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The Quest for Immortality

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: science, immortality, biotechnology, Aubrey de Grey, Methuselah Foundation, Cosmos Magazine, TED,

Prometheus Brings FireWithin 30 years, humans could be immune to disease, unaffected by the ravages of aging, and able live to 150 or perhaps 1,000 years old. We could be, Bryan Appleyard writes for Cosmos Magazine, “medically immortal.”

Medicine and biotechnology may soon begin advancing more quickly than nature can find ways to kill us. “Ultimately,” Appleyard writes, “the forward movement of technology will outstrip our own forward movement through time, and death, the old enemy, will have been vanquished.”

There is safety in arguing that people will soon become immortal. Most people predicting immortality will be dead by the time they can be proven wrong. If they are still alive, they will have been proven right. It’s a win-win bet. And anyone arguing against them is called “fatalistic” and in favor of people dying.

Of course, the shift toward immortality is controversial. For one thing, immortality confronts many of “the traditions of religion and philosophy” Appleyard reports. Since most religions are, in some sense, ways to cope with death, the elimination of death could have drastic consequences on the human psyche.

Although the hubristic undertones of wanting to live forever are self-evident, the religious argument against immortality not a given. “All the scriptures are pretty clear," said biogerontologist and chairman of the Methuselah Foundation Aubrey de Grey, "hastening death is deprecated and, if something is killing people, we are more or less instructed to do something about it.” In a talk for the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference in 2005 (available below), de Grey says that arguments against immortality are “completely crazy.” While people should be thinking about the potential problems of immortality (overpopulation, scant resources, etc.), no one today has the right to hold up this research and impose their "fatalistic" judgments on future generations.