Immortality – How to Live Forever

All human societies since the beginning of time have been obsessed in some way with living forever. The most common way that we see this human obsession conveyed is through religion. Religion offers a way to live forever and for some it alleviates the extreme stress that comes along with the knowledge that we are all eventually going to die. But now immortality is no longer limited to the realm of the spiritual as scientists begin to understand how we age and medical technology continues to leap forward, for the first time human biological immortality seems possible.

The term “biological immortality” is a bit misleading. It does not mean that something is completely indestructible. There are organisms that are considered by science to be biologically immortal, but if they receive a serious wound or their body is somehow destroyed it would still die. In other words biological immortality does not make you invincible, it simply means that a body is kept in a living state biologically, but external factors outside of biology could still kill the organism.



As stated above biological immortality is possible. There are creatures that exist that are biological immortal. Turritopsis nutricula is a type of jellyfish that is in theory immortal. What it does is produces certain types of cells that allows it to revert back to its younger polyp stage after it reaches sexual maturity. Most turritopsis nutricula do not live forever in the wild, as most fall victim to hungry fish, but it could live forever if it were able to avoid its natural predators.



Another amazing animal that is said to possess biological immortality is a surprisingly simple, fresh water dwelling organism called hydra. Hydras continuously produce cells and when hydra’s cells split it does not cause the telemeres to shorten, thus hydras cells do not age, and they are considered biologically immortal.



Tardigrades are the most impressive of the organisms that are considered to be biologically immortal. Also referred to as water bears, these water dwelling creatures are microscopic and incredibly hard to kill. Water bears can survive being frozen to absolute zero (-215C) and being heated up to 151 degrees Celsius. They can also withstand extremely low pressures and extremely high pressures. Recent studies showed that this little creature could survive the vacuum of open space and solar radiation combined for 10 days at the very least. Tardigrades also do not age. The Russian Space Administration plans on launching these guys into space as a test to the panspermia theory (the theory that life originated in space and then came to Earth).

The existence of these creatures proves that it is biologically possible to be immortal, but is this a feat that humans can achieve? A man named Aubrey de Grey says it is. Despite looking like a folk singer, de Grey is actually an accomplished scientist who has done extensive research in the field of anti-aging and he believes that the first person that will live to be 1,000 years old is alive today and is middle aged. De Grey believes that this is possible if we would subscribe to Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, SENS for short. SENS was proposed by de Grey himself in his book The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging, in this text de Grey identifies seven causes of aging and believes that with research we can find ways to combat all these causes and live indefinitely.



Needless to say, de Grey’s ideas have led to much controversy. Along with the expected philosophical and spiritual protests, his fellow scientists have scrutinized his theory of aging. In 2005, Technology Review, a science magazine that is owned by the prestigious college MIT, offered a $20,000 prize open to any molecular biologist who could prove that de Grey’s SENS was “so wrong that it is unworthy of learned debate.” No one was awarded the prize money.

Most agree though that de Grey may be a bit over enthusiastic, or to use the words of 28 biogerontologists who published a paper on the subject de Grey is “exceptionally optimistic”. In other words, with the exception of de Grey and a handful of others, the general consensus in popular science is that we are very far from the type of life extension that de Grey is talking about.

So as of now science says that we are far away from being immortal, but there are other options. You could have yourself cryogenically frozen when you are facing death, then unfrozen upon the time that your particular aliment is curable or even be unfrozen when human biological immortality is possible. Famous baseball player Ted Williams was frozen upon death, but his situation unfortunately did not turn out so well for him.



According to the book Frozen: My Journey Into the World of Cryonics, Deception and Death written by a former employee at the cryogenic company Alcor, Ted Williams was mistreated several times by other employees at the facility. First, it is important to note that Williams was frozen in two halves. See Alcor has two different plans, the cheap plan in which they freeze only the head in hopes of a Futurama-esqe resurrection and a more expensive plan where they freeze the whole body. Due to a paper work mix-up Alcor accidentally cut off Williams’ head even though his family paid to have the whole body frozen. On top of all this, some years later, employees at the company beat Williams’ frozen head with a wrench insuring brain damage beyond repair upon unfreezing.

In order to avoid a Ted Williams like fate I would highly suggest anyone reading in search of immortality to take a different route. Perhaps we can live long enough to where mind uploading will be possible.

