The Price of Immortality: beware what you wish for

I asked her if she would like to live forever. She said no. They all say no. Why is that?

We have all been brainwashed. Human society has been coping with death and loss for so long, that it became something natural. Something desirable. We have written songs about the virtue of heroic death, we have invented religions which treat death as merely a gateway to a better, happier afterlife. We have romanticized it, accepted it and internalized it. But death is always bad. It is annihilation of a mind – an irrecoverable loss of an individual, a big win for entropy. Even if you believe in some sort of afterlife, you have to admit that death is an end to a persons existence in this realm. It is a net loss for humankind, and by extension for the universe.

Most people agree that death is unfortunate part of life, but do not feel it is something that should be annihilated. Very few individuals view it as a problem that ought to be solved by science. They view it as something natural, or even as part of the human condition. Of course they are wrong. This is merely a coping strategy. We have brainwashed ourselves into thinking this way, because that was the only way for highly evolved, intelligent animals to come to terms with such an unfair, uncaring and disruptive force. We could not make it go away, and so we decided it must be good – that it must have a purpose.

In popular culture, desired immortality has became almost an universally accepted secular form of blasphemy. Only villains, and misguided fools wish to live forever, and usually get their comeuppance in the end. The price of immortality is high – often too high to bear. This is a very old trope (which likely started long before Christian tradition gave it shape in the form of the Wandering Jew myth) frequently employed both by hacks and reputable authors. Science Ficion is filled to the brim with stories built around this premise.

Take The Island of the Immortals by Ursula K. LeGuin for example. It is a rather interesting short story, that exemplifies the trope. A young explorer sets out on a journey to a backwater island state which is known to have been a home to a number of immortals, only to discover that eternal life is not as great as you might imagine. LeGuin is clever – she subverts the trope by making us sympathize with the protagonist, who is baffled and frustrated by the locals who do not view the “curse of immortality” as something exceptional or even desirable. She slowly builds up the mystery, only to reveal the secret at the very end.

When we finally meet an immortal, the realization is swift and crushing – immortality is great, but only if your quality of life does not drop as a result of some unfortunate event. The immortal in the story has been in a fire, lost a few limbs, broken many bones which did not mend properly, and suffered severe neurological damage. He cannot die, you wouldn’t call his his existence a “life” either. Thus is the fate of all the immortals on the island – sooner or later they get in a debilitating accident, loose their independence, outlive their caretakers, become neglected, accumulate damage and are abandoned or discarded when they become too much trouble.

Immortality without advanced medical care and ability to repair accumulated damage can become a horrible curse. There is a good chance that we will soon discover ways to extend out life and youth indefinitely. But we must ask ourselves if it is worth to live forever, when you suffer from a debilitating chronic pain, are paralyzed, have advanced muscular dystrophy or some incurable degenerative disease that will only get worse with time?

I touched upon this in my review of Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect – I think that immortality is worth while only if it is optional, and not mandatory. This is the kind of immortality we are working toward – this is where science gives us a better option than magic and mysticism. If you can opt into, and opt out of eternal life, LeGuin’s point is moot. You live as long as you desire, and if you fuck up and damage yourself beyond hope of recovery you may let yourself die.

LeGuin also does not take into account the exponential curve of human progress, and the possible approaching singularity. The speed at which we develop new technologies increases at a breakneck pace, and chances are that if you live long enough, science will progress up to a point where it will be able to cure whatever ails you. So it becomes a waiting game – and it’s a game immortals can play very, very well.

Some authors tackle this trope from the other end. It is not the immortality itself that is the problem, but the process by which you obtain it. An interesting example here is a short story by Cordwainer Smith titled “A Planet Named Shayol” which is as compelling as it is shocking. Smith’s protagonist is a criminal who is sent to an Imperial punishment planet, which is deemed to be a physical manifestation of hell. Most people do not know what happens on that planet, but assume it must be horrible, because the agonizing screams of the prisoners sent down there are transmitted over the airwaves on Emperor’s birthday every year.

Upon landing however, it turns out the planet is not a place of torture. There are no guards, no jail cells and no rules. In fact, the local microbial life forms known as dromozoa seem to be hell bent on helping out all living things. No one really knows what they are, but they function as the planet’s biomass maintenance routing – they are drawn to living cells, and they repair them, feed them chemical energy, remove waste and etc. As long as you stay on Shayol, your body won’t age, you won’t have to eat or defecate. Dromozoa will do all of that for you. The problem is that they are not very delicate when they go about their business. When they run their maintenance routines on your body, it hurts. A lot.

