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David Fuchs

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If physical immortality was perfected and happened tomorrow, and people could become young again, what would be the ramifications?

Edited : IN VERY LARGE LETTERS, NO TALKING ABOUT RELIGION IN THIS CONVERSATION.

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Since we are only a few years (10-20) away from this happening. I thought now would be a good time to discuss this.

How would physical immortality affect society, government, industry, relationships, war, funding for research, investments and investing, birth rates, the law, people psyches, what sort of people would become immortal if it was low cost and available to everyone, what sort of people would not become immortal, will there be a war between mortals and immortals. Would politicians continue down the same short sighted path, or would they take a longer view, and in the end would that be better or worse for the population at large.

We do not need to discuss population growth, exponential and exponential minus some (n) growth, leads to the planets "people limit" being exceeded within the same 5 year time period. We do how ever have to discuss how to slow down the birth rate through smart policies, education, and lifting people out of poverty,

I am giving a very short period to discussing immortality ... one month. Does anyone think we can get eternity right in that amount of time?

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Closing Statement from David Fuchs

We live in an age that has linear growth in some areas and exponential growth in others. Growth of knowledge in biology is exponential. We have citizen scientists doing great science in back rooms and garages, adding to this growth of knowledge, and this trend towards more people doing biology and genetics will only grow as tools that are easier to use or more game like (http://fold.it) are developed. Robotic tools are also being developed, which will also accelerate our knowledge of biology and genetics, by allowing one person to do the work that would have required hundreds in the past.

Many of the points made here were valid, many were off topic, and many were a result of belief systems being threatened.

The good ...

Exponential population growth and exponential minus the death rate not being roughly equal long term (John Smith). That immortality could be a driving factor pushing us into space, colonizing the solar system and beyond (Dr Sivaram Hariharan). That some people might try to centralize power and control the rest of humanity. That perhaps people would grow up and begin taking the long view (online observer).

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    Dec 30 2012: Although immortality sounds great from the POV of mankind conquering space and time, the practical aspects of it namely the avoidance of cancer will be BIG ASK. As the living body is proportionally longer exposed to the battle of life against elements that seek to bring it down (Free-radical damage is one such example), the probability for cancer exponentially increases. Unless science also finds a way to solve this problem immortality might turn out to be a malignant/cancerous curse. But this is only looking at this from a totally materialistic POV. If one looks to the Hindu Vedaanta, we are already immortal as we are not the body but the spiritual consciousness in it. The body is just a cloak that the spirit puts on changes it as it get worn off and old. And I wonder whether any spirit would like to wear the same cloak forever in the name of immortality :-):-) Dr Sivaram Hariharan Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, PSG College of Pharmacy, Bhaarath.
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      Dec 30 2012: The following is speculation, the cancer question can possibly be answer with programmed cell death and DRACO (Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) Activated Caspase Oligomerizer) targeted at the specific cancer.

      The rest about already being immortal. I will stay away from, speculation about religion in a serious technical discussions, is inherently time consuming and unproductive.
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        Dec 30 2012: David,
        your claim that immortality is about religion is a misdirection. Immortality has been PROVEN by scientists. The subject now moves to the scientific arena.

        For those that examine the evidence and the scientific methods used by the famous scientists to obtain it, the result is “case proven”.

        Some scientists, and thinkers, who were initially open-minded skeptics but after thorough investigation accepted this truth are: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Oliver Lodge, Arthur Findlay, Camille Flammarion, Dr Baraduc, Professor Richet, Alfred Russel Wallace, Professor Robert Hare, Professor Albert Einstein, Marconi, F.W. Myers, Professor William James and Dr Carrington.

        “I tell you we do persist. Communication is possible. I have proved that the people who communicate are who and what they say they are. The conclusion is that survival is scientifically proved by scientific investigation.”
        Sir Oliver Lodge F.R.S.
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          Dec 30 2012: You reek of the irrational. Please go away.
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    Dec 30 2012: As a Christian, I have no problem with spiritual or physical immortality. However I see no reason to believe that the disease ridden bodies we now inhabit will be capable of much longer life than we presently enjoy. If nothing else, Big Pharma will ensure that there is a need for ever increasing quantities of their product, & the genetic load of our increasing mutation count will do nothing to alleviate the problem.
    It may well be that we are already immortal spirits, & that immortal bodies are available to us. The only problem we have is in believing it.

