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The billion-dollar search for immortality There's nothing noble about cheating death

“If it doesn’t work, he’s gonna sue death!” Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/ /Getty Images (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

“If it doesn’t work, he’s gonna sue death!” Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/ /Getty Images (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)


June 22, 2023   7 mins

In the pristine cylindrical atrium of Altos Labs’s Cambridge Institute of Science, under a skylight resembling a giant cyclopic eye, I ask the obvious question. What does the company actually do? “Cell rejuvenation,” replies the facilities manager. At least, looking back, I’m pretty sure that’s what he says. At the time, I hear something slightly different: “We sell rejuvenation.”

Home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of scientific talent, Altos Labs is pursuing a lavishly funded quest to unearth the secrets of ageing. The Stanford-meets-Soho House décor is enough to show that here, health is wealth. But even in the notoriously well-compensated field of biotechnology it stands out. Last year, the Silicon Valley venture revealed it had raised $3 billion from investors, making it one of the best-financed start-ups in history.

Its mission? Depending on who you ask, anything from reversing chronic diseases and deferring the helpless twilight of old age to cutting the keys of eternal youth and creating a race of immortal supreme beings. This furrow of science, which piques our hardwired anxiety of ageing and fear of death, has always been accompanied by disproportionate incentives for hype. Nor has it been helped by wealthy obsessives, who in recent years have very publicly taken their own anxiety to macabre new heights, such as the software entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, who injected himself with his son’s blood and spends $2 million a year in the hope of achieving the body of an 18-year-old.

Altos’s leaders, however, are in the business of managing expectations. Hans Bishop, the president, has said his focus is on increasing “healthspan” rather than lifespan, and that any extension in longevity would be “an accidental consequence”. The idea is that, by focusing on “reprogramming” cells with various proteins, Altos can find medicines that treat many diseases at once by targeting the underlying problem: ageing.

Bishop and his co-founders Rick Klausner and Yuri Milner are late entrants in the arena of anti-ageing research. Calico was set up a decade ago by Google co-founder Larry Page, though it has yet to unveil a product. Other players include Unity, BioAge, BioViva and AgeX Therapeutics. Billionaires — including Milner himself, Page, and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel — are regularly glimpsed behind the scenes.

So what makes Altos stand out? Again, that war chest is immense. Its team is a fleet of Nobel prizewinners, lured from governments and top universities with the promise of “sports star” salaries. As for famous backers, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos himself is believed to be one of Altos’s investors. When rumours of Bezos’s involvement broke in 2021, fellow billionaire Elon Musk quipped: “If it doesn’t work, he’s gonna sue death!”

Altos is global, with two hubs in California, one in England near Cambridge, and one in Japan led by famous stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka. Given that all my imaginative efforts to visualise these mines of youth ended with giant brains in tanks, I am intrigued to be offered a tour of the UK hub by the building’s owners. My goal is to peer a little closer through the hype and see what $3 billion gets you.

Upstairs in the Cambridge branch, I am taken past rows of brand-new labs and a sterile area named the Science Kitchen, where some of the 160 scientists prepare for experiments on, among other specimens, mice and fruit flies. (You may recall from biology lessons that drosophilas are ideal for research since their rapid life cycle allows multiple generations to be bred in a single day.)

A vivarium, for raising and keeping animals, is being built downstairs, but I am refused entry as it is still undergoing environmental testing. It must be signed off by the Home Office, the facilities manager explains. Of all government departments, why that one? An answer is not forthcoming.

Science is a power-hungry enterprise, as evidenced by the colossal HVAC system out back, almost the size of the lab itself. The whole building is kept on backup power so that if there is an outage on the National Grid, Altos can continue to keep its industrial-strength freezers at -70°C. As we pass a room of these freezers, I point out that they are conveniently human-sized. “Is Walt Disney in that one?” I ask. No one laughs.

The superlative sci-fi element, however, is “Ken’s Egg”: a wood-panelled, 130-person lecture theatre on the ground floor named after Dr Ken Raj, one of the principal investigators. “I felt the egg was good,” Raj says. “What the auditorium is for is to bring our ideas, to give birth to life.”