The other problem is that Dromozoa like redundancy, and they will often decide to grow you an extra organ or an appendage just so you have a spare. So you may end up with a few extra hearts, six dozen ears growing out of your ass, or seven legs attached growing out of the side of your head. Those are then amputated or extracted by the local attendants and used in medical transplants throughout the empire. To help with the Dromozoa induced pain, and frequent organ harvests inmates are kept doped up by super-charged drug cocktails that would kill a normal man. Between the pain, the drugs, and constantly morphing body shapes, they all slowly careen towards insanity.

I don’t think Smith wrote this story to make a comment about the nature of immortality. I think his aim was to create a disturbing Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights like setting. Shayol is a sad and terrifying place, but part of it is how it has been used. If the Dromozoa were studied, and understood, maybe they could be tamed or re-programmed. Allowed to roam unchecked they are more of a magical force – a curse and a blessing in one.

Shayol was made into hell, even though it might as well have been made into a spa. It is clear that the prisoners did not enjoy the sudden immortality thrust upon them via a curt sentence. They couldn’t care less about eternal life, because for them it would be a life of pain and madness. But what if it was used differently? What if you could pay to go to Shayol for a week, and then return stronger, younger and rejuvenated?

Almost every story that fits this trope follows this pattern. Most authors can’t directly demonize immortality (even though they want to) because there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. So they invent circumstances in which immortality becomes a problem. But it does not have to be. If applied properly, immortality is not a negative thing.

Think about it – death is entropy. We, intelligent beings are self replicating anti-entropy engines. We order all the matter we come in contact with – it is our nature – our primary function. We are a force of order against chaos. If there is a purpose to intelligent life, it is to annihilate chaos, reverse entropy and make the universe run forever. The end goal of every sufficiently advanced civilization ought to be to find an answer to Asimov’s Last Question.

First step on that road is to conquer death because that’s something we know we can do. This is why we need more stories such as The Fable of Dragon-Tyrrant by Nick Bostrom. Stories that spread awareness, and aim to correct the common misconceptions about aging, death and mortality by a way of analogy.

So I ask you, do you want to live forever? And if not, why?

This entry was posted in literature. Bookmark the permalink.



15 Responses to The Price of Immortality: beware what you wish for

  1. Stories with imortality not beeing something bad (only what i can name in <5min):
    * Perry Rhodan (given by some kind of supperior beeing)
    * The whole Ringworld-Universe by Larry Niven (technological advance, drugs that keep you not dying)
    * The Queendom of Sol by Wil MacCarthy (just copy your body and remove degradion, you do it all the time anyway)
    * …

    so there are counter-examples to that "its allways portraied as evil"-thesis.
    I think the real problem lies more in the fact that imortality is boring. Not so much for living it, but for writing about it. It can be some kind of plot-driving element if you plan to let your characters experience annoyingly amounts of adventures or if you want to explain the social and cultural effects it has onto our world. But other then that? It's a plain fact that doesn't drive a whole story, so why include it?

    Reply  |  Quote
  2. astine Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Human society has been coping with death and loss for so long, that it became something natural.

    Wait, what? Death is not a flaw in human design, it is part of the design. We are meant to see to the survival of the next generation or two, and then to get out of the way. Otherwise, evolution would be impeded. Humanity would quickly find itself in a local optima with no way out.

    This is almost self-evident but it becomes clear when you realize that humans have a built in expiration date. Our bodies are designed to fall apart overtime at a predictable rate. I no longer have a link to the study, but while human life expectancy has risen dramatically over the last century or two, the maximum life span has not increased at all. Furthermore, the decay in human beings tends to happen all at once, in multiple systems, for different reasons. We’re clearly not meant to live forever.

    The notion that acceptance of death is a “coping mechanism” is backwards when you consider that the fear of death itself is an evolutionary prerogative. The ‘Universe’ neither gains nor loses by our continued existence. Human concepts of value have no meaning beyond human beings so it makes no sense to assign any objective value to people, or animals, or ‘biodiversity,’ or whatever.

