The Quest for Immortality

Posted by Flux on 

31 August 2018

What’s trending now?

“Immortality is not a gift, Immortality is an achievement. And only those who strive mightily shall possess it.”Edgar Lee Masters, American poet

The quest for immortality, the need to live beyond our natural limit, is an ongoing challenge we seek to master.

In the past decade, longevity research has become a recognised academic pursuit for molecular biologists. Scientists are trying to understand the basic mechanisms that underlie ageing.

There is an idea in Silicon Valley that ageing is merely a disease and like any other disease it can be cured through medical innovation.

A few wealthy billionaires have taken it upon themselves to solve this problem. They have made it their mission to outsmart mortality. Their quest is based on emerging science that could fundamentally change what we know about life and about death.

What is being done to achieve this?

The goal of helping humanity overcome physical and mental limits, of ridding the human body of disease and death, is being tackled in two main ways.

We have already printed 3D liver tissue and kidneys , turned skin cells into stem cells and stem cells into organs. With these developments, we are approaching an era when we will replace our natural organs with ones that are stronger and keep us alive longer.

It’s believed in the future it may be possible to copy the contents of our brains onto a hard-drive and then upload it into an avatar or AI system . This means that by perfecting the mapping of the human brain and transferring our consciousness onto a computer, we could live longer, either in the computer, as a humanoid or as a hologram.

Why it’s important?
According to the Burrill Report which analyses the life sciences market, regenerative medicine attracted $1.3 billion of private equity funding in 2013 .

In 2015, the National Institute of Health in the US requested nearly $1.2 billion in funding for ageing research and treatment . According to Cision PR Newswire, the future of the anti-ageing market is promising, with opportunities in skin care and hair care.

In 2016, The Global Anti-Ageing Market was worth $250 billion and it was estimated to reach $331.41 billion by 2021.

The Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, one of the first anti-ageing initiatives, was started by venture capitalist Paul F. Glenn in 1965. Since 2007, the foundation has distributed annual grants of $60,000 to independent researchers doing promising work on ageing.

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, who has a gene associated with Parkinson’s disease, has given $150 million to efforts to use big data to understand DNA . The other founder of Google, Larry Page , has set up an anti-ageing company Calico , whose mission is to harness technology to better understand what controls lifespans. It aims to find ways to allow people to live longer and healthier lives.

As technology and science progress, there will be greater investment in ventures seeking immortality. With each passing year, investment is likely to increase significantly.

The butterfly effect?
Tech companies are on a mission to help people live full and healthy lives for longer – or forever. Meanwhile, the discovery of technologies that intervene in human physiology to cure disease and repair injuries have accelerated.

There are reports the super-rich are turning to cryonics – deep freezing the body after they’ve died – in order to cheat death. They hope to be revived in the future when science has found ways to deal with ageing and disease.

Great strides have been made in Gene Therapy/RNA Interference, which allows
specific genes associated with disease processes to be silenced.

Futurologist, Dr Ian Pearson  believes humans will one day be hooked up to external machines while alive and that this technology could improve memory and sensory capacity . The former cybernetics engineer argues that after death, 99 per cent of the entity that is you, will still be running on a machine.
There is an increase in the number of people attempting DIY life extensions . Liz Parrish is the founder and CEO of BioViva , a US company which offers anti-ageing therapies. She has undergone gene therapy which involved having her telomeres (a structure at the end of a chromosome) lengthened. It’s believed this could stop or slow the ageing process. Another such explorer is Darren Moore who has experimented with longevity drugs which have turned back the biological clocks on the mice they were first tested on.

In the future, we will see more and more companies investing in the idea of unlimited longevity and individuals putting themselves forward in a bid to extend their lives.

The Pioneers
Dmitry Itskov 
Founded by Dimitry Itskov, the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies within the next three decades that will enable the transfer of an individual’s personality to an advanced non-biological carrier, thus extending life even to the point of immortality.

Larry Ellison
Ellison has created the Lawrence Ellison Foundation which is dedicated to understanding lifespan development processes and age-related diseases. He has invested over $300 million in ageing research and the mysterious workings of the human brain.

Peter Thiel 
Through a venture capital fund called Founder’s Fund and through the Thiel Foundation , co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel has invested heavily in some ambitious tech start-ups. One of is Alcor , a groundbreaking cryogenics company whose ambition is to freeze living human bodies, halting nearly all organ functions and cell processes for years to come.

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google
Google’s biotech research division, Calico, aims to better understand the science of ageing. The company has partnered with pharmaceutical giant AbbeVie and is rumoured to be developing a drug that mimics naturally-occurring human genes responsible for long life.

These billionaires have invested heavily in different quests for immortality and show no signs of cutting back on expenditure.

Global hotspots?
United States, Silicon Valley .

Above: Altered Carbon Promo – The History of Immortality

By Tshepo Narvis

About Tshepo
Tshepo Xola Narvis graduated from AFDA (BA Motion Picture and Medium) specialising in Writing and Directing. He has worked at M-Net and is a young gifted man at the epicentre of today’s youth culture. He believes he is his generations voice. He has an impeccable eye for details and his focus has been on finding new ways of changing, challenging and moulding a new identity to Africa’s narrative space. He is a creative and a master of his craft.

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Image credit: Core Spirit
Video credit: Netflix

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