Never Say Die | MIT Technology Review

It’s pretty cool. Beat the alternative, as they say. But one decidedly uncool thing about turning 50 is that my “bad” LDL cholesterol is too high. The obvious solution here is to improve my diet and exercise more. But if it were that simple, no one would have high cholesterol, would they? Another option could be to take statins – use drugs to bring it down. Lots of people do it, but it’s a treatment, not a cure, and the side effects can be intense.

Or, just maybe, I could have my genes edited using CRISPR, as a patient from New Zealand recently did, to permanently lower my LDL. Since heart disease is one of the leading causes of death, this could extend my life significantly. There is still much to learn about the effectiveness of such treatment, but the mere prospect is quite amazing.

The things we can do to modify our bodies today would have sounded like science fiction just a few years ago. Scratch that – some of them still sound like science fiction. Aging and death have long been our inevitable fates, constants of life that begin with birth. What if aging was not inevitable? What if we could slow down or even reverse the process? It may be less wacky than you imagine.

A flotilla of Silicon Valley billionaires and elites, and even the Saudi royal family, have poured huge sums into this issue, funding startups and research that seek to extend our stay on Earth. Antonio Regalado tells the story of the quest for medical rejuvenation: researchers want to reprogram our cells to make them younger and allow us to live longer and healthier lives.

Or even more intriguing: what if we could cheat death and live forever? Because we can. Or at least our digital replicas can, as Charlotte Jee learned when she trained an AI to create simulacra of her parents. The technology she explored is one of many intended to allow the living to commune with the dead, in this case via Amazon Alexa.

But even if we can live forever in a smart speaker, right now there’s still no getting around death. Of course, there are a lot of people working on this. Perhaps you want your corpse to be stored at -196°C in hopes of being brought back to life one day. The field of cryonics continues to advance, even if it is “a hopeless aspiration that reveals a terrible ignorance of biology”, as one scientist puts it.

For those who have accepted their fate but want their death to help others live longer, there is always the option of donating their body to science. While this is something you’ve surely heard of, it’s nothing like what you’ve probably imagined. Abby Ohlheiser pulls back the curtain to reveal how this intimate process really works.

I hope this problem gives you food for thought. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can reach me at [email protected]

We meet on the other side,

Carpet

Leave a Comment