    As to whether or not we should try to live forever: well first we have to consider the challenges in doing so. Nearly all of our body parts, including our brains have a tendency to wear down over time and expire all, nearly at the same time. So, we’ll need to have replacement parts on hand. Also, our brains are probably not suited to perpetual life, and cannot accumulate memories indefinitely. People’s personalities change along a predictable route as we reach old age and this is due largely to physiological reasons. It might not be possible to change that without fundamentally altering human psychology so it might not be possible for humans to live indefinitely without going insane.

    We, intelligent beings are self replicating anti-entropy engines.

    Fundamentally, I think this is your mistake. We do not exist apart from entropy any more than we exist apart from nature. Our existence is but a part of the great breakdown of order in the universe, and the local bits of order we create come at the expense of a the potential energy locked in the earth and the sun in the form of fossil fuels and solar radiation.

    Reply  |  Quote
  3. Nathan UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    Optional immortality is still a curse.

    Let’s say I said “you will continue living indefinitely, unless you choose otherwise, but if you get mangled or damaged in some way you will prefer to die”. What would your response be? Any activity with any chance of permanent damage or disease would be a massive risk.

    I could see a society unwilling to even venture outside, because a car accident could cost you thousands or millions of years of life. No reason to love or enter a relationship, because if the relationship fails you may become depressed enough to hurt yourself, again cutting short a life that could last eons. Drink alcohol? Nope; those brain cells need to live for centuries.

    Immortality–even optional immortality–would curse humanity into an immediate stasis.

    Reply  |  Quote
  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    astine wrote:

    Wait, what? Death is not a flaw in human design, it is part of the design.

    Yes. This design served us very well on our way toward sentience, but now that we are self-aware, highly intelligent beings I think we can do better than this. The point is that what works great for animals that must rely on instinct and built-in mechanisms to survive in their environment, is not necessarily optimal for humans who can re-shape their environment to suit them, or transform their bodies to suit it.

    astine wrote:

    Otherwise, evolution would be impeded. Humanity would quickly find itself in a local optima with no way out.

    But aren’t we in a local optima right now anyway? I mean, western societies all but eliminated natural selection. Most children live to adulthood, and most adults eventually have kids, unless they don’t want them or can’t have them for some reason. At best we are only accumulating diversity by incorporating random mutations into our genome, but the whole “survival of the fittest” component of evolution is no longer in play on a grad scale.

    You could argue that short lives are good from immunological standpoint. If some sort of super-virus appeared on the horizon, you would want at least part of the population to have built in genetic immunity to it. Still, we no longer rely on our genetic predispositions for survival. We preemptively immunize our populations, we use modern medical science to find cures, we know how to quarantine diseases, and minimize risk of infection via proper hygiene, sterilization, etc..

    Also, we are getting better at genetic engineering. Were not there yet, but in a few decades we might actually be able to steer our evolution in the beneficial directions much better than random genetic mutation. And please, do not make “ME AM PLAY GODS” argument because it is old and tired.

    astine wrote:

    As to whether or not we should try to live forever: well first we have to consider the challenges in doing so. Nearly all of our body parts, including our brains have a tendency to wear down over time and expire all, nearly at the same time. So, we’ll need to have replacement parts on hand.

    So are you suggesting we should just give up because it is hard? I never said it was going to be easy. Defeating death will not be a cake-walk. But I’m confident it can be done.

    Yes, there are many practical problems here but we can tackle them all in turn. The problem is that currently conventional medicine is not doing much in terms of preventative treatment for aging, because aging is seen as something natural. There are experimental telomer extension procedures done on animals that has been shown to significantly extend their lifespans though. There is also a lot of stuff that could be done with stem-cells but of course we have social hangups about using those.

    astine wrote:

    Also, our brains are probably not suited to perpetual life, and cannot accumulate memories indefinitely.

    Actually, I think we have a pretty good memory capacity and even more remarkable ability to “forget” things. I don’t think our brains would “fill up” and cease to work. What is more likely is that immortals that have lived for many centuries would probably have only very vague and unreliable recollection of the early decades of their life.

    But I don’t view that as a problem. Within the next few decades we should get reliable in-sillico memory residing in implants, or maybe in the cloud. Future post-humans probably won’t rely on their flawed biological memory as much as we do.

    astine wrote:

    People’s personalities change along a predictable route as we reach old age and this is due largely to physiological reasons. It might not be possible to change that without fundamentally altering human psychology so it might not be possible for humans to live indefinitely without going insane.