Those ideas continue to advance. Raj, alongside his colleague Steve Horvath in the US, is an expert in epigenetics, measuring how molecules called methyl groups attach themselves to our DNA as we age. Most people’s DNA methylation age corresponds accurately with their chronological age, but those with diseases such as Parkinson’s have an older epigenetic age.

A couple of years ago, the big question was whether the methyl groups are driving the ageing process, or merely a consequence of it. Now, we know. “We can see now that yes, the methylation is actually the driver,” Raj tells me. “Not all of the methylation that happens in your genome drives ageing, but there are methylation genomes that actually do the driving.”

Some aspects of the science being pursued at Altos are more controversial than others. Charles Brenner, department chair at City of Hope medical centre in Los Angeles and a vocal critic of lifespan-extending hype, tells me that there is “a cart-horse problem” with DNA methylation. “There’s no evidence to my knowledge that a change in [epigenetic clock] means that a person is going to live longer,” he says.

Brenner says that epigenetic resetting “is real and will certainly turn into real medicine”, such as when your cells are used to create a tissue that has an exact genetic match for, say, your damaged liver. In vivo “reprogramming”, however, is in his opinion “unlikely to ever be tested in humans” because “everyone who works with these genes knows that they produce tumours and teratomas in the process of producing well-behaved stem cells”.

At conferences, Brenner shows his audience a letter from an anti-ageing scientist who claimed: “We can control ageing at our caprice… it’s going to revolutionise everything.” It was written in 1990. “It arguably could have been said by any anti-ageing biotech guy in the last 33 years,” he says. “And they were all wrong.” Despite this, Brenner expects that the “excellent scientists” at Altos will still “discover useful things”. However, he says, “it’s not obvious to me what new technologies would making drugging the ageing process to achieve lifespan extension suddenly possible. I suspect that some of the investors were sold a bill of goods.”

The political and ethical questions around Altos Labs are equally unsettled. The debates are familiar by now. Proponents see the quest for longevity as morally noble, arguing that it will eventually benefit all humanity. Detractors say there’s no evidence to suggest the benefits would trickle down to the non-billionaires.

David Sinclair, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, tells me the key challenge is “helping us live better now rather than longer, and that is arguably a policy issue as much as a science issue”. The cynical view of Altos and its ilk, he says, is that there are “quite a lot of men in their 30s who want to live forever, and that they’re throwing lots of money into this. Actually, if you asked their 95-year-old mums, what would they say? Would they say you’re much better off making sure you’re doing it well, rather than living longer?”

Sinclair believes the investment in Altos is useful, but suggests policymakers will have to tackle the increased inequalities that might result from the science. “The people who will have access to it first are the people who are already living longer and are going to be wealthier,” he says. At the same time, “once you have new medications that work, it’s very difficult for governments not to offer them.”

Is it safe to say these companies have an image problem? Scepticism comes naturally in the field, ever since Herodotus lied (or, if you’re being charitable, was duped by a myth) about people bathing in a fountain of youth in the fifth century BC. It also strikes me as noteworthy that so many cultural depictions of eternal life and the quest for immortality, from Gilgamesh to Indiana Jones to Dr Manhattan, are cautionary tales.

Professor Tom Kirkwood, head of the department of gerontology at Newcastle University, tells me that research on ageing “is at quite an exciting stage” but sometimes the enthusiasm for innovative treatments “doesn’t pay sufficient regard to what we know already about the complexities of the ageing process”. It’s a great deal easier to alter the life history of short-lived animals such as fruit flies and mice than to alter the lifespan of humans, after all. As for Altos, Kirkwood believes it has the potential to be “slightly disruptive”, but, he says, “it would not surprise me if it should turn out that for all the investment that’s made, the breakthroughs prove to be elusive”. Yet he points out that researchers will continue to make bold claims in order to have their work recognised by the capricious attention of the media.

The wacky Bay Area sheen doesn’t help either. It brings to mind “transhumanists” such as Zoltan Istvan, who ran for US president in 2016 promising to conquer death, and philosopher Ingemar Patrick Linden, who calls the suggestion that everyone should die at a natural age “appalling”. Super-rich investors may not use this precise language, but there is undoubtedly a grain of transhumanism in their thinking. As he stepped down as Amazon CEO in 2021, Bezos urged shareholders to stay nimble, quoting Richard Dawkins: “Staving off death is a thing that you have to work at… If living things don’t actively work to prevent it, they would eventually merge with their surroundings and cease to exist as autonomous beings. That is what happens when they die.”

