Live Forever? Seems Like We’re On The Cusp Of Something Huge

immortal jellyfish

Scientists from Harvard and the University of New South Wales now say they have discovered how to reverse the ageing process. However natural selection has developed potential biological immortality in at least one species, the jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii.

It is generally believed that biological forms have inherent limitations that medical interventions or engineering may or may not be able to overcome. In religious contexts, immortality is often stated to be among the promises by God (or other deities) to human beings who show goodness or else follow divine law. The ancient Egyptians were greatly preoccupied with afterlife, and each Egyptian held out hope for being resurrected after death to join an eternal circle of regeneration. But the way to the next world was fraught with peril. One had to circumvent demons who waited to sideline the unguarded. Safe passage depended upon being prepared.

Scientists now say they have discovered how to reverse the ageing process. The research has focused on mice, but early clinical trials have also been conducted on humans. The scientists said they switched youthful genes on and older genes off, using naturally occurring proteins and molecules. Professor of genetics at Harvard and UNSW, David Sinclair, led the research team.

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AUDIO: Listen to Sue Lannin’s report (The World Today)

“We’ve discovered genes that control how the body fights against ageing and these genes, if you turn them on just the right way, they can have very powerful effects, even reversing ageing – at least in mice so far,” he said.

“We fed them a molecule that’s called NMN and this reversed ageing completely within just a week of treatment in the muscle, and now we’re looking to reverse all aspects of ageing if possible.”

Professor Sinclair said the breakthroughs could be used to develop drugs to restore youthfulness in human cells.

“We’ve gone from mice into early human studies actually. There have been some clinical trials around the world, and we’re hoping in the next few years to know if this will actually work in people as well,” he said.

The clinical trials were small studies but showed promising results in humans, he said.

“They show that the molecules that extend lifespan in mice are safe in people; they seem to be anti-inflammatory, so they might be useful against disease’s inflammation, like skin redness or even inflammatory bowel disease,” he said.

Certain scientists, futurists, and philosophers, have theorized about the immortality of the human body, and advocate that human immortality is achievable in the first few decades of the 21st century, whereas other advocates believe that life extension is a more achievable goal in the short term, with immortality awaiting further research breakthroughs into an indefinite future. Physical immortality could be a state of life that allows a person to avoid death and maintain conscious thought. It can mean the unending existence of a person from a physical source other than organic life, such as a computer. Active pursuit of physical immortality can either be based on scientific trends, such as cryonics, digital immortality, breakthroughs inrejuvenation or predictions of an impending technological singularity

Biologists have chosen the word immortal to designate cells that are not limited by the Hayflick limit, where cells no longer divide because of DNA damage or shortened telomeres. The first and still most widely used immortal cell line is HeLa, developed from cells taken from the malignant cervical tumor of Henrietta Lackswithout her consent in 1951. Prior to the 1961 work of Leonard Hayflick and Paul Moorhead, there was the erroneous belief fostered by Alexis Carrel that all normalsomatic cells are immortal. By preventing cells from reaching senescence one can achieve biological immortality; telomeres, a “cap” at the end of DNA, are thought to be the cause of cell aging. Every time a cell divides the telomere becomes a bit shorter; when it is finally worn down, the cell is unable to split and dies. Telomerase is an enzyme which rebuilds the telomeres in stem cells and cancer cells, allowing them to replicate an infinite number of times. No definitive work has yet demonstrated that telomerase can be used in human somatic cells to prevent healthy tissues from aging. On the other hand, scientists hope to be able to grow organs with the help of stem cells, allowing organ transplants without the risk of rejection, another step in extending human life expectancy. These technologies are the subject of ongoing research, and are not yet realized.

mobius

 The Möbius strip is often a symbol of immortality as it is a surface with only one side and only one boundary component. 

When it comes right down to it, we have absolutely no idea what the future will hold but  2014 has seen major advances in AI, VR, AR, quantum computing and longevity scienceThe Transhumanist Wager is a 2013 philosophical and science fiction novel by American-Hungarian author, journalist, world-traveller, and philosopherZoltan Istvan. It was a #1 bestseller in both Philosophy and Science Fiction Visionary & Metaphysical on Amazon. It was a first place Winner in Visionary Fiction at the International Book Awards. The novel follows the life of Jethro Knights, a philosopher whose efforts to promote transhumanism ultimately lead to a global revolution.

Will these unprecedented breakthroughs usher in a utopian neo-renaissance? Will technological and medical innovation enable us to live practically forever so that we’re free to pursue our passions all day long? Or, will we find ourselves an Orwellian dystopia plagued by a broken environment, thought control and murderous AI oligarch overlords who’ll invade our minds in an effort to milk us for money and energy as we jump willingly into ultra-plush matrix pods of their design?

