I wrote a rather lengthy post on this topic back in October. I don’t want to repeat myself too much but I think I have few things to add to this discussion. In case you don’t feel like back-tracking and reading my old post, here the gist of my point.
Would you like to live forever? I know I would. I have no problem admitting it. I dream of immortality, and I don’t think this is such an uncommon dream. But most people I talk to, do not agree with me. They get all indignant, and tell me how immortality would be a horrible thing for a number of reasons. I find that attitude incredibly silly. What is wrong with these people? Here I am, giving them an offer of potential immortality to consider, and they immediately reject it. They are not willing to even consider experiencing a fantasy of ever-lasting life. What is up with that? How does that happen? Its like their minds had their wings clipped before they learned how to coast on the updrafts of imagination. I think this attitude really holds us back.
The thing about immortality, is that it is technically within our grasp. When I talk about living forever I don’t talk about some silly Highlander fantasy. I talk about hard science. Our current medical knowledge has identified most if not all factors that contribute to senescence at a cellular level. We know approximately how our cells age – how they accumulate damage, and how that damage affects out long lived tissues. Aging is no longer a mystery to us. It is no longer a law of nature. It is a process we can understand, and figure out how to prevent. We can develop therapies that will allow us to repair some of the accumulated cellular damage, or slow it’s accumulation down extending peoples lives by decades. The technology to do this is mostly here already. We don’t actually need to wait till singularity – we can start on it right now. We are not going to crack this overnight of course. We need to start with baby steps, and then continuously refine the science and technology in small, incremental steps.
I want you guys to watch this TED talk by Aubrey de Grey. This is exactly what I’m talking about:
He is absolutely right. Isn’t our refusal to become immortals slightly immoral. You may not want to live forever, but there are millions of people out there who would not mind it at all. And yet, right now they are condemned to die. We as a society are in a position to fix it. We can banish old age, and potentially give eternal youth to everyone who would wish it. It is within our grasp, and doing nothing about it would be very foolish.
Think about your children. Wouldn’t you want them to have this option? Wouldn’t you want them to live forever, and never experience the loss and pain all the generations up until now had to learn to live with? Wouldn’t you want them to never have to witness a grandparent or a parent withering away, and succumbing to some age related disorder?
Of course some people may object to the very concept of immortality on religious grounds, and that’s their prerogative. No one is going to force them to use these age-defeating treatments just like no one is forcing the Amish people to use computers. Others may worry about overpopulation, but we can cross that bridge when we reach it. No point losing sleep about it now – lets worry about it after we actually figure out how to considerably extend human lifespan.
Immortality is a bit like flying. For centuries people believed that human flight was impossible. They thought it couldn’t be done. That it was dangerous and foolish. That people would just fly to high and fall into the sun or something. And yet, look at us now. We will be immortal one day – or close to it. It is just a matter of time.