Tag Archives: douglas adams

Live forever?

I came across an interesting blog post entitled  NSFW: Sorry Deathhackers; Life Is Short, And So It Should Be.  The article discusses an assault on aging and death with the poor weapons currently available to mankind and the possibility of living an indefinitely long time.  The author concludes that is not such a good thing.  He questions whether we are driven by a desire to avoid death or a desire to accomplish more in our alloted time.

Throughout recorded history, people have lived to their 80’s, 90’s, and over 100.  You can find them buried in old graveyards and inside old churches.  Living a long life naturally has much to do with genetics and good luck.  Once upon a time, when I was in my 20’s, I had the opportunity to walk around London (in mid-high heels) until my feet were ready to give up.  Yes, you can take the underground or a cab or a bus, but I really like to walk and look around.  So I did this to the point of incapacity, at which time I searched for something that would enable me to enjoy London, just not on my feet.  And so I discovered brass rubbing.  You can happily spend hours in Westminster Cathedral rubbing away at Sir John Harpedon.  Or Alianora de Bohun, Duchess of Glouceser who died in 1399, depending on your persuasion.  (I see on the Westminster Abbey website that you can no longer rub brasses there.  On the other hand, you are more likely to be wearing comfortable shoes on your travels than I was then.)  My point, and I’m sure I had one, is that death has been in our thoughts for a very long time.  Monumental brasses (1300’s through 1800’s) were essentially the photographs of their day and were made to hang around the castle until required at one’s final resting place.

If we were to live essentially forever (without the fangs and light sensitivity that normally accompany such a possibility), quality of life would become increasingly important.  If we could have the mind and body of a 30 to 50 year old person forever, that would be fine.  If we were to have the body and mind of today’s 90+ year old, that might be something quite different.
The financial ramifications might not be so bad if we were forever young and able to work, to learn, and to re-invent ourselves as time passes.  We could, of course, plan to meet for drinks in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and pay for it by depositing a small coin in a bank early in our lives.  I don’t think the financial side of things would be as challenging as the genetic and wellbeing aspect of it all.  If you are “young”, strong and healthy, you can figure out a way to survive.  As you become older, slower, and more frail, your options are more limited.
Deathhackers are trying to defeat the narrowing of human options.  That’s likely to happen only slowly and over many years of research. As you can imagine, this would not be simple science.  It would require stumbling upon many infinitesimal details completely explaining aging.  And this is likely to be a hugely expensive endeavor which, deathhackers to the contrary notwithstanding, is not adequately funded.  Nor is it likely to be.  If we can’t manage to support universal healthcare in the United States, we are unlikely to support funding the exploration of eternal life.  Although the British might.
On the other hand, we might someday support the science of Silent Running where we launch Earth seed stock into space as a safety measure.  That is much simpler science involving a completely balanced ecosystem.  We could probably do that with today’s science.  Silent Running speaks to man’s basic need to ensure the preservation of life as we know it (or as we once knew it), as best we can.  Even in Silent Running, there is a recognition of the cycle of life and death for all living things.
As we look into the eyes of Death (WHO SPEAKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS, REMEMBER), most of us would like a little more time.  Those who are old and sick, in pain, or oblivious to the world, do not feel the need to evade the Grim Reaper.  Sometimes the Reaper is welcomed as surcease of sorrow.
Personally, once I turn 400 I either want my OWN teeth or a set with enhanced canines.  You?