No one is anyone, one single immortal man is all men? I am god, I am hero, I am philosopher, I am demon, and I am world, which is a tedious way of saying that I do not exist. -- Jorge Luis Borges
To live forever always has been a goal of humankind's oldest and soberest disciplines: religion, philosophy, science. One man thinks we finally are ready to go mano a mano with the grim reaper. "If we are around in 2030, there's a very good chance that we will be around indefinitely, that we will coast indefinitely," says FM-2030, a writer and consultant formerly known as F.M. Esfandiary, who has taught at UCLA and has been paid by the likes of J.C. Penney and the State of Florida to share his thoughts on what's to come. The futurist presents Liftoff to an Extraordinary Age: The Next 20 Years, a five-lecture series on everything from cloning to space colonization, beginning Wednesday at FIU's Wolfsonian Museum.
What's with the funky moniker? Just preparation for the future, a time, says FM-2030, when traditional names will be obsolete, when laboratory gestation and birth will replace the nuclear family. "[Names] evoke ancestry, heredity, religion, ethnicity," he explains. "I chose a name that evokes not the past but the future." The first part stands for Future Man or Future Marvel. The second reflects his belief that 30 years from now, the technology will exist to keep humans alive perpetually.
This technology-assisted evolution is addressed in his 1989 book, Are You a Transhuman?, which claims that in years to come minds will be downloaded to computers and old bodies will be replaced with new ones. Artificial is a term he shuns. "Anything that is inherent to nature is therefore natural," he says. "An aluminum implant in the body may be considered alien to the body, but it's natural because it comes from nature, and it allows that organism to move around freely, or to continue living."
Similarly advances in genetics will allow us to eschew mother nature's preferred method of reproduction, FM-2030 asserts. Parents' disappointments will be eliminated. "You may be very bright people, but you end up with a very dumb kid," he says. "In the coming decades, we will be able to choreograph every newborn." Just look at in vitro fertilization for proof, he points out: "Already people are going to sperm banks and ova banks, selecting sex cells that approximate their ideas. Twenty-five years ago this was heresy, this was science fiction, yet here it is! Hundreds of thousands of parents do it already. We may have sexual intimacy for pleasure, but not for reproduction. We will consider conventional reproduction as very haphazard."
Although all of this may sound too good to be true, it will require some ideological shifts by John Q. Citizen, especially if he likes the occasional Whopper. "The killing of innocent animals to feed ourselves, that is not the wave of the future," FM-2030 says. "It is inconsistent to be high-tech but at the same time to have values that come from our jungle days. The future is exceedingly nonviolent." Part of that nonviolence means humane treatment of prisoners, and a decreased need for police. As outlined in his 1973 book Up-wingers, both capitalism and socialism will give way to a new ideology. Corporate structures and elected officials (the very same who often hire him for consulting) too will become extinct.
But will identity be discarded? The futurist declines to talk about his age, where he was born, or where he was educated. "My background is all in the future," he says cryptically. "I am continually moving forward. Questions like 'Where are you from?' 'Where did you study?' All these things really mean nothing to me." FM-2030 frequently moves from place to place, but plans to live in Miami for a few years. Judging from the number of people here who hide from the past and look to the future, he may feel right at home.