Recently, some mathematicians claimed to have proved that it is impossible for we humans to live forever, despite what some optimists from the stem cell, genome or cloning camps might say
According to Professor Joanna Masel, University of Arizona: “Ageing is mathematically inevitable” – we complicated animals are fated to follow one of two opposing paths, both of which lead to certain death viz:
- Gradual decrepitude – where cells slow down and then stop functioning due to the ravages of time – hence, an organ just conks out – but it’s ‘incredibly difficult to imagine a way of getting rid of sluggish cells that doesn’t involve competition between cells’
- Cancerous malignancy – where cells divide and multiply to replace older ones – this leads to a hyper-successful rapidly reproducing cell we call cancer – where cells compete with each other, there is the chance for them to keep dividing and become tumours
Apparently, she has developed a mathematical model which shows there is no way of negotiating between these two choices – one always gets you
Happily, she adds: “I always knew I was going to die”
But maybe her mathematical model, and the assumptions she has undoubtedly made within it, are flawed – and, even if not, who said we humans would want to live forever in our present physical form?
What if we had the option to live forever, albeit in another form?
Why would we want to live for thousands of years and more, getting older and older, with all the usual attendant and ever-increasing illnesses, aches and pains en route – imagine what we would look like and what we could not do aged a mere 1,000! – currently, even reaching 100 is a grim enough prospect given most if not all are then ‘tired of life’ and ready to ‘move on’
Ah, but what if we could stop, even reverse, ageing and prevent all illnesses, aches and pains – even choose to be aged 25 and at our intellectual, physical, mental and sexual peak of life in perpetuity?:
- We’d no longer need to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ who’d gone before us – we’d be those giants ad infinitum
- Sadly, sex would become redundant, maybe even illegal – otherwise Planet Earth would soon become overpopulated, Malthusian forecasts would be realised and we couldn’t feed all mouths
But these are watershed times – the digital revolution is taking the human race on huge leaps into the dark – maybe the above thinking is too blinkered
What if we no longer want and need to live in our current physical form, and we are able to digitise ourselves?
As with computer memories, what if we understood how we stored all our consciousness and subconsciousness – all our thoughts, experience, memories, emotions, feelings, even instincts evolved over time – and were then able to download and copy ourselves onto tiny memory chips or robot lookalikes, even incorporating our five senses
Immortality would thus be ours at a click – hundreds of indestructible copies of ‘us’ could be made – no more food or drink would be needed to stoke our engines – we’d wave goodbye to our physical lives, tangible goods sought and physical sport – the pleasures of life would all become mental
And, if we want to ensure all copies of us represent exactly the same person over time, they would be updated via a mechanism similar to the way the ‘cloud’ operates nowadays
We could then happily launch a few copies (chips) into space using tiny and so cheap rockets to escape Earth’s gravity – journeys could be made to other galaxies which took thousands of years – harsh conditions out there would be irrelevant, settlements unnecessary – human life would comprise mostly exploration and communication with others – time passing would become irrelevant
Such a possibility is no longer fanciful science fiction – already, technical and financial heavyweights have set up special research units focused on exploring the possibility and ways of doing just this
Because some want to live forever – others want to explore the vast Universe, not least ‘because it’s there’ – others want to insure the human race against extinction given the Sun will eventually explode
However, they might also dwell on some wise words from Steve Jobs: “Death is very likely the single best invention of life – it clears out the old to make way for the new”