Professor Neugebauer, we live in a time when renowned researchers are now even talking about immortality or at least an extreme extension of life.

When you hear that as a scientist, are you interested, alarmed - or is it simply megalomania?

Alexander Armbruster

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Of course, the thought of prolonging life is very gratifying for all of us. Everyone wants to live – healthy – as long as possible. And that's why there's a lot of interest in it. However, another important question is linked to this: If people deal with it, then of course it costs money. Such research, like other research, whether knowledge-driven or application-driven, has to find its justification somewhere. Especially if this is financed with public funds, it must also be preceded by an ethical consideration. When millions of people around the world are struggling to survive or to eat, is it a priority to do research on nutrition so that the living can live sensibly? Or is it a priority that people in rich nations,and there maybe only very wealthy people extend their lives? Both have their justification as scientific questions. But in my opinion, prioritization requires a corresponding discourse.

To reiterate, you take this longevity research scientifically seriously, aren't they crackpots?

Yes, this is knowledge-driven and a scientifically legitimate question that we need to address and that we should consider across the spectrum of scientific problems to be solved.

Incidentally, we are also fundamentally researching at Fraunhofer on “Longaevitas”, on long life, currently using the example of tobacco plants at the Fraunhofer IME in Aachen.

Another technology that holds great promise, fueled by significant advances in recent years, is artificial intelligence.

Some measure development on the human brain, some on questions such as which activities computers will soon take over.

How far are we there?

Artificial intelligence is an artificial term. Even the researchers who invented it at the time admit that they developed it because it was helpful in acquiring research funds. There's nothing wrong with that. I've always approached this topic from the question of what natural intelligence is - so that we can reflect on how far we have come with artificial replication. And do you know: To this day there is no uniform definition of intelligence in the world that neuroscientists, for example, would have agreed on. There was once an agreement that went like this: Anyone who is intelligent must be able to communicate, think logically, have empathy, be able to perceive - i.e. have all the sensors to be able to take in information at all - and have consciousness.Today we don't have a single technical system, no matter how well equipped it is in terms of computing technology, that has an awareness, i.e. that knows what it is.