    :-)
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      Dec 30 2012: Nice religious and anti pharma rant. Now go away.

      This technology is going to happen and within 20 to 30 years. I am trying to determine what the outcome socially, technologically, government wise and business wise is going to be. This is not a place to espouse your religious views. I do not care about your views on religion. They are worthless in this debate.
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        Dec 30 2012: David: If as U say that the technology for immortality eventuates in another decade or two, one of the +ves to develop from this would be the colonizing of space. If overpopulation becomes a factor on this planet due to even say double triple lifespans, there would be no option but to look spaceward. BTW, I personally believe that in 20-30 yrs time lifespans would double or triple. Immortality may be further down the line say by 2100.
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        Dec 30 2012: Religion aside. You would need to give some specific reasoning behind your claim that immortality is viable within the next few decades.
        If we are going to live forever it would be nice if we could be more tolerant of others' views.
        http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_what_doctors_don_t_know_about_the_drugs_they_prescribe.html
        :-)
  • Dec 30 2012: until we solve disparity between the rich and the poor. The powerful and the weak. Living forever will just mean access to despots and tyrants to continue their reign of terror.

    Every technology developed today shall be attained by the rich FIRST.

    Second problem we'll face is quality of mental health at a prolonged age. Nature has given us a perfect balance between life and longevity. Creatures that live longer tend to have slower metabolism, while those that lives shorter burns themselves up in a flurry of activities.

    To sustain continuous indefinite burning of energy would mean overwhelming consumption to keep up with the level of energy needs. So what's the worst case scenario?

    1) Large businesses overtaking governments run by board of directors (elders) that maintains the reign of the company and the decision making.
    2) The risk of nuclear warfare will be higher as despots built deeper bunkers with suppliers for them to wait out nuclear winters.
    3) The rift between the poor and the rich will be even larger as the upper echelons of society forces their value system against the poor. At the end of the day, somebody has to do the job. It'll either be robots or the poor sods.


    Frankly, I wouldn't want this to be unleashed to the world until we solve the problems that we face above.
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      Dec 30 2012: While the question was about physical immortality, and what will occur most people posting here didn't get it at all. Thanks. :)

      I need to disagree with your conclusions.

      "until we solve disparity between the rich and the poor. The powerful and the weak. Living forever will just mean access to despots and tyrants to continue their reign of terror. "

      If you hadn't noticed things are about to get much cheaper and decentralized.

      Energy is about to get much cheaper. So cheap in fact, that transporting the energy over the grid will cost more than the energy itself. Ruining a bunch of carbon based businesses.

      Manufacturing will become more localized due to customization, automation, and transportation costs. This will end the majority of the world economy. Raw materials will be the only things traded..
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    Dec 30 2012: Aha!
    If we were immortal, then, there have to be:

    (1) No HAPPINESS ---- because happiness is the feeling of things be a-step-better for keeping one's own DNA alive.

    (2) No SUFFERING ---- because suffering is the feeling of things be a-step-worse or no a-step-better for keeping one's own DNA alive.

    (3) DULL and NUMB all day long.


    Who wants to be that ???



    (For details, see the 1st article, points 1-3, at https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=D24D89AE8B1E2E0D&id=D24D89AE8B1E2E0D%21283&sc=documents)
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      Dec 30 2012: English as a second language?
  • Dec 30 2012: Seems no one can answer your question in a literal manner. I think immortality would be wonderful. Since there is no "proven god" nor "afterlife" then living forever (or maybe just a 1000 years) would be fantastic. People would take a few hundred years to adjust, just like children growing up through adolescence and puberty. As we became wiser our focus would be on cleaning up the earth and atmosphere. We would not become Utopian but we would be "oh so wise" and content knowing that anything negative could be easily remedied. Yeah, indeed, I would like to live in a younger body for millennia.
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      Dec 30 2012: Hi Observer,
      But there is a PROVEN afterlife.
      Many think it not possible to prove such a thing, many ignore the evidence, many are unaware of the evidence, many have not thought exactly what standard it is that would prove it to them, many think that life-after-death is a question of religion or belief and not knowledge.