Mind uploading is the term used to describe a hypothetical process of mapping and copying someone’s brain and then transferring it into a computer system, thus creating a mechanisms that would behave just as you did when you were living and is essentially you. This sounds very sci-fi but most scientists say that it is a logical end to the current rate at which computer technology is growing. There is however debate among philosophers as to whether this is immortality. Proponents against this being considered immortality believe that the original being’s self consciousness would not be copied onto the computer and thus he would still be deceased while a copy of himself that has a separate self-awareness is what was created during the mind uploading process.

It seems that when looking at all these theories on how human beings can become immortal, the time frame for when it will be possible is conflicting depending on what scientist you talk to, with no real general consensus among them. Some even believe that human biological immortality is completely impossible. With all this being said, according to the most accurate internet source ever, Wikipedia, it has been theorized that “a biologically immortal human would live for 1,200 years, before falling victim to an accident or tragedy of modern society, for example being struck down by a car.” So physically living forever seems to be completely out of the question, but 1,200 years would still be an improvement, and with biological immortality I wouldn’t have to become Highlander or seek out a vampire to significantly extend my life, which would definitely save me some trouble. So it seems that we are all patiently awaiting science for the conclusion of this story.

Author: Jonathan Kaulay Copyrighted ©

6 Responses to “Immortality – How to Live Forever”

  1. I beileve that Aubrey de Grey is pretty much correct because he grasps the vital role of accelerating progress in technology which is an essential prerequisite to radical life extension. Our greatly enhanced capabilities and the rapid progress in both Nanotechnology and Biotechnology is looking promising although Biotec is ahead of Nanotec by around 10 to 15 years. Having said that the gap seems to be closing because in the last 18 months Nanotec has picked up considerable momentum. The crucial consideration as far as Aubrey de Grey's theories are concerned is to look at the accelerating pace in all of the requisite technologies that are vital to achieving significant life extension. Regardless of how you look at it one crucial pattern is very apparent which is that we will achieve a rate of progress in this century ncomparable to anything we have ever seen before. To get this in perspective just consider that in the nineteenth century more technological breakthroughs were made than in all of the nine centuries preceding it. Then in the first twenty years of the twentieth century, we saw more advancement than in all of the nineteenth century combined. In this century we will achieve 1000 times more than we achieved in the whole 20th century which was itself a period of progress never before seen. The crucial factor is to look at historic trends in the exponential growth of technology which suggest nothing deflects the accelerating pace of development very significantly to understand how exponential growth works check out . To grasp the potential for radial life ewxtension we need to consider that we are already adding two months each year to our life expectancy and this has been consistent for the last thirty years or so. If you then consider that many experts see a better than 50% chance of controlling aging within 30 years the whole issue starts to become very interesting. For years people spoke of a cure but personally I believe that is at least 100 years away. Where Dr Aubrey de Grey coms in is he realised there is a shortcut which aims to render aging a treatable condition – albeit a chronic one – and that this goal is quite possibly achievable and within striking distance. This is because we know the 7 types of damage which accumulate due to aging and they are as follows (1) cell loss, (2) death resistant cells, (3) nuclear DNA mutations, (4) mitochondrial DNA mutations, (5) intracellular junk, (6) extracellular junk, and (7) extracellular crosslinks. This might sound rather daunting but the key is that we don’t need to stop the damage actually arising we just need to control it and repair some of it. This gives us a shortcut to radical life extension. Ray Kurzweil explains it as three bridges. Bridge one is based on today's (limited) knowledge of how to slow the aging process through keeping fit, appropriate supplementation and eating the right food in order that we are fit enough to reach Bridge two which is the Biotec revolution, biotechnology covers treatments which could retard the aging process or in some way intervene in a way that potentially extends either lifespan or healthspan we then have the rapid advances in stem cell treatments, gene therapy and other breakthrough’s, these innovations should buy us 20 to 30 years of extra life within the next 25 years. We are already in the Biotechnology revolution now and several recent breakthrough’s confirm that we are on target as outlined below. These are notes from my own files but there are many more.

    Stem Cell Progress Regarding Joints

    Age Reveral Confirmed in Stem Cells

    Promising Potential Breakthrough regarding muscle loss (main cause of falls etc in the elderly)

    Progress in Gene Therapy to target cancer

    An excellent book regarding the three bridge theory and surviving long enough to cross bridge three is Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever (Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman MD) ISBN-10: 1605299561, Bridge three is the holy grail where biotechnology gives way to nanotechnology, this is where Ray Kurzweil believes we will move beyond the limitations of our biology he believes the golden age of nanotechnology will be in the 2020s. this is the run up to what he terms the Singularity.

