How to test immortality?


Testing is my hobby, and, as with any hobby, I try to always learn more. So I was wondering if this profession is future-proof. Recently I attended a presentation of a futurologist and this inspired me. Please join me and step into the future…

Are you younger than 50 years of age? If so, congratulations, you have a good chance of becoming immortal. Do you think: “Sounds like science fiction”? Well maybe, but less than you might expect at first glance.

Have you ever seen the website of the strategic social initiative; In short they demonstrate that by 2045 we will have the technology to make you immortal. The first question I had was: “What is the definition of immortal?” I can find 2 views:

  • The first view is your body remains alive for ever. This unfortunately will not be achievable, although someone’s body lives about twice as long as 100 years ago we won’t be able to make it immortal (at least not in this century).
  • The other definition is that your spirit and soul will live on forever. This can be achieved by capturing your spirit and soul in a digital model and thus it can live on forever. This definition is the basis for this blog item.

Does capturing your spirit and soul in a digital model seem unlikely? I don’t think so, the year 2045 is just 32 years in the future. Please think back 32 years, in 1982 nobody had a computer at home yet (except for a few whizzkids). In 1982 people had rotary phones (not even pushbuttons let alone touch-screens). And the IBM PC that had just been revealed had the maximum memory capacity of 256 kilobyte; an average computer today has 16000 times as much memory. If you look at the technological advance since then, it seems very likely to me that by 2045 we will indeed have the technology to make our spirit and soul immortal.

For the moment let’s skip the philosophical questions whether immortality is achievable or desirable.  Let’s assume for the moment that it is possible. Now what does this have to do with testing? If you become immortal, you want to be sure that it is actually YOU who becomes immortal, don’t you? And since your spirit and soul are digitized in a computer model, we can use our software testing skills to verify whether it’s really you.

Where do you start when testing this? Like in any testing, start with a product risk analysis (PRA) to determine what would be major problems and what flaws would be acceptable. The PRA results are used to determine the scope and depth of testing for specific parts of the spirit-and-soul-under-test. Next we select the appropriate test approaches and techniques. As a frame of reference I have taken the triangle of Logos-Pathos-Ethos of Aristotle. The logos part (logics, calculations etcetera) shouldn’t be too hard to test. Use the well-known test techniques like decision tables and boundary value analysis and see if the “Logos” of the test object is identical to that of the original person. More complex will be the testing of Pathos (emotions) and Ethos (trustworthiness). There an exploratory approach will be appropriate. To get the predicted output (which is essential in testing) you can interview the person. Next you ask the same question to the digitized spirit and soul, and if the answer matches you accept the model as being correct … Will you? No, not always. Why not? Well if the original person is very fickle you would expect that if the same question is asked twice, you would get two different answers! About Ethos; the saying is that every man has his price. So if, for example, you know someone can be bribed for one million, you can do a simple boundary value analysis. Offer him the 999.999,99 and he will refuse the bribe, offer one million and you will succeed. (hmm, will such boundary actually be as clear as this???)

So the model needed for making the do-accept/don’t-accept decision will be quite complex and testing won’t be straightforward. But as shown above our current knowledge of testing and the skills, techniques and tools available can help us to solve this problem.

My conclusion is that the future of testing is bright. With testing immortality the basic approach is no different than for any other testing project. We do a risk analysis, select the test depth we want to reach, select test approaches and test techniques and do the best testing possible within the constraints of the situation. And we still have 30 years available to figure out the details, so let’s do this together and make the testing profession immortal!!

Rik Marselis


Rik Marselis is principal quality consultant at Sogeti in the Netherlands. He has assisted many organizations in improving their IT-processes, in establishing their quality & testing approach, setting up their quality & test organization, and he acted as quality coach, qa-consultant, test manager and quality supervisor. Rik uses his more than 40 years of experience in systems development and quality and testing to bring fit for purpose solutions to our clients. He focuses at three major tasks: * Consultancy on Quality engineering & Testing in the broadest sense (quality & test policy, project startup, process improvement, coaching, second-opinions, etc…) * Develop and give training courses for both novice and experienced testers (Rik is an accredited trainer for TMAP, TPI and ISTQB certification training courses) * Research and development of the quality engineering & testing profession. Rik has contributed to over 20 books on quality and testing, of which 5 as an main author and 5 as project leader. His most recent book in the TMAP body of knowledge is “Quality for DevOps teams”. Rik is a much-appreciated keynote-speaker and workshop-host at conferences (he has presented at conferences in over 15 countries).

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