Longevity and eternal youth have frequently been sought after down through the ages, and efforts to keep from dying and fight off age have a long and interesting history.
"Six days and seven nights I mourned over him, and I would not allow him to be buried until a maggot fell out of his nose. I was terrified. I began to fear death, and so roam the wilderness."
Written in Stone.
History is the story of humanity’s quest for immortality.
And anyone who examine it closely enough in a serious attempt to find the cultural roots and philosophical antecedents of modern immortalism, shall discover that mankind’s seemingly endless quest to conquer death has been expressed several times down through the ages. In fact, the earliest attested record of a mortal man’s pursuit of immortality can actually be found in what is considered to be the first great work of literature ever made: 'The Epic of Gilgamesh’, an Akkadian poem about Gilgamesh, or Bilgamesh, a Sumerian king who reigned in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Uruk, somewhere between 2800 and 2500 BC. The epic most likely existed in oral form long before it was written down on stone tablets around 2200 BC, and the main character of the story, Gilgamesh, is widely considered by scholars to be the historical 5th king of Uruk.
The Epic of Gilgamesh.
According to the tablets, Gilgamesh was a powerful king endowed with superhuman strength and courage. He was physically handsome and had godlike wisdom; however, he began his kingship as a cruel and ruthless ruler. Merciless he lorded over his poor subjects with excessive force.
Thought to be too proud by the gods, one day they’d had enough of his arrogance, so they decided to humble him. Enkidu was thus created to teach the great king a lesson. But as the tablets later reveals, it couldn’t have gone exactly as the gods had planned it. Because after Gilgamesh and Enkidu initially had been engaged in a fierce battle, in which neither one was bested, they became very close friends; and like a couple of inseparable brothers with an unbreakable bond between them - toghether they killed 'the Bull of Heaven’.
As a punishment for killing 'the Great Bull’, the angry gods sentenced Enkidu to death - thats why, not long thereafter, he became mysteriously ill and died in great pain and agony.
Reflections on Death and Dying.
And this is where the story becomes interesting, at least from an immortalist’s point of view - Gilgamesh did not at all take the loss of his dear friend lightly. Heartbroken and scared, he fell into deep grief; just as millions of brave men and women have done both before and after him, he now found himself wrestling with the meaning of life in the face of death.
"How can I be silent, how can I be at peace, when Enkidu whom I love is dust?
Despair is in my heart.
What my brother is now, that shall I be when I am dead.
Because I am afraid of death I will go as best I can to find Utnapishtim whom they call the Faraway..."
The Search for Everlasting Life.
Determined to find Utnapishtim 'the Faraway’, who was said to "reside far away, at the mouth of the rivers", Gilgamesh casts away his old pride, and sets off into the wilderness. Because the gods had granted Utnapishtim eternal life after 'the Great Flood' (Utnapishtim is the Mesopotamian equivalent of Noah from the Bible), Gilgamesh hoped the wise old man knew the secrets of immortality, and would be able to tell him how to avoid death.
And many, many days later, wind-bitten and battered after a long and arduous journey, Gilgamesh eventually found himself in a fabulous jeweled garden by the edge of the sea. It was there he came upon a tavern-keeper named Siduri whom, after Gilgamesh had told her his story and asked for directions to Utnapishtim, warned him that only the gods live forever.
A Friendly Warning.
And surely enough, as many people today still have an attitude that is very similar to Siduri’s, it is not at all hard to notice something eerily familiar about her friendly warning.
“Gilgamesh, where are you roaming?
You will never find the eternal life that you seek. When the gods created mankind, they also created death,
and they held back eternal life for themselves alone. Humans are born, they live, then they die, this is the order that the gods have decreed. But until the end comes, enjoy your life, spend it in happiness, not despair. That is the best way for a man to live.”