Who knows?  The book The Transhumanist Wager introduces the philosophy TEF (Teleological Egocentric Functionalism), Istvan’s Three Laws of Transhumanism, and the concept of making a Transhumanist Wager.TEF aims to establish a nonreligious and stronger moral system in people and society needed to successfully contend with coming technological change. Istvan states:

“TEF is predicated on logic, a simple wager that every human faces:

If a reasoning human being loves and values life, they will want to live as long as possible—the desire to be immortal. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to know if they’re going to be immortal once they die. To do nothing doesn’t help the odds of attaining immortality—since it seems evident that everyone will die someday and possibly cease to exist. To try to do something scientifically constructive towards ensuring immortality beforehand is the most logical conclusion.”

Istvan’s Three Laws of Transhumanism are:

  1. A transhumanist must safeguard one’s own existence above all else.
  2. A transhumanist must strive to achieve omnipotence as expediently as possible—so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First Law.
  3. A transhumanist must safeguard value in the universe—so long as one’s actions do not conflict with the First and Second Laws.

Istvan states that in the 21st century, everyone faces a “Transhumanist Wager.”

A guide book by journalist Chris T. Armstrong is being written about the philosophy of The Transhumanist Wager and the ideas of Zoltan Istvan.

.Zoltan Istvan  writes for practically every major technology website (Gizmodo, Huffington Post, Motherboard Wired etc.) He’s the founder of the Transhumanist Party, which aims to draw attention and dollars to cutting-edge science and technology. He’s also traveled around the world on a god damned sailboat and surfed down an erupting volcano. He’s also pretty optimistic about the future. Zoltan Istvan author of The Transhumanist Wager  You can hear his talk his week at:

http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/b/e/c/bec500f7cf11e84f/ZOLTAN_-_12815_11.11_PM.mp3?c_id=8267134&expiration=1423167148&hwt=deaf584cbdf926621f65c4f04ce2863f

the_great_pyramids

What form an unending human life would take, or whether an immaterial soulexists and possesses immortality, has been a major point of focus of religion, as well as the subject of speculation, fantasy, and debate.

The belief in an afterlife is a fundamental tenet of most religions, including Hinduism, Sikhism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism,Islam, Judaism, and the Bahá’í Faith; however, the concept of an immortal soul is not. The “soul” itself has different meanings and is not used in the same way in different religions and different denominations of a religion. For example, various branches of Christianity have disagreeing views on the soul’s immortality and its relation to the body. The modern mind has addressed the undesirability of immortality. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov commented, “There is nothing frightening about an eternal dreamless sleep. Surely it is better than eternal torment in Hell and eternal boredom in Heaven.”

Physical immortality has also been imagined as a form of eternal torment, as in Mary Shelley‘s short story “The Mortal Immortal”, the protagonist of which witnesses everyone he cares about dying around him. Jorge Luis Borges explored the idea that life gets its meaning from death in the short story “The Immortal“; an entire society having achieved immortality, they found time becoming infinite, and so found no motivation for any action. In his book “Thursday’s Fictions”, and the stage and film adaptations of it, Richard James Allen tells the story of a woman named Thursday who tries to cheat the cycle of reincarnation to get a form of eternal life. At the end of this fantastical tale, her son, Wednesday, who has witnessed the havoc his mother’s quest has caused, forgoes the opportunity for immortality when it is offered to him.Likewise, the novel Tuck Everlasting depicts immortality as “falling off the wheel of life” and is viewed as a curse as opposed to a blessing.

University of Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn, in his essay “Religion and Respect,” writes, “. . . things do not gain meaning by going on for a very long time, or even forever. Indeed, they lose it. A piece of music, a conversation, even a glance of adoration or a moment of unity have their alloted time. Too much and they become boring. An infinity and they would be intolerable.”

SeventhSeal

The Seventh Seal” is a slice of life from a 14th century Swedish village, which was experiencing the devastating effects of the plague. Perhaps the most famous scene in the film is when a knight plays a match of chess against the Grim Reaper.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egypt

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-04/scientists-reverse-ageing-process-in-mice/5865714

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Art Selectronic is an artist-led initiative, that supports grass-roots contemporary art that remains unswayed by fashion, trends or the whims of government funding. The project involves ongoing research into the placing of contemporary art, it’s audiences and it’s relationship to the everyday. We place great emphasis on context. Our mission is to support new works of contemporary art and foster an audience from a wide range of backgrounds.
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