Extending life

There is a sense of being cheated, life is unfair and that unless we do a certain amount then a life is incomplete, especially if you are just fourteen and weeks away from succumbing to a serious disease. One such fourteen-year-old requested to be cryogenically frozen. This meant that her mother had to make a quick scramble in the last couple of weeks of her daughter's life to get it arranged. This teenager feels that there are many things she wants to experience in life and knowing that death is imminent, these things will never be possible. She hopes that in years to come her body will be cured of the disease and she will be able to do the things she dreams of.

When she is finally thawed out she might well wake up next to someone who is having age reversal therapy. The prospect of having treatment is not entirely well received for they have only served 30 years of a 100-year prison sentence. The state wants to make sure they serve it all. Arguments could brew in the rooms upstairs when they try to justify using the same therapy on someone that has been in and out of prison many times. There are many dictators that have been in power for forty years. The grip and control on their country has been very tight and their popularity is close to zero. The opportunity to extend their reign for another 300 years does not light the population up with a great deal of thrill.

The technology to bring people back from the dead is a long way off and may never materialise. The probability of being able to restore the memories and experiences that make up a big part of who we are, is very slim indeed. Nevertheless, it provides hope and even if the chance is one in a billion it is greater than zero. Some wonder whether it will be worth it, for in a hundred years time the world will have changed, it might be better or it might not be what we had hoped for. Either way we would find ourselves being more than just a fish out of water. Those that are brought back to life won't have the comfort of friends and family around to ease them back into a new life.

The story invites us to consider living forever or at the very least extending our life, but also living inside a machine. We can overlook a good few things, however, the minute people suggest this potential to live in a machine form, I like to remind them that reward is felt by the bio-chemical machine; our body. A simulation does not get any thrill or excitement, it only emulates the logical processes. If it is just your head that is stored you won't have the rest of your body that makes you, you. It is not just your mind that contains neurons either.

In life, we set a goal and once that has been achieved we can feel deflated. Nothing to work on anymore. People can have an aim in life based around seeing life extension schemes come to fruition. Take that goal away and they do not have much. Once their project is complete and they now live much longer, they have little direction. They may be forever involved with widening the scope and efficacy of the drugs and operations, but their main objective will be dead.

Tiring of it all

Our memory capacity seems to be fine for 100 years but will eventually fill up. Nevertheless, will you forget key parts of your life? Will you need to re-learn a lot of things as time goes by? I have watched many films and TV series' and over time you begin to feel that less and less is truly original. More and more variations on a theme, with just a little twist. When it comes to human relationships there are only a certain number of possible combinations to write about. An affair, a marriage, create a child, polygamy or incest. There are not infinite different possibilities in certain domains. You will find it ever harder to get a thrill from seeing a film or programme as very little breaks new boundaries.

Boredom will rear its head. Some will manage more years before being overcome by it. Some will tire of it after 60 years, some after 120 and only a few will be honestly full of zest at 240.

When we are young there is excitement of going out to do things we haven't yet tried. This enthusiasm diminishes a bit as each year passes. There are many things that we do like to repeat but eventually it becomes stale. Our curiosity cannot be realigned onto different things entirely. Throughout life we do have a go at a lot of different sports, ventures and activities, but only a few inspire us enough to pursue them more. Only a limited range of things appeal. We tend to find enough to stay occupied for about 80 years and unlikely to stretch what we enjoy to 400.

One worry people have concerns cost and whether it will be available to the wealthy only. Costs would come down for sure, so maybe the only thing to contend with will be the years in and out of hospital having parts replaced. Those expecting the process to just entail taking a pill to turn back the clock are either delusional or overly optimistic. It is a nice idea to analyse the genes of a person, select the switches to deactivate and encourage some winding back. The genes have built in compromises and the consequences of messing with them bring about unwanted side-effects.

How far off is it anyway?

I recall reading about the people who studied the make-up of the nematode worm. It all began with hope and expectation that they would work out all the processes going on. The worm is far simpler than a human being but proved to be so much more involved than first expected. After some twenty years, disillusionment set in. The professor and clinicians realised that what they had taken on was far more complex than expected. That was then, now we have better tools available and more new technologies coming on stream. The biggest problem is that to prove that something is effective it takes time. I mean, you have to wait years and years watching what happens to the person who has the drug/procedure carried out. Maybe a full DNA/RNA gene system could be emulated and run on a large computer. If weather predictions are anything to go by that might be equally awkward to pull off. Pessimism prevails with the knowledge that life expectancy will nevertheless be gradually lengthened albeit with a diminishing rate of improvement.

I suspect that a few key issues will prove to be stumbling blocks. At the moment, we have a body clock that slows down. Time seems shorter as we age, because our perception of it really is different. At the age of 200 we would be so slow that we would be unable to do much bar sit in a chair bewildered by everything. The advocates of eternal living will say that that is something that can be fixed, but it is used an example of an issue that makes it biologically unappealing.

If you think of a classic car that can be kept on the road forever it merely suggests we would have an old inefficient car in a world of electric hover vehicles. Maybe we can move our thoughts in the direction of upgrades and enhancements. People might go a lot further than simple cosmetic surgeries and push for higher performing bodies. People have tried all kinds of things to get ahead and this is tempting. The race to the top with the ground beneath you slipping faster than you can run. Wealth, fame and success are all relative so there will not be more people benefitting.

Refresh

Some people would become quite rich and any new-borns would face an even larger mountain to climb. Even with the best will in the world there would be problems in relation to over population. Death provides the fodder for new shoots, but you can't be anything but envious of those that have the will and confidence to say they would be happy for hundreds of years.

Is it a 'crime' that people are dying so early, early in the sense of getting to 80 rather than 400? It might pan out to be ten times cheaper and easier to have a new worker in place by having unprotected sex rather than refreshing a person that is already alive. The cost of raising and educating someone might be less than all the restoration work.

Risk

Would you go sky diving or to war if you knew you had 380 more years to live? Would you be even more reckless if you thought "no problem, If I get hit by a bullet or smash into the ground they can restore me".

The priorities of living would change in a world where we have the potential to live hundreds of years. New issues surrounding probability arise. At present the chance of reaching 80 without being shot, run over, hit by lightning etc. are far lower than we realise. To reach 400 untouched by so many dangers become quite slim unless we change the way we live. There will be limits to what we can bring back to life in a presentable comparable form.

Adjust to make us conform

Our DNA can be adjusted to suit society. We can meddle with it to homogenise, make no one stand out and ensure evil is banished. The repeat offenders that go to prison, get released, commit another crime and go back to prison in an endless cycle are guided in part by their fixed preferences. Adjusting the DNA will alter what we prefer. Many people get alarmed by eugenics and the nightmare scenario of it being forced on people makes us shudder. However, the aim towards perfection is the most undesirable. All the contributions made by imperfect people is lost along with the joy of differences.

Would a longer life make it less pointless? No, not one bit. My hunch is that a football match is 90 minutes long, give or take a few minutes of extra time and a football match that went on for 8 hours would have an empty stadium.

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