Why is it that a person would want to live forever? The concept is thought provoking even for the most simple mind. Reasons may vary between individuals from different walks of life, but what is it about immortality that thrills us and scientists alike? Is it that we fear death or being forgotten? Or is it just the potential for change that we cannot comprehend despite all of our rapid advances in science? Whether one believes that once we die we are simply gone: nothing but a body from which your consciousness once dwelled; or whether you believe dying is simply the beginning process of moving on to an afterlife. Either way, the fact of the matter is that the change will be substantially different from anything we could fathom in our day to day lives. Is it this change which scares some people? Maybe we do not crave eternal life out of fear of what happens next, rather we hope to achieve successes and desires that would otherwise not be possible.
Since the beginning of civilization, human beings have contemplated and searched for a road to eternal life. This idea of immortality has inspired a wealth of fictional stories from the deathly hallows of Harry Potter to love stories revolving around immortal vampires.
Some scientists now believe that immortality could evolve from a fictional concept into reality by the end of the 21st century. Perhaps extending life expectancy will be a more achievable short term goal for scientists first. Who is to say that babies born in 2015 will not live until the year 2215 or beyond? Scientists are hard at work in their search to uncover treatments which will continue to add to human life expectancy. American anatomist, Leonard Hayflick, suggested that the number of times a human cell population will divide until cell division stops is limited (Hayflick’s limit theory). Once cells stop dividing, organs become ineffective and shut down. The telomeres associated with each cell’s DNA get slightly shorter with each cell division, until they eventually reach a critical length. Scientists challenge is therefore to find a way to stop the shortening of the telomeres in order to allow cell division to continue indefinitely. (Of course this is simply put and many other anatomical barriers will need to be identified).
If science is to make talk of immortality a reality, will humans really want this? Every species yearns for life – so why would we not want to extend it? Could this discovery have the potential to destroy our planet by removing death, an essential part of any ecosystem? Over population due to a low mortality rate could cause anarchy and lead to immortality only being afforded to those in wealth. A life without end on earth may not be that great either. At some stage humans are bound to get exhausted and not want to go on. So before science looks to construct this fountain of youth for everyone to indulge in, first ask yourself the question, do you really want to live forever?