Death in the City of Eternal Life

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Certain scientists, futurists , and philosophers have theorized about the immortality of the human body, with some suggesting that human immortality may be achievable in the first few decades of the 21st century. Other advocates believe that life extension is a more achievable goal in the short term, with immortality awaiting further research breakthroughs. The absence of aging would provide humans with biological immortality, but not invulnerability to death by disease or physical trauma ; although mind uploading could solve that if it proved possible.

Whether the process of internal endoimmortality is delivered within the upcoming years depends chiefly on research and in neuron research in the case of endoimmortality through an immortalized cell line in the former view and perhaps is an awaited goal in the latter case. In religious contexts, immortality is often stated to be one of the promises of God or other deities to human beings who show goodness or else follow divine law. What form an unending human life would take, or whether an immaterial soul exists and possesses immortality, has been a major point of focus of religion , as well as the subject of speculation and debate.

Life extension technologies promise a path to complete rejuvenation. Cryonics holds out the hope that the dead can be revived in the future, following sufficient medical advancements. While, as shown with creatures such as hydra and planarian worms , it is indeed possible for a creature to be biologically immortal , it is not known if it is possible for humans.

Mind uploading is the transference of brain states from a human brain to an alternative medium providing similar functionality. Assuming the process to be possible and repeatable, this would provide immortality to the computation of the original brain, as predicted by futurists such as Ray Kurzweil. The "soul" itself has different meanings and is not used in the same way in different religions and different denominations of a religion. For example, various branches of Christianity have disagreeing views on the soul's immortality and its relation to the body.

Alchemists strive to solve the mystery of immortality with the Philosopher's Stone and elixir of life. They believe through the application of alchemical processes, the physical body can be maintained through Infinity, not dying by any natural diseases, only finding an end through physical destruction of the body. Theoretically if one could stay out of Harm's Way one could live forever. Physical immortality is a state of life that allows a person to avoid death and maintain conscious thought. It can mean the unending existence of a person from a physical source other than organic life, such as a computer.

Active pursuit of physical immortality can either be based on scientific trends, such as cryonics , digital immortality , breakthroughs in rejuvenation or predictions of an impending technological singularity , or because of a spiritual belief, such as those held by Rastafarians or Rebirthers. There are three main causes of death: aging , disease and physical trauma.

Aubrey de Grey , a leading researcher in the field, [6] defines aging as "a collection of cumulative changes to the molecular and cellular structure of an adult organism , which result in essential metabolic processes, but which also, once they progress far enough, increasingly disrupt metabolism, resulting in pathology and death. Eliminating aging would require finding a solution to each of these causes, a program de Grey calls engineered negligible senescence.

There is also a huge body of knowledge indicating that change is characterized by the loss of molecular fidelity.

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Disease is theoretically surmountable via technology. In short, it is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism, something the body shouldn't typically have to deal with its natural make up.


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The mechanisms by which other diseases do damage are becoming better understood. Sophisticated methods of detecting diseases early are being developed.

Preventative medicine is becoming better understood. Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's may soon be curable with the use of stem cells. Breakthroughs in cell biology and telomere research are leading to treatments for cancer. Vaccines are being researched for AIDS and tuberculosis.

Genes associated with type 1 diabetes and certain types of cancer have been discovered, allowing for new therapies to be developed. Artificial devices attached directly to the nervous system may restore sight to the blind. Drugs are being developed to treat a myriad of other diseases and ailments. Physical trauma would remain as a threat to perpetual physical life, as an otherwise immortal person would still be subject to unforeseen accidents or catastrophes. The speed and quality of paramedic response remains a determining factor in surviving severe trauma.

Being the seat of consciousness , the brain cannot be risked to trauma if a continuous physical life is to be maintained. This aversion to trauma risk to the brain would naturally result in significant behavioral changes that would render physical immortality undesirable for some people. Organisms otherwise unaffected by these causes of death would still face the problem of obtaining sustenance whether from currently available agricultural processes or from hypothetical future technological processes in the face of changing availability of suitable resources as environmental conditions change.

After avoiding aging, disease, and trauma, you could still starve to death.

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If there is no limitation on the degree of gradual mitigation of risk then it is possible that the cumulative probability of death over an infinite horizon is less than certainty , even when the risk of fatal trauma in any finite period is greater than zero.

Mathematically, this is an aspect of achieving " actuarial escape velocity ". Biological immortality is an absence of aging. Specifically it is the absence of a sustained increase in rate of mortality as a function of chronological age. A cell or organism that does not experience aging, or ceases to age at some point, is biologically immortal. Biologists have chosen the word "immortal" to designate cells that are not limited by the Hayflick limit , where cells no longer divide because of DNA damage or shortened telomeres. The first and still most widely used immortal cell line is HeLa , developed from cells taken from the malignant cervical tumor of Henrietta Lacks without her consent in Prior to the work of Leonard Hayflick , there was the erroneous belief fostered by Alexis Carrel that all normal somatic cells are immortal.

By preventing cells from reaching senescence one can achieve biological immortality; telomeres, a "cap" at the end of DNA, are thought to be the cause of cell aging. Every time a cell divides the telomere becomes a bit shorter; when it is finally worn down, the cell is unable to split and dies. Telomerase is an enzyme which rebuilds the telomeres in stem cells and cancer cells, allowing them to replicate an infinite number of times. On the other hand, scientists hope to be able to grow organs with the help of stem cells, allowing organ transplants without the risk of rejection, another step in extending human life expectancy.

These technologies are the subject of ongoing research, and are not yet realized. Life defined as biologically immortal is still susceptible to causes of death besides aging, including disease and trauma, as defined above. Notable immortal species include:.

As the existence of biologically immortal species demonstrates, there is no thermodynamic necessity for senescence: a defining feature of life is that it takes in free energy from the environment and unloads its entropy as waste. Living systems can even build themselves up from seed, and routinely repair themselves. Aging is therefore presumed to be a byproduct of evolution , but why mortality should be selected for remains a subject of research and debate.

Programmed cell death and the telomere "end replication problem" are found even in the earliest and simplest of organisms.

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Some scientists believe that boosting the amount or proportion of telomerase in the body, a naturally forming enzyme that helps maintain the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes , could prevent cells from dying and so may ultimately lead to extended, healthier lifespans. In normal circumstances, without the presence of telomerase, if a cell divides repeatedly, at some point all the progeny will reach their Hayflick limit. With the presence of telomerase, each dividing cell can replace the lost bit of DNA , and any single cell can then divide unbounded.

While this unbounded growth property has excited many researchers, caution is warranted in exploiting this property, as exactly this same unbounded growth is a crucial step in enabling cancerous growth. If an organism can replicate its body cells faster, then it would theoretically stop aging. Embryonic stem cells express telomerase, which allows them to divide repeatedly and form the individual.

In adults, telomerase is highly expressed in cells that need to divide regularly e.

Immortality

Technological immortality is the prospect for much longer life spans made possible by scientific advances in a variety of fields: nanotechnology, emergency room procedures, genetics, biological engineering , regenerative medicine , microbiology , and others. Contemporary life spans in the advanced industrial societies are already markedly longer than those of the past because of better nutrition, availability of health care, standard of living and bio-medical scientific advances.

Technological immortality predicts further progress for the same reasons over the near term. An important aspect of current scientific thinking about immortality is that some combination of human cloning , cryonics or nanotechnology will play an essential role in extreme life extension. Robert Freitas , a nanorobotics theorist, suggests tiny medical nanorobots could be created to go through human bloodstreams, find dangerous things like cancer cells and bacteria, and destroy them.

This supports the theory that we will be able to continually create biological or synthetic replacement parts to replace damaged or dying ones. Future advances in nanomedicine could give rise to life extension through the repair of many processes thought to be responsible for aging. Eric Drexler , one of the founders of nanotechnology , postulated cell repair devices, including ones operating within cells and utilizing as yet hypothetical biological machines , in his book Engines of Creation.


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Raymond Kurzweil , a futurist and transhumanist , stated in his book The Singularity Is Near that he believes that advanced medical nanorobotics could completely remedy the effects of aging by Hibbs suggested that certain repair machines might one day be reduced in size to the point that it would, in theory, be possible to as Feynman put it " swallow the doctor ". Cryonics , the practice of preserving organisms either intact specimens or only their brains for possible future revival by storing them at cryogenic temperatures where metabolism and decay are almost completely stopped, can be used to 'pause' for those who believe that life extension technologies will not develop sufficiently within their lifetime.

Ideally, cryonics would allow clinically dead people to be brought back in the future after cures to the patients' diseases have been discovered and aging is reversible. Modern cryonics procedures use a process called vitrification which creates a glass-like state rather than freezing as the body is brought to low temperatures.

This process reduces the risk of ice crystals damaging the cell-structure, which would be especially detrimental to cell structures in the brain, as their minute adjustment evokes the individual's mind. One idea that has been advanced involves uploading an individual's habits and memories via direct mind-computer interface. The individual's memory may be loaded to a computer or to a new organic body.