When I was a child I was terrified of death from an irrationally young age. I remember going to a small holiday park, on the outskirts of Dartmouth that my grandparents owned. I loved that place more than I should have – the smell of the arcade room, the shows they put on for the guests, the swimming pool, the climbing frame – and of course the restaurant where my parents would let me order from the grown up menu. It was all I ever wanted as a child. I was ever so young, and I remember sitting by the pool one summer and realising that when I died – other people would still be in this place, enjoying it, reaping the rewards of this fine British holiday and while all this time would be elapsing; I would not be alive. There was a rush of jealousy and fear – which plagued me for many of my formative years.
If we were not scared of death we would drop like flies. We wouldn’t look to cross the road, we would take reckless risks and murder would not seem such a crime. Indeed death is the journey we must all take. But what happens when fear of this journey turns to near obsession? I look to some of the people trying to evade death forever – before concluding with my current perception of leaving my present state of being.
Doing really unusual things to give you longer to live
There are countless lists of individuals who put their body under all manner of stress to live those extra years. An example I read of is Peter Thiel – founder of PayPal. He takes growth hormones in order to preserve his body longer and invests millions into advanced tissue regeneration research. Indeed there are countless other methods I have heard of – from paleo diets to sleep cycling. The fact is some people will go to extraordinary lengths – to the rational mind it seems worth it if and only if the time spent doing these things is less than the life gained from them.
Indeed some studies into anti-ageing medicine have been hugely successful – we have managed to preserve life to 400-500 years. Oh wait sorry have to add – that is the human equivalent and we have only been able to do it to earthworms. Still, a step in the right direction right? It shows living beings can be changed to age in a different manner.
I was born in the wrong era – take be forward
Most people no about cryogenic freezing – the pursuit that used to be only for billionaires now available to millionaires! This who idea hinges on the fact that humans make progress at good rates and that the medicines of 400 years will be inconceivable to what we have now. We just wont be dying in the same way. How do you get there? Jump in a freezer.
Okay I am dumbing it down a bit. It is a little more complex. The idea is that you sign up to a cyrogenic plan and when you are legally declared dead you are frozen. You need to exploit the time differential between legal death and death of the mind – so you must be frozen in this time frame. The body is piped full of chemicals to stop the blood clotting and keep the brain as fresh as one can. Well then naturally you are pickled in a sort of preserving fluid and basically full of an anti freeze, taken down to -130 Celsius and then sat in liquid nitrogen at -190.
The main problem is we dont know if we can vitirfy human organs. Ice damages cells. We don’t even really get the brain yet so how can we protect it? It is a really confusing idea – and in truth we don’t know if it will work. Fact is it does not now but that is the whole point of it. Keep be iced until someone can sort me – then defrost me. Seems worth a shot right? Only catch – it is very expensive.
Ditch my pathetic human shell
Biggest cause of death? In general the fragility of the human body. Well what if we could put that into something more durable? This is what many billionaires are hoping – transport the human brain into a computer. Retain this human bit. I think the core of this idea is that our brains are reduced to little more than electrical signals. Of course there is much more to it than this – or we would of already done it; however the idea is that it is possible.
The biggest problem with this theory? We don’t know about the brain ourselves. We don’t know what memory is or how it works and we don’t fully know what really goes on in the portions of our brain we “don’t use”. So before we can fully determine what would need to do to realise this, we would actually need to work out the human brain totally.
But what do I believe?
I think that there are some very good things that come from being mortal. Human beings have finite existence and even so the squander and waste that time obsessing over fashion and make up, engaging in conflict and killing each other. And infinite life? We are not ready for that just yet. And then there are the other obvious constraints – a finite world with a population of infinite life? Clear issue there.
I don’t want to die – but equally I do not wish to waste the time I have. I want to make the most of what I have been given and leave something behind me which lasts. In the words of Hunter S Thompson
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”