      But for those that examine the evidence and the scientific methods used by the famous scientists to obtain it, the result is “case proven”.

      Some scientists, and thinkers, who were initially open-minded skeptics but after thorough investigation accepted this truth are: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Oliver Lodge, Arthur Findlay, Camille Flammarion, Dr Baraduc, Professor Richet, Alfred Russel Wallace, Professor Robert Hare, Professor Albert Einstein, Marconi, F.W. Myers, Professor William James and Dr Carrington.

      “I tell you we do persist. Communication is possible. I have proved that the people who communicate are who and what they say they are. The conclusion is that survival is scientifically proved by scientific investigation.”
      Sir Oliver Lodge F.R.S.
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        Dec 30 2012: Please go away. I am looking for a discussion about what happens to society when physical immortality happens, not a bunch of religious nut jobs trying to sell their religions. Oh and by the way you make no sense what so ever...

        Seek counseling.
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          Dec 30 2012: "Please go away... not a bunch of religious nut jobs trying to sell their religions" - polite request, with explanation, will comply.

          But "... you make no sense what so ever..." is insulting, so I feel a need to reply.

          On top of the names and quote I made I can point you closer to the scientifically obtained evidence if required, but I am guessing that you probably have a closed mind on this issue.
          “I tell you we do persist. Communication is possible. I have proved that the people who communicate are who and what they say they are. The conclusion is that survival is scientifically proved by scientific investigation.”
          Sir Oliver Lodge F.R.S.
  • Dec 30 2012: The question I have is what do you all think is going to happen that's not happening now that will make living forever possible within whatever time frame you think is likely? If you have a mortal mindset and are not open to the possibility that the belief that "death is inevitable" is wrong, then of course living forever is impossible. If you think living forever may become possible through medical, scientific or technological advances, then you're a victim to whatever their rate of progress might be. To the mortal mind living forever and physical immortality don't make sense, you're not going to be able to think your way there or believe your way there. As Leonard Orr, father of rebirthing, says: "We are all physically immortal until we prove otherwise". No one HAS to die, people kill themselves by not taking responsibility for their lives and either consciously or unconsciously doing stupid stuff or not doing the intelligent stuff. If you don't want to die from an accident, don't be a person who creates a fatal accident. If you want to live forever, start taking action to be FULLY alive on a daily basis. As long as you're fully alive, you're not dying. The overriding issue though is that unless you have a passion for people to fully live - not just the people you love or your family, but all human life - and are willing to end all discrimination - including race, belief, physical condition, economic or social status and behaviors - there won't be the collective desire, courage or incentive to pursue creating an environment conducive to living forever. It comes back to having to break the habits and structure of a mortal mindset in order to imagine a world without death. If the idea of creating such a world is of interest, you might want to check out People Unlimited Inc, the only community I know of dedicated to living physical immortality. Live long enough and we'll solve every future life issue we face, but we'll have to first value life above everything else.
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      Dec 30 2012: Good lord, you sound like a seminar I need a purple sheet and sneakers for. Thank you no, I will not be checking out People Unlimited Inc ...

      okay I did. creepy picture, and the line

      "We're not a commune. We're not a start-up religion. We're a community of people self-selected by our commitment to deathless living that have come together to support one another"

      That says run the frak away and contact the authorities jones town is about to happen again.
  • Dec 30 2012: Sorry 300 years seems like a real problem Folrever in a worn-out body seems doubtful. We can't even do a good job with the thyroid.
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      Dec 30 2012: I can see why so many people posting questions here have hissy fits. No one actually answers the questions.

      Truth be told the discussion is about what will happen to society when immortality occurs.
  • Dec 30 2012: 10-20 years? That is very optimistic. I can't see it happening before 2040. It will take a VERY long time for "everybody is a twenty year old" too happen. What we will see is 120 year olds who look 100. 80 year olds who look 60. 40-70 year olds who look 40. Everyone else will be unchanged. It will just stretch the age spectrum. Fast forward 100 years and it has been stretched again. 50 years more and we will see a population pyramid dominated by people older than 40. At some point along this spectrum the population's exceeding of 12 billion is causing great famines in 2nd and 1st world countries.The problems of today with 3rd world countries not receiving the technology they need will adapt to 22nd and 23rd century problems of the same type. It will take a long time to get used to beauty pageants spanning decades, but hey, there are weirder things on the internet today. TLC will run programs on houses with 6 generations living in them. Hopefully the whole fiasco of everything will make for good television.
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      Dec 30 2012: You paint a very bleak view of the possible future of mankind. Bad day? :)

