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Longevity technology will transform mankind

Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 20:01

Recent technological advances in biology, chemistry and computer sciences are making the dream of living a longer and healthier life a reality.

According to The Independent, dying of old age could become a thing of the past if we can increase our lifespan by 10 times, as done with yeast manufactured by California scientists. These technologies will transform society for the better, and represent a real possibility of humanity triumphing over death by natural causes.

Human bodies and organs can already be regrown and regenerated. Clinical use of pig bladder extracellular matrices, nicknamed "pixie dust," to regrow muscles and limbs has been used to treat Afghanistan war veterans since May 2010, according to the Daily Mail. Organ scaffolds from dead humans or animals can be "seeded" with cells from a target host to grow new organs that have the DNA of the target, according to PBS, making organ rejection impossible. No need for clone farms, we can grow organs and bodies part by part.

These advances, alongside cancer and AIDS research, suggest that the degenerative diseases of today may become mere annoyances in the future. Aubrey de Grey, a British researcher, believes that the first person to live to 150 is already alive, and those who can live 1,000 years or more will be born within the next 20 years. His "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence" involve fixing cellular degeneration and cleaning "junk" that accumulates inside and outside our cells. However, Nature magazine criticized de Gray's assertions as being "exceptionally optimistic."

De Grey is not the only researcher of aging. German researchers at the University of Kiel have discovered that if people have variations in their FOXO3A genes, it can double or triple their chances of living past 100, as the variations cause the owner to age slower, according to PBS.

Though most people are not born with the genetic variations, it can be expected that future parents may want to modify their children's DNA to allow them to live longer. As scientists identify genetic markers associated with other diseases, "designer babies" will become the norm, as parents seek to have the best lives for their children.

The societal implications of this are enormous. It will become accessible first to the rich and, as it becomes prevalent, the lower death rate will boost population growth. Reproductive restrictions may gain more political clout as the world becomes more crowded and children become few. Humankind may have to sacrifice its humanity to gain eternal life in this artificial Eden of longevity. This is bound to challenge existing religions in the face of new human realities, and force mankind to re-evaluate its own existence. Never fear; these technologies will help humanity on their quest to finding the meaning of life.

For the entirety of human history, death has been immutable. Death is half the duality of life. Humanity has always tried to justify why death exists and answer the question of life after death. Death will not disappear for those who have access to this new technology, yet it could lead to life spans of biblical proportions. A new stage of human existence is at hand, and we have the honor of being at its inception. Carpe Diem.

Niko Milstrey is a graduate student majoring in economics.

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