  2. I don't like how this article totally ignores the ethical ramifications of immortality and as do you Drjohnty. What really is the point of human life if their is no end? Just sayin.

    AWESOME_0Possum July 26, 2010 at 7:57 am
  3. The point of life is not to live forever but to live until you feel you can no longer make a contribution and benefit the world in general. For children to see their parents and relatives degenerate into a shadow of their former selves and become gradually more infirm and frail is a horrendous experience. Clearly extreme life extension will not be for everyone but we would all have a choice. Ulimately it comes down to the simple fact that when the first interventions arrive you accept them or decline them. I know which way I would go. 200 years would do for starters and them I could review the situation although I have no reason to believe I would not want to carry on. I have been alive for almost 50 years and 200 is only 4 times what I have already had which I can easily relate to. I don't believe there is an ethical question because even conventions regarding human rights state that we all have a right to life and liberty, it is therfore our duty to prevent suffering and radical life extension is one route to achieve that goal.

  4. Forget about the spiritual moral delimma that exsists, what about the socio-economic structure. It would have to be dratically changed to make up for people living to 400 years old. Think about that will happen to jobs when the same people work at a job for 200 hundred years and the population continues to increase resulting in less jobs. And how much will it cost to maintain this older age and will these medical procedure be covered by medicare, if so then the cost of medicare will also skyrocket. Also thepopulation increse will result in an increase of the destroying of natural resources.

    AWESOME_0Possum July 27, 2010 at 6:33 pm
  5. True, but you're isolating this technology and imagining a world where we'd not be able to solve other problems as well. Granted, I do think there'd probably need to be fewer people in general, but…. Let's consider the following:

    * We could probably engineer our own metabolism, taste buds, pleasure centers, etc. IF we even had to. If you can eat mac n cheese, and chips, and dip, and twinkies, and ho hos, and then counteract the damage with gene therapy, then I guess altering metabolism wouldn't be necessary, but who knows – maybe there could be an advantage. Maybe we could metabolize silicon dioxide (sand).
    * Maybe we could engineer photosynthesis into our skin cells. Free food, yo. Everyone could move to Arizona or New Mexico and sunbathe in the rocky crags and canyons. You could literally stay in the same chair your whole life if you wanted, except when you needed more nano injections to restore your DNA.
    * Maybe we could engineer a way to make reproduction optional. Not eliminate it, but make it an active choice. So we could have sex all we wanted to without child-bearing being an inevitable consequence. BUT we could still have kids if we really wanted to. Maybe we could also make abortion an actively mechanical/chemical function of the human body.
    * Quantum computers. '10 to the 100' times faster than the traditional physics-based von neumann computer. We will suddenly make breakthroughs at a ridiculous pace, any concern for ethics or socio-economics will be left in the dust, and quite possibly in a verrry good way, not a bad way like you're assuming.
    * Ethics altogether could be overridden by a much more advanced understanding of the cosmos and our place in it, especially when we start altering our genetic composition and our capacity to grasp these concepts. Together with nano tech, we could make our collective planetary knowledge more easily 'tappable' by everyone on the planet. Instead of being isolated, we could know each other knowledge, feel each other feelings, feel each other's pain, help each other when needed.
    * Engineer the environment. As soon as we can more directly tap the sun's energy, and unlock the greater secrets of materials science and the production of life, we could create ecosystems even better than they evolved in the first place. Water? Ok. let's reforest the mountainsides and allow our rivers to more fully flow.

    Think about this: Introducing nanotec to the body. At that point we have become one with the machine. We have just enhanced ourselves using task-oriented, synthetic 'beings' that operate in symbiosis with us.

    I think we can pretty much go ahead and rest the argument by saying that technology seems to advance regardless of where our ethics or economics are. At some point the tech needs to transcend all that. It has to. The limits of our current set up are quite apparent. They call it utopia because it's fucking awesome. Nobody 10000 years ago could have imagined what we have now. I'm trying to imagine what we will have in 100 years. People like the possibility of cancer-aversion, disease-avoidance, life-extension. We have obsessed about it forever, we hate death. Death does not have to be inevitable. What keeps our relationships fresh is periodic distance and experiences – doing your own thing to the point of actually having something to share in a relationship.

  6. If we are just hearing about life extending methods now that means some people already have the medication. You are naive if you think the government will just allow any person to have extended life. Our system was not designed to accomodate 5 billion people living 1200 years. This extended life medication will be controlled just like everything else and only given to those in the “elite circle”.

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