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Could Human Beings Gain Immortality?
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Mankind’s perpetual quest to become God or to invalidate God is evident in its venture to overcome death and grant immortality to the human life.
Several technology billionaires are investing billions of dollars into research that aims to immortalize human life.
provides an insight into some of these ventures:
Dmitry Itskov’s vision for humanity reads like a fantastical sci-fi novel. By 2020, the Russian media oligarch promises that his project, The 2045 Initiative, will have produced technology that will allow humans to upload their consciousness to an android avatar, thus creating a new, superior species of cyberkinetic humans — “neo-humanity,” as he calls it — capable of infinite intelligence and immortal life…
“Death has never made any sense to me,” said Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle and fifth-richest man in the world, to his biographer. Ellison sees death as “just another kind of corporate opponent he can outfox.” To defeat death, Ellison created The Lawrence Ellison Foundation, which has pumped over $300 million into aging research and the mysterious workings of the human brain.
Peter Thiel, the enigmatic co-founder of PayPal, is disappointed with today’s technological innovations. For him, they don’t live up to the hype. Through a venture capital fund called Founder’s Fund and through the Thiel Foundation, Thiel has invested heavily in only the most ambitious tech startups — one of which is Alcor, a groundbreaking cryogenics company whose ambition is to literally freeze living human bodies, halting nearly all organ functions and cell processes, for years at a time.
Google’s biotech research division, Calico, aims to better understand the science of aging. Under Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s leadership, the company has partnered with pharmaceutical giant AbbeVie and is rumored to be developing a drug that mimics naturally occurring human genes responsible for long life. Not much is known about Calico’s research endeavors — like many of Google’s subsidiary research divisions, Calico’s ongoings have been kept mostly under wraps…
How could human beings gain immortality?
One theoretical approach to gaining immortality is to treat aging as a disease, and thus prevent death. The other approach is to upload our personalities to an artificial brain so that we live as 100% holograms, says an article in the
The idea that age is a disease that can be identified and treated is now fairly well accepted, but only a decade ago, it was laughable. Aubrey De Grey, an upstart computer-science engineer, created what could be considered a precursor to the field of geroscience. De Grey theorized SENS (Strategies for Negligible Senescence) in his 1999 book The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging. The basic premise was that we can attack and treat aging much like we treat all disease: by identifying the core cause and traits, and then developing ways to relieve or prevent them. If we can do this, in theory, humans could live forever…
However, some Valley types want to take our bodies out of the equation all together. Inventor and futurist Ray “The-Singularity-is-Near” Kurzweil, now the director of engineering at Google, and Russian billionaire news magnate Dmitry Itskov want to bring our minds from the analog into the digital.
Kurzweil believes in a future where tiny nanobots will swim through our bloodstreams, repairing and augmenting us on a molecular level until our dependence on them makes us more machine than man. Itskov has a less nuanced approach: He wants to rip our brains out of our bodies and put them into robotic avatars—and he wants the ability to do it by 2025.
But, as bits and bytes, are we still human? At what point do we stop extending life, and instead eliminate it? After Itskoff takes our brains out of our bodies, he wants our minds to leave the flesh entirely. As part of his 2045 initiative, Itskoff wants to upload our personalities into an artificial brain when we die. We would live on as 100% virtual holograms floating around space, no longer linked to the physical world, existing as energy, thought, and information. Kurzweil thinks that will happen as a natural part of evolution: that our synergy with machines will augment our thought capabilities, eventually culminating in a point where humanity will travel the cosmos as pure energy.
What is the need to overcome death?
Let’s consider two possible reasons, one from a worldly sense and another from a theological sense.
Very minimally, those who have all they need and want would
enjoy this life
more by extending it. Who’d not want to enjoy their good health, awesome family, great occupation, and a fat bank balance?
Fear of God’s judgment or a possible afterlife (as in the case of agnostics, atheists etc.) could be a motivator to seek immortality.
You are probably religious or irreligious. You may or may not have done some very bad things that prick your conscience. You are fearful about what could happen to you after your death. In other words, you think you would be better off at earth than to dabble with the post-death existential domain.
What could be the single greatest ramification of human immortality?
If human beings gain immortality, God could be rendered invalid – at least partially.
