As reported by the New Yorker, the desire to live forever is as common today as it was in the ancient world when Gilgamesh tried to force the secret of immortality from the gods. Researchers across the country and around the world are trying to solve the problem of aging and chronic disease – and ultimately death – through a variety of techniques and technologies. Moreover, in the quest to live forever, we may be closer to our goal than ever before.
Some researchers still hope to help themselves and others live forever by manipulating DNA – despite the disappointments that followed initial enthusiasm for this approach. Yes, the once vaunted telomeres that were supposed to allow our bodies to repair its own cell damage have turned out to be a dead end – no pun intended.
However, researchers carry on in the hopes that DNA research can at least contribute to a partial solution to the problem of death. Certainly, our cells ever lessening ability to replicate themselves and repair bodily damage is a core feature of our inability to live forever.
Aubrey de Grey is one of the leading researchers in the longevity field and definitely hopes to find a way to live forever – barring an accident like falling off a roof or being hit by a car. According to de Grey, instead of looking for a single genetic solution when trying to live forever, we need to look for incremental improvements.
This means solving problems that cause death individually at such a rapid rate that the longevity curve outstrips the mortality rate. Essentially, we would be finding new ways to live forever faster than death could find new ways to kill us.
When it comes to trying to live forever, others suggest a more technological solution to the problem. Some of America’s billionaires feel that human beings ultimately need to either merge with machines or transfer their consciousness to machines so that they can then live forever.
As noted by Fortune, Elon Musk himself is investing in a company called Neuralink that has the goal of creating neural connections between computers and human beings. This will have the advantage of allowing humans to vastly expand their mental capacities – and thus hold off the onslaught of an uprising among hypothetical futuristic androids.
But connecting human minds to computers in this way could be a first step in allowing the transference of the human consciousness from the few pounds of organic flesh inside our skulls to a much more sturdy and long-lasting mechanical structure in which we could presumably live forever.
Another way we might live forever is through cloning. While you might expect this means we would simply clone entirely new bodies and pop our brains into them, that kind of surgery may always be impossible. Researchers are instead looking at the idea of cloning cells from an individual to grow new organs in laboratory conditions that could then be transplanted into that person.
Obviously, if people could suddenly live forever, the implications for society would be wide ranging and profound. Everything from religion to retirement practices might begin to change.
In addition, it would certainly be necessary to institute strict birth control across the globe, since unrestrained reproduction combined with virtual immortality would quickly enthusiast the limited resources of this planet.
And speaking of resources, how would we decide just who gets to live forever? Whatever technology is developed that allows for this vastly expanded lifespan, it’s probably going to be expensive – at least initially – and not available to everyone. So, who gets it?
[Featured Image by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images]