The Pursuit of Physical Immortality

The defining political conflict of the 21st century will be the battle over life and death. On one side stand the partisans of mortality, who counsel humanity to quietly accept our morbid fate and go gentle into that good night. On the other is the party of life, who rage against the dying of the light and yearn to extend the enjoyment of healthy life to as many as possible for as long as possible.  Ronald Bailey

Energy and persistence conquer all things.  Benjamin Franklin

We find ourselves in a bewildering world.  We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask: what is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is?   Stephen Hawking

Dear Reader,

Like Stephen Hawking, we would like to make sense of things, but our questions differ slightly from his, namely:

(1) What is Ultimate Reality?

(2) Is there an after-life?

(3) Does God exist?

(4) Is Religion God’s agency on Earth?

The answers would be useful.  Armed with answers, we might intelligently devise a strategy for living life.  You may have already settled these questions to your satisfaction. If not to your satisfaction, at least you may have made peace with them. Perhaps a fragile peace of compromise you would prefer not upset.  We believe that despite the widely disparate beliefs of mankind, a collective strategy is not only possible, but reasonable and desirable. A strategy that works whether you are atheist, agnostic or religious.

For two millennia, two worldviews have competed in the intellectual marketplace of ideas: Faith and Reason. Neither worldview is entirely satisfactory. Faith promises an after-life with meaning and purpose, but at the price of subjugating reason to prophets privy to divine revelation. Reason leaves us free [thinkers?], but at the cost of our lives, meaning and purpose. Tolstoy summarized it thus:

My position was terrible. I knew I could find nothing along the path of reasonable knowledge except a denial of life . . . By faith it appears that in order to understand the meaning of life I must renounce my reason, the very thing for which alone a meaning is required.  Leo Tolstoy

Is there an alternative worldview?  One that incorporates meaning & purpose, and does not require us to renounce faith or reason. What is the best strategy for living life given our ambiguous knowledge of Ultimate-Reality and short lifespan?  Given the slow progress of acquiring fundamental knowledge relative to human lifespan, why not aggressively pursue physical immortality? Why not buy the time necessary to live to know Ultimate-Reality? The science of anti-aging medicine, although embryonic, exists. The option for extended life, if not physical immortality, provides theists more time to perfect themselves and serve God in this life. Agnostics may procrastinate further pending better knowledge, and atheists have nothing to lose. Only misanthropes will be aghast. This strategy aligns the interests of atheists, agnostics, and theists, and directs them to a common end. That would be an epochal paradigm shift in our lifetimes.

Consider this proposition: If science and medicine will ever advance to substantially extend human life-span, then Mankind should aggressively direct its resources toward that end, beginning now.

First, will science ever advance to substantially extend human life-span? The better bet by far is yes. But then, ever, could be eons, which would provide little or no motivation for us here and now.  Erik Drexler, a pioneer of nanotechnology, suggests that the technology may be available in thirty years:

Imagine someone who is now thirty years old. In another thirty years, biotechnology will have advanced greatly, yet that thirty year old will only be sixty. Statistical tables which assume no advances in medicine say that a thirty year old U.S. citizen can now expect to live almost fifty more years-that is, well into the 2030s. Fairly routine advances (of sorts demonstrated in animals) seem likely to add years, perhaps decades, to life by 2030. The mere beginnings of cell repair technology might extend life by several decades. In short, the medicine of 2010, 2020, and 2030 seems likely to extend our thirty-year-old’s life into the 2040s and 2050s. By then, if not before, medical advances may permit rejuvenation. Thus, those under thirty (and perhaps substantially older) can look forward -at least tentatively-to medicine’s overtaking their aging process and delivering them safely to an era of cell repair, vigor, and indefinite lifespan.  Eric K. Drexler

In chapter 4, Science & Medicine, we will make the case that people living today have a reasonable chance of living eons.

