The Day You Discard Your Body Chapter 1 – Is our science fiction right?

by Marshall Brain

Stop for a moment and think about your favorite science fiction stories.

For example, there are the two most popular science fiction franchises of all time: Star Wars and Star Trek. Both of them have brought in billions of dollars through movies, syndication, books and merchandise.

There are popular TV shows — everything from Lost in Space to Battlestar Galactica. There are the big movies like I, Robot and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

From the world of video games there are incredibly popular titles like Halo and Half-life.

And then there are the well-known science fiction books like Brave New WorldThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyRingworld and Neuromancer.

In other words, you have a very large body of work to choose from when it comes to science fiction.

Here is something that fascinates me. In all of these major science fiction stories there is one universal thread. There is one thing that they all have in common.

In every one of these science fiction stories, human beings have bodies.

No matter how much technology is available in the imagined civilization, no matter how advanced things have gotten, human beings still use the fragile, oh-so-easily-damaged biological bodies that we are born with.

Take Star Trek as an example. In Star Trek we find technology everywhere we look. The characters are flying around the galaxy in gigantic spaceships at phenomenal warp speeds. People are shooting each other with phasers and photon torpedoes. They are interacting with incredible androids like Data who are manufactured so that they look human. We even find the characters of Star Trek transporting the atoms of their bodies around with transporter beams. They have all of this technology, and yet…

They still use their biological human bodies.

Here is something even more amazing. In most of these science fiction stories there are high-tech “sick bays” and other advanced medical capabilities to handle all of the problems that those fragile human bodies create. Dr. McCoy waves his Tricorder to diagnose and cure many diseases instantly. [ref] Luke Skywalker is completely immersed in a bacta tank to quickly heal his wounds while medical droids look on and monitor his progress. [ref]

But even with all that, people still die all the time. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan hundreds of people die, including Spock, who succumbs to radiation poisoning. In Star Wars, people (and other species) die in droves. Within the first five minutes of the original Star Wars movie (Episode IV, A New Hope), dozens of people are already dead and lying on the floor. In Episode III, nearly the entire Jedi order is murdered.

Darth Vader steps around the bodies of dead soldiers

Despite all of this death and suffering, biological bodies are still the norm.

Does this make sense?

So what is going on here? Why do the authors of these stories imagine so much technology in these advanced civilizations, while at the same time assuming that none of this technology will spill over into the area of our biological bodies?

I suppose that it makes sense that we, as human beings today, would write our science fiction stories in this way. After all, every human being does have a biological human body right now. We take our biological bodies completely for granted and our science fiction reflects that bias. Thus we have Captain Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Luke Skywalker, Yoda, Darth Vader and all the rest using biological bodies just like we do.

But is this the way things will actually unfold? Is it possible that the science fiction stories that we see today are myopic? Could it be that the use of biological bodies in our science fiction is completely wrong?

I believe that reality will be far different from our science fiction. Within the next 50 years of so, give or take a decade, humans will begin discarding their bodies as quickly as humanly possible. In the 2050 timeframe, a human body will be as passé as the horse and buggy is to us today.

 photo by Patrick Hermans

Let me make this more personal. Take a moment to think about your own human body. Look down at your hands, for example. Look at your legs. Look at your face in a mirror. You inhabit a human body right now, just like we all do. We take our bodies completely for granted. We consider our bodies to be essential — so essential that, even in our most imaginative and far-reaching science fiction stories, we cannot envision our lives without human bodies.

But that is a primitive way of thinking. In the near future you will discard your body — you will literally throw it in the trash — because you will neither want it nor need it. You will discard your biological body gladly, like you would discard an old pair of shoes today. You will be quite grateful to be rid of it.

The reason why you will discard your body so willingly is simple. In the process of losing your body, you will achieve a level of freedom and longevity that is unimaginable to us today.

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In this book, you will come to understand why you will be so happy to discard your body. We will look at the many problems that your body creates for you today, along with the many limitations that it imposes on you. We will then discuss the technology that will make your body obsolete, and the powerful social forces that will encourage you to abandon it.

In the process, you will never look at your body in the same way again.

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