Published on Feb 22, 2017
Douglas Lain discusses Advocate for an Indefinite Human Lifespan, a new Zero Books title exploring the life extension techniques and technologies of Aubrey de Grey and the SENS Research Foundation.
Human beings are perhaps unique among Earth’s sentient beings in that, from a relatively young age, we know that we are going to die. Despite this knowledge, and the fact that life and death are but two facets of the great cycle of creation and destruction, as a species we live in dread and denial of death, which remains one of the last great taboos. Some say we need to set death aside in order to live, while others claim that only acceptance of death allows us to truly come alive. Whatever the case, most of us are consciously or subconsciously terrified by the thought of our own annihilation. The religious cling to the hope held out by the promise of an afterlife, while the secular place their faith in a life well lived, free from comforting delusions.
Medical and material advances have extended human life expectancy well beyond what it was in centuries gone by, but de Grey’s radical vision is of humans living longer – much longer – and in good health. Beyond the contested limits of sometimes controversial medical interventions, de Grey’s plans have already drawn many moral and ethical objections: What would we do with a thousand year life? How would it affect love, family, work, and culture? And what of population and natural resources on an already groaning planet? Technology, we are assured, offers answers to all such doubts, and if the transhumanist wing of the life extension lobby have their way, a millennium of existence may one day seem like the blink of an eye. Augmented, upgraded, downloaded – for the man machine of the future, death may be but a distant dream. But are we becoming God or merely playing God?