Do you want to live forever? In today’s youth obsessed culture, there is big value placed on staying young. But how young and for how long? For most of us, adulthood has been a ride of highs and lows. There have been amazing years, tough years and some we’d like to erase and re-do. When I was growing up, my father turned 39 every birthday for 5 years. Is that a good age to be forever?
The idea of immortality begs many questions. Primarily, why? What is the value in being on the earth, day after day, year after year, century after century? What more could we get out of life if we continued to live forever? Would living forever be the way to ensure that we are not forgotten?
As far as medical advances have come, science has still not found a way to stave off death. Medicine can certainly prolong the experience of living with illness. ICUs are full of people who are alive merely because there is electricity supplied to machines which are pumping hearts and delivering oxygen. They are alive because the machines keep them that way. At what point is this deemed “living” as opposed to “not medically dead”? Would they want to stay attached to the machines forever?
Death is useful as it marks the end of disease and physical suffering. Imagine being 567 years old with bad knees for 3 centuries, incontinence, terrible eyesight, impotence and a heart terrible condition. There would certainly be no surprise birthday parties for you! And birthdays would lose their meaning after the 300th revolution around the sun, don’t you think? As would holidays, springtime, the presidential elections, and any other occasion which marks the passage of time.
In order to make living forever enjoyable, we’d have to eradicate disease and degeneration all together. And while medicine has made may advances, it has yet to find a cure for the most common diseases of our time. This hasn’t stopped some companies and individuals from seeking ways around death. Last year, a couple in Thailand had the brain of their 2 year old daughter cryogenically frozen moments after her death in hopes that she’ll be brought back to life when science catches up to this desire. In her brief life, she was a light; loving and kind. And her swift rare brain cancer robbed her of a full life and an opportunity to share her light with the world. Her parents, medical engineers, wish for her to have that chance. She is the youngest person to undergo this treatment and her nickname was Einz—German meaning the number one.
As of 2014, over 250 people have been cryogenically frozen. The foundation of cryonics is that death is a process and not an event. It seeks to prevent loss of information within the brain that encodes memory and personal identity. It also rests on the belief that aging itself will be a treatable, reversible condition as medicine attains full control of the human body. In cases where only the brain is preserved, cryonics believes that the brain cells can be prodded to regrow the body in the process that made the body in the first place.
If this all sounds like science fiction, at best it’s an interesting idea in the field of immortality. It is also hope for those who want to live forever. Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics, transhumanist, author of Virtually Human, and pioneer in the world of artificial intelligence stands by the motto “death is optional.” If it is and people can live on healthy and happy, keep the party going! However, what would you do with your life that you aren’t doing in this finite life span you have now? My father eventually turned 40. May I also have the honor to grow old one day. Eventually.