While most biotechnology scientists have prioritized finding cures for cancer and other diseases, some recent biotechnology researchers and companies, like Google’s Calico, are hopeful of the dawning of the age of immortality. Debates between extending and perpetuating human life continue, and immortalists bicker about the method to achieve eternal life, whether it be by indefinite regeneration of human cells or by a combination of people with machines. More than ever, the implications and possibly harmful effects of a never-ending, youthful life beg further consideration.
The effects of endless life on society and people’s lives should be carefully considered before extensive research is executed, and necessary and important questions should be asked: Will people no longer have children if they themselves are eternally young? What will happen to the economy if people are occupying their jobs forever? Will people no longer abide by the law because there is no need to fear death’s consequences? Would immortality be available to everyone, and if so, would it have a price? At what point of technological development do we cease to be human and start to be machines?
The concept and structures of families that we know today would either be destroyed, as immortal people might cease to have children in order to live their lives purely for themselves, or be completely changed, as one’s family members would remain youthful forever. There would be no pressing financial need to work at one’s job if one becomes a machine, since daily necessities like food and water may no longer be essential.
Another possibility is that immortality could become a luxury only affordable to the rich, who would then rise as never-dying tyrants who perpetually abuse the poor, who, in turn, may rise up against the rich and engage in bloody class warfare. People could become lawless and amoral as their choices to abide by the law would have no effect on their lives.
Without a finite life, we would only be as good as soul-less, aimless ghosts wandering around and wasting the Earth’s resources. Scientist Neil Degrasse Tyson similarly expressed his views on immortality, stating that “It is the knowledge that I will die that creates the focus that I bring to being alive. The urgency of accomplishment, the need to express love now, not later. If we live forever, why even bother to get out of bed every morning because [sic] you always have tomorrow. […] I fear living a life where I could have accomplished something but I didn’t.”
All organisms have had a definite beginning and end to their lives for billions of years, and the ephemeral quality of life is exactly what gives it its value and distinct characteristics. Past achievements in science, literature, political leadership, and more are admirable and incredible because they were accomplished with a finite amount of time and resources. Having an infinite amount of time to do the same would simply make the task less meaningful or impressive.
If immortality would result in people losing their passions, moral sense, and motivations, it would not be lengthening the lives of people, but rather killing people and reviving them as machines that have lost their human origins.