But however well-meant Siduri’s advice must have been, Gilgamesh simply refused to listen. Still driven by fear and sadness, and still commited to his search for everlasting life, he kept on begging for her help instead. Although Siduri initially tried to talk Gilgamesh out of it, the minute she saw that she couldn’t sway him away from his purpose, she decided to point him in the right direction after all. And then, after yet another great journey, this time over the poisonous 'Waters of Death’, our tired hero finally found the man he had been looking for.
Utnapishtim, the survivor of the flood that almost wiped out humankind, told Gilgamesh his story. But in spite of all that Gilgamesh had gone through, 'the Faraway' couldn’t tell him the secret of living forever. In an enfeebled state of huge disappointment Gilgamesh gave up. Despite his tireless endeavors, it surely seemed as if all of his efforts had been futile and fruitless. Still mortal, and with no other options left, Gilgamesh reluctantly realized he had to go home emptyhanded.
Sacred Herbs of Longevity.
In the very last minute however, just as Gilgamesh got ready to leave, Utnapishtim told him about a herb on the bottom of the ocean that had the power to miracolously restore youth. Gilgamesh swam down himself and found one, but he didn’t eat it right away. On the contrary, our great hero decided to share the sacred plant of longevity with the elders of his city. "I will take it to Uruk", he said. "I will give it to the old men to eat". In other words: He didn’t just take immortality for himself, he tried to bring it to everyone!
But before poor Gilgamesh could bring the plant back to Uruk, a snake stole it from him while he slept - and as the old serpent slithered away, it shed its skin and became young again.
Legends Never Die.
Gilgamesh never achieved immortality, but his fame survived his death; legends never die! And even though the great king of Uruk one day had to meet his own demise, he apparantly had a long life: According to 'the Sumerian King List’, he ruled the city of Uruk for 126 years.
"And then the Lord God said: Behold, the man has now become like one of us, knowing of good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."
Qin Shi Huang.
Gilgamesh might have been the first individual in recorded history who sought immortality, but subsequent stories of similar quest are countless; down through the ages, a lot of people have gone out of their way to attain deathlessness and eternal life. Take the first Qin Emperor of China: He is said to have sent thousands of people to sea seeking an island where an immortal resides, in hopes of becoming immortal himself. The mighty Emperor ruthlessly unified China in 221 BC, but obviously not content with his mortal conquests and successes, he was determined to attain immortality by any means possible. Sima Qian, a revered historian from ancient China, records a number of the ruler’s elaborate and expensive, but ultimately futile attempts to discover and access legendary sources of neverending life.
The Elixir of Life.
Ironically, the first Qin Emperor’s desire to cheat death may actually have been what hastened his demise. The idea of ingesting liquid metals for longevity were widespread in alchemical traditions from China to Europe. For instance, liquid metal were regarded as an highly important ingridient in the production of 'the Elixir of Life’, a mythical potion which rejuvinated and granted its drinker immortality. And in line with these traditions, the Emperor regarded mercury as a special substance with life-enhancing properties. But mercury isn’t only liquid at room temperature, it is also highly toxic; many men have died experimenting with it. In fact, toxicity was so common among ancient Chinese emperors that the British historian Joseph Needham has compiled a list of emperors who probably died from elixir poisoning.
And the most famous Chinese alchemical book, the Danjing yaojue (Essential Formulas of Alchemical Classics), disscusses in detail the creation of life elixirs; most of the most prominent ingridients, like mercury and arsenic, are satirically poisonous.
Nevertheless, Chinese alchemists spent centuries formulating potions of immortality; inventions like gunpowder, sulfur and saltpeter were originally meant as attempts to create 'the Elixir of Life’. It is also worth to mention that Lingzhi, 'the Supernatural Mushroom’, a key ingridient in an old Chinese formula for the elixir, is the oldest known mushroom used medically. Traditional Chinese medicine and early Chinese alchemy are closely related, and various species of the Lingzhi mushroom are still commonly used in longevity formulas today.
"I discovered something amazing, which has led to a lot of controversy - the Fountain of Youth. I have to keep it a secret!"
