She might be an excellent chess player, but we all know hers is a loosing game. She might intend to live forever, but the best she can do is to die trying.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. (–Steve Jobs)
However, as life marches on, Death is loosing its preeminent dominance of the playing field. Although the outcome of the endgame remains predetermined by the Cycle of Life — no stalemate here — there is a light emerging from the horizons of science. The tumult of extraordinary recent scientific developments transpired this year alone.
Once it was a myth. Now it’s a dream. And soon it will be an expectation. Suddenly the science of life extension is producing remarkable results. New papers hint at the possibility of treatments that could radically increase human longevity.(–George Monbiot, The Guardian, Monday 7 July 2014)
In July, Trends in Genetics reported that a class of enzymes called sirtuins could, in the affirmative, increase longevity in mammals.
It followed a report in the June issue of Aging Cell about a synthetic small molecules that can stimulate the production of sirtuins in mice, extending their life span and improving their health. The results show that it’s “possible to design a small molecule that can slow aging and delay multiple age-related diseases in mammals, supporting the therapeutic potential … in humans”.
A no less fascinating discovery reported in scientific papers concerns an external hormone (a pheromone) secreted by nematode worms, called daumone. When daumone is fed to elderly mice, it increases their life expectancy by 48% across five months. In short, “daumone could be developed as an anti-aging compound.”
Great, isn’t it? Who would not want to extend the time before the ultimate checkmate?
To deny great benefits of life extension is considered by some a blasphemy: political leaders who resist funding of life-extension projects should be charged with manslaughter, one recent article insisted.
Aubrey de Grey is a Cambridge University researcher, heads the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) project, in which he has defined seven causes of aging, all of which he thinks can be dealt with. (Senescence is scientific jargon for aging). De Grey also runs the Methuselah Mouse prize for breakthroughs in extended aging in mice. Right, Methuselah, a Biblical old man, the one that “altogether, lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.”
De Grey has no doubt that “a lot of people alive today are going to live to 1,000 or more”. He lists and immediately dismisses four common concerns of “living forever, rejecting them as “unbelievable excuses … for aging”, “ridiculous” and “completely crazy, when you actually remember your sense of proportion.”
The first concern – “wouldn’t life be crushingly boring?” – can be easily dismissed, indeed. Life is as worthy of living as one makes it. Give and take economic and various other considerations, if it becomes too unbearable, meaningless or simply boring, one can choose the exit door and stop taking medication. As Seneca said, “Death is the wish of some, the relief of many, and the end of all.”
Many argue that Aubrey de Grey dismisses other, more serious concerns without due consideration, by simply ridiculing it.
“How the society would support forever-young-old? Would the major distribution problems, evident now, be greatly exacerbated by a new reality?
What about the proposition that “Dictators would rule for ever?” The political power longevity offers goes hand in hand with the economic power, and it’s not impossible to see how a thousand-year life could lead to a thousand-year reign of indestructible political system long overdue for a change.
What if, beyond a certain point, longevity becomes a zero-sum game? What if every year of life extension for those who can afford the treatment becomes a year or more of life reduction for those who can’t? On this planet of limited resources and hyperconsumption it’s hard not to be concerned about a direct competition for the means of life, which some must win and others must lose…
There are terrible side effects of getting old, no doubt about it. However, it seems like there will be no bucolic vistas in the future where those who can afford it live 10 consecutive lives.
De Grey on Colbert:
In fact, he is all over the internet. Look him up.