Thursday, December 04, 2008

What if... #4

What if we discovered a drug for immortality?


This post is part of the 2008 advent series "What if..."

32 comments:

Arun said...

Physics seminars would be scheduled for eight hours a talk?

Everything would get stuck at roughly the present state of development. An important way stale ideas die is that their proponents eventually age and die.

Arun said...

Medical malpractice claims would become impossible. What value do you give to a lost life when it was potentially infinite?

Phil Warnell said...

If it were required to be taken daily then it would have to be band as the result of being habit forming since what could be considered as more addictive.

Daniel de Fran├ža MTd2 said...

"An important way stale ideas die is that their proponents eventually age and die."

Unless the necessary part of the process was that most of the memories were erased, or at least, the attachment mechanism to old ideals were turned off for a few years.

Anyway, I really don't know what is immortality in this case. I hope it does not meant that living after getting sliced in many parts, and the parts were thrown in different oceanic abysses.

Anonymous said...

What if somebody like a Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam, Ahmadinejad, etc ... were immortal and could maintain absolute power?

Bee said...

What if somebody like a Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam, Ahmadinejad, etc ... were immortal and could maintain absolute power?

People like this don't typically go out of business because they die of old age.

Bee said...

What value do you give to a lost life when it was potentially infinite?

Use a non-homogeneous measure?

Bee said...

My thought was it would cause an enourmous amount of social problems. You can't allow people who are immortal to reproduce, so what do you do?

Enriq said...

Very few will actually carry on with their lives forever. Many would get "tired" of living and would decide to voluntary die. Thus the drug would only effectively enlarge the time span of people around. But I wouldn't dare to say how much longer someone would live until they decide they have lived enough.

Rae Ann said...

I couldn't think of anything clever for the pink CO2 question yesterday, and today isn't much better. But I think the side-effects of the immortality drug would have to be pretty bad. Just look at all the ads for current drugs and their lists of side effects sound much worse than the condition they're meant to treat. Sometimes life is great, but I can't imagine actually wanting to live forever. Who could afford it? ;-)

Plato said...

I guess they would no longer need to sleep either and the Circadian Rhythm would no longer need to be time sensitive?

Plato said...

.....and ya, a suggestion "what if there was no time.....?:)

Bee said...

The drug would likely be very expensive so livetime would become a matter of wealth.

Arun said...

Science fiction has dealt with the theme of immortality. In Peter Hamilton's "Pandora's Star" and "Judas Unchained", there is a form of immortality such that a person could attend its own murder trial. There's other fun stuff there too, some scientifically plausible and some not at all.

Uncle Al said...

1) Immortality plus perpetual youth. Less the latter, visit any nursing home - the elderly living dead. Horrible.

2) Heinlein's Lazarus Long. To what would you look forward?

3) If each immortal life required termination of an ordinary life, Babylon 5's Deathwalker.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is an accomplished engineer. Iran is bursting with economically disenfranchised males aged 16-25. State the obvious engineering solution.

stefan said...

Effective anti-aging drugs probably couldn't prevent death by heart attack, stroke, or other other causes where minor "mechanical" problems of the metabolism (sticking blood cells an the like) develop fatal consequences?

And indeed, there better wouldn't be new people born, because otherwise the death rate by acts of violence would probably increase until some steady state is reached?


Best, Stefan

Dr Who said...

The only reason you dare to cross the street is that you know that you are going to die eventually anyway; subconsciously you assess the probability of being killed by a car as "negligible" *relative* to the fact that you will be dead 100 years from now in any case.

So logically, if you expected to live for [say] a million years, your assessment of risks would change drastically. You would not dare to cross the road, take a flight etc. You would be paralysed by fear, unable to live life.

Maybe that's why God hides out so completely. Being ostensibly immortal, He can't afford to run any risks, no matter how negligible. So he is locked up in a bunker somewhere.

Dr Who said...

Arun said: "Physics seminars would be scheduled for eight hours a talk?"

They are already. At least it feels that way.

Bemused in Toronto said...

Actuarially speaking, your life expectancy would be in the range of 1000 years, due to death by accident, as Dr Who said. So you would isolate yourself in a bomb-shelter deep underground, and never leave it lest some tree fall on your head or some car run you down.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

It depends what we call as being eternal. That is from the space-time perspective with having this pill we would expand to occupy more of it, along with whatever that has been occupied as being a place. Therefore, if we live for Eons or only a nanosecond what is to say those places will not continue be real as to exist. Eternity in some sense is merely a perspective which relates to volume rather then to permanence.

