Will we be immortal?

This is admittedly inspired by Phil Stein’s thread about turning the corner on cancer in P&R.

I know someone who is convinced that “we” will be immortal. That is, he believes that within the next 20-30 years at most, we will be able, through gene therapy, drugs, etc. be able to prevent and even reverse the natural aging and disease processes. In this way, the only thing that would kill us would be accidents, or perhaps a few rarer diseases and events. Otherwise, we will live into our hundreds and beyond.

Unlike this person I know, I would really like to believe this, but do not see it happening. At the same time, I know others who profess (though with somewhat less certainty) the same views.

What are your thoughts on this? I suppose it should be a poll, but I forgot whether shit bonerz should be capitalized or not, and I’m not going to go look it up having typed all this out.


No, never. It’s still over a hundred years away technologically, and between peak oil and global warming, it’s all down hill. The high point of our civilization was last decade.

Yes, I’m serious. And yes, I’m worried, and I really hope I’m wrong.

But for now I’ll continue to level up my BE pally and try to forget these things.

No way immortality is possible, unless you’re talking about storing whatever makes us conscious into a computer, ready to inhabit another host body. Aging is fundamentally part of growth and restoration of our body. I remember hearing about slowing the process (something to do with telomeres), but reversing or stopping it is impossible.

As far as stopping aging before I die of old age, I will say its possible. I have no idea what the odds will be, other then not a definit yes or definit no.

However, this is hardly counts as immortal. Even if you stay youthful, there are still hundreds of diseases that can kill you. Maybe you will be a ‘20 year old’ with Parkensen’s disease.

The question is, how many of these diseases that kill old people are enabled simply because thier body is “old”. These diseases just may take 60 years to do thier damage, and even if you are still young, you will still suffer from them.

True immortality is a bit farther away - but my opinion is the same as Ray Kurzweils - you just have to live long enough to live forever. Things will get better, life extension, etc - then, bam, you’re 100 years old and they’ve got the immortality thing down. Check out the book:


I know a whole bunch of singularity people and I have a mild case of singularitarianism myself. (I’ve met Kurzweil and a bunch of my old coworkers have cryonics contracts.) But no, I don’t think effective immortality is on tap within our lifetimes. I wouldn’t be surprised to live to 120 or so (I’m 37 now), but immortality? No way.

Like Morkilus says, true immortality requires the ability to do full personality backups, which I would guess is 150 to 200 years away at least. Anti-aging technologies and medicines will make huge strides in the next 50 years or so, in time to be relevant to many of us, but full uploading is quite a ways beyond that.

At one point (specifically, in 1989), I was convinced that serious nanotechnology was going to be commonplace by 2010 (molecular assemblers, rocketships costing the same as 1990 automobiles, the whole nine yards). I’ve since learned that people who claim that something is “20 to 30 years away” are very prone to making that same prediction for decade after decade. Nuclear fusion is a great example – it’s been 20 to 30 years away since at least 1970. I think that biological immortality is going to be in the same category – it’ll be 20 to 30 years away until at LEAST the year 2150 and probably longer.

Kurzweil is great, and I hope he’s right, but realistically I think he’s overestimating the rate of progress on some of the hard problems – like strong AI, radical life extension, personality uploading, and universal nanotechnological manufacturing capability – by a factor of 4 to 5. So when he says “20 to 30 years”, I multiply that to “80 to 150 years” and feel a lot more confident in it.

If it ever happens, it will only be for the rich anyways, so why should anyone care? Sam Walton’s great grandkid will live to be 5,000. Whoopie.

Yeah, there is some name for that actually. Its the thereshold where you live long enough where they invent something to extend your life by 20 years, and in those 20 years they learn to extend it by 50 years, and before the 50 years is up …

Of course this isn’t in the form of some mirical drug that simply lets you live 20 years more, its more like medicine advances enough that whatever would have killed you 80 years of age have been nixed and now the challenge is dealing with the problems that plague 100 year olds.

I don’t think the human body in engineered for much more than 80-ish years.

Even if some diseases and issues associated with aging are resolved and/or mitigated in the next few decades, all that will do is push the frontier back a few years.

Think about a car - yes, the makers COULD build engines, or transmissions, or tires, or whatever, to a standard designed to last 50 years instead of 5-10, but even if one part was over-engineered, you’d have to over-engineer all of them for this to be effective. And over-engineering car parts is expensive.

Similarly, I think if the human body was over-engineered for longevity, there would be a cost factor (perhaps the body wouldn’t be as efficient - it would demand more energy per day or whatever).

In more human terms, this was driven home to me a couple of years ago. Yes, I sometimes had these thoughts myself (by the time I am 60, people will possibly routinely live to 100…) Then my eye doctor told me I have glaucoma. Untreated, it might cause blindness by age 60 or 70. So of course I started the treatment, and my follow-up was something like - “So, now my eyes will be good indefinitely, right?” Well, no, they would still degrade, but at a more normal rate - I shouldn’t have much to worry about for the next 50 years or so, though. But what if I want to live longer than 50 more years? If it ain’t the eyes, it’s gonna be something else.

Socrates was, AFAIK, in good physical and mental health when he was forced to take the hemlock at age 70 or so. St. Augustine lived to age 75 or 76 in the 5th century A.D. As distinguished citizens of what were, in their eras, the elite societies, they were aging about as well as could be expected. In the centuries since, medicine is much better, and our chance of dying of disease along the way (i.e. before age 60 or so), is much reduced, but the upper end of the lifespan hasn’t moved too much past those folks.

This, of course, raises a host of philosophical questions, chief among them being: if a snapshot of my brain-wave pattern (or whatever) is copied into another body, is that person really me?

In a general or abstract sense I think immortality might be technically feasible, but mostly I’m with Balasarius. I think humans will be extinct long before we ever get to the point where we could accomplish something like that.

Je suis Comte de St. Germain.

Just read the relevant Asimov novels (the Elijah Baley ones) to find out why living for 200-300 years is super bad news.

Did you keep in mind the alternative?

I don’t think we require full singularity-style tech to become immortal. That aside, what I was thinking of is not true backup-style immortality. Once you have the human body and brain lasting basically forever with nano-augmented organs and treatment, you then have the base you need to get the rest of it done.

Reminds of the Twilight Zone episode where an old couple goes to buy new bodies for themselves. The old man goes first and comes out in his new, young body to meet his still old wife. She looks at him and is more scared than happy. Ultimately, they decide to grow old and die together.

Yes. There’s a good chance the body you inhabit will react differently to the world around you though. If your new body creates less dopamine as your original body, you’d have all the memories and maybe even emotions, but you’d have a greater propensity towards depression. You might be quicker to anger too.

Even in twins, who are genetically the same person, we see differences. The most marked difference is where 1 twin will develop schizophrenia while the other is normal. We are as much the chemicals our bodies make as we are the memories that we retain.

Your ass had better be born and remain in zero-G for your lifetime in order to even remotely enjoy living over 100 years.

You’re thinking too old school Bill. Good nanotech will give you the body of a 20 year old, and ideally will fix your brain up too.

Ok, Mr. Science, did you ever stop to consider that those weren’t twins you were studying, but rather the prime universe child and their negative zone doppleganger? Obviously the bodies are the same, but Dopamine makes negative zoners angry and aggressive.

Regarding Henry and his cybersuit.
Also, Bill, hello? Bio-organic exoskeleton? Powersuit? I’ve seen you in the Iron Man / Robert Downey Junior thread, don’t play coy with me.

Well, they can’t occupy the same dimension for long. We’re going to have to send them into a ‘neutral zone’ between our universes for the rest of eternity.