In the Netflix series Altered Carbon, people live forever thanks to a device embedded in their neck, which allows them to transfer their consciousness from one body to the next, an idea that has already been discussed in the current conversation regarding the cure for death. While it’s unlikely that any future technology will take this form (barring a major breakthrough), there is a lot of momentum in the scientific community around overcoming death.
The world’s foremost futurists seem to be fascinated with the prospect of extending human life. Those seeking the cure for death include Larry Ellison, co-founder of software corporation Oracle who donates hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to life-extension therapies, and Peter Thiel, the co-founder of Paypal, who has donated millions of dollars to anti-aging research. In addition, Google parent company Alphabet operates a secretive, billion-dollar effort to cure aging through biotech company Calico, founded by CEO of Google Ventures Bill Maris.
One of the most well-known death cures of today is based in cryogenics. The concept entails freezing recently deceased individuals in a vat of liquid nitrogen in order to preserve their bodies. The hope is that if a cure for death is found at some point in the future, the individuals will be thawed and properly revived. There are over 300 people currently cryogenically frozen across the world, while 2000 more have signed up for the process, awaiting the moment they pass.
While cryogenics and cryonics deal with preserving and eventually reviving deceased individuals, most futurists and technologists discuss the cure for death with an important distinction. One of the primary symptoms of aging, which causes death, is the presence of senescent cells, a degenerative state that spreads to nearby cells. This is what causes the functional decay and eventual failure of organs as we age. Thus, most of the efforts in this field result in attempting to find a cure for aging.
Even for the healthiest individuals, there’s not much that can be done to mitigate the effects of senescence, which is why most modern efforts to cure death focus on preventing the natural decay of our bodies. After all, what good would immortality be if our bodies simply continued to deteriorate?
But even if the cure for death might be just around the corner, it’s going to be a long time before the average person will be able to experience this life-changing advancement. For example, being cryogenically frozen can cost anywhere from $28,000 to $200,000. And of course, there are the potential issues that could arise from curing death. Would the world become overpopulated? Would life have any meaning if we did not have death?
The implications of curing death remain dubious, but the existence of the notion is in itself a testament to humanity’s boundless ingenuity and tenacity for living. Besides, think of how much a person could accomplish in they managed to stretch their lifespan to hundreds of years. But before we reserve judgment on such a feat, we must first discover whether or not we will be capable of finding a cure for death.