Immortality at Your Fingertips

December 17, 2010

“Our hope of immortality does not come from any religions, but nearly all religions come from that hope”-Robert Green Ingersoll, American Statesman 1833-1899

The cause of aging comes mostly from the imperfections made during cell division. At the end of your DNA strands there are things called telomeres whose job it is to make sure your DNA strands copy correctly. But as you age your telomeres start to break down and abnormalities start to appear in your DNA, which in essence causes your body to “break down”.

Aging has been traditionally been dealt through diet and medicine, but now through our better understanding of nano-technology and genetics we can slow down, stop, and eventually reverse the causes of aging.

Our abilities to extend the human life span have grown tremendously in the past hundred years. At the beginning of the 20th century the average human lifespan was anywhere from 30 to 45 years. Since then we have nearly eradicated polio, smallpox, the measles, and a host of other diseases. No one then, and very few now, believed that these advances in the field of medicine have been steps to humanity’s goal of immortality.

Mice have 99% of our genes and last month Harvard scientist, who by tampering with the telomeres not only stopped aging, but reversed it. Although there are several barriers in replicating these results on humans, it is a clear indication that we have begun the process of radical human life extension.

One of the most used arguments against “immortality” or radical life extension is that it’s un-natural. It may be “natural” to age, but as humans, we constantly change the natural world around us to better suit our needs and comforts, and I see no positives of losing my sensory acuity, physical aptitude, mental health, or any of my abilities. I also see no reason to miss out on life experiences and I will always choose life over death.

If we look at how radical life extension might impact the world, we realize how important this concept is to humanity.

Environmental Impact: With a current growing population and a death rate that will drop to nearly zero, how will our environment be able to handle the massive increases in consumption?

Economic Impact: Will people be working for hundreds of years in the same job? Will there be retirement pensions covering people for thousands of years?

Religious Impact: How will religions around the world convince people to die “naturally” to see a place never seen before instead of living out their lives? How would that affect the foundation of most religions if the premise of your good behavior rests on what happens after you die?

Social Impact: Will people stay married for hundreds of years? Will it become normal to have dozens of marriages and many children with different couples? Will it become standard that you might have children that are younger than your great grandchildren from 6 marriages before? Will people treat life with the same worth, since it now lost its scarcity?

Post what other impacts you think radical life extension could have

“Do not fear death, but rather the unlived life. You don’t have to live forever. You just have to live. And she did”-Tuck Everlasting

One Response to “Immortality at Your Fingertips”

  1. etherscythe said

    My concern is social stagnation. In many cases, it takes a change of generations to right some civil wrong that has been perpetrated on minority groups or to pass from an outdated paradigm to a new one (e.g. commerce over the internet). When the generations no longer change, how will these critical and fundamental shifts happen?

    I would note that the study you referenced, if it is the same I read about not too long ago, the mice were “aged” prematurely by also tampering with the telomeres – I would therefore argue that until a “naturally aged” test subject has positive results with this procedure, it may be premature to declare the cure to be found.

    We may think we understand the causes of aging, but we have been wrong before. Until very recently, we thought all that was necessary was to eliminate “free radicals” from our bodies. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t plan for success, but a little perspective is called for, I think.

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