Altos’s scientists are all in, obviously. “This is what the world needs,” Raj says. Bezos and the rest have created lavish sanctuaries for these talents to thrive. And many would see nothing wrong with that. There are far worse ways to be a billionaire: look at Philip Green.

Yet the furtiveness with which he conducts his involvement (his investment firm, Bezos Expeditions, has still not commented on the Altos reports) speaks volumes about his self-interest. There are plenty of simpler ways Bezos could improve the lives of others. Let’s be clear: he really does want to be immortal. And I’m not sure there’s anything noble about that.

Surprisingly, one of Bezos’s fellow tech titans articulated a very different philosophy of ageing. In his 2005 commencement address to Stanford graduates, Steve Jobs reflected on his pancreatic cancer diagnosis and offered a powerful rebuke to Silicon Valley-style transhumanism. “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there,” he said. “And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.”

But that is as it should be, he said, because “death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”


James Riding is a senior reporter at Inside Housing

jamesriding10

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Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

The fact of death is the greatest driver of human creativity. The desire to leave a legacy (of whatever kind) occurs only with the kniwledge of what the word “legacy” implies – one’s demise. Remove it, or start extending the boundaries, and the desire to live usefully will also dwindle. The consequences don’t bear thinking about, but absolutely no mention of this by the scientists. Staying healthy for longer is a different matter, and would only help us to create our own legacies.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Hard thing to prove when such a small number of people within humanity are in fact, creative. But what interests me is the knock-on implication. A thought experiment: say it becomes possible, by someone inventing such a test, to identify who has the potential to be creative. It then follows that you would want to restrict the lifespans of such people to trigger said creativity. It also wouldn’t make sense to impose the same restriction on the rest of humanity, because why would you if you gain nothing. The results would be rather interesting. This would then mean for example, that you would impose the restriction of mortality on, say, John von Neumann, but not on, say, Henry Charles Albert David, Duke of Sussex.

Last edited 10 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
PK
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Also, the experience of child prodigies does not indicate this correlation. Creativity is typically at its greatest when young twenties and thirties, when thoughts of mortality are far away. Take John von Neumann mentioned above, he wasn’t making jokes in classical Greek at the age of six with his father because he was concerned about dying. He did that because he could.

Last edited 10 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

It depends very much how you define “creativity”. When i spoke of leaving “a legacy” it wasn’t restricted to artistic or scientific creativity, but the development of anything worthwhile that could then be passed onto succeeding generations (e.g. a business, or simply an inheritance through hard work).
Those who might be regarded as “creative” often do demonstrate their prowess in the 20s/30s, but if you look at the truly great artists (in any genre), most of them develop throughout longer lives a more mature and profound body of work, in the knowledge that their later years are not to be wasted but the most important of all, with the benefit of experience that those in the younger age groups simply don’t possess.
Think of Beethoven, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Monet, Rothko. (I’m an artist so have greater affinity with that category whose work took a lifetime to evolve to its full potential.)

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
jane baker
jane baker
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Creating a beautiful garden,one of many acres,or a small yard is a very creative activity and can take up a whole lifetime. And then when you move or die can vanish in months. Even Gertrude Jeyklls garden did that. It happens. They recreated it from her plans. They recreated Monets garden from his pictures (and a magazine article). Yet making and tending a garden is something “ordinary” people can do. You wont get a tv series or write books or be famous but it’s still (very) creative. But I some sort of “creativity” gene test it probably wouldn’t feature.

jane baker
jane baker
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Creating a beautiful garden,one of many acres,or a small yard is a very creative activity and can take up a whole lifetime. And then when you move or die can vanish in months. Even Gertrude Jeyklls garden did that. It happens. They recreated it from her plans. They recreated Monets garden from his pictures (and a magazine article). Yet making and tending a garden is something “ordinary” people can do. You wont get a tv series or write books or be famous but it’s still (very) creative. But I some sort of “creativity” gene test it probably wