Day 359 – Live Long, and Prosper

7 – How to Live to 100

Why set such timid goals? Why 100?
I realise it’s a nice big round number that people aspire to…
…but why limit our imagination so?
(And what is with this “born-after-2000” business?!)

I bet you have at some point in your life resolved to live forever. Everybody does. And sooner or later science and reality come along to stomp all over the idea.

I like that there are people who do not outgrow this ambition though. The real leap-frogs in science come from those that do not mind the ridicule of asking preposterous questions. “Why can’t we live forever? Why can’t we stay young and healthy?” I like that there is an Aubrey de Grey in this world pushing research into the causes of ageing, looking at it as a preventable disease.

Not so much because I believe we are on the verge of a break-through as such. But simply because aspiration sets a limit on inspiration. And there are many smaller desirable targets along the road to immortality.

Recent results in mice have shown rejuvenating muscle tissue. If I don’t get anything out of the research other than my 20-yr-old muscles back, I’ll call that a victory. Maybe soon we will all be able to “die young” at an old age. Living longer would be amazing, but living younger is no mean second prize.

And that’s not to say that the broader research is insane either.

It is hard to envision all the problems that would have to be overcome to make practical immortality a reality, but provided we can repair the damage of ageing it also isn’t inconceivable. There is nothing inherently mysterious about the functioning of the human body.

The one thing that I wonder about though is how we would change if we achieved immortality. If it was the result of systematic nano-scale repairs to damage, would that affect the way our brains accumulate over time… would we all become perpetual teenagers? And to what extent would that actually be a problem?

Would immortality change us in other ways? With all the time in the world, would we get even more possessive of our novel ideas in the hope of exploiting them somewhere along infinity? Or would we perhaps become a little more concerned for the long-term well-being of the world if we were faced with living in the mess we create?

Would we take the time to write software that works?

Would we put more effort into creating safety features? It’s easy to shrug our shoulders and proclaim that a little danger is a part of life and everyone dies someday. But what if that isn’t true? Would we obsess over every conceivable fail-safe and backup plan when the value of a human life is essentially infinite?

Would we take more time for ourselves and each other? Would we travel longer distances on foot and by bike, simply because there is no rush to get anywhere?

Would we figure out 42?