There's a lot of talk about anti-aging research today, but with all the promises of longevity and even immortality, almost no one has apparently considered the consequences of human beings living forever. The more you think about it, the scarier the idea becomes.
Think of the people who currently hold power in medicine, pharmaceuticals, media or government. Imagine if they never died. In fact, if you think about it, one of the best things about some people is the fact that they will eventually be six feet under. Actually, that's true for us all. One of the greatest attributes of the human race is that it gives birth to itself anew with each successive generation. Living, growing, learning and then dying is all part of a natural process that keeps the species healthy and adaptive. That's why death is programmed into our very cells, so that we can get out of the way and make room for the next generation.
Science would never have advanced if the old-school high priests of science lived forever. And society as we know it today will never move forward unless the cronies currently in power someday keel over and die (harsh, but true). This is why I say a civilization that could give its population the ability to live forever would be doomed to eternal stagnation. Mortality is an important component of any successful species.
Immortality would halt the advancement of civilization
To see why, consider this thought experiment: Imagine if there were an aging vaccine that cost $100, and you could go to the doctor's office and get injected with it, and then would never age another day, even if you live forever. A huge percentage of the population might avail themselves of this aging vaccine, but before long, we would start to have a real population problem in the world because new people are being born all the time, but suddenly almost no one is dying of old age. Before long, it would become apparent to all of the adults in society -- that is, those who have attained immortality
-- that the fixed resources on the planet Earth can only support a fixed a number of people, therefore, to support the lives of all of those already there, they will have to limit new births.
You can see where this is going. With the limitation of new births, we would stop bringing new blood and new ideas into our civilization. All the immortal old people would hang around forever, consuming all the resources and passing new laws to restrict births even more. Meanwhile, their outdated ideas, beliefs and power monopolies would never go away, either. That, you see, would be a genuine curse for all humanity.
Why? Because it is the rebirth and re-culmination of new ideas, new genetic combinations and new philosophies that give us any hope of improving things in the future. If we, as a civilization, continue to do things the way they have always been done, we're not going to get any different results. Extending our collective lifespan to infinity is certainly not going to mean our quality of life is any better, or that our chances of survival as a species on this planet are any greater.
The quest for immortality is fraught with peril at many levels. People love the romantic idea of living forever, but they fail to consider the consequences of what might happen to our species if, indeed, immortality was cheap and attainable by the masses.
Fortunately, anti-aging technology is exceedingly difficult to master, and I don't see any practical applications of an anti-aging vaccine in our lifetime. It doesn't mean I'm against the concept of anti-aging as most people think of it, which simply means staying active and healthy into the later years of life. I'm all for that because it enhances quality of life, but in no way does it make people immortal. At the same time, I genuinely believe that if genuine "live forever" technology were unleashed on the world today, it would be disastrous for humankind.
Our best hope for the future is that we each learn something useful, pass it on to the next generation, then get out of the way to make room for new people with new ideas who can hopefully do a better job protecting this planet (and its people) than we did. Dying is not only an important natural cycle, it's also the most important thing that will ever happen to many individuals in positions of power today. Have you noticed, for example, how most members of Congress are now senior citizens who are completely out of touch with the people they claim to represent?
Mortality is the ultimate term limit.