Second, are we violating some fundamental tenet of existence, i.e., that to be human means, ipso facto, we must die? Gerald Gruman addresses this issue of death is part of the natural cycle of life:

Every proponent of prolongevity has had to contend with the fact that within most systems of philosophy, science and religion, there have been tendencies to accept old age and death as inevitable occurrences on this earth, and to try to provide satisfying explanations for the existence of such harsh realities. These explanations engendered the belief that senescence and death are necessary and advantageous to the individual and to the human race, consequently, that it would be unwise to attempt to lengthen life. From the beginning, prolongevitism had to struggle against the paralyzing influence of this conformist and passivist attitude. Gerald J. Gruman

Further,

One of the puzzling characteristics of apologism is the strong emotion attached to this line of thought. For some reason, once a person decides that prolongevity is not possible, he proceeds to the (unnecessary) further assumption that prolongevity is not desirable. It is noteworthy how seldom the simple statement appears that, as of the present time, old age and death cannot be overcome; nearly always, the remark is found in a context of apologism. A statement of fact is made the core of a meshwork of ethical and esthetic judgments which obscure the original decision. Some psychologists and psychiatrists find that death is not of much concern to “normal”, “well-adjusted” individuals. However, it also seems that the basic mental crisis concerning death occurs about age five, and that somehow it disappears from consciousness between the ages of nine and twelve, probably because our culture applies strong pressures against expression of anger or fear about death. Of some pertinence is the concept of ‘cognitive dissonance,’ the psychological finding that, after making an uncomfortable decision at odds with his inner strivings, a person will tend subconsciously to refashion his beliefs to support the ‘reasonableness’ of his decision.  Gerald J. Gruman

Aesop’s fox, unable to reach the grapes, consoled himself by concluding they were sour anyway.

If indefinite life-span were possible, would its aggressive pursuit be unwise? There is only one way to find out. Do it. What could possibly be more purposive or meaningful than dedicating our lives to the pursuit of ultimate wisdom? — To divine the meaning and purpose of our existence, or god-like, create ex nihilo meaning and purpose for ourselves. We simply cannot do this without substantial additional lifetime.

What other strategy is there if, we prefer life to death, and a greater certainty for our worldview? This preference is no trivial issue. Substantial social and personal pathology derives from the nihilism that pervades western and other advanced civilizations.

It is in the light of our beliefs about the ultimate nature of reality that we formulate our conceptions of right and wrong; and it is in light of our conceptions of right and wrong that we frame our conduct, not only in relations of private life and economics. So far from being irrelevant, our metaphysical beliefs are the final determining factor in all our actions.  Aldous Huxley

What follows is an overview; a sketch of a strategy. This strategy is necessarily a collective strategy, requiring enormous economies of scale, an option not viable individually. The strategy is detailed in Chapter 6 Strategy & Conclusion. We aggressively pursue physical immortality by,

  1. Investing heavily in the appropriate medical sciences and infra-structure.
  2. Increasing dramatically the wealth available for such investment by:

2a. Deploying our military and economic assets to tap the ultimate resource  human minds, billions of human minds trapped in socialist, statist, totalitarian, oligarchic and/or otherwise corrupt regimes. All that is required to tap that immense resource is the rule of law, economic freedom and limited governments.

2b. Investing heavily in the development of fusion power. Ultimately, cheap and unlimited energy, will fuel unlimited wealth.

  1.          Investing heavily in the terra-formation of Mars. This permits diversification of our long term investments, and acts as a safety valve to offset the inevitable sclerosis of political institutions. Opportunities for cheap land and adventure (one of life’s necessities) in new worlds will rejuvenate Mother Earth.

Man is the only sentient being aware of the inevitability of his own Death. That knowledge is the background cosmic radiation of Man’s existence. If there is no afterlife, the inevitable senescence, disability and death of our friends, family, and ultimately ourselves, in an absurd theater of no observable meaning or purpose, makes life less than a zero sum game. Unless there is more, mankind’s existence is necessarily tragic. Humans are an intermediate life-form: we can degenerate over time into animals who require no meaning or purpose, or evolve to master the universe, find God or become one, find our purpose or create one. Nihilism, Evil, Despair and Death are but names for the same monster. It is time to declare war upon this ancient enemy.