The Fountain of Youth.
Another person who was said to have partaken in humanity’s quest for immortality, is the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leòn. As legend has it, Ponce de Leòn was originally in search for 'the Fountain of Youth’, a legendary spring that allegedly restored the youth of anyone who drank from or bathed in its waters, when he and his crew, on April 2, 1513, accidentially discovered Florida. According to J. Michael Francis, a historian who has spent decades studying the topic, Ponce was in reality looking for the Bimini Islands, when he found 'the Sunshine State' instead. He asserts that 'the Fountain of Youth' had little to no motivation for his voyage.
Nonetheless, tales of sacred, restorative waters existed well before the days of Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leòn. Alexander the great, for example, was said to have come across a healing 'River of Paradise' in the fourth century BC. A similar fountain can also be found in the writings of Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian from the 5th century BC.
Myths & Legends.
There is a high probability that these myths and legends, which can be found in all corners of the world, are just that: myths and legends. Be that as it may, they still unmistakably reflect and represent humanity’s will to live - and our fear of death. And therefore they are so much more than mere fantasies; they are a testament of mankind’s age-old quest for immortality.
Food of the Gods.
While humans are born, subjected to the will of nature and die, our gods are often depicted as immune to death. Or so it seems. But a little known fact is that most of the ancient gods, just like humans, usually had to eat and drink in order to stay alive. The meals they consumed though, had a quite different charachter than those of us mere mortals. If someone were lucky enough to enjoy the sweet taste of these sacred refreshments, they would become immortal. That is why it was forbidden for ordinary mortal men, while the deities themselves often where required to ingest this special food regularly to maintain vigour and immortality.
In ancient Greece it was known as Ambrosia, closely related to Nectar. Although Ambrosia is sometimes represented as a potion, it was usually tought that Ambrosia was the food, and Nectar the drink. In the Rigveda, a collection of ancient Vedic hymns that are a cornerstone in Hinduism, this nectar, or elixir of life if you will, are called Soma. Interestingly enough, Soma are also known by another name, namely Amrita, which in its turn is cognate with Ambrosia.
Yes, both words share a common etymological origin; and they both means immortality.
These themes and motifs are recurrent throughout the rest of the world as well: In Chinese mythology we have 'the Peaches of Immortality’; in Iranian folklore there is talk about 'the Cup of Jamshid’; and in Norse mythology Idunn is a goddess associated with 'Apples of Youth’.
" ..but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
/Jesus in the Gospel of John 4:14/
The Alchemy of Longevity.
Tales about such legendary sources to immortality, as those aforementioned, have probably served as great sources of inspiration to all of those brave alchemists, philosophers, and mystics who carried the torch of immortalism through 'the Dark Ages’. Alchemists in various ages and cultures sought the means of formulating 'the Elixir of Life’, but due to its pre-Christian origins, and strong association with sorcery and magic, alchemy was viewed by the Catholic Church with great suspicion. Occasionally the whole practice was condemned, and the fact that a number of charlatans used the trappings of alchemy to defraud didn’t make the situation any better at all.
But that didn’t stop alchemy from being practiced. The medieval alchemists guarded their work in secrecy, ciphers and cryptic symbolism, and their work was guided by Hermetic principles related to magic, mythology, and religion; thus the tradition was able to survive underground - and humanity’s quest for immortality proceeded in secret.
"The path to immortality is hard and only a few find it."
The Philosopher’s Stone.
From the Middle Ages to the late 17th century, the legendary 'Stone of the Philosophers' was the most sought-after objective in the world of alchemy. In fact, efforts to discover 'The Philosopher’s Stone' were known as the Magnus Opus (Great Work) among alchemists of the time. The so-called "Stone" was an unknown alchemical substance supposedly capable of turning base metals, such as mercury or copper, into precious ones, like gold or silver.
