Can we avoid death?

“nanoimmortality” by kemmikore, used under CC BY-SA 2.0

What would you do with an extra 10 years on your life? An extra 100? An extra 1,000? We might be heading that way.

Yuval Noah Harari, speaking to Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, notes that death used to be what he calls a metaphysical problem — something decreed by the gods — now, we see aging and death as a technical problem, one to be solved by science.

He also notes, however, that over the next several decades, people will lose their value both to world militaries and to world economies, as machines take over. As that happens, Harari says, we might also see a halt to our system of mass medicine. In that case, instead of having people fix the consequences of aging (Alzheimer’s, arthritis, etc.), we’ll see research to prevent aging altogether.

Research is advancing in both, to be sure — scientists are using origami to design nanobots that will course through our blood, battling the bad stuff — but there are also some people doing research into helping us live, in good health, indefinitely.

Terry Grossman runs a center that tests pretty much everything that has anything to do with showing the effects of aging, with an eye toward correcting it. Some of the more underground research, though, is being done by people like the folks at Sierra Sciences. Founder Bill Andrews is looking to “cure aging or die trying.” He runs an ultramarathon (50-100 miles) every month, in his 60s. His bio says his goal is to run a seven-minute mile at the age of 130. Hear him on Singularity 1 on 1.

The SENS Research Foundation is doing a lot of research into biorejuvenation — the idea that we can use, perhaps, stem cells to make our parts function as if they are in their prime with an injection or something similar. Once your heart starts to fail, for example, we’d be able to make it work well. And not just once — if a heart’s prime life span is 30 years, every 30 years, we’d rejuvenate your heart. Or your liver. Or your eyes. Or whatever you needed.

Aubrey de Grey is that center’s outspoken lead scientist. Hear him on Joe Rogan’s podcast. One thing I find really interesting on this podcast is that the two do get into some discussion of the ethics — while defeating aging certainly sounds like a noble cause, when do we run out of resources, both as a planet and as individuals?

Grossman, Andrews and de Grey are all featured prominently in the documentary The Immortalists.

There’s also another branch of immortality research called transhumanism, which really seems to be a live-forever-at-all-costs movement. Artificial limbs are the beginning of this line, but merging humans with machines — what science fiction calls “cyborgs” — is the direction this research is going.

The most visible proponent of this, at this moment, is author Zoltan Istvan, who is running for U.S. president in 2016.

This is, indeed, an interesting time we live in.


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