    Right, but we don’t know that. We can’t say for sure either way, because we have never had ageless people. I would go on a limb and say it is not so much that people’s personalities change, as their behavior is influenced both by their body chemistry and by the social conditioning. The brain of a 20 year old is bathed by a different mix of hormones than a brain of a 60 year old hence there might be a difference in temperament, energy level, etc. As you age, your brain also changes physically. Your cognitive processes slow down, your creativity falters and it is harder for you to learn new things. With age your mind slowly winds down.

    Similarly, the society expects different soft of behavior from a 60 year old, than from 20 year old. A lot of what you refer to as “personality” are simply behavioral patterns enforced by social norms, taboos and expectations.

    We simply have never seen a 120 year old human who looks and feels like a 20 year old. There is no way to say how someone like this would behave. But I have a feeling they would most likely behave like responsible adults, rather than senior citizens.

    Vernor Vinge wrote an interesting book about this – try reading Rainbow’s End sometime. It is about an elderly poet who was suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s, but thanks to advances in medical science gets his mind and body back to they way they were when he was in his late 20′s / early 30′s. It is fairly interesting to watch him re-adjust to being young again.

    astine wrote:

    Fundamentally, I think this is your mistake. We do not exist apart from entropy any more than we exist apart from nature. Our existence is but a part of the great breakdown of order in the universe

    Sigh, you are right. This was mostly flight of fancy. I like to think that we are special and destined for greatness but chances are that our civilization may collapse long before the heat death of the universe.

    See, I hope that homo sapiens is just a transitory stage. That we are on our way to becoming something bigger. We have evolved from animals, now we will take our evolution into our own hands and become something greater. We will build Matioshka brains around suns, climb the Kardashev scale and eventually convert all the mass of the universe into computronium. Our minds will encompass everything that exists… Then we will crack the fabric of the universe itself, we will rekindle suns, we will learn to live in spaces between spaces, and re-construct our hardware using exotic physics of alternate dimensions we did not know existed. :P

    Or, you know, not. One can dream though…

    Reply  |  Quote
  5. Your description of Shayol reminded me of the DS9 episode, Battle Lines. Two groups are trapped on a planet, given immortality, and lock into an eternal war with each other.

    In Web Spencer’s fantasy/sci-fi novel Tinker, elves are immortal. However, the lifespan of their memory is on par with normal humans: limited. They forget people they knew and things they did a few hundred years ago, as old memories fade away with time. After a thousand years they’re practically different people, with different memories and attitudes (people essentially are their memories, right?). That’s a large limitation on immortality, if it could still be called that.

    Reply  |  Quote
  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    Nathan wrote:

    I could see a society unwilling to even venture outside, because a car accident could cost you thousands or millions of years of life. No reason to love or enter a relationship, because if the relationship fails you may become depressed enough to hurt yourself, again cutting short a life that could last eons. Drink alcohol? Nope; those brain cells need to live for centuries.

    I really have a hard time seeing this. I mean, people just don’t think this way. When I go out with friends I don’t think “hey, I shouldn’t drink this next beer because I will need those brain cells in the next 50 years or so”. I don’t think about it at all for that matter. Most of us live day by day, and take risks.

    By your logic, people who hit their retirement age should become more and more reckless since they no longer have much time to live, whereas teens and folks in their 20′s should be super careful because they have their whole lives in front of them. Of course we know it tends to be the exact opposite.

    Do you really think that teenagers would stop trying to sneak in booze and cigarettes? Do you think college students would suddenly cancel all the frat parties because immortality was discovered?

    Also, what’s the point of living forever if all you do is sit home and try to avoid risks. Lets say your first reaction to immortality is to lock yourself in your house, paralyzed by an irrational fear of getting hurt and missing out on immortality. How long would that last? Few days? A month? A year?

    I think that after being cooped up in your room for a year you would come to a conclusion that the risk of getting maimed, mangled or even killed is probably preferable to an eternity of boredom and solitude, don’t you think?

    Even if people would be concerned about it at first, then they would move on with their life. And if you think that immortality would seriously impact your quality of life, then don’t get it. That’s what I mean by optional – you have to opt into it. Don’t want to live forever? Think it would suck? Very well, feel free to get old and die as normal.

