from December 5, 2005
Living forever has been the hope of philosophers and believers throughout recorded history. In fact, one may surmise, this hope arose before humans began writing their thoughts on stones, papyrus, bamboo shoots, cabbage leaves, and the walls of smoke-filled caves.
My last column dealt with the idea that this hope is nearer being realized than one could ever have hoped. It seems that one Mr Aubrey de Grey, a young British biogerontologist, is developing “strategies for engineering senescence.”
Mr de Grey is 42, an age at which the typical sentient human being begins to notice obituaries. I say “typical” because some humans never bother themselves about the deep things of life while some of the more precocious among us are sensitive to our mortality somewhat earlier. I myself, for example, began my lifelong practice of checking the morbid pages of the Dublin Times at the age of four.
But enough of that. Last month, before I became a humanoid robot, I promised to think about Mr de Grey’s fascinating notion that it is possible, if not probable, for a human alive today can hope, perhaps even expect, to live to the age of 1,000 or beyond.
(Ed. Note: Students of the Bible will recall that Methuselah of old almost accomplished what can only be called “this astounding feat.”)
But to be brief, as our distinguished editor constantly reminds us. Assuming that this astounding feat is achievable, is it wise?
One’s mind naturally turns to the problem of retirement and Social Security. But as many bipartisan and nonpartisan committees have been urging, this problem can readily be solved by raising the retirement age by several years. Extending this argument to deal with the possibility that Mr de Grey is “on to something big” (to use the vernacular), we have only to consider that the age of retirement be raised hundreds of years. In fact, the Myles Junior Think Tank has put its collective intelligence to work by estimating that Social Security should “kick in” (vernacular) at the age of 975 and two months.
So, the MJTT concluded, the most pressing problem created by the realization of Mr de Grey’s fascinating idea, would be the problem of overpopulation, with its attendant woes.
These woes, and their solutions, will be the subject of discussion by the MJTT in this, the holiday season.