Highly related to 'the Elixir of Life’, it was also thought to be able to extends one’s life, bring back youth, and grant immortality to whoever possessed it. In some legends, the Stone is used to synthesize the Elixir, in others, they actually appear to be one and the same thing. And just as God goes by many names, so does the 'the Stone of the Wise' and 'the Elixir of Life’.
Golden Tear fom the Eye of Horus.
'The Philosopher’s Stone' were, among many other names, also known as 'the Tincture’, 'the Powder’, 'Dancing Water’, 'White Stone’, 'Draco Elixir’, 'Blessed Water’, 'Aer’, 'Liquid Gold’, 'Potion of Immortality’, 'Magnesia’, 'Alkahest’, and 'the Golden Tear from the Eye of Horus’. The Stone was also directly related to the myths about Thoth and Hermes Trismegistos, both of whom are said to have drunk 'White Drops' or 'Liquid Gold of Immortality’.
Many alchemical philosophers were in fact esoterists highly concerned with the perfection of the human soul, and the mysterious Stone symbolized perfection, enlightenment and bliss.
And since much of the physical formulas of alchemy are believed to represent the journey of insight, awakening, and spiritual development, 'the Philosopher’s Stone' may never actually existed; the transmutation is something that occurs internally, and the representation of enlightenment, bliss, and perfection is somewhat akin to Buddhist Nirvana.
However, in their tenacious search for 'the Philosopher’s Stone’, the medieval European alchemists actually developed a structure of basic labaratory techniques, theory, terminology, and experimental method. The quest for immortality thereby provided a body of knowledge that ultimately led to the sciences of chemistry, metallurgy, and pharmacology.
"Thousands of years from now man will be quite different from what he is at present.
Sciences will be so advanced then that perhaps a way will have been found to prolong life indefinitely."
Alchemy is rooted in mysticism and classical thought; but in spite of its religious tendensies and continued belief in antiquity’s four elements, alchemical practice played an important role in the evolution of modern science. It was a spiritual, but also a scientific tradition. The alchemists themselves were often seen as simple frauds, or associated with the occult, but many alchemists were in reality serious-minded practitioners, whose work helped lay the groundwork for modern chemistry and medicine. They also directly influenced modern physics.
While other disciplines of science still largely were observational and theoretical, the alchemical tradition used a scientific method involving inductive and deductive reasoning to arrive at conclusions. In fact, several of the renaissance’s great thinkers and renowned scientists were alchemists. John Dee and Robert Boyle are a couple of good examples. And, as you may know, Isaac Newton was an alchemyst who actually devoted most of his life to its studies. Through the great minds of these esoteric philosophers and alchemical practitioners, searching to find a cure for death and a way to live forever, came 'the Age of Enlightenment’.
"The future of man lay in the rapid extension of practical scientific knowledge."
The Age of Enlightenment.
The Age of Enlightenment is often said to have started with the publication of Francis Bacon’s ‘Novum Organum’ (the New Tool), in which he promoted a scientific methodology based on empirical investigation rather than a priori reasoning. Bacon, more than justly famous for his contribution to the scientific method, also penned what is perhaps the first science-fiction book ever written: ‘New Atlantis’. The book describes a technocratic society that are using technology to complete the divine creation - including the extension of human life spans.
Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher who is best known as the father of empiricism, wrote his utopian novel in 1623. In it he portreyed an almost prophetic vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge, and no reader can fail to be struck by the multitude of approximations made by Bacon’s imagination to the actual achievements of modern science. He anticipated a strikingly large number of modern discoveries and inventions in this book.
The House of Salomon.
The book also envisioned and lay down the lines for the modern research university, both in pure and applied science. The state-sponsored scientific institution in Bacon’s New Atlantis, 'Salomon’s House’, "which house or college..is the very eye of the kingdom", is described as a college using collaborative efforts of specialized sciences as a means to advance empirical knowlegde, increase man’s control over nature, and bring relief to the human condition.
