Is indefinite life/immortality possible and do people living today have any chance of attaining it?

Totally untrue. We’ve been able to slow aging in other species, and we know the basics of why we age and what causes it. There are several teams working on this, and progress is being made. Whether folks alive today will ever benefit from it is questionable (personally, I’m cautiously hopeful that I’ll live into my 100’s with a decent quality of life), but saying we having found anything is just wrong. The biggest part of the equation is just the basic ‘what’s going on here’, and we’ve done that…we know why we age, and we know how to slow or even reverse that in other species, so it’s just a matter of time before we figure out how to do it for ourselves. All said and done, we aren’t that different than a mouse, and we can extend their lives several times over already.

Totally disagree. It should be possible to halt aging completely in the future without having to totally redesign humans. That won’t mean infinite lifespans, as folks will still die of all manner of things, but they won’t age. I doubt that will happen in my lifetime, but I’m pretty sure if we aren’t wiped out as a species in the next few hundred years or so we’ll be there and without having to re-engineer from the ground up our species.

What do you base this on? Certainly, we don’t have anything in production to extend lifespans indefinitely or totally stop aging, but we can already extend the lifespan of mammals several times over their ‘natural’ lifespans, and we are only at the very infancy of this science. They are making breakthroughs every year.

Well, it’s doubtful that even if we could halt aging completely that anyone would live forever. Trees have indefinite lifespans, and they don’t live forever. Eventually probability will catch up to everyone, and something or other will kill you off. But I don’t think that halting or slowing aging or even reversing some of the effects of aging is beyond the realm of possibility today.

Even if we do make significant progress against aging, it won’t take a form that leapfrogging will really be possible. Lots of things wear out almost simultaneously, much closer together than a few decades. If you eliminate one cause of death by old age (something we haven’t even been able to do yet), there will still be other causes, hitting at about the same time.

We can’t even make a decent diet pill that works long-term. One of the main reasons for this is that thanks to evolution, we have a number of independent signaling mechanisms to cause us to feel hungry, and a strong built-in drive to eat. (The wonder is not that many are fat, but that many are thin, among people with arbitrarily large supplies of food.)

I haven’t read on aging per-se, but it is covered in “Cancer - the Evolutionary Legacy” by Mel Greaves, and also in “Power, Sex, and Suicide” (about mitochondria) by Nick Lane.

Thanks to evolutionary forces, aging has many agents. Like cancer, aging attacks most of us well after our most fertile years, so evolution doesn’t tend to weed it out. Some of the causes of aging are those that help fight against cancer (e.g., telomeres – DNA is designed to “time out” after replicating a certain number of times; this can be overridden, and is overridden for gem cell lines and malignant cancers).

As medical science improves, we’ll find ways to combat some causes of aging – my guess most likely is the hormone shifts of middle age. When we do, we’ll live longer and healthier lives in general, but we’ll see other age-related diseases rise dramatically.

Right. This reminds me of working at Ford research & technical center in Dearborn, in the late 70’s. Before that time, most engine control system parts were spec’d to last 2000 hours. Given the average speed over the live of a vehicle was 50 MPH, that lead to a 100,000 mile lifespan.

Which means that the typical part lasts 100K, but those that fail on the early side cause problems. No wonder the Japanese cars were taking the market. Thus, at the time, there was a big shift to extend part life, to lead to better reliability in the 100K to 150K range. It affected a lot of parts!

For humans, it’s going to be a lot more than just parts, but also systems that will need to be re-engineered, and thanks to the way bilogical systems are intricately interconnected, it’ll be very difficult to make improvements in one area without causing harm in another.

I am a biophysicist and the above post is pretty much on target. “Aging” isn’t really anything close to a single, solvable problem. To say we’re on the verge of “curing” it is like saying a universal remedy for all diseases will surely be forthcoming within the next couple decades.

My thinking is that, while this is accurate, technology to be able to simulate a human brain is much more achievable, so “immortality through brain uploading” is more likely than “immortality through medical advancements”. Once you move the software off the crappy hardware you have a lot more freedom to make it more rugged.

Of course whether this counts as “immortality” depends on whether you consider brain simulations to be “you” and “alive”.

Then there’s always the possibility we can replicate our consciousness into a computer. With proper backups you’d run until repair materials were no longer available.

Unlike the elimination of aging, this is at least something that it is theoretically possible to accomplish, and there are definitely some serious people working on mapping brain activity. Anyone who’s interested should take a look at some of the projects recently proposed as part of the Obama administration’s BRAIN Initiative. It’s gonna take a shitload of money and support over an awfully long period of time, though: it really is a monumentally ambitious task to undertake.

You are saying that halting aging isn’t even theoretically possible? And you think that uploading an entire human brain into a computer is more attainable than halting aging??

It’s important in these discussions to differentiate between the gradual increase in average life expectancy, which is occurring, and the typical maximum human life span, which does not appear to be increasing.

