Should we end aging forever?


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/10/20/should-we-end-aging-forever.html


#2

My opinion? An emphatic NO.

Case in point: Who wants eternal Dick Cheney, Koch Brothers, Donald Trump, et al? Not me, by golly.


#3

End aging forever? But then we’d end up with a planet full of babies that cannot take care of themselves…


#4

On top of that, there’s no way it would be universally available. The lives of the rich would become even more alien to the experience of the rest of us.


#5

Evolution will continue- I’m not sure that being an Australopithecus kept in a zoo for eternity sounds appealing.


#6

The problem with the way most people imagine this, is that they assume life expectancy will go from 73 to infinity overnight. More likely, there would be a series of smaller breakthroughs and the process would gradually fade in as we assess and hopefully deal with the societal ramifications. Of course, we’ve had plenty of time to fix other, simpler problems like the elections of morons to high office.


#7

Yes. Death is bad.

That being said, the end of aging feels like it would force some choices on us that would result in some nasty fallout.

I’m pretty sure it would be universal. You know, after the war.

And it’s never going to infinity. We can eliminate all disease, make perfect self-driving vehicles and get to the point that the number one cause of death is lightning strikes, but we’re still all going to die.


#8

I already have the ability to stop aging. If we lived in a world of eternal Trump I would probably want to kill myself.


#9

Only if we can implement forgetting.

This reminds me of the tale of Hob Gadling.


#10

I think this would increase life expectancy, but you’d still have the problem of people’s brains getting cluttered/scattered as they kept getting older. Just because you’re not getting arthritis doesn’t mean your neurons aren’t still getting tangled up with age.


#11

Aging forever sounds horrible, cf. Tithonus.


#12

We sure should.

To otherwise would be like saying:
“Should we create Antibiotics?”
“Should we stairalize surgical tools before doing surgeries?”
“Should we build proper sewers to remove plagues from cities?”
“Should we really bandage peoples wounds whom are injured?”
“Should we use machinery to expand food production?”


#13

Death at 30 should do it.


#14

From Dorian Grey to Lestat to Doctor Who to Wolverine, fictional characters have always illustrated why immortality is a bad idea.

­

Death will always be the end result of living; rather than try to escape it, we’d do better to focus on eliminating the needless suffering that often goes with it.


#15

100% agreed.

To those who said no: I assume you are aware, and accept, that with the normal progress of medicine (and barring global disaster) lives will be longer in the future than now. Presumably you are ok with that. Also presumably, you do not want to die today, otherwise please close this browser window and call a suicide prevention hotline. So… at what age do you expect your preference for life over death to reverse, and why?

I also like this thought experiment. Imagine everyone gets given a calculator. You can enter number into it. That’s how long you’ll live. You can’t see what anyone else enters until you choose your own number. There’s even a key with an infinity symbol.

Say you enter 120. Then you see your friends entered 10,000. How would you feel? Would they still want to spend time with you as you age and they don’t?
What if they entered a billion? Graham’s number?


#16

Less would than will. SF/F if rife with stories of immortals who, whether through science or magic, establish themselves as a permanent ruling class over mortals. This is very real danger. And because it will happen gradually and incrementally, it will just look like the ongoing allocation of healthcare by wealth to which most are already resigned, until one day far too late someone points out that the ultra-wealthy live several times as long as the poor, and that person will be dismissed as a filthy communist.

Anyway, a longevity feudalism is only one of the ways in which the wealthy will isolate themselves from the poor. Greg Egan has more imagination than most speculative fiction authors. I highly recommend to anyone with a strong stomach to check out his short story The Moat, which can be found in the excellent collection Axiomatic. It’s more than a little haunting and worth of read, but for those who don’t want to (spoilers ahoy)…Genetic examination of a rape kit reveals evidence of a human genome based on different base-pair sequences than those that life of Earth naturally evolved to incorporate, but still composed from amino acids that can be composed from the digested molecules in ordinary food. The genome is functionally equivalent to the natural one, but was presumably engineered at birth to have all it’s base pairs replaced with the substitutes, resulting in offspring immune to all disease (presumably auto-immune disorders are still possible, but the story doesn’t address this).

Dementia and other forms of neural degeneration are a result of entropy, not clutter. It’s been shown that when we think consciously about a memory, certain chemicals are released in the brain that actually facilitate neuroplasticity. The act of recalling is the act of editing a memory. There have even been experiments where the presence of one such chemical was artificially increased while subjects were asked to recall a memory. The more they recalled, and the more of the editing chemical, the faster the memory itself changed.

The upshot is that newer long-term memories are more reliable. Which makes sense. Our senses take in far more information than we can possibly remember, so the brain filters what to actually store. There’s no deep-past evolutionary advantage to perfect recall of very old long-term memories, especially when we live past the age of reproduction. Yes, there might be some cultural advantage to elders remembering the past, but that’s a new phenomenon by evolutionary standards. And there are at least as many cultural influences pushing us toward less reliable memory, so it’s unlikely even in the deep future that we’re going to naturally start evolving more reliable long-term memories.

Regardless of how long we live, if the brain tissues themselves can be prevented from decaying, we’re more likely simply to lose memories in the fog of the past as those neural connections are re-tasked for new memories through the every shifting landscape of neural weightings.

I’m interested in the insights on this topic of @Wanderfound and/or other neuroscientists and whether I have misunderstood the research I’ve read, which it quite possible since I’m not a biologist.

Actually mentioned in the video.


#17

Ending aging doesn’t mean an end to death. There will be a huge growth of death by other causes I would think, namely starvation and war as we go way past the carrying capacity of the planet.


#18

Didn’t watch and never will. Transcripts please!


#19

This. I’d love to spend 50 to 60 years being 25. I don’t want to live forever, or even really longer than a regular life. Give me 80 in good health and then after that I’m good, so if I could get a “shot” or some genetic tinkering at 25 that would wear off in 50 years but it would mean my body would have accelerated aging I’d be okay with it. Old/older people pine for their younger days and not just in physical terms. I’m not sure average people could mentally handle the changes that would take place over hundreds of years.


#20

Aging (senescence) is NOT the same thing as mortality, that simple, and in fact there are two known causes of death: advanced age, yes, but also, relatively “sudden” death after a certain period of time, determined solely by genetics.

A good example of how this can work is rats under high doses of reveratrol; they display very few signs of senescence, but simply eventually die (after a significantly extended lifespan, mind you).