In this recent article the Huffington Post author George Young asks a question if we really want to be immortal. He tells the readers about Igor Vishev, Russian philosopher, who believes that the first people to become immortal are likely to be already born today. Igor Vishev is the follower of Russian cosmists, such as Nikolai Fedorov, Vladimir Vernadsky and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.
From Fedorov on, a main cosmist idea has been to overcome death. For Fedorov individual immortality was not sufficient; our ultimate task was to bring back to life all humans who had ever lived. A devout if eccentric Christian, Fedorov viewed the resurrection as a human task, the Christ-like duty of the sons and daughters of humanity to restore life to those from whom it had been taken. Children would use future scientific technology to resurrect their parents, who in turn would resurrect theirs, all the way back to Adam and Eve.
And then after telling the story of Russian cosmists the author of the article simply becomes blind all of a sudden and falls into the trap built by shortsightedness and inability to think rationally. He writes:
The important question now may not be whether remaking ourselves and our universe to eliminate limits to present life is possible, but whether it is desirable. For centuries poets have intuited profound value in the mystery of death. As Shakespeare tells us in Sonnet 73, death gives life meaning, and love grows more strong for that “which thou must leave ere long.” Or, as Wallace Stevens wrote in “Sunday Morning,” “Death is the mother of beauty.” Could many of our best intangibles be lost in the transition from human to “transhuman”?
Shakespeare knew nothing about antibiotics and resuscitation. He had no choice but to accept death, otherwise it would be just too hard to live knowing that death is the worst, most horrible thing that can happen. It is so much easier to attribute death some meaning or even positive qualities. It means that we don’t have to fight it or fear it, death is normal, good even and we can get back to our everyday routine. But the reality is 100% different. Death is not the mother of beauty. Death is the mother of worms, eating your rotting body. Death makes your life worth nothing. And it doesn’t matter if you leave your work behind – you won’t care, because there will be no you. Just like every dying pharaoh would trade all the gold and pyramids he owns for another day of life, every lethally sick person would give everything he owns for the cure, just to live one more day, just to breathe for a bit longer.
The question of what death is and how or whether we should attempt to eliminate it won’t be settled here, or anywhere, anytime soon. But if Igor Vishev is right, someone alive today — certainly not the one writing these words, but maybe someone reading them — may be around long enough to know the answer.
I understand why George Young is so against immortality – he doesn’t believe he will be able to use life extension technologies. He is a senior citizen at the moment and this makes him pessimistic. His mind wants to protect him from the frightening thought that some people will become immortal, forever young maybe, but not him. So his mind tries to justify death in his own eyes.
But Mr. Young may be wrong in his assumption that he is not going to benefit from life extension technologies. If the existing life extension results are transferred from model animal to humans, he may well have the chance to live for quite some more time. And during this extra time there’s a good chance some new technologies would be developed to prolong his life even more. We don’t know this for sure, but we have to fight for our lives.
The more optimistic and unbiased articles we have about the possibility of life extension, the greater our chances are to eliminate all the age-related diseases and make people live much healthier and, most importantly, much longer lives.