February 2, 2008 at 3:44 am 1 comment

Life Extension: Our Obsession

To live forever while preserving health and retaining the appearance and energy of youth is one of humanities oldest and most elusive goals. Most prevalent in developed nations are practices, surgeries and treatments that promise to give people a younger (though sometimes fake) outward look: Botox, surgical enhancements, liquids, lotions, pills, spa treatments, removing stuff, putting stuff back in, hair dye, hair removal, hair implants, wrinkle reduction and so on. in 2003, Ontarians alone spent 180 million dollars on cosmetic surgery – nearly half of what was spent across the entire country. And that was five years ago.
But these are simply superficial treatments that temporarily fight the outward signs of aging, they don’t really deal with our the inner working of our bodies, and thus do nothing to prolong our lives. In fact they may even be detrimental to our health. However, due to new research into aging and a growing understanding of how aging affects our bodies at the cellular and molecular levels, scientists now say we could finally be close to achieving lifetimes that are at least several decades longer.


Surprisingly, from my research, it appears as though the arguments for living longer out number the arguments against it:


A doubled lifespan would give us a chance to recover from our mistakes, lead us toward longer term thinking and reduce healthcare costs by delaying or even preventing the onset of expensive diseases.

With more skilled workers remaining in the workforce longer, economic productivity would go up and people could more easily switch careers.

There are already injustices in the current world. For example the average life expectancy in the U.S is 78 years, but only 34 years in Botswana due to HIV and AIDS and the lack of finances for proper treatment. Developed nations also have access to medicines and life-saving procedures such as organ transplants that are beyond the financial reach of the poor.

New technologies often start off expensive but become cheaper and more widely accessible with time.

Denying life-reatments to one group of people will not save another.

We’ll use the planet more efficiently.
We’ll mass emigrate into space.
We’ll restrict births, such as the laws in China.

It will be the choice between a low birth rate or a high death rate.

We live longer now than we did a century ago, but that doesn’t mean we take life any less seriously or less creatively.
It is not the knowledge that we will die at a certain age that spurs us to make the most of our lives, but the awareness that we can die at any moment. (accidents, disease)

Longer life may invigorate people to do the things they’ve always wanted to do.

Between 1950 and 2001, infant mortality in the United States dropped from nearly 30 deaths for every 1,000 live births to just 7. This was responsible for a spectacular rise in life expectancy. By lowering infant mortality, creating effective vaccines and so on, science, over the past 100 years, has already increased the average person’s life by nearly three decades.

Becoming frail and dependent is not fun.

Who are we to impose values on future generations? The future of humanity should be free to have that choice, we shouldn’t make that decision for them.

Current methods for postponing aging today such as Gerontology and Geriatrics are not controversialso why should this method be treated differently?

Saving a life and delaying it are the same thing.

Scientists have a moral duty to extend the human life span as far as it will go.

The future’s elderly will be fitter. Research into aging could also help us to be healthier in our old age, not just live longer.


Doubling life spans won’t solve any of our current social problems: war, poverty etc.

Competition for jobs would become more fierce and it would be tougher for young people to move into the workforce.Without a constant infusion of youthful talent and ideas, institutions and politics could stagnate. Possibly forming a world that was focused too narrowly on maintaining life and not on building a good life.

Evil dictators could rule forever.

Life extension technology will likely be expensive at first so only a small number of wealthy individuals will be able to afford it.

The death of an elderly person is not as tragic as the death of a child: an elderly person has lived a good long life.

Earth can support only so many people. Aging keeps down the population and is ecologically sound.
Generations would have to be born further apart to avoid overcrowding.

Some of the virtues of being mortal are our interest and engagement with life, making our days count and appreciating all that life brings, our sense of accomplishment, commitment and the meaningfulness of time and our passage through it.

Longer life means more time for boredom to creep in. Extended boredom could result in prolonged unhappiness or higher instances of suicide.


Notions of marriage, family and work will change in fundamentals ways, as will attitudes towards the young and old.

There may be a shift in emphasis from marriage as a lifelong union to marriage as a long term commitment resulting in multiple brief marriages becoming common. (but aren’t they already?!)

Eight or even 10 generations might be alive simultaneously.

Siblings could be born 40 or 50 years apart changing the way siblings or parents and their children interact with each other.

Living longer may mean more time spent working, careers will become longer and the retirement age will be pushed back.


Will everyone have en equal chance at an extended life?

If people live longer but are miserable for decades will views on suicide and euthanasia change?

In an immortal society, how would you allow for new generations?

It is one thing to ask should we make people immortal but it is quite another to ask whether we should make people immune to heart disease, cancer, dementia etc. (which would inevitable increase our life spans)

What is aging? A disease to be cured ora natural part of life? If it is natural, is it necessarily good for us?

Does the fact that we’re going to die really make us think more seriously about life?


The average life expectancy for Americans is currently 78 years old.

A repeated experiment with rodents has shown that if they are fed 40% fewer calories they live about 40% longer. So if these effects can be replicated in humans, the average person could live to be 112 years and our maximum life span could be extended to 140 years.

We know that metabolism plays a key role in aging, but we have yet to fully understand it.

Metabolism ongoingly causes “damage”. And that damage only eventually cases pathology (death). An genetic engineering approach to anti-aging would periodically repair the”damage” so that it doesn’t reach the threshold that causes pathology.

We know that there are only 7 areas of “damage” that need to be fixed.
1. cell loss/atrophy
2. Death resistant cells
3. Nuclear mutations
4. Protein crosslinks
5. Junk inside cells
6. Junk outside cells
7. mt DNA mutations
We already know how to fix some of these things and it is predicted that we will know how to fix all of these things in mice within the next 10 years.

Fundamental breakthroughs happen in an incremental process. The therapies will improve.

The key for getting to the first moderate life extension is that we acquire the ability to confer 2 extra healthy years on mice that are already 2 years old (on mice that normally live until they are 3).


Eat less.
Get your genetics tinkered with.
Find a Mate: According to research happy couples tend to live longer than single individuals.


Wired: How To Live Forever : The Wired article that first inspired this project.

Abolishing Aging : A basic breakdown of why we age, the biological processes involved and why it may not be impossible for us to combat and fix the damage that those process do to our bodies, thus preventing aging and extending life.

TED Talks: Aubrey de Grey : A fascinating TED talk from one of the main supporters of extending life that outlines the benefits of living longer.

The Social Burden of Longer Lives : A Live Science article exploring the potential social burdens that would be imposed on society if we were successful in significantly extending our lives, such as notions of marriage, family relationships, and the workplace.

The Ethical Dilemmas of Immortality : A Live Science article exploring the ethical questions society would face if this technology ever came on the market – who would have access to life extension (only the rich?), how would we control populations and make room for new generations? and so on.

Do You Want To Live Forever? : An in-depth look at the theories and arguments of Aubrey De Grey.

Top Ten Immortals : Exploring our fascination with immortality as is manifests itself in popular culture.

The Psychological Strain of Living Forever : Pondering the psychological stresses that eliminating natural death would cause us including such things are boredom. It asks the important question: “is aging a disease to be cured or a natural part of life?”

Progress into Extending Human Life : Briefly explains the recent developments into extending life and also offers some tips on what we can’t do right now to help extend our lives and live a healthier existence.


Entry filed under: FINAL DELIVERABLES, Final Process, Live Forever, Research.

Online Research: Marnina Story Boards and Creative Briefs

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