Essays on Infinite Lifespans
Marvin L. Minsky
Nevertheless, we might be able to replace certain worn out
parts of brains by transplanting tissue-cultured stem cells.
This procedure would not restore lost knowledge but that
might not matter as much as it seems. We probably store each
fragment of knowledge in several different places, in different
forms. New parts of the brain could be retrained and rein-
tegrated with the rest, and some of that might even happen
spontaneously. Progress in regenerative medicine in the past
few years is already leading to this form of treatment for neu-
rodegenerative conditions like Parkinsons.
LIMITATIONS OF HUMAN WISDOM
Even before our bodies wear out, I suspect that we run into
limitations of our brains. As a species we seem to have reached
a plateau in our intellectual development. There is no sign that
we are getting smarter. Was Albert Einstein a better scientist
than Newton or Archimedes? Has any playwright in recent
years topped Shakespeare or Euripides? We have learned a lot
in two thousand years, yet much ancient wisdom still seems
sound which makes me suspect that we havent been making
much progress. We still do not know how to deal with con-
flicts between individual goals and global interests. We are so
bad at making important decisions that, whenever we can, we
leave to chance what we are unsure about.
Why is our wisdom so limited? Is it because we do not have
the time to learn very much, or that we lack enough capac-
ity? Is it because, as in popular legend, we use only a fraction
of our brains? Could better education help? Of course it can,
but only to a point. Even our best prodigies learn no more
than twice as quickly as the rest. Everything takes us too long
to learn because our brains are so terribly slow. It would cer-
tainly help to have more time, but longevity is not enough.