The collective strategy proposed is optimistic, as reasonable as any, aligns fundamental interests, provides direction and a future. It harnesses our innate aggressiveness in the service of life and humanity, an aggressiveness that historically made mankind the dominant species on Earth. When you ‘grade’ this strategy, grade it on a curve. Compare it with existing alternatives. The optimistic alternatives require more faith and, sometimes, suspension of reason. The pessimistic alternatives require you to console yourself to inevitable extinction, never to know Ultimate Reality. This strategy does not require you to abandon faith or reason.

If baulked by the difficult, try the impossible. The Greek word for this urge is pothos; it recurs throughout Alexander’s life as a ‘longing for things not yet within reach, for the unknown, far distant, un-attained’, and it is so used of no other person in the ancient world. Pothos, in this sense, is an individual characteristic peculiar to Alexander.  Peter Green  

The Holy Grail of life is immortality. Pothos is the only way there. This website is a rough draft of an e-book, titled Elysian Enterprise, the pursuit of immortality. It will be subject to relentless revision until a critical mass of interest accumulates. Your assistance along with others connected to a world wide web can make that happen as editors, contributors, researchers, promoters, and partisans. If you discover an error, possess additional supporting (or contradictory) evidence please contact us.

Strategy

When I consider the short extent of my life, swallowed up in eternity before and after, the small space that I fill or even see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces unknown to me and which know me not, I am terrified, and astonished to find myself here, not there. For there is no reason why it should be here, not there, why now rather than at another time. Who put me here? By whose order and design have this place and time been allotted to me? . . . The eternal silence of those infinite spaces strikes me with terror. Blaise Pascal

If you’re not playing a big enough game, you’ll screw up the game you’re playing just to give yourself something to do. John-Roger and Peter McWilliams

What a man can imagine or conceive in his mind he can accomplish. Impossibles are possible as thinking men make them so. Henry J. Kaiser

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. Sydney J. Harris

The critical question for you and I is When?.  Once upon a time Mankind considered surgery and pain inseparable. Paracelsus first recommended ether for “painful illness” three centuries before it was finally used. There were many other missed opportunities since then. Ether required two separate demonstrations to the same eminent surgeon, who then had to proclaim loudly to the jeering, skeptical audience that “this is no hum-bug” before it was believed:

Why should the World have to wait so long for such an obvious blessing? There can be only one answer, strange as it may seem. Pain haunted man since his beginning; he accepted it as he accepted other manifestations of nature, with no spirit of revolt. Pain was the will of God, as inevitable as the closing in of night at the end of the day. Surely only a madman would rebel against the night?  Philip Smith

Substitute “Death” for “pain” in the quote above.  We are doomed if it takes three centuries to separate life from death.

Strategy: Collectively we aggressively pursue physical immortality by,

  1. Investing heavily in the appropriate medical sciences and infra-structure.
  2. Dramatically increase the wealth available for such investment:
  3. Deploying our military and economic assets to tap the ultimate resource – human minds; billions of human minds trapped in socialist, statist, totalitarian, oligarchic and/or otherwise corrupt regimes. All that is required to tap that immense resource is the rule of law, economic freedom and limited governments.
  4.  Investing heavily in the development of fusion power. Ultimately, cheap and unlimited energy, will fuel unlimited wealth.
  1. Invest heavily in the terra-formation of Mars. This permits diversification of our long term investments, and acts as a safety valve to offset the inevitable sclerosis of political institutions. Opportunities for cheap land and adventure (one of life’s necessities) in new worlds will rejuvenate Mother Earth.

Humans don’t always accept the seemingly irrational as impossible.  To be visionary is to see what others can’t yet see, and civilization could not have advanced to its present state without the willingness of some to pursue stubbornly what others see only as a will-o’-the-wisp.  Erich Harth

Nanotechnology

Government funding was increased from $270M to $497M for fiscal year 2001.  However only $36M is earmarked for the NIH up from $32M in 2000. These are trivial numbers.

[source: http://www.foresight.org/Updates/Update40/Update40.1.html#NNIFY2001]

See Nick Smith letter on file

See Nanomedicine : Basic Capabilities, Vol. 1 Robert A. Freitas,Jr

http://www.agingresearch.org/