    Reply  |  Quote
  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Google Chrome Linux Terminalist says:

    @ Christopher Wellons:

    This reminds me of Glass House by Charless Stross where “memory surgery” is a routine procedure. Had a traumatic experience? Don’t like who you’ve become? Erase parts of your memory and start with a clean slate. Hell, you can even erase bad relationships Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind style. :)

    There was also a pretty good short story (I don’t remember the title) about post humans living endless lives in the limitless virtual worlds. It was sort of accepted that after living few decades to few centuries in this or that realm, people would eventually get bored, and move on. So they would throw the last big party, say goodbye to all their friends, then when all guests go home, set their house on fire and leave the realm forever.

    They would go somewhere else, pick a new look, reconfigure their personality, give themselves new vices, new tastes and new hobbies and start over in a new place. Sometimes old friends or family members would meet each-other after many life-times apart and have a drink (or whatever you do in a given realm to unwind) and talk about the good-old days – but for the most part it was a meeting between strangers who shared some strands of memory of lives they once enjoyed no longer had any connection to.

    Some people erased all, or at least some of their memories after each life was concluded. Most did not feel it was necessary – because by the time they were ready to torch all their possessions and vanish forever, they already done all they could do with that life, that world and that personality.

    It was kinda like reincarnation, but not really – you custom tailored what you wanted your new life to be, what kind of experience you wanted to get out of it.

    Reply  |  Quote
  8. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    Ursula is certainly a clever author, but in this particular case, she actually got the trope & subversion from Jonathan Swift’s master piece, Gulliver’s Travels, as in fact she alludes to in the story. And in my opinion, he does a much better job at inculcating the sheer horror of living and aging forever.

    Would I want to live forever? I don’t know. But I would certainly like the option of doing so! And regarding the perils that @Nathan talked about, I don’t think they make much sense if we assume a technologically and not “magic” based eternal life, since having almost god-like powers of organ regeneration would be a precondition; time and entropy alone do a much better job at killing brain cells than the occasional sip of beer, so if you could fix the former, there’s no reason to think you wouldn’t be able to the fix the latter.

    And now off I go to listen to Queen ;)

    Reply  |  Quote
  9. vukodlak UNITED KINGDOM Google Chrome Mac OS says:

    Interesting. The biological (and consequently technical) limitations to the kind of immortality you describe here (where your various physiological functions remain at or near their peak)… well, they’re pretty daunting. Let me see…

    - Telomere shortening. You already touched on this, but a potential pitfall is that our bodies already have a mechanism to combat telomere shortening – and its expression ‘in the wild’ can often lead to cancer. In fact, many cancers have a very active telomere repair mechanism. So even if you figured out how to get telomere repair to work, that would increase the possibility of tumour growth.

    - Mutations. As we age, we accumulate mutations through various mechanisms – DNA damage from mutagens and UV, mostly. The number of mutations is a linear function of time but the number of mutations can increase exponentially if one or more of the mutated genes controls DNA repair – and again, this is how most cancers work.

    Even if you could use some sort of whole body gene therapy (presumably using a virus, which can infect every single cell in the body, repair the mutation back to its original allele, and then self-destruct) you would have to keep doing this over and over for the duration of your life. If this process is 100% efficient, you would still need to continually screen for new mutations. Somehow. In all tissues. Also, there are some mutations you may wish not to repair – somatic hypermutation in B cells mainly – which allow you to acquire immunity to new pathogens.

    - Infections disease. This one is a bugger, because it’s pretty certain that we won’t find a way to get rid of a rapidly evolving bacterial/viral/parasitic biome. Even if you find a way to make our immune responses super-efficient at killing disease-causing microorganisms, it’s still an arms race between evolution on one side and science on the other. Of course, this is pretty much what we have now, but we accept an occasional flu epidemic killing a few hundred thousand people largely because of our coping mechanisms.

    Of course, this all may still extend our average lifespan significantly, so probably worth trying for, at least from a biological standpoint. Still, it seems that short of a magic bullet technology (say for instance a way to transfer consciousness to a new, vat-grown, body (although arguably, the whole-body gene therapy would already be magic)) this will be a long, protracted iterative process. And expensive. Which would go towards an interesting set of sociological problems (a new social class of super-rich immortal billionaires, oligarchs and tyrants, which would find the threat of violence a massively overriding worry in their daily lives, almost certainly leading them towards an establishment of private armies and strongholds where they use the promise of access to immortality technology as incentive).

