Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who wants to live for ever? A scientific breakthrough could mean humans live for hundreds of years

A genetically engineered organism that lives 10 times longer than normal has been created by scientists in California. It is the greatest extension of longevity yet achieved by researchers investigating the scientific nature of ageing.

If this work could ever be translated into humans, it would mean that we might one day see people living for 800 years. But is this ever going to be a realistic possibility?

Valter Longo is one of the small but influential group of specialists in this area who believes that an 800-year life isn't just possible, it is inevitable.

I've sometimes found myself in the preposterous position of "defending" my desire to live, if not forever, then as long as scientifically possible.

So, why do I want to live forever?

Easy -- for the same reason that I want to wake up tomorrow. There's nothing especially disturbing about negligible senescence unless one approaches the idea with at least some degree of emotional bias. And to be fair, we've been forced to grow used to the seeming inevitability of death in much the same way that our ancestors were forced to accommodate plagues instigated by an inability to understand germs.

But to make it short: there's a lot I want to see and do . . . but, unfortunately, not much of it's on Earth. Barring the abrupt invention of practical interstellar flight, my best chance of experiencing the Cosmos is by surviving the temporal gulf between "now" and "then."

And who knows? Maybe I can make myself useful in the process.


Anonymous said...

I hear you Mac. I've had this debate before and I am always amazed by how complacent people are. "Why would you want to live that long?" They ask. These are the same people that take comfort in an afterlife of some form of course.

I'm 36 years old and yet I still feel like I'm 22. My life is half over, if I'm lucky, and it went by in a relative blink of the eye. I would love the opportunity to involve myself with a few different careers. There is simply not enough time to explore all the richness of life's experience or to have the good fortune to meet the right people at the right time (to position ones self where they need to be to succeed).

Just imagine what 800 years of education could potentially create. Think of the wondrous things we could do when not limited by a 70 year shelf life (knock off 20 of those for bumbling infancy). At best we have 50 years of real potential. That's just not enough to accomplish the stuff of dreams.


Mac said...

And look at it this way: if we can make it 800 years due to some genetic modification, we might just live long enough to bootstrap our way to 1600 years. And if 1600 years -- why not more? We probably won't be recognizably human by then, but there's reason to hope we'd be something better.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, if I could live to 800 years, I might actually have the time to get a few things done...

Anonymous said...

one problem; overpopulation. If everyone lives that long, resources are going to end but quick.
I mean, that's ALREADY a problem.

That said, my mantra has always been "I want to live long enough to see what happens next".

Then again, I'm ready to die at any time.

Anonymous said...

The overpopulation issue isn't foward thinking enough. If we could extend our lives to 800 years, society would radically change by necessity. There might be new laws in place for breeding OR we may just have to push beyond the nest. I think it is far more likely that we would start to colonize space and mine the hell out of our local solar system for resources.

Personally, I think an extension of shelf-life is the natural order of evolution. All technologically advanced civilizations would reach this point at some stage. The BIG question is; would the bureaucracy of the governing powers prevent this evolution? I think in our case the sad answer is yes.

I'm with you Mac, 1600 years and beyond! Or as my favorite quote puts it:

"I want more life fucker!"