As human scientific knowledge increases, will we be able to pursue immortality?

With our ability to manipulate genetics, evolution is no longer random and without purpose. It is now intelligence driven. Do you see humans evolving into another species? What characteristics will we choose for them? Do you think anything like immortality will ever be approached in the future? Would you be interested?

Posted: March 16th 2009


There are no theoretical barriers that we know to immortality – except that eventually the sun will go nova and (much later) the universe will reach a heat death.

So, it’s really a technological question.

Humans evolved to be functional long enough to have and raise our children, but our natural processes have a lot of problems over the long run. Genetic manipulation can help with some of that, but to go far beyond would require a level of mastery where one could create new complex organisms from scratch.

At that point, who knows what happens. There’s lots of science fiction on that sort of thing.

The other options is to get there through nanotechnology, which seems to be really, really hard to get to.

So, I think we could slow aging and increase lifespans, and I’d be happy to sign up to live 200 years, if I could do it in a reasonably functional manner.

Posted: March 18th 2009

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SmartLX www

Humans have been manipulating genetics for centuries or even millennia, albeit indirectly. All forms of artificial selection do this. That encompasses selective breeding of pets and livestock, selective hunting of wild animals and any controls ever exerted over human reproduction (not just deliberate eugenics).

The ability to manipulate genes directly simply speeds up the process. Any new feature in a GM food could probably have been achieved naturally given enough time and resources. We have yet to apply it to ourselves in any serious practical way, but it will merely accelerate what we could have done for ourselves anyway (partly by bypassing the ethical issues inherent in controlled breeding).

I don’t see longevity, let alone immortality, as more important than quality of life. What’s the good of living to be 140 if you spend the last 80 years with arthritis and dementia?

Rather than extending human life for the sake of it, I would work on making all the non-critical parts of the human body and brain more robust and resilient, so that all the bones, organs, mental faculties and senses could last as long as the heartbeat. That way more quality of life would persist into old age, and natural death would cause a minimum of suffering.

Posted: March 17th 2009

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George Ricker www

I think we will pursue longevity. Immortality is another matter entirely. Since the only universal constant appears to be change, it seems unlikely that we humans or whatever we might evolve into would ever achieve immortality, if by that you mean permanent existence of individual personalities. Although I hate to say never, it just seems highly improbable.

Of course, in one way we already achieve immortality. The natural world is the ultimate recycling machine, and after our demise, our constituent parts are recycled by the universe. However, that’s not an immortality that preserves our conscious selves, so it’s probably not what you’re after.

As to whether or not I would want to be immortal, I can’t honestly answer that question until I see the fine print.

Posted: March 17th 2009

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