There was a story in the New York Times Science section this week about testing beginning on drugs that may slow aging. (Please read the article for all the science stuff — I’ll wait.)
Obviously, this is the Holy Grail of medical science — literally. Since humans first comprehended their own mortality, they have been searching for the Fountain of Youth, the Philosopher’s Stone, the secret to eternal life. I don’t think I’ll see it in my lifetime, but I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to imagine a time when the effects of aging can be slowed or reversed so as to extend human lifetimes to hundreds of years.
But is that what we really want? Science fiction writers have tackled the issue many times. Virtual immortality would certainly help the human race advance technologically, as we would have plenty of time to amass knowledge and innovate based on that knowledge. But what about human relationships — wouldn’t we feel a profound disconnect from one another over time? How would we address the pesky overpopulation problems that are bound to arise? And perhaps more funadmentally, maybe we need the ultimate stakes of mortality to make life really worth living.
Of course, I fantasize about having a prolonged life — with excellent mental and physical health, it goes without saying. But might there come a point when you just get tired of the repetition, the sameness of it all? I don’t know, but if we are seriously hoping to extend life, then shouldn’t we also allow people who want it to choose death?
- Tests Begin on Drugs That May Slow Aging (NYT)
- We Will Be Able to Live to 1,000 (BBC News)
- Meet the only immortal species on planet Earth (PalScience); maybe this one as well (Wikipedia)
- Immortality in fiction (Wikipedia)
- Immortality Institute