The first person to ever live to be 150 years old has already been born, according to Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist. One of the co-founders of the non-profit SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Foundation in California, de Grey serves as the chief scientific officer and has authored an encouraging study on the viability of extending healthy lifespan by repairing cellular damage. By using gene therapy, a person’s life could theoretically be extended indefinitely. My question is: who wants to live forever?
Wouldn’t Be for Everyone
Say, for example, that this gene therapy is found to be successful in staving off old-age related diseases. Outstanding, right? Sure. Now imagine that you’ve lived to be 2,000 years old and have watched all of your children die from accidents and non-age-related diseases. Your spouse, your own parents, everyone around you can and will eventually die of something.
How is that different from now? It’s expected. When your parents reach their eighties or nineties, you brace yourself for the end. If lifespan was indefinite, the blow would that much more crippling. Imagine being married for 1,000 years to the same spouse. Could you even survive losing them at that point?
Death by Boredom
What happens after you have read every novel that interests you, you’ve been on 25 world tours, and you have learned 57 languages? While some people have an instinctual love for learning and could continue on indefinitely, others would wish for death long before it finds them. Of course, the nerds of the world would be stoked to be able to code, master every MMORPG ever made, and to teach their great-great-great-great-grandchildren a thing or two about astronomy. The will to live that long would have to be immense.
Creepy Ethical Questions
If refusing your gene therapy will allow you to die, how long will it be before someone tells you that you are required to submit to it? Think about it. Assisted suicide is a touchy enough subject, but what about the people who want to stop having their life-extending treatments? Could a family force a person to continue them? This brings up a whole host of ethical debates.
While living forever is an interesting idea, it brings up a lot of uncomfortable and thought-provoking questions. Other issues would doubtless include limiting the number of children one has, the effect on the planet, and other sketchy, questionable territory. I will definitely be keeping an eye on de Grey’s research!