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Immortality is not a myth. The unrealistic expectations some people have is the myth. Immortality is more attainable than what most people imagine. This paper will discuss the steps of achieving immortality. From why we die and age in the first place to the specifics of how we die has been a question humanity has long considered? There will be three sections about how we can achieve immortality. Immortality’s first challenge would be curing micro-organismic diseases, the second about physical injuries, and the last is to end natural deaths, like aging.
As civilization progresses, fewer and fewer people die because of illness. Lifespans have increased and will continue for the foreseeable future. According to Harari, Y. N., Purcell, J., & Watzman, H. (2019), genetic engineers successfully doubled the life span of Caenorhabditis elegans worms. What stops us from doing the same with humans? Roser, M. (2013) statistics shows that human lifespans have doubled since the 1900s, and the latest medical scientific advances are promising in this regard. Life Expectancy Humanity has been able to exceed expectations and achieve what was previously thought impossible. In the past, people thought of diseases as a necessary and mysterious evil, but now, we view diseases as technical difficulties that can be overcome. Perhaps scientists and doctors are not pursuing immortality directly, but medical progress is opening new doors in unknown and exciting directions.
Harari, Y. N., Purcell, J., & Watzman, H. (2019) mention in their book that in the 1700s, 150 out of every 1000 newborns died during their first year, and a third of all children died before reaching fifteen in England. Currently, only 5 out of 1000 newborns die during their first year, and only 7 out of 1000 die before age fifteen. Decades ago, parents would have dozen of kids in the hope that one would live, and they accepted that as part of their everyday life. Who knows how our reality might change in the upcoming decades? Yet, our path is not smooth. As medicine improve, bacteria develop. One challenge we are facing is superbacteria–or superbugs, which are bacteria that develop resistance against antibiotics; in a nutshell, antibiotics are not as effective anymore. However, scientists are working on treatments that will contain and hopefully prevent superbugs. The new treatment was included in an article published in CNB, C: the way this new strategy works is that drugs are designed to target and disable cellular machinery that leads these bacteria to resist antibiotics. If this approach is combined with other treatments, the probability of bacteria developing the resistant could drop to zero.
We do not always die because of an external cause. Sometimes, it is just our bodies. For example, cancer does not come from the outside, but it comes within. Cancer can be triggered by the environment, but it also can be a mere error in our cells’ DNA that makes them harm us instead of helping us. So, after protecting ourselves from invading pathogens, we must fix the errors that occur within us. We could divide our bodies’ faults into mutations and aging. First, mutations. Mutations could happen in two ways: somatic mutations and germ-line mutations. Somatic mutation occurs in normal body cells, and it affects only a portion of the body. On the other hand, germ-line mutations occur in sex-cells while reproducing, so it affects the whole body of the new offspring. Repairing somatic mutations could be a challenge because changing the genes of one cell does not change other cells’ DNA. However, a modified DNA in a germ-line cell would spread throughout the body, because this one cell will divide and divide until it makes up the whole body. If we want to alter DNA in a germ-line cell we will face ethical issues, because we would need to genetically engineer human embryos. I brought this up because the likelihood of making a mortal man immortal is less likely compared to a newborn immortal. We could genetically engineer one cell to divide, but it would be much harder to genetically engineer the trillions of cells in an adult body. So, if we had the access to change an embryo’s DNA, how could we make it escape death? Our DNA has a protective cape at it ends called telomere. Every time our cells divide, they lose a bit of their DNA, and the telomere is repetitive genes that serve no purpose but to delay the process of damaging our DNA. Whenever a cell divide, its telomere gets shorter and shorter until it reaches its DNA and damages it resulting in a deadly error. The molecular fountain of youth is finding a way to lengthening the telomere or stopping it from shortening in the first place.
Some people think that if we cured all diseases and genetically engineered our DNA we will be immortal. Conversely, the fountain of youth would not prevent environmental or physical accidents. In other words, even if we cured all diseases and ended aging, we could still die. A car might hit us or a bullet could go through our hearts. In such cases, death might seem inevitable. However, we could replace our damaged organs by artificially made parts. There are two ways we could save lives through artificially made body parts, the first is replacing damaged limbs by inorganic prosthetics, the second is biofabricating or 3D-printing internal organs with living tissues. Biofabricating is growing living cells outside the body to create tissues and maybe organs. 3D-printing, a recent technological device is used for medical purposes as well. Which is adding layers of material in above of each other to create the desired design without the need of molding or an expensive factory. There is already a working 3D-printed heart that is beating and pumping and you can explore it more at this website: Medical 3D printing: Discover the 3D printed heart. Once upon a time, people thought the heart was magical and cannot be replicated. Here we are, printing a heart that could replace a real one. One day we might be able to upload our consciousness to entirely man-made bodies. Yes, a robot with human mind with all of its memories and smartness. However, if the robot behaved like human, how can we know that if feels like a human? We can never know. Just like we cannot know for sure that people around us are actually real. Some might argue that we could observe human’s neural activity and prove their brain function. Yet, this does not prove they have consciousness, and how can the same done to an inorganic algorithm?
If achieving immortality was possible, would it be moral and wise to continue investing and researching in this area? Will it be exclusive only for the privileged? Will it be misused? Will life be amusing or will it lose its meaning? All of my answers are theoretical. Nevertheless, discussing such ideas would help us make wise choices. One might argue that we could restrict the use of the medical invention for health. However, throughout history, we can recognize how every invention has been used in other fields. Plastic surgery first appeared at the first World War to help harmed victims, and now beauty models do them as a luxury. Once a technique is made available, it would be hard to constrain its development. This is not always true though, humanity has changed. Maybe this time we could control it. Another question would be raised, who would be able to be immortal? Only those who have the money? Or could we just make it a basic human right? What about how our lives will change? Right now, people live knowing that one day they might lose someone they love, but in the future such lost would be much more dramatic knowing that who they lost could have lived forever. Also, usually, people pursue one career in their lifetime. They dedicate their time, education, and efforts for one goal. This might change if lifespans were extended. People might be forced to live through multiple career cycles or be expected to have much more experience and knowledge. What if not all people desired immortality, and among them were loved ones? How will watching them die feel like? Should people have the choice? And who would be in control of giving such power? Will it be just? Also, even if everything was applied perfectly, other issues might arise. If death really gives life meaning, humanity must not end itself by their own hands. Meaning and motivation is what push people to work, invent, explore, discover, and be humans. With no such spirit, immortality could be the death humans were running away from. Once we take this step, there will be no turning back. So, we should think wisely.
The paper discussed whether humans could cheat death, but complete immortality could be impossible. One future many fail to see, is that even if humans became immortal, our universe is not. One day when the universe’s energy run out, the last star die, and the enteral darkness starts, we will die with the last light. Perhaps we will find a way to harvest black holes’ energy, but they will soon die as well. Maybe we could cheat energy too. For the near future, extending our lifespans for millennials might sounds reasonable, but true immortality seems impossible for now. One possible path toward immortality could be through these three steps: First, a treatment that bacteria can’t built resistance against must be found. Second, mastering genetic engineering to fix genetic syndromes and diseases. Third, find a way to replace what might we lose from our organs or limbs. With these three steps–if they were achieved immortality would be possible. After biological immortality is achieved, physical and chemical immortalities must be pursued.
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