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Oasis sang it best in 1994 on their seminal debut album Definitely Maybe… “You and I are gonna live foreverrrrr” and according to scientists, this may actually become true in the not too distant future.
Since the dawn of time, mankind has tried to dodge death. It has plagued us ever since our creation, it takes us away from our loved ones at some of the most inopportune moments or takes so long to encompass us that we spend our final days/weeks/months cursing it to be over, waiting for the darkness to take us away.
Scientists however, believe that there may be a real light at the end of the so-called tunnel….. immortality. With estimates putting the first attempts at this within the next 30-40 years people are already thinking about the possible benefits and drawbacks of such a massive leap in human technology and societal development.
No longer is escaping death kept within the upper echelons of the realms of gods and angels. Scientists could now be seen as the saviours (or destructors) of humanity by using a number of technologies to advance the human lifespan. Here we will look at the possible future developments that will allow us to live forever.
Whilst this doesn’t provide immortality, it is currently available to the public and allows humans to be frozen in specialised tanks of liquid nitrogen at temps of -196 degrees in the hopes that at some point in the future, they can be reanimated to enjoy some more of their lives enjoying the future landscape (and becoming immortal if the technology is available).
The process works by injecting anti-freeze compounds into the body to stop cells being damaged and then putting the corpse into a liquid nitrogen filled tank. The hope is that medical science will advance enough to bring the patient back to life.
The biggest drawback with this idea is that it all depends on the technological advancement of humans. We don’t currently have, nor are we guaranteed to find, the technology to re-animate frozen dead corpses but that hasn’t stopped people signing up to be turned into a human ice lolly. It is estimated that over 400 people are currently frozen with thousands more on waiting lists.
The first of the possible immortality processes on the list is regenerative therapies. With advancements in stem cell research and 3D printing it is posited that we will be able to use genetic engineering to prevent or reverse cellular aging and print replacement body parts using 3D printers.
One possible advancement that is indicative of this is the bacteria-derived gene editing tool, CRISPR-Cas 9. This tool has been shown to have the ability to alter precisely targeted sequences of DNA without harming other sections of the genome.
Coupled with the fact we are getting closer to being able to regrow organs and human tissue using stem cells and 3D printing technology gives hope of a future in which no-one ages beyond their 30’s meaning we can stay young forever.
If keeping your body in tip top shape to live forever doesn’t take your fancy, then how about using a Brain Computer Interface (BCI) that will link the brain to an operating system that controls a humanoid robot?
In essence, it is argued that in the future, we will be able to hire an android body anywhere in the world and upload our consciousness into it. A good example of android advancement is the sex doll industry. Whilst it is a taboo subject, the realistic nature of the dolls themselves and their basic levels of human interaction are a good indicator of how fast the technology for this is moving in terms of how realistic they look and feel.
Further indicators of the viability of this technology is the fact that we already have BCI’s in action in certain prosthetic limbs which interpret brain signals coming from certain parts of the brain. They have also been applied to completely locked-in patients allowing them to answer simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions.
Fan of Ready Player One? Then this one might be for you. Following on from the concept of uploading our minds into android bodies, another possibility is to upload your mind onto the cloud.
Living by virtual means in the cloud would mean that your consciousness is fully backed up on servers and would allow you to be whoever or whatever you want to be, wherever you want to be, as the whole world is virtual. Much like the movie Ready Player One, you could create your own avatar and drive the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future as your everyday run-around because anything is possible on the cloud.
Inevitably, the naysayers have already pointed out some major issues with making humans live forever. First and foremost, is the argument that only the extremely wealthy will initially be able to afford this technology. Over time this should, as with most advancements, fall in price as the technology becomes more mainstream but is that a guarantee? A lot of people will do whatever it takes to live forever which could include racking up massive debt to pay for it. Due to the popularity that will no doubt come from this ability, what incentive is there to drop the price?
Another issue that has been mentioned, particularly relating to the regenerative therapies is world population. Our current system sees the older generations replaced with the new but if we become immortal, where is everyone going to live? The population is already growing at an exponential rate, if we remove death then this will only accelerate it further which could lead to worldwide unrest, famine or war.
Finally, a point made about uploading your consciousness to a computer argues that it will only be a digital copy, there is no guarantee that the thing that makes you you will be uploaded into the system. This could essentially create an almost zombie like version of yourself that looks like you, walks and talks like you but lacks that special something that makes you you.
Moving to even further far out possibilities, how do we guarantee the safe storage of your consciousness? What if there is a massive natural disaster or a large solar flare that wipes out our power? Where do the cybernetically stored people go?
So many questions, so little time…… well, hopefully not for long anyway.
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