Could Science Make Us Immortal One Day?

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Science is advancing in leaps and bounds and we have successfully eradicated some life threatening diseases. The life expectancy of humans has increased over centuries from 33 years in Upper Paleolithic age to the current World average of 67.2 years as of 2010. However, the one thing that still eludes us humans is defying death. It is believed that Noah lived for 600 years and we still have evidence of the oldest tortoise ever lived according to the Guinness Book of World Records for an age of 189. So is it possible in the future to live a life of immortality?

It depends on what you mean by ‘live’ and what you mean by ‘forever’. Your body is a churning ecosystem of different cells dividing, growing and dying. We rely on cell division to repair damage but with repeated replication, errors can appear in the DNA code, causing cells to multiply uncontrollably into tumours. To protect against cancer, cells are programmed to self-destruct after a certain number of divisions. Medicine will eventually be able to cure all cancers but if we turned our cellular suicide trigger off completely, we would quickly be overwhelmed with multiple tumours in every part of the body. Preventing the tumours altogether probably isn’t possible, given the nature of DNA replication.

Human cloning has been a debatable issue since the inception of this idea came about. If we could clone ourselves perfectly, to replace each successive body as it wore out, our friends and family might think us immortal but each clone would still experience its own personal mortality. We’d only be immortal as a brand or an idea, like a royal lineage. Alternatively, if we could ever replicate consciousness in a computer, it might be possible to create a digital clone that wouldn’t die but that would still be a bitter comfort to the organic original left behind. And even the digital clone would be at the mercy of an entropic Universe.

Movies have shown how far our imagination can go. Considering the movie where Benjamin Button’s life was in reverse due to a rare disease which makes him age backwards, or creatures like Godzilla who have lived for hundreds of years. These examples feel like fantasy but if a tortoise could be one of the oldest reptiles ever lived, it is quite possible that our lifespan could be increased in the future.

Unless we discover some loophole in the laws of thermodynamics, whatever power source feeds this electronic identity will inevitably run down eventually.

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