    Reply  |  Quote
  10. Ron Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    The other big problem with imortaility, is that without stopping birth, it would be completly unsustainable, even with FTL supporting an effectivly infinate population is crazy

    Reply  |  Quote
  11. @ Ron:
    But that’s no change from the current status. Currently we have exponential growth, with immortality we would have slightly faster exponential growth. Both is unsustainable.

    Further: living longer does not directly translate to more children. This would of course look different if you increase life-span to extreme amounts of time. But it’s currently no direct correlation (at sub-150years its more like the other way round i would guess).

    Reply  |  Quote
  12. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    IceBrain wrote:

    And regarding the perils that @Nathan talked about, I don’t think they make much sense if we assume a technologically and not “magic” based eternal life, since having almost god-like powers of organ regeneration would be a precondition; time and entropy alone do a much better job at killing brain cells than the occasional sip of beer, so if you could fix the former, there’s no reason to think you wouldn’t be able to the fix the latter.

    Exactly. :)

    @ vukodlak:

    Right, this seems daunting but it is clear we can’t just do it in one go, and overnight. But the idea is to do this in baby steps. And a lot of that is preventative stuff, and damage mitigation. As in, what can you do for people in their 20′s and 30′s right now to help them save off aging by a decade or two. What can you do for the people in their 40′s and 50′s to at least partially repair the cellular damage they accumulated over their lifetimes.

    The idea is that if you buy people an extra few decades of life now, then in 20-30 years they might be still around and healthy enough to benefit the next breakthrough anti-aging treatment and so on.

    The technological progress curve is exponential, so chances are that within next few deades medical science will move fast enough to keep up with aging, and eventually will be able to run laps around it.

    @ Ron:

    Right, but it’s a moot point at the moment because we do not have functional immortality. Once we are close, we can discuss our options.

    I mean, when you have a society at the cusp of immortality it is only natural to sit down and have the discussion along the lines of “guys, if we gonna do that we will need to all agree not to make that many babies”. And chances are people will be ok with it. We can agree on laws and regulations to enforce it.

    Reply  |  Quote
  13. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Human concepts of value have no meaning beyond human beings so it makes no sense to assign any objective value to people, or animals, or ‘biodiversity,’ or whatever.

    Makes sense if you are, in fact, a human. There is no argument that will persuade a rock to value the same things as I do, nor is there one to persuade every conceivable mind, or a mind of perfect philosophical emptiness. All we’ve got, in the field of sapient minds, is human values, don’t be so quick to discard them just because they don’t generalise to all others.

    Case in point for another mind that wouldn’t agree with us: the sci-fi trope of the paperclip maximiser, who values only the existence of more paperclips and will act so as to increase that number at any cost. Such a mind would indeed look at human values and say “No, those goals have worth only in so far as they produce paperclips”, but I don’t think we’re wrong to say that our values are better than that.

    I suspect you don’t live as if human values make no sense. Examine your own mind a little more closely and try to see where your instinctive values diverge from what you seem to think is logical – I suspect your instincts have it right. (Another sci-fi trope there, “logical” meaning emotionless. Sometimes a situation demands an emotional response and that is then the logical course of action.)

    Reply  |  Quote
  14. vukodlak UNITED KINGDOM Google Chrome Mac OS says:

    The technological progress curve is exponential

    Eh, maybe in telecommunications or something. Certainly not in say immunology where we have stalled massively since the 70s. Or perhaps I should say vaccine development, as the practical side of immunology. We certainly understand a lot more about why we can’t develop more effective vaccines…

    I understand the idea of extending the life time more and more, so that you end up with a sort of effective immortality – where you live just long enough for the next life – extending treatment to come out (as often told by Aubrey De Grey, bless’im) – but I think the rate of scientific progress postulated just isn’t there.

    Reply  |  Quote
  15. Victoria Netscape Navigator Mac OS says:

    I am not sure about forever but a couple more decades to the average lifespan in a relatively healthy state – yes, please, who do I need to kill for that?

    Of all the versions of immortality in fantasy/SF I prefer the one with incarnations where you are the same soul but reborn in a new body. If we’re talking a more plausible version, I used to believe that by now (I’m 30) somebody would come up with something radical to do with getting old, but these days I don’t think that within the next 20 years there might be such a breakthrough.

    Reply  |  Quote

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>