Medical science is racing against the biological clock with solutions to beat death. To date, no one’s ever lived to tell the tale, but some are aiming to do so. We explore the death-defying technologies out there.
Now, there are about 300 people in only three facilities in Russia and the US in a state of deep freezing or cryopreservation.
No scientist has ever proven if the technology actually works, but over 1000 hopefuls remain on cryonics waiting lists. Soon, more facilities will open in Australia and Europe.
Supporters of cryopreservation hinge on the hope of a great advancement in medical science.
They believe that when they are ‘woken up’ in the near future, they will not only be able to live again, but to live better.
In 2016, a US scientist successfully ‘revived’ a New Zealand white rabbit from permafrost, and found all its brain function was like before.
But sceptics say someone who wakes up from such a process would have undergone intense trauma.
That’s especially for those who opt to preserve only their head or brain, as they would be waking up in a different body – human or machine, and would have to struggle to come to terms with it.
By 2045, we might be able to turn our brain into an avatar.
At least that’s what Russian millionaire Dmitry Itskov believes, and he is backing a project to do so. Think Johnny Depp in Transcendence, where he successfully uploaded his mind onto a computer.
The idea is to free yourself from the biological constraints of the body – essentially letting you bypass ageing.
Neuroscientists who study it think of the brain and a computer chip as the same, turning sensory data into behaviour, or inputs into outputs.
They theorise, if this process could be mapped, the brain could perhaps be copied in a computer. Then your mind will be in the cloud, and you can inhabit the real world any way you want.
- Artificial Organs
Simple replace your organs with synthetic ones when they wear out, like car parts. Arguably, it already exists today – over a million people use pacemakers in place of their heart. You can see why this means of extending life was greeted with more fanfare than others.
In the era of 3D printing, scientists are working on printing human organs, making organ transplants a thing of the past. A study in 2016 showed a method for growing bioartificial kidneys.
Industry watchers believe lab-developed organs could usher the end of donor shortages, and close black markets for organ trading.
A huge fan of the movement is Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.
He described the sheer power of a micro-chip in contrast to our heart, stating that every living thing has one billion heartbeats in its lifetime, whereas the average chip processes at least five billion operations per second!
Are you convinced yet?
Well here’s another prediction for achieving immortality, this time by the year 2040.
Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzeil believes that the invention of minuscule bots that could be implanted into our body will be almost fully effective at fighting disease.
What he is talking about has been branded as ‘Silicon Immortality’, after the tech giant, based in Silicon Valley, launched Calico – a research firm that targets such ways to extend the human lifespan.
But it isn’t just Google, leading tech figures like Paypal’s Peter Thiel, and Oracle’s Larry Ellison have given millions of dollars to life-extension research.
A company in California is also offering what’s been described as ‘vampire transfusions’. Aptly, it takes blood cells from young people and puts it into older bodies.
Their aim? To test if younger blood is the key to a longer life. It’s now at trial stage, with each transfusion costing USD 8000.
Dolly became a household name in 1996 after scientists cloned her. We are not referring to Dolly Parton the entertainer, but Dolly the Sheep. But animal cloning is old news.
Today, commercial cloning companies exist. Research institutes too, are getting busy.
In Southeast Asia, Singapore is trying to establish itself as a world-class stem cell centre, the blueprint to cloning.
But experts say the field would have progressed faster, if not for controversial religious debates that surround it.
If Science Wins, Does Everyone Win?
If choosing to live forever becomes a way of life, it could put the funeral industry to death. Not to mention, the business of religion plays up the unwelcome grim reaper.
But some have considered those small losses in exchange for huge gains.
How about you? Would you want your brain in the ground, or your brain in a chip, forever?