Immortality

Immortals have the ability to live forever. It´s a subject that has fascinated man since the age of time and continues to fascinate the world today- just look at the number of movies that come out every year with immortality or super powers wrapped into the plot- and hey- this whole site is about the Immortal Romance high variance slot game, so it´s not just movies and books that tell this story. The Dracula legends of Transyvania are probably the most famous stories of all, but there are plenty of others.

The Chronicle
One of our favourite movies covering the ability of humans to attain super powers and possible immortality.
You have got to watch this clip! This movie is an absolute classic.

 

Some scientists, and philosophers believe that the human race will achieve immortality in the first few decades of the 21st century. Life spans continue to extend- one problem with physical immortality is that it creates mental problems.

immortalsImmortality is heavily featured in many of the world´s ancient legends. The Greek myths are one obvious example. Gaining immortality is as close to becoming a god as you can get, and this is perhaps the reason behind our fascination with it.

The afterlife is a basic part of many religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Islam and Judaism, but immortality tends to belong to thge gods (or God) and the gods only.

There are 2 main types of immortality discussed by philosophers and futurists like Robert Ettinger and Aubrey de Gray. Physical immortality and biological immortality. Physical immortality would enable you to continue to think and avoid death- this might mean a rejuvenated body, or it might mean a transfer of your conscious thought to another vessel such as an android.

Biological immortality, which is the type of immortality we normally associate with the ancients, is the absence of aging (or when the aging process is stopped after a certain period of time).

What we are basically talking about is the ability to produce cells that are not subject to the Hayflick limit.

leonard hayflickHaflick carried out a number of experiments in the sixties which changed forever how we think about immortality. Dr. Leonard Hayflick, to use his full name, discovered that cells in humans reproduce by dividing. They produce copies of themselves. This process doesn't continue forever though, eventually it comes to an end and the cell dies. Cells that were frozen were merely "paused". Freezing the cells could extend their lives by putting them into suspended animation, but ultimately this was just a temporary interruption until they thawed again.

Cells have a finite life because the DNA becomes damaged or because of shortened telomeres (the bits at the end of each strand of DNA that serve to protect our chromosomes). If you can solve this deterioration and shortening, theoretically you can halt the aging process.

Every time a cell divides the telomere becomes shorter- finally you reach a point where the cell cannot split and it dies. But there are plenty of scientists working on technologies that aim to extend the lives of these cells. 

How Would the Human Race Achieve Immortality?
This section deals with the question of how would it be possible to achieve immortality. Of course there is a whole other question which is whether this is desirable. The process of aging, dying and renewing is woven in to the whole universe. Some would say that we tinker with it at our peril.

But theoretically, how could we achieve immortality? Well, we have various options:

Extending Life with Medicine & Food Choice
liverfoodsThis is the safest ground, and the area that most scientists are focusing on. You can already achieve this today by your lifestyle choice. There are chemicals (produced both naturally and in a lab) that will help you lead a healthier life and could help to extend your life- of course this doesn´t mean that you won´t have an accident, but you can certainly increase your odds. There are ongoing studies to try and find such substances (poor old mice seem to bear the brunt of these investigations). One enzyme in particular, called telomerase, (naturally occurring) helps to protect telomeres- those important protective bits at the ends of chromosomes. Substances like these could help extend the Hayflick Limit.

Scientists are already claiming to have discovered an anti-ageing drug that could extend human life up to the 120s. The diabetes drug metformin is the drug in question- medical researchers want to begin trials.

Extending Life Through Technology
Another big area of research is technology. With the invention of better and better medical procedures including nanotechnology, , biological engineering, regenerative medicine, and so on, more cures are being found for a variety of diseases and ailments and are extending life spans.

More humans are eating better, many more have access to good health care, living standards across the globe have increased, and so on. All of these factors help to extend average life spans of humans.

Then there is the research being carried out in other fields such as cloning (Hello Dolly!), cryonics or nanotechnology which may give the human race a step change in extending life spans. 

Cryonics
Famed Futurist Dr Michio Kaku discusses the problems with Cryogenics.

Cryonics, the stuff of science fiction that has become reality, is all about of preserving living beings (either as a whole or just the thinking bit) for the future by freezing them and putting their lives on hold. Just like Hans Solo in the Star Wars movie who was put into suspended animation in Carbonite. This process shuts the body down without killing it- metabolism and decay are slowed down to a level where they are in essence stopped.

This enables people to bet that life extending technologies will be developed beyond their lifetime and for them to step in to the future to benefit from their development.

Computer Mind Meld
Another area that holds potential is the use of technology to house the mind when the physical body wears out. We are now getting in to the realm of the Terminator movies. If you could download your mind including your memories, thought processes and experiences into a host, potentially this allows you to extend your life indefinitely. Computer processing power continues to expand at a terrifying pace. Who´s to say that this won´t be possible at some time in the future?

Cyborgs
cyborgBefore you scoff at this section, just remember that many people use technology now to extend their lives-either with pacemakers or through kidney dialysis. All we are talking about here, is extending this with breakthroughs in medical science. It´s happening now, the real question is- How far can it go?

Is Immortality Desirable?
This brings us on to the philosophical point- is immortality desirable? Extending life spans would seem to be a good thing, for people to lead healthier, fuller and more productive lives. But immortality? Is this a good idea. How old is too old?

It is natural for humans to want to avoid death- we are hard wired with a survival instinct- it´s what keep the human race going (although we seem to have quite a few self destructive traits as well- but that is another conversation).

It seems natural to want to avoid death for a certain time, but there comes a point when it becomes irrational. A life without end would be like purgatory where you are destined to experience the same things over and over again until you eventually fall in to boredom and distance yourself from life.

The moral of the story is that there´s a fine line here. Immortality could be hell on Earth, Mars or whatever planet you happen to be on. Do you really want to live forever?