      I see some of what you are suggesting happening. The playboy channel with 200 year old's, in 25 year old bodies, dancing on poles due to Social security failing. With people commenting on google style glasses, and what passes for twitter, "damn I cant believe she is your great, great, great grand mother, she is hot".
  • Dec 30 2012: I don't want to live forever, I just want to have quality of life while I'm here.
    I'm 40 and my knees are 70. My back is 80. My short term memory is 90.
    If you could give me 80 with no pain until I go, I'd take that.
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      Dec 30 2012: Why so physically roughed up?
  • Dec 30 2012: I think we would be cruel to each other.
    When people really live their lives, it's when they are facing death. "If you died tomorrow, what would you do"- kind of thing.
    So the ramifications would be a monotonously and mankind would become extinct.
    But finally I would refer to the song by Queen: "Who wants to live forever?"
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      Dec 30 2012: A run of a thousand years might be fun though.
    • Dec 30 2012: It would not be immortality forever: eventually an accident, violence, disease or your brain being maxed out on memories (which would probably cause some kind of dementia) would get you and of course the heat death of the universe is more than willing to mop up the survivors.
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        Dec 30 2012: In the fullness of time, someone you know will walk up to you and say, hey brain add on do you want it? :)
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    Dec 29 2012: Yep, the brains the problem. Instead of immortality of the same body, Why not go for both. Crack the immortal problem and find a download solution into a younger form where you can self edit the transferred copy to suit the new forms age.

    Immortal perfect health?

    Continuous download?
  • Dec 29 2012: Physical immortality is quite easy to achieve today. But considering we are each a copy of God, spiritual immortality is more desirable. If a husband achieves physical immortality while his kids and spouses won't take the discipline to get it, his life could become so miserable that he could regret that goal.
    However, to seek the highest and get the rest of life continues to challenge all humanity. How could it be that all human efforts to study and develop continues to limit itself to two out of the three parts of life? We all seem to care only about 1. Entry into life 2. Experience of living.
    The third and highest, because we are all spirit, is the exit from life through death. Fear has curtailed our courage to find God. Yet it's the best goal of life attainable today when we remember that spiritual evolution is eternal, continuing and uninterrupted.
    Recently, TED asked for someone to take him through a short course to achieve a wish on sustainability. I would gladly do it at no cost and as soon as he may wish to in his own home or anywhere. My method, as you can imagine, is based on that third part of life's process where we all must eventually discover why truth is the highest technology.
    Thanks for your time.
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    Dec 29 2012: It would be boring, might cause overpopulation, might stop evolution. Besides you are already immortal or was that immoral?
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    Dec 29 2012: that 10-20 is more like 50-100, and it will be extremely expensive at the first time. we can expect a slow and gradual change. the first people that achieved immortality will not even know about it, because they will just receive a therapy that makes them healthier, and extend their expected lifetime with a decade or two. they won't know if more effective therapies will come in that time period or not. maybe after a series of 3-5 such successful prolonging of the "inevitable" they will develop a sense of confidence that they in fact never have to die.

    more details in
    http://www.ted.com/talks/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_can_avoid_aging.html

    that said, i believe that actual economic effects will come not sooner than 100-150 years in the future, which effectively renders all speculations a total waste of time. we have no idea how the world will look like 100 years from now.
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      Dec 29 2012: With computing power doubling every ~12 months, and our knowledge of biology growing at the rate it is, it will happen far sooner than 50-100 years. With periodic treatment, extending telomeres of cells in a petri dish leads to them basically being able to replicate forever, breaking Hayflick's limit, without becoming cancerous.

      http://www.progenitorcells.org/content/safe-rapid-telomere-extension-diverse-progenitor-cell-types

