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Could Immortality be Yours for the Price of a Vaccine?

Updated on September 12, 2019
AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

Adele Cosgrove-Bray is a writer, poet and artist who lives on the Wirral Peninsula in England.

Would You Want to Live Forever?

Immortalists and transhumanists think that the developing sciences of nanotechnology, nanomedicine and artificial intelligence could eventually enable the aging process to be treated like any other bodily malfunction.

While this prospect may still sound like science-fiction to many people, the boundaries of what has already become medically possible have already changed and consequently improved the lives of millions, of not billions, of people.

These ground-breaking developments are expected to continue to evolve, improve and expand at an ever-increasing rate.

Read on to discover why achieving real immortality is not as far-fetched as it may at first be assumed.

Meet Jason Silver, Immortalist.

What is Singularity?

By the year 2025, or quite possibly sooner, computer and nano intelligence and ability will equal that of humanity's. Soon after, it will begin to overtake it.

At this point, people will be able to make use of nano-robotic implants to vastly improve their intelligence and longevity.

But this stage is just the start. We may reach the point where un-enhanced "natural" people will be too slow and undeveloped to keep up with the enhanced people, and so fall behind those who embrace transhumanism.

This stage of human evolution, then, is what futurist Ray Kurzweil names the Singularity.

Could a new elite be created, populated by artificially-enhanced people whose income and resultant lifestyles reflect their advanced abilities? Would this, in turn, create a new underclass of those who cannot afford these technologies, or who choose not to have them? And how would this alter societal structures across the world?

Meet Ray Kurzweil, Immortalist

Death is a Disease

How many times have you been told that death is a natural part of life, and that the cycle of life and death is not only unavoidable and inevitable but somehow good for our spirituality?

Every religion has its own death stories - tales which endeavour to make dying sound like a good experience. The usual story-line declares that life here is tough, but things will get better after you're dead so long as you obey the rules of whichever religious system wants you to remain a loyal subject. And down through the millennia countless billions of people have reacted to such myths like donkeys following the proverbial carrot.

However, things may be about to change.

A growing number of eminent scientists, such as Aubrey de Grey, have been patiently researching ways of isolating those parts of our DNA which causes our bodies to age.

They consider death to be just another disease which, given enough scientific research, can be fully conquered and eradicated like any other disease.

Imagine: with a short course of vaccines, you could not only continue to live forever but also experience a reversal of age-related deterioration and illnesses.

This possibility will naturally bring its own questions. How much will this cost? What about those who can't afford it? Can Earth sustain everyone, including people not yet born? Would some people, through economics or religious or philosophical beliefs, choose not to receive life-extending medications?

Meet Aubrey de Grey, Immortalist

A Future Rich with Potential

Imagine if people could extend their biological lives indefinitely. Through the use of emerging technologies, such a nanomedicines, nanorobotics, DNA engineering, stem cell research and artificial intelligence, this is a very real possibility - some might say an inevitability.

But how will this impact on familiar societies? There are some very real issues which will emerge as a consequence of these developments, and which will cause intense debates.

The division between those who can afford to purchase life extending processes and those who cannot will inevitably emerge. This has its parallel in current times, where many people the world over either struggle to pay for medicines, or who perhaps can't even afford them at all. In time, life extending processes may well become cheaper - just as many household electronic equipment has tended to be expensive when first marketed but which then later drop in price. Perhaps, one day, life-extending medicines will cost no more than a packet of paracetamol.

Artificially enhanced people might leave unenhanced people trailing behind, as the enhanced person could have a much higher IQ, physical stamina, more experience (having lived longer) and greater adaptability.

The Immortality Pill

This may lead to a split-tiered society - even more so than now, with the social divisions between poor, middle and upper financial classes appear to be widening with every passing year. Perhaps there will always be those who seem more successful than others, according to however 'success' may be defined by any given individual or culture.

What of those people who opt out of taking the Immortality Pill? Their reasons for doing this may not be economical at all, but related to religious or cultural beliefs. Might such people be viewed as committing suicide by choose not to extend their lives?

The Right to Die - The Right to Live

Some people might chose not to accept artificial enhancement, just as followers of some religions today decline certain medical procedures which would otherwise save their lives. This would surely be their choice, and to be respected.

The replacement of hips and many major organs are common operations now. Not too long ago, these would have been considered impossible. Keyhole surgery was a pioneering technique only a decade or so ago, whereas now it is often used. Who can foresee what may be possible medically within two decades, or three, or five?

It is not enough to merely extend life. The aim is to enjoy a healthy, full and youthful life.

Population control may continue to be a very serious issue in the future. If people can live for 1,000 years or more then they would wish to do so in comfort, with plenty of food and water for all, of course. Can the Earth's fragile ecology sustain an ever-growing population?

Attempts at population control have already been tried, for example in China, where it resulted in widespread infanticide. Nobody likes to be told how many children they should be having. Who has the right to dictate such a personal thing?

Perhaps the world's human population will find its own balance, once the instinctive need to propagate the species in order to survive becomes obsolete? Only time will tell. Most likely we will have to be at that bridge before we can work out how to cross it.

Ethical questions are bound to occupy people as these new sciences and technologies emerge.

Are you ready to embrace the possibilities offered by an eternal life?

Do you want to live forever?

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Do You Want to Live Forever?

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© 2010 Adele Cosgrove-Bray


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