The typical maximum human life span is somewhere in the 110 to 115 year range, there have been a few exceptions, but that maximum holds over the recorded era that we have records for.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldest_people

Increasing life expectancy only means that on the average, people are utilizing a greater *percentage *of the possible total life span. Global life expectancy is currently in the 70 year range. But the maximum age really has not increased much in the reliably recorded history of man.

More people reach a greater percentage of that 110-115 year age, due to a number of factors like better health care, fewer accidental deaths, control of virulent disease, fewer childhood deaths, etc. And this drives the average life expectancy up. But this so far isn’t adding years onto the end of the equation.

If we are going to believe in much longer life spans in the future as a result of modern medical progress, then we should be seeing increasing maximum ages and we are not.

We are able to utilize more of the available time, live life better for longer, but that available time is still expiring at the same rate it has for hundreds of years.

People who want to live forever have no idea what it’s like to get old.

Even if the fantasy of immortality came true, I don’t think extending life would necessarily account for aging of the body itself. We all wish we could be 23 forever - it reminds me of a silly question about heaven - do people in heaven look like they did when they died of old age, or when they were in the prime of their life?

Barring the breakdown of civilization, or somebody setting up them the bomb in A.D. 2101, I’d say this is a near-certainty without any major breakthroughs.

While the odds of any one person living to 100 are still fairly low, in terms of sheer numbers, a lot of people are managing that feat now.

Suppose that a century’s progress gets us to the point where there are as many people living to 105 a century from now, as live to 100 now. (That seems like a pretty good bet.) A handful of those people would make it to 110.

“Theoretically possible”? Well, how about maybe tossing me some kind of theory you’ve heard postulated and we can go from there?

Steady there, pardner. I never said anything about “uploading an entire human brain into a computer.” I can’t speak for anyone else in this thread, but what I am saying may be possible is constructing virtual models that are able to recapitulate some function of a particular person’s brain. Admittedly, this is probably not what you mean by “immortality”.

It seems to me that someday we might have a computer system that is capable of carrying on a conversation like a human being, and that this computer system could also be constructed in such a way that it gives responses like a particular human being. So when asked, “Are you a copy of Bill Gates’s consciousness uploaded to a computer?”, the system will respond “Yes.” And it will be able to talk like Bill Gates, and answer questions about what it was like to be Bill Gates back when Bill Gates was a living human being, and answer questions about what it’s like to be a copy of Bill Gates living on in a computer system.

Whether this system will in some way “really” be Bill Gates seems to be misplaced. It will be an AI that behaves the way we’d expect an uploaded Bill Gates to behave. If a system can simulate consciousness in a way that can’t be distinguished from the way a human being is conscious, then it seems to me to be perverse to insist that there’s a difference. For there to be a difference we’d have to have some way to distinguish a difference.

But anyway, I’ll bet you a dollar we’ll have a strong AI computer system that can simulate Bill Gates long before we have a 200 year old human being.

And I’ll bet you a dollar that neither of us lives to see the resolution of that hypothetical bet. :wink:

Well, there are several afaik, but a quick Google search turned up this as the first hit, so there you go…a theory.

It doesn’t sound like what anyone would mean by ‘immortality’, and to me (being a network guy) it sounds much more unreasonable to project that sort of quantum leap in computing power and capability to theorizing a break through, or series of break throughs that slow aging and eventually lead to halting aging. As I said, I don’t think you’d ever get ‘immorality’ as even if you could halt aging that wouldn’t mean folks still wouldn’t die, but unless you have some cite showing that it’s impossible to stop aging…some sort of physical law or whatever…then I don’t see why it’s not a possibility. And since there are a lot of folks working on this, it seems that it’s not just some fantasy if mine. Could just be like fusion, perpetually 50 years away from happening…but then, so is an AI simulation such as you are describing, let alone the ability to upload a person into a computer system.

Nobody said curing aging would be easy or that it would occur anytime soon. However on a long enough timeline, it is all but guaranteed to happen seeing how much incentive there is to find effective treatments for aging. Western medicine is only about 160 years old, and progress grows faster as time passes (more was accomplished in the last 30 years than in the period of 1880-1910).

That’s only because modern medicine doesn’t reverse or slow aging, it simply treats disease. This has no bearing on whether or not we can indeed slow or reverse aging.

Aubrey De Grey points out that we can remodel an old car and it’s still usable, even if it’s over 100 years old. Why couldn’t we do the same for a human body? Unless you believe in some kind of vitalism or that God would somehow not permit it, the human body is a machine and theoretically it can be repaired indefinitely.

You’d probably have to reprogram the body on a cellular level to repair itself and keep itself in top shape irrelevant of how long the cells live or how many divisions they undergo, there are 100 trillion cells in the body. It is a massively complex problem that’ll probably not be accomplished for a couple hundred years (as a guess, maybe sooner and maybe later).

Well, that’s hardly sporting - it would be better to wait until they’re able to walk and run, wouldn’t it?

I think the idea of solving death would have to go hand-in-hand with some serious population control; I think the population as a whole has to decide on an optimum level of people and do what it takes to keep it at that level. I don’t see humans actually being smart and disciplined enough to do that, though, so longevity/immortality might be the thing that extincts human beings, ironically. :slight_smile: