a web browser, a search engine, or a smartphone. When the iPhone did not exist, people had to invent it. And they needed to be inspired to invent it.

A sense of purpose

Why doesn't inspirational content for technological progressives exist in abundance? Part of the reason is adverse selection. While science fiction – even dystopian science fiction – can inspire, the scientists, engineers, founders, and funders thus inspired are often more occupied with building technology than evangelizing it. But this in turn means that we aren't directly educating the next generation, or the public at large.

We need to change that. Specifically, people who know math and science, who have experience in managing and investing, who are technological progressives rather than technological conservatives – these people need to learn to write, report, publish, and direct. We need to consciously build a parallel tech-driven decentralized media ecosystem, and we need it to become the first point of call for anyone seeking to learn about technology.

In this we will have allies around the world. Only the very richest people can afford to be cynical about the merits of technological progress. The billions of people who just got their first smartphone have had their lives dramatically improved as a consequence, and are too pragmatic to romanticize the past. If you haven't already internalized this point, take two minutes to watch this.

Back? OK. So, building a media ecosystem for technological progressives clearly starts with technical education. At the K-12 level, we've already got plenty of learning apps, and the next step is remote schools. And at the level of collegiate education and continuous learning, Lambda School,, Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, Binance Academy, and the countless GitHub tutorials are an amazing start. But our duty extends beyond education to media of all kinds, particularly visual media.

The tech ecosystem has natural advantages here. We have the domain knowledge. And the experts at hand. We're already doing content marketing, podcasts, conferences, and a tweetstorm or two. We understand search engines, social networks, and distribution. And yes, we have learned to code.

What we haven't done yet is full stack narrative. That is, with a few exceptions, like Elon Musk, we haven't really told story arcs with technological progress at the center. We haven't taken the pitch we use to recruit engineers and externalized it for the public. We haven't infused emotion and meaning into our public communications. We haven't made every one of our companies a media company. We haven't set out to tell our story ourselves.

We need to correct that immediately, and start evangelizing technological progress with every word and action. To recognize that the purpose of technology is to transcend our limits, and to motivate everything we're doing with a sense of that purpose. To take the winnings from our web apps and put them towards Mars, to feel no hesitation towards starting small and no shame in dreaming big, to tell the world that it actually is possible to cure the deaf, restore sight, and end death itself.