Theists believe in the afterlife. For instance, Christianity believes in the existence of heaven and hell. Those who believe in the God of the Bible would be in heaven forever and those who do not believe in Jesus Christ would remain in hell forever. Since the sins of those who do not believe in the God of the Bible are not forgiven, they are destined to hell forever.
But by gaining immortality on earth, human beings could attempt to evade God’s judgment – heaven and hell. Thus, they can do what they want – good and bad – while on earth.
Or at least, this is what they may think.
Could God be rendered invalid?
At this juncture, it is important to understand death and afterlife from the Bible. William Lane Craig explains death and afterlife as, “When a person dies, his body lies in the grave until the return of Christ. The souls of those who belong to Christ are drawn into a closer, more intimate fellowship with Him in this disembodied state. We really don’t know what this disembodied existence is like. It’s possible that souls in this disembodied condition project mental images of each other and themselves as bodily, so that they can relate to one another. The souls of unbelievers, by contrast, enter into a state of conscious torment and separation from God which is called Hades. When Christ returns, He will bring with Him the souls of the departed believers, and their remains will then be raised from the dead and transformed into glorious, powerful, resurrection bodies, and their souls will be reunited with their bodies. After appearing before the judgment seat of Christ for rewards, they will then be ushered into the new heavens and the new earth. Unbelievers will also be raised from the dead and reunited with their bodies, and then after being judged by God, they will be cast into hell.”
An appropriate understanding of death and afterlife includes the knowledge that the soul of man is the immortal component of human life. In other words, God has provided human beings with an immortal component, namely, the soul.
Could science trap the soul in the human body by healing aging or preventing humans from aging?
Aging is not the only reason for death. There are diseases and catastrophes (both manmade and natural) to contend with. Already there are quite a number of diseases that science is yet to understand, let alone cure. Then there is the potential for new diseases.
How could science prevent death due to natural causes such as earthquakes, floods, hurricane etc.? In other words, even if science were to prevent the human body from aging, death can occur due to other reasons.
The soul is the incorporeal or the nonmaterial component of the human being. When science has not even understood and conquered the material aspect of the human body, how could it gain control over the immaterial aspect of the human body?
To trap the soul in a human body that does not die will indeed be a tall order for science. Allow me the audacity to say that this is an impossible task for science.
To overcome death, in my opinion, is a futile endeavor.
But we can look at this scenario from another perspective as well.
Why not consider
death as the meaning of life
? Here are the concluding words from the article from the
As physician turned bioethicist Leon Kass says, “Mortality makes life matter.” Kass is the author of The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis and once headed George W. Bush’s presidential council on bioethics. To him the question of whether we should aspire to live forever is not a philosophical one: It’s simple economics.
The value of scarcity dictates that the less of something there is, the more something is worth. For our lives to have meaning and urgency, it is therefore “crucial that we recognize and feel the force of not having world enough and time,” he says. In the absence of death, he fears mankind will become lazy, disengaged, and disinterested.
Then there’s terror-management theory, which states that humanity has a unique knowledge of the abstract meaning of death: Unlike other animals, we can picture it and therefore fear it in a particular way. Because of that fear, we are pushed to make the most of what little life we have. Sheldon Solomon, psychology professor at Skidmore College and co-creator of the theory, says in an interview for Scientific American that “the idea that death is an affront to human dignity that needs to be completely eliminated strikes me as arrogant (and selfish) homocentric death denial.”
Humankind has known this for a while. “As the ancients noted, immortality would make life meaningless and banal,” Solomon says. “All of our most cherished human values like courage and generosity would be inconsequential if we existed in perpetuity.” In other words, nothing is impressive when there’s an infinite amount of time to do it in. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and science avatar to the millennials, puts it nicely in an interview with Larry King about his lack of fear surrounding death: “If you live forever, why get out of bed in the morning, because you always have tomorrow.”
And even if we managed to live forever—what would we do with all that time, anyway? As novelist Susan Ertz said, “Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”
Motivated by fear of the unknown, most of us try to hold on to the life we have now. But in doing so, we may fail to consider that the brevity of life is what propels us to make the most out of living it. It’s possible that in order to live our lives fully in the present, we need to accept that there will come a day when that present will end.
Silicon Valley wants to make us immortal, and they’re accustomed to getting what they want. But by making our lives never-ending, will they take from us the meaning of what it is to live?
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