The year 2050 may seem distant, but it is a mere 33 summers away. Predictions of how our world and our society will have changed by then are plentiful. They depict a world where, by 2030, people will live on average 90 years. By 2064, they will live up to and beyond 100. This is thanks to the rapid advancement in healthcare technologies, including gene editing: the modification of DNA human embryos to remove genetic mutations that can cause diseases and disabilities.

We will probably be living in “smart” houses, in which the furniture will be printed using home-based 3D printers and decorations will be holograms. Houses will be capable of monitoring our wellbeing through devices such as armchairs with sensors that can detect our vital functions, body posture, etc, as soon as we sit on them, and tell us what type of physical exercise we ought to do to improve our health. The work environment will also be completely different. The use of holograms in the workplace may enable us to work from home and be in the office only as a virtual 3D image.

By 2050, not all of us will be living on our beautiful blue planet. Some could be dwelling in Mars colonies, with the first humans landing on the red planet possibly by 2030, according to NASA.

So far, so good. The future sounds exciting and it seems almost certain that in 30 years’ time we will have replicators in our houses to make food and other objects, and will live in a very hi-tech, highly developed and advanced world where humans live longer, are healthier and are probably wealthier. It sounds as if we will be living in an ideal, perhaps utopian, world similar to that which we see in sci-fi shows such as Star Trek. Nonetheless, if we look more closely at this brave new world, what can we foresee about the future of sentient beings? What about our human consciousness? What about “us”?

One of the most popular predictions is that humans will achieve “digital immortality” (also called “virtual immortality”) and become “transhumans”, as described in the 2014 film Transcendence, where the main character outwits death by uploading his consciousness into a quantum computer. As far-fetched as it may sound, this is not a completely unrealistic scenario. Quantum computers do exist and the technology is already commercially available, although not yet as a consumer product.

Quantum computers work by using tiny physical objects called quantum bits (qubits) to deal with extremely large amounts of data and highly complex problems in the blink of an eye. Quantum computers could, therefore, store a human being’s memories and personality in the near future.

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