Should Human Beings Live Forever?
Immortality. The holy grail mankind has sought after as long as history has been recorded. Many have tried, all have failed. The truth is that it is scientifically possible, in a sense. While there may be no known way to make us completely infallible, we do know what must be done in order to stop our bodies from degrading as we age. We just don't know how....yet
As we approach the day where scientists finally discover the real life cure for aging, we need to start considering the consequences. Eliminating the degradation of our bodies over time will be the single biggest event in the history of mankind. Landing on the moon will not even compare, because this will impact religion, politics, the very nature of how we live our lives on a day to day basis will be turned upside down.
Today, on Halloween 2011, we officially reached a world population of 7 billion people. There is a critical mass when it comes to human population, just as there is with any living creature. As long as people are able to have 3 or more children, population growth will be and has been exponential. As of 2009 the growth rate of the human population was 1.1% per year. If we were to continue uninhibited at this rate, that would mean the population would double in the next 91 years. Now imagine a scenario where we stopped dying. It would grow even faster. And if anybody thinks the earth can handle 14 billion people, they are horribly mistaken. We need empty land for farming. The more people we have the more farmland we need, which is counterproductive since a higher population will take up more space.
We may not die of old age, but we will certainly die of famine.
Without a doubt, life extension may just add more years for the rich to get richer, and the poor to get poorer. In order for our society to function properly, we need janitors, cooks, cashiers, etc. Who will want to live in a society where they are forced to clean bathrooms their entire lives? If everybody eventually becomes well educated, everybody is going to want to pursue careers that pay, or careers they will enjoy. There very well may come a time where the rich and powerful manage to suppress everybody else, forcing them to work the jobs nobody else wants to. Already there is a divide between upper and middle class America. Can we manage a system where all necessary jobs are filled? Maybe society as we know it will fall apart. Maybe we will devolve back into a society of slavery. We can't really know until it happens.
Crime and Punishment
The criminal justice system. I can only imagine where this will go. Will we still be able to put people away for life? We can't truly expect to keep people in prison for hundreds or even thousands of years. So maybe the death penalty will be the answer. And yet, in a world where people can potentially live forever, how can we possibly justify ending the life of another no matter how heinous the crime. Certainly there will be big problems here. And if they are big enough, people just may turn to widespread vigilantism where one does not get a trial. Many people may die, accused of crimes they didn't even commit.
Faith and Religion
One of the key reasons for the existence of religion is to prepare us for death. As such, religion has rooted itself deeply in human culture. Entire nations have been built solely on a religious structure. Once we start playing God, many people will revolt. Many lives are already lost to war and terrorism, often under the guise of a religious cause. This will only make it worse.
Life As We Know It - Forever Changed
Clearly we have a lot to look forward to. This is not a matter of if but when. Can we bear the responsibilities that will fall on us once we have crossed into the realms of immortality? Surely this is not something we can just keep locked away from people. Once the line has been crossed, life extension will surely be a human right, otherwise we are condemning people to an avoidable death. Science seems to be on the brink of providing us the ability to stay forever young. These changes may just happen in our lifetime. Are you ready?