James Hughes, an American sociologist, has argued that Bacon was the first person to combine "transhumanist aspirations with the scientific imagination", citing New Atlantis as portraying "a proto-transhumanist utopia" of scientists who work towards objectives such as life extension, age retardation, restitution of youth, and the conquering of disease.
"The lenghtening of the thread of life itself, and the postponement for a time of that death which gradually steals on by natural dissolution and the decay of age, is a subject of which no physician has handled in proportion to its dignity."
From Religion to Sci-Fi.
The idea that science and technology could fulfill traditionally religious objectives, like abundance and immortality, continued to emerge from the realm of science-fiction, which has both nurtured and normalized the scientific search for immortality ever since Sir Bacon penned his New Atlantis back in the 17th century. Although many of the concepts and ideas of the modern immortalism movement can be traced back to the claims of scientists, sci-fi has done far more to popularize these ideas. Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Stenislaw Lem are just a few examples of authors who have explored how scientific progress and technological development could be used to extend life spans and achieve immortality.
But sci-fi authors were by all means not alone in their rethoric. In 1923, British biochemist J. B. S. Haldane published the essay 'Daedalus: Science and the future’, in which he argued that great benefits would come from controlling our own genes, and from science in general. Haldanes visionary essay became a bestseller, and a large number of future oriented essays, like 'the World, the Flesh, and the Devil' by J. D. Bernal, were published in its aftermath.
When the inhabitants of Diaspar are born, they simply come walking out of something called 'the Halls of Creation’; and many thousands of years later, when their time comes, they just walk back into 'the Memory Bank' of the city’s 'Central Computer’. There the "pattern which specifies a man’s mind" are stored in "memory units" for another thousand years or so, until they again are "called back into existence" by 'the Central Computer’, and walks out of 'the Halls of Creation' once more. They repeat this cycle of digital reincarnation over and over; and have thereby conquered death and achieved virtual immortality - But what about us?
"What is the point of life if it ends in death?"
/John de Rivaz/
Life is, and has always been, to quote 17th century british philosopher Thomas Hobbes, "nasty, brutish and short". However, since the dawn of modern medicine, human life spans have been substantially increased. Before the advent of antibiotics, countless of people died each year from what today is relatively treatable diseases. Advances in medicine, nutrition, and public health have dealt with things like poor nutrition and bad hygiene, which used to spread diseases. And vaccines have saved a lot of lives; until the dawn of modern medicine in the 19th century, way too many children were taken away before their fifth birthday.
In spite of all these great accomplishments, and a lot of serious effort to stave off death, science has yet to push the boundaries of human aging well beyond their known limits: The oldest person on record are frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment, who lived to be 122.
A New Aging Paradigm.
However, some scientists today are talking about treatments that could extend average life spans by several decades, or even longer. Science has been tied to a cultural narrative of conquering death since the Age of Reason, but until recently the prospects of radical life extension have been in the realms of myths, legends, and science-fiction; now, for the first time in history, some experts believe we might be at the treshold of a new aging paradigm.
Still, with all new technologies comes not only the potential of great benefits, but also great responsibilities and latent risks. History have shown us that we need to be careful:
All progress is change, but not all change is progress. Misuse and accidents are sadly common.
"Man is to be surpassed.
He is a bridge, not a destination."
The Eugenics Movement.
Fueled by the fear of potential risks involving modern medicine, and partly influenced by the doctrines of Blavatsky and Nietszche, the eugenics movement emerged in the early decades of the 20th century. In addition to Nazi-Germany there were many countries, like USA, Australia, and Norway, that carried out state-sponsored eugenics programs. Not all of those programs were malevolent, nevertheless, the Holocaust left a deep scar in humanity’s collective self-image, and determined not to let history repeat itself, a strong aversion arose against any kind of relationship with Nazi-ideology, thus the eugenics movement as a whole, in all its forms, became compromised. Programs like these are now mostly condemned.
"Man is to be surpassed.
He is a bridge, not a destination."
