Can We Outlive Mortality?

To die is a fate we must all one day face. The fortunate ones go from conception, to childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood, to old age, and finally, they make their way into the state of non-living. Some go to school until the age of early adulthood, some kick-start their careers before they hit their twenties, and the great majority of us spend the next few decades wondering why we thought the degree we worked so hard for could predict the rest of our future. We all go through different experiences, but ultimately we all go through the same phases in life. But what if we could switch it up a bit? What if we could redefine the way we live our lives, and live up to the ripe age of 150 years old? What if we could keep our youthful bodies in the state it is for the next century? What if. We could cure this “disease” we call “death”?

            There are communities out there that truly believe that death is a disease we must cure. To quote The Coalition to Extend Life (CEL), which is an organisation dedicated to promoting indefinite life extension through political debate, they say,

We are on the precipice of a new age of science. We need to get rid of illnesses. The future promises unparalleled opportunity to defeat death, but to prevail we need a social and political movement that will push life extension to the top rung of our nation’s priorities.…….. the preamble to our Constitution states that we have, “The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” C.E.L. will make sure that the right to life means an immortal one for all of us

Technological Singularity [source]

Those who believe that we are destined for immortality also believe that we are on the brink of achieving superlongevity. They believe that science has made colossal progress that will allow us to cure the ailments that make us mortal, and that technology has expanded that it will usher in a new age of existence, or a technological singularity, allowing man and machine to be one in the same. The idea of superlongevity is not merely science-fiction, but a reality in which we will have to prepare ourselves for. Their argument is less “if”, but “when”.

Before any of us decides to put to rest our fleshy vessels and jump into the proverbial (computing) cloud in the sky (or not), the man is Ray Kurzweil, a proponent of the technological singularity, has said a few words regarding this matter. Do check out his video here

In addition to that, other thinkers also share the same thought, such as James Fries, an emeritus professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine who outlined how the compression of morbidity would help us live longer and healthier lives. Discoveries in biotechnology have also promised the increase of the Hayflick limit, the limit at which our cells stop dividing. These include the use of certain drugs such as Resveratrol or Metformin, drugs that mimic the effects of caloric reduction, which claims to retard aging, delay age associated decline in health and to increase our lifespans. Other scientists, such as David Sinclair have even gone as far as to demonstrate the reverse aging of cells in mice, suggesting that the future will include rejuvenation therapies that will allow us to remain young and healthy.

Ageless Evolution [source]

The future will not only be dominated with rejuvenation therapies and age-lengthening drugs, but will even allow for cryonics and brain preservation, which will further our strides into what the author, Micheal G. Zey calls the “Ageless Nation”. These treatments don’t remain a conceptual pipehole, but have clinical trials demonstrating a proof of concept. A pigs’ brain was “revived” using a technique called aldehyde-stabilised cryopreservation (ASC) in 2019, where all the connectomes in its brain were preserved. The implications of those findings go as far as to suggest that we will be able to preserve our brains after we (physically) die, and that all our memories, our knowledge and experiences can be preserved at -135℃, which at a later date, can be extracted and uploaded.

When first confronted with these findings, one often finds oneself questioning, “Why would we want to live so long?” or “How will that change our ways of life?”. To answer these questions, Michael G. Zey writes in his 2007 book, “Ageless Nation: The Quest for Superlongevity and Physical Perfection”, the real-life implications of superlongevity, from how our career landscapes will change, how the quest for superlongevity has already begun, to the social issues that will arise out of this new age. The book should serve as a good introductory read into the topic so that everyone can make an informed decision regarding the future of our kind.

Needless to say, such radical changes entail much resistance. Even if science and technology possess the capacity to reach for such heights, the future of this movement is strife with political challenges, religious opposition and societal acceptance. Though we might not actively participate in the discussions regarding such issues, the impacts of the decisions made will affect us all. If anything, it is more important that the academics and scholars in the fields of science and technology make access to such information available to all, allowing all of us to ponder the decision whether we want to outlive mortality, before it is too late.

Written by Jonas Ho

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