Friday, August 30, 2013

Immortality: Possibilities and Impact


Ah, if we could only live forever!

Not only is that an ‘incomplete sentence’ (according to MS Word), you’d better not wish that from the proverbial Genie in the bottle or…a Loud (explained later)! If you did you’d be very sorry around about the time you reached 120 years OLD! I mean have you ever seen a person in their late 90s let alone older? No, what you want to wish for is ‘to stop aging’. But, is this even in the realm of possibility?

Perhaps the primary reason we age is that our telomeres deteriorate. Because of this, our cells can only divide about 50 times.

Telomeres eh? What’s a Telomere?:
A chromosome is a long strand of DNA. At the end of a chromosome is a telomere, which acts like a bookend. Telomeres keep chomosomes protected and prevent them from fusing into rings or binding with other DNA. Telomeres play an important role in cell division.

Researchers can use the length of a cell's telomeres to determine the cell's age and how many more times is will replicate. This is important in anti-aging research. When a cell stops replicating, it enters into a period of decline known as "cell senescence," which is the cellular equivalent of aging.

In my sci-fi ‘The Spiral Slayers’ the Loud (an alien species that comes to the human world of Amular and are about 1,000 years ahead in science and technology) bestow three things on the humans:
1.      They restore their DNA to perfect condition, which will restore an older person to their prime age (around 28-32 years old). There is no immediate effect on someone at their prime age or younger.

2.      They replace everyone’s telomere with nanite replacements, which will not deteriorate and will keep all chomosomes functioning properly (that is to say, they stop the aging process).

3.      They infest the humans with other specialized nanite, which ‘super charge’ their immune system.

Well, why didn’t nature do this in the first place? In the story, the Loud tell the human race that all planet or solar system bound species must have this ‘timer’ to control their population. Once a species goes inter-stellar this ‘timer’ can be ‘removed’ and indeed must be removed because bound by the speed of light and the enormous distances between stars, you need a lot of time just to get around.
Now understand, you can still get your ticket clocked by being hit by a train, shot in the head, etc. I think people might do a lot more to avoid accidents…what do you think? What about daredevils?

If everyone where perpetually at their prime age or younger, society would change drastically and I explore this in my book (I was completely surprised when Kirkus Reviews noticed this and called my story “ intense, philosophical sci-fi”). Think about funeral homes, hospitals, insurance, sports, doctors, saving for retirement, etc. Think about marriages, divorces, the death sentence or, life imprisonment.
Unfortunately, if our planet were given this virtual immortality right now, in 20-50 years our species would most likely go extinct.

Think about it! Think population. The next post will be ‘Immortality: The problem with…”.


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