Quantum Archeology & the Ressurrection of the Dead.
Using a future technology based on quantum entanglement, the aim of quantum archeology is to ressurrect the dead. The idea is to bring back "the dead" from when and where they are alive, through a connection between every space-time moment in cosmos to every other.
The Cold Science of Cryonics.
The Cryonics movement, a camp of immortalists highly influenced by elements of cosmism, advocates the use of cryopreservation, or low-temperature preservation techniques to conquer death.
At present, only cells, tissues, and some organs can be reversibly cryopreserved, but proponents of cryonics holds the hope that the dead can be revived in the future, following sufficient medical advancements. And indeed, the science of cryobiology are definetely making progress: Just last month, in February 2016, the news could report that a rabbit brain had been successfully frozen and preserved with all of its long-term memory banks intact.
Brain structures encoding personality traits and long-term memory persist for some while after death, and if the brain is cryopreserved, it is theoretically possible to restore encoded memories to functional expression. Yes, this proposition is generally accepted by medicine.
"Death may be reversible in the future."
The Prospect of Immortality.
The modern era of cryonics is said to have started with the publication of 'the Prospect of Immortality’, a book written by Robert Ettinger, a Michigan college teacher in physics, in 1962. In it he proposed that freezing people may be the way to reach future medicine technology.
Dr. James Bedford, the first person to actually be cryopreserved, was frozen in January 1967.
Disney on Ice.
You may have heard the legend about Walt Disney being frozen after his death, but according to official sources, this rumour is nothing more than an urban legend - Disney is not on ice!
Disney died from complications of lung cancer on December 15, 1966, and his body was cremated and buried two days later. The whole myth most probably began in 1972, when Bob Nelson, the president of the Cryonics Society of California, told that "Disney wanted to be frozen", during an interview with 'the Times’. According to Nelson, Disney, or the Walt Disney Company on his behalf, called prior to his death asking a lot of questions about the process.
But "the truth is, Walt missed out", Nelson added, "he never specified it in writing, and when he died the family didn’t go for it. They had him cremated. I personally have seen his ashes."
Frozen in Time.
Eventhough Disney may have never been frozen, a lot of other people have; and just like Dr. James Bedford, they are now frozen in time, awaiting a future - hoping to one day be revived from the deep, cold slumber of cryonics.
"The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself -not just sporadically, an induvidual here in one way, an induvidual there in another way-but in its entirety as humanity. We need a name for this new belief.
Perhaps transhumanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature."
Transhumanism is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform and transcend the human condidition using sophisticated science and advanced technology. It is influenced by science-fiction, and has its roots in rational humanism, futurism, and cosmism.
The word 'transhumanism' was first used by Julian Huxley, Aldoux Huxley’s brother, in his 'Religion Without Revelation' from 1927. Later, in the '60s, one of the first professors of futurology, FM-2030, used the term when he began to identify people who adopt technologies, worldviews, and lifestyles "transitional" to posthumanity as 'transhuman’. Then finally, in the '90s, British futurist and philosopher Max More began articulating the principles of transhumanism using FM-2030’s hypothesis as intellectual groundwork.
Transhumanism has grown tremendously since the '90s, and is now a worldwide movement with supporters from a wide variety of perspectives, including philosophy and religion.
"Death is the enemy of us all, to be fought with medicine, science, and technology."
Longing for Longevity.
Most, if not all, transhumanists have a great deal of interest in life-extension and longevity. Longevism is an ideology devoted to achieving prolonged life span using modern science.
Longevists do not necesseraly desire immortality in the same degree as immortalists do, although abolishing death has clearly been seen as "the logical extension of longevism".
In the '80s and '90s, philosophers were drawned together with genomicists and longevity researchers by the work of extropianism - and the quest for immortality gained momentum.
The Philosophy of Extropy.
Extropianism is a transhumanist philosophy with emphasis on rational thinking and practical optimism, outlined by Dr. Max More in "The Principles of Extropy". Extropians believe that advances in science and technology will some day, eventually, eradicate death altogheter.
