Life

Could we live forever?

Well considering how life expectancy has increased over the last two centuries. An average man born in 1800 had a life expectancy of 35 years. In 1900, he would have made it all the way to 47. By 1950, average life expectancy was up to 68 years, and now it’s up to 78. The trend is definitely favorable. But how far can we take it? Although Ponce de Leon never found the legendary fountain of youth, today in labs like the one at the University of California, San Francisco, scientists are trying to stop the clock or at least slow it down.

In San Francisco, Professor Cynthia Kenyon conducted experiments on microscopic worms. Their usual life span is little more than 13 days, but she was able to get some to live as long as six times that by altering one specific gene.

“And here is the long-lived mutant when it’s also 13 days old,” she said, showing Sieberg her handy-work. “But you can see, look at that! It’s still living a productive, active life. I would say it might be heading out to play tennis.” Kenyon believes her work shows that the rate of aging is not fixed. Rather, it can be slowed dramatically.

“The important thing for people to understand is that this is new,” she said. “Fifteen years ago, and from 15 years ago on back, to when we were cavemen,  people thought aging just happened. There’s nothing you can do about it. That was it. And then along came these animals where you make a little change and they live twice as long … Something we never thought could happen, can happen.”

But not everyone thinks ageing can or should be cured. Some say that humans weren’t meant to live forever, regardless of whether or not we actually can. “I just don’t think immortality is possible,” said  Sherwin Nuland, a professor of surgery at the Yale School of Medicine. “Those who talk of greatly extending lifespan are oversimplifying the science and just don’t understand the magnitude of the task. This plan will not succeed. Were it to do so, it would undermine what it means to be human.”

It’s interesting that Nuland first said he doesn’t think it will work but then adds that if it does, it will undermine humanity. So, which is it? Is it impossible, or are the skeptics just hoping it is? After all, we already have overpopulation, global warming, limited resources and other issues to deal with, so why compound the problem by adding immortality into the mix. But anti-ageing enthusiasts argue that as our perspectives change and science and technology advance exponentially, new solutions will emerge. Space colonization, for example, along with dramatically improved resource management, could resolve the concerns associated with long life. They reason that if the Universe goes on seemingly forever—much of it presumably unused—why not populate it? Your Thoughts?

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