The proper time to cash in one's chips," I said in this space a week or so ago, "is the point where life has ceased to be interesting. I don't see that coming for a long, long time." This was before I started getting traffic from a site called ImmortalLife.info, whose tagline reads thusly: "Human destiny is to eliminate death."
Really? Eliminate death? They're quite serious about it:
ImmortalLife.info's main purpose is education & activism in the Immortalist / Longevity / Radical / Indefinite Life Extension movement. We support all the groups that we have listed HERE.
Given the presence of all those slashes, you might suspect that there's no unified front in this movement, and a cursory glance around the Net will tell you that there are several subsets of the movement, each devoted to a certain technological approach. Advocates of cryonics, for instance, suggest that the "deceased" be put on ice, so to speak, before cellular and neurological damage sets in; whatever killed the individual will presumably be reversed when technological advancement permits. The novel Extra Innings by Bruce E. Spitzer speculates as to what would happen once the late baseball star Ted Williams, who actually was frozen in 2002, is properly thawed out. It's plausible enough, but if you're planting to rent yourself a Frigidaire for the duration, you should know that Williams doesn't come out of the deep freeze until 2092.
If you don't plan to hang around for seventy-nine years, you may take heart in futurist Ray Kurzweil's book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, which sees an answer in nanorobotics. Kurzweil thinks the processes that contribute to aging could be reversible, and he believes the Singularity itself, the biggest event since the Big Bang, will occur around 2045. (Vernor Vinge, the man who actually came up with the term "Singularity," predicted it to happen within 30 years of 1993, which is even closer at hand.) Kurzweil will be 97 in 2045, not a whole lot older than I'd be, assuming I'm still around, and why shouldn't I be? Then again, I'm not sure what to make of this factoid: the first place I encountered his work was in the realm of electronic musical instruments, and indeed Kurzweil Music Systems, founded in 1982, continues today as a subsidiary of Hyundai.
There exist various proposals for genetic-modification techniques, including repair of mutated genes that might trigger aging, and, in a notion promoted by Richard Dawkins, simply sidetracking the trigger mechanism: "identifying changes in the internal chemical environment of a body that take place during aging ... and by simulating the superficial chemical properties of a young body." I suspect young bodies bring out the superficial in many of us.
From the Screw Physics department comes an intriguing notion from Marios Kyriazis, to the effect that much of aging is simply entropy at work, simplified functions superseding the more complex, and that lifestyle changes that increase stimulation and stress help to delay the decay. Um, okay.
My own personal viewpoint somewhat mirrors Woody Allen's in Death (A Play): "It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens." And frankly, postponing the process doesn't perturb me in the least. Eliminating it altogether, however, causes some concern, if only because I'm already worried about throwing a monkey wrench into natural selection:
My concern is that Darwin isn't getting his due. Used to be, if you were mind-bogglingly dumb, you perished quickly, and that was that.
And there's no reason to think that the Best and the Brightest will be the ones preserved. (Two words: Donald Trump.) The next world, assuming there is a next world granted, a hell of a lot to assume might be preferable after all. Not that I expect to be sending back reports or anything.
Incidentally, this is the page that linked me.
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