      There are two people I know, already moving onto mouse models with this. This will happen much sooner than you think.
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        Dec 29 2012: telomers are only one of the many
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          Dec 29 2012: Yeah I know, junk protein build up in the cells, random DNA copying errors, etc etc. It is all solvable in short order.
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        Dec 29 2012: wanna bet? i bet 5000 usd that immortality does not come before 50 years from now. let it be 20000.
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          Dec 29 2012: I will take that bet. But we need to define immortality. the ability to live forever not including accidents or superman bullet proof immortality? :)
        • Dec 29 2012: I agree with Krisztian. If repairing telomeres was all there is to it then there would be many immortal animals. Apparently it's really difficult to repair telomeres indefinitely and not get cancer within a few decades, humans have the additional problem that the human brain deteriorates with age, independent of the state of the telomeres.
  • Dec 29 2012: "If physical immortality was perfected and happened tomorrow, and people could become young again, what would be the ramifications?"

    In the short term it depends on how it is implemented:

    1) it's expensive, only the rich can get it: you'll get a sudden increase in economic inequality, as well as poorer families putting all their savings towards granting one of their children immortality, there could also be riots and violent raids on health care facilities by poor people who know they won't be able to save enough money for the treatment during their lifetime

    2) it's not expensive, or covered by universal health care: you'll get overpopulation because it will take people a while to figure out that immortal beings should have very few children

    In the long term you'll probably get a society where people are incredibly afraid of accidents and disease, so there world would be full of all kinds of security measures that we would find ridiculous today. There would also be a battle between, on one hand, the wisdom of the ages people would get from just living a long time and, on the other hand, the persistence of old ideas people grew up with it and are not being challenged by new generations. Basically, the question would be: if people had become immortal in 1800, would centuries of life experience eventually make people wise enough to see slavery for what it is, or would people forever remain comfortable with it because they grew up with it?
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      Dec 29 2012: At the rate we are going over population is going to be a problem, immortality or not, there is only a 5 or 10 year difference between exponential growth and exponential minus a death rate. Personally I think we have already reached the limit and passed it due to momentum attached to global warming. By momentum I mean, even if we magically stop all carbon usage now, the temperature will still rise for years to come. Which is why I wanted to avoid this discussion and have it as a later TED conversation.

      "if people had become immortal in 1800, would centuries of life experience eventually make people wise enough to see slavery for what it is,"

      Interesting question, after the age of 50 people do not seem to like new things or change, some people even younger dislike anything new. It brings up another interesting point, will making someone biologically 24 alter the way they think and adapt? Will that ability to adapt allow you to more easily leave your comfort zone? Without knowing that, the question is a rather hard one to answer.

      I would like to say that slavery would have ended. It might have taken several more years though and might have not lead to a civil war.
      • Dec 29 2012: Death rates do matter, especially if immortal people would keep having children at a high age, just imagine the birthrate if 60 year old people had as many babies as 30 year old people.

        Let's call the scenario where people die within two generations after having children and only have children when they are young, scenario A, call the other scenario, where immortal people keep having children every generation, scenario B. Let's assume that per generation a woman has 4 children (strong population growth) and track population size per generation:

        Scenario A: 2 6 14 28 56 112 224 448 896 1792 ...

        Scenario B: 2 6 18 54 162 486 1458 4374 13122 39366 ...


        "I would like to say that slavery would have ended. It might have taken several more years though and might have not lead to a civil war."

        I hope that's true, but it might not be. Slavery existed for thousands of years without anyone raising an eyebrow...


        @below

        The number of people the Earth can sustain depends on the living standard and level of technology at that time. It is not a fixed number.

        You assume that we'll hit some wall in the near future which will, according to you, coincide with the first people achieving immortality and then yes, there will be only a 5-10 year delay. However technology will still continue to develop afterwards and then immortality will start to matter again.
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          Dec 29 2012: I understand the numbers. What I was pointing out was that the planets upper limit will be reached in in either scenario, within 5 - 10 years of each other. So in scenario A we have an addition 10 years over scenario B. Perhaps I should have explained that better.

          The numbers are not that simple. You have the people who chose immortality and the ones that will not. You also have people who will wait till they are old, then become scared of the rapidly approaching hand of death.

          The earth can support between 9-11 billion people depending on whose numbers you you use. For the sake of argument lets use the higher number 11 billion. If immortality happens in 20 years (2033) we will have 9 billion people on earth. The standard chart says we will reach 11 billion people in 2055. So how much growth do we get in 22 years even if everyone is immortal? Not that much.

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