The New Age of Aging.
And that day may actually come soon, because here we are: It’s the dawn of the 21. century and we find ourselves in a Brave New World, entering a New Age. The Anthrophocene is upon us; the Age of Man is here. According to astrologers and the New Age movement, it is the Age of Aquarius, and just as prophesied we are experiencing great change taking place all around us. At the same time as futurist Zoltan Istvan, the 2016 presidential candidate for the Transhumanist Party in America, drives around in a veichle dubbed 'the Immortality Bus’, science are now finally in the early stages of, as Francis Bacon so elegantly articulated it in his 'New Atlantis’, "unravelling the secret motions of tings".
Law of Accelerating Returns.
Technological progress are now almost exponential, and a lot of new technologies emerging, like artificial intelligence and 3D-printing, nano-tech, genetics and quantum computing, are about to make a huge impact on every part of human life and society - medicine included!
Tissue rejuvenation, stem-cell therapy, regenerative medicine, molecular repair, epigenetics, gene-theraphy, pharmacauticals, cryopreservation, organ replacement, telomere lenghtening, nutrition, artificial intelligence, eugenics, and nanomedicine
- these are just some examples of modern efforts to keep from dying and fight off death.
"Any sufficient advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
/Arthur C. Clarke/
The Genesis Machine.
One of the most promising technologies that have been developed lately, CRISPR/Cas9, is a new genome editing tool that have the potential to revolutionize and transform the field of biology. CRISPR stands for 'Clustered Regularly-Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats’, and it is far better than older techniques for gene-editing. Longevity can in theory be introduced into an individual’s genome through CRISPR mediated reproductive cell modifications. The new technology also have the potential to eliminate the root causes of hereditary diseases.
While many companies, including Google, are working on ways to extend our lives with tens, if not hundreds of years, others are working on restoration to life. Humai, for instance, is a Los Angeles based company that actually aims to bring people back from the dead. They hope to achieve this goal by using a combination of cryonics, nanotech, and artificial intelligence.
As stated on Humai’s official webpage:
"We want to transplant your brain into an elegantly designed bionic body called Humai. It will use a brain-computer interface to communicate with sensory organs and limbs of your new bionic body.
Artificial intelligence will be integrated into synthetic organs,
so they can operate independently. Sensor technology will
allow you to feel the essence of human experience.
As your brain matures, genetic engineering will combat the aging process. Advancements in nanotechnology will offer extensive tissue repair and regeneration, including the repair of individual brain cells."
According to some, such as computer scientist Eray Özkural, the company are said to be some kind of pseudoscientific scam, but Humai’s’s founder, Josh Bocanegra, has assured his critics that he is serious. According to Bocanegra, the technology could be available as soon as 2040.
And although Humai’s vision is somewhat similar to Kurzweil’s idea of 'the Singularity’,
the main divergence is that HumAI’s idea involves ressurrection, while Kurzweil’s concept of mind-uploading is done while still alive.
From Gilgamesh to Kurzweil.
Driven by the same emotions that drove Gilgamesh to seek Utnapishtim in ancient times, Kurzweil have picked up the torch of immortalism and joined the age-old war against death. In 2005 he penned a book called 'the Singularity is Near’, which became an instant bestseller, and today the genius is famous for being a modern day prophet of the Singularity movement.
"We have the means right now to live long enough to live forever. Existing knowledge can be aggresively applied to dramatically slow down aging processes so we can still be in vital health when the more radical life extending therapies from biotechnology and nanotechnology become available."
A Secular Apotheosis: The Technological Singularity.
The Singularity is the moment in the predicted near future when technology allows the artificial increase of intelligence to a level far beyond that of current human intelligence. It is described as an intelligence explosion that will cause changes beyond our comprehension.
