We’re not ready to live forever.
I’m having a weird reaction to the prospect of immortality.
This is one of the stranger things that’s come out of the research I’ve been doing my for Next 10 event. (Have you got your ticket yet?- get it here)
It really looks like we’re on the brink of conquering death. That’s not some wishful thinking from teenagers reading too many comics. A lot of leading thinkers and scientists are telling us that we’re close – maybe through stem cell therapy. Maybe through genetic modification. Maybe through nano-bots. Who knows? But it’s not looking like it’s all that far away.
And the weird thing is, we may have already done it.
I always thought conquering death would involve a huge announcement in the papers and a ticker-tape parade. Like if someone had discovered a cure for cancer.
But it may not happen that way. We may just simply and quietly overtake death.
That is, each year medical science extends the human life-span. Every year we add a few more months to how long healthy people can expect to live.
But science (because all science is digitally powered) is on an exponential curve. The rate of improvement and advance is getting quicker and quicker.
So we added 2 months to our lifespans last year. We might add 4 months this year. We might add 8 months next year…
And in a couple of years, we might add an entire year.
At that point, we ‘overtake’ death.
Once life expectancy starts growing at more than a year every single year, you will simply never catch up to the age at which you’re supposed to die.
Effectively, you will have become immortal.
And there will be no fanfare. No ticker-tape parade. You won’t have even noticed it.
Again this is another area where it’s hard to get a handle on how quickly things are moving. It’s complex work happening on multiple fronts.
But scientists using stem-cell therapy increased the lifespan of rats by 30% this year. That the human equivalent of adding 20 years of life expectancy – in just a single year.
So will we become immortal this year or next year? Probably not.
But at some point in the next twenty years? The research I’m seeing makes me think that yes, yes we will.
But how many of us are ready for that?
And I’m not talking at a logistical level. The way we think about work and retirement and infrastructure planning – all that will need to change.
(What happens when the housing stock has to keep up with a population where nobody ever dies? The mind boggles!)
But how many of us are actually ready to live forever?
Could you keep this up for another three or four hundred years?
How many of us live in a way that’s truly sustainable? How many of us nourish ourselves and keep ourselves energised, and match our energy levels to our busy-ness levels?
And how many of us are even enjoying life? How many of us, if we dig deep down, actually want to be living longer?
I mean, living through to 400 sounds great until you realise that the retirement age will probably be 370 at that point.
Do you like the idea of working your current job, with your current boss, for another 300 years.
Doesn’t that actually sound like hell?
(Nah, I’m kidding. Gary’s great. He’s a great boss.)
Life is suffering. It’s hard. But the beauty life offers usually makes the price worth it.
But life takes its toll. It’s tiring. Soon, we’ll have figured out how to protect our bodies from the ravages of life. But what about our minds? What about our souls?
As a species, we’re going to have to get real about what it means to live a meaningful life. We’re going to have to develop practices and institutions that support us to live energising lives – lives that fill our days with joy and meaning.
Without that, we’re just signing up for an extended run in the hamster wheel, and really, what’s the point?
Ultimately, I think this could actually be amazing. Somehow, 80 years doesn’t seem like quite enough time. It takes 40 years to figure yourself out. Another 20 years to fulfil all your duties, and then a final twenty thinking about how you could have spent the first 60 better.
It almost doesn’t seem long enough to really drop into what your life’s calling really is.
But three or four hundred years? Surely that’s long enough. Surely that will give all of enough time to drop into who we really are and start doing the things that make us really happy.
That’s right, isn’t it? Tell me we’re not just going to spend more time on this rock flailing and flapping about and being nasty to each other.
We’re not going to do that, right?
Time to take the long view. But if you want to know how to get ready for the immediate and exciting future, get your tickets to my Next 10 event asap!