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Plato,

"what if there was no time.....?:)”

In as space and time are in many ways indistinguishable it would be more appropriate to ask what would it be like having one less dimension? I would say then perhaps a little less complicated:-)

Best,

Phil

Doug said...

Hi Bee and Stefan,

Turning humans into cyborgs will probably happen before any such medication is found.

andy.s said...

We'd be stuck with the Baby Boomers. FOREVER. Think about that, people.

Michael Gogins said...

I assume that "immortality" is not literal, but rather that medicine greatly extends the span of both life and vitality. So, e.g., instead of living to 85 as my father did, I might live to 850 before a truck runs over me or I get some kind of cancer that can't be cured.

I notice that some commenters think immortality would be bad. They wouldn't think it was bad if they could have it themselves. Here, take this, now you can breathe again, you can see again, you can love again. Get real. The people who say these things aren't old or aren't close to people who are old. In case you haven't noticed, most people who are old don't actually want to die. And they keep talking about how they still feel inside like they are still 15 and how getting old is not for sissies.

Social effects are of course profound. It gets real expensive to have kids. Kids are raised by expensive pros. Either there is horrible overpopulation or there is some kind of legal limit on reproduction. The latter is obviously what would actually happen.

If aging did not involve senescence and did not slow the brain, older scientists would continue to be creative. They would probaby hog their fields. It would be wonderful for them and not so great for their students. Perhaps younger people would become frivolous in order to keep from being depressed about their careers.

But if all you cared about was to be good at something, what a great thing! I have been practicing piano now for 800 years and am beginning to get a feel for this Bach guy....

stefan said...

Hi Michael,

good point!

I have been practicing piano now for 800 years and am beginning to get a feel for this Bach guy.

The cool aspect is, of course, that one could meet Bach and all kinds of other famous people in person. On the other hand, as the total number of humans to ever live had to be smaller, there would also be a smaller number of highly creative people?

Best, Stefan

Michael Gogins said...

Well, this is science fiction. I've no idea if it will ever be practical, but there are no laws of physics saying I can't fly to Beta Pictoris or whatever and reproduce away to my heart's content once I get there. Living a long time would be quite convenient if the fastest I can go is .1 c or something.

Also science-fictionally, if we can do drugs to live 800 years, maybe we can do drugs to get smarter or more creative or saner or something. Or genetic engineering, more likely. I mean, genetic engineering of human beings, as I see it, not only is possible, but can't possibly be stopped.

Sundance said...

Immortality would be like any other tool - a boon or a burden depending on how you use it. Assuming it was generally available, some people would probably choose not to live forever due to religious reasons or eventual boredom, others would engage in extreme sports or centuries-long gang wars with each other for the "thrill" of pitting their immortality against the chance of annihilation (as per Philip Jose Farmer's "World of Tiers" series) and others would use it as a way to explore the distant reaches of the universe without worrying about dying of old age during the journey, or revel in the freedom to perfect their musical talents for a few hundred years, then try something different, perfect that over a few centuries, etc. People also tend to reproduce less in wealthy societies, so maybe population would stabilise as the accidental death rate and birth rate matched each other. Also, if people live for thousands of years they might start to care more about the environment and the long-term consequences of their actions.

The biggest fear I have is that it'd only be available to the very wealthy, but maybe you could take out a loan to pay for the drug, and then you'd have thousands of years in which to earn enough to repay the loan. Of course, any immortality treatment won't really be a single drug invented overnight, it'll be many individual treatments for senility, arthritis, cosmetic wrinkle reduction,.. which all come into use independently, and finally form a single "package" that makes you still vulnerable to accidents, but capable of staying young indefinitely. Personally, I would love to live forever.

Anonymous said...

Immortality: The speed of light would no longer be a barrier to interstellar travel! So much to explore; so little time to do it in.:)

QUASAR9 said...

oh to live forever,
but hold on camn we live longer than the universe
would the drug get us thru the sun going supernova?

garrett said...

I used to think that if I lived long enough, I'd get to see Sundance post a comment on the internet.

Now that's actually happened... I don't know anymore. But, yes, I guess I'll still be first in line for life extension. I'm having too much fun to be in a hurry to leave.

I don't see a big ethics dilemma here. Senescence and death totally suck. Finding more space is a solvable problem.

Sundance said...

Garrett: "I used to think that if I lived long enough, I'd get to see Sundance post a comment on the internet."

Oh, very droll, Garrett! :-) Clearly the true measure of longevity is living to see me start my own blog ;-)

duke said...

we would have died now
( none is dead means none is safe
pollution increases
resource exploitation would have boasted )