It was science-fiction writer Vernor Vinge that popularized the idea of the singularity in his essay 'Technological Singularity' from 1993. Vinge described the Singularity like this:
"It is a point where our old models must be discarded and a new reality rules. As we move closer to this point, it will loom vaster and vaster over human affairs till the notion becomes a commonplace.Yet, when it finally happens it may still be a great surprise and a greater unknown."
Although everlasting life traditionally has been stated to be among the promises of God, it is now seriously being discussed as a possible consequence of such an event, and Kurzweil’s idea of Singularitarianism focuses on human benefits, such as life extension and immortality.
Kurzweil disputes the notion that his views are a substitute or alternative to religious faith. "Being a singularitarian is not a matter of faith, but of understanding", he has said to sceptics.
"We are very close to the tipping point in human longevity...
we are about fifteen years away fom adding more than one year of longevity per year to remaining life expectancy."
As stated in his book, exponential progress in sciences and technologies such as computers, artificial intelligence, robotics, neurology, nanomedicine, genetics, and physics will lead to a technological singularity, in or around the year 2045. He also predicts that humanity will merge with technology, transcend biology, and ultimately be irreversibly transformed into cyborgs with artificial super intelligence, hive-mind functionalities, and god-like abilities. According to Kurzweil, "we will be able to put intelligence inside our bodies and brains".
Technological evolution is thought of as a natural continuation of biological evolution; and once the Singularity has been reached, Kurzweil says that artificial intelligence will be infinetely smarter and more powerful than all of humanity’s intellect combined, and immortal intelligence will radiate outwards from the planet until it saturates the universe.
The Death of Death.
But, could a frozen brain really be brought back to life? Can we use gene-therapy to manipulate our biological clock? Can minds be uploaded digitally? Are we entering a future in which we merge with our technologies, and vastly extend our longevity to the point where even death will be defeated? Will the Singularity ever occur? - Will death eventually die?
From Gilgamesh to Kurzweil.
American futurist B.J. Murphy have reasoned that 'A Transhuman Future Has Been Humanity’s Goal Since Discovering Fire’, and the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom argues in his influential essay 'A History of Transhumanist Thought’, that the cultural and philosophical roots of transhumanism is as old as the Sumerian 'Epic of Gilgamesh’. In light of all the historical evidence, I tend to agree with both of them. Our quest for immortality has been expressed in a great number of ways throughout history: kings and emperors; alchemists and philosophers; cosmists and transhumanists; mystics and sci-fi authors, holy men and scientists alike, have all, in their own personal way, given notable contribution to the cause. Modern immortalism, in all its forms, clearly reflects a natural cultural evolution.
However, we live in a vastly different time than those who came before us; only in the past few centuries have science and technology been concieved as capable of fulfilling some of the most powerful goals of religion; only in the last few years have sci-fi becomed sci-fact. And now several scientists, futurists, and philosophers uphold that immortality is achivable!
Gilgamesh certainly did share with Kurzweil a deep desire for immortality; the underlying drive and emotional motivation for the quest are exactly the same as its always been. But just like the first Qin Emperor of China, the king of Uruk sought to reach this goal through magical rather than technological means. The chances of success are increased a billionfold when the quest now finally are guided by empirical evidence, rather than mysteries, legends and myths. The fact that transhumanists, cosmists and other modern immortalists trust science and technology to provide immortality, marks the distinguishing feature of their tradition.
That being said; religious imagination, magical dreams, and mystical thinking have always permeated the history of immortalism, and without these religious legends about longevity; these fantastical fantasies and mystical myths, we would probably still be stuck in a cave somewhere
- with death never to be conquered.
"Share your knowlegde, it is a way to achieve immortality."
/Dalai Lama XIV/
Смерть связана с... верой в смерть.
Старость - это болезнь.
Молекулярные механизмы старения
Смерть и жизнь.
Старение — это медленное ТЛЕНИЕ
Квантовая альтернатива старению.
Путеводитель по вечной жизни
На пути к бессмертию