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Who Wants To Live Forever?
In 1512, the Spanish explorer Ponce de León set sail from Puerto Rico to find a local legendary fountain in the "lands to the north." It was said to be surrounded by magnificent flowering plants and to confer eternal youth on whomever partook of its waters. After months of fruitless searching and drinking of ineffective waters, supplies ran short and the expedition was called off. However, it turns out that Ponce de León inadvertently discovered Florida, those "lands to the north," today crowded with aging retirees many of whom have already avoided death through the benefits of effective modern medicine.
When I tell people that I am researching aging in order to cure it, I usually get a very positive reaction with friendly admonitions of, "please hurry up, will you!"
However, occasionally when I mention my quest for immortality to someone I get a completely different reaction. I get a look of horror. I am told that to want to live forever is irresponsible, that "if people can live forever then the planet will not be able to cope with such a large population increase and there will be starvation and war and our planet will die!" or that "having children, growing old and becoming a grandparent is the natural way of things! Don‘t mess with it!"
My usual rebuff to these critics is to tell them that if they feel a longer life would be irresponsible or is not worth living, then I do not intend on forcing them or anyone else to extend their lives. Their response to that is often, "but if eternal youth is possible, then everyone will want it!" To which I ask them if they include themselves in that "everyone." If they answer "no," then their argument is disproved because not everyone wants it. If they answer "yes," then they expose themselves as hypocrites for not following the conviction of their original argument. It usually leaves them with either an embarrassed grin on their faces or white knuckles.
The response I get to the prospect of immortality has everything to do with someone’s attitude towards their own life, positive or negative. However, I have yet to encounter a negative response to immortality from a pro-capitalist. In relation to this, I recently read an intriguing newspaper article. I disagree with most of it, but there was a passage concerning the connection between the desire to extend life and the free-market mentality that was amazingly truthful.
If the U.S. sanitises death, it is because mortality is incompatible with capitalism. Capital accumulation goes on forever, in love with a dream of infinity. The myth of eternal progress is just a horizontalised form of heaven. Socialism, by contrast, is not about reaching for the stars but returning us to earth. It is about building a politics on a recognition of human frailty and finitude. As such, it is a politics which embraces the reality of failure, suffering and death, as opposed to one for which the word "can't" is almost as intolerable as the word "communist."
Indeed, for a long time I have been in love with the dream of infinity and it is immensely satisfying to see so clearly stated above how it complements my passion for capitalism.
My main rationale for wanting to study human aging and therefore extend life has been, and has always been, that I love my life. I love learning and exploring new thoughts, ideas and experiences. It seemed to me from a young age that one lifetime was not enough to discover all there is to discover, and that the task of absorbing it all would at least require a few more hundred years of my life.
The field of aging research at the molecular level is a very new science, barely 20 years old and still relatively small. However, it is already making leaps and bounds towards understanding what causes human aging and devising an eventual cure.
I predict that there will be an anti-aging cure soon making the extension of our lifespan beyond its current limit possible.
So my message to all suffering socialist misanthropes is this: Move aside while we dreaming capitalists reach for the stars and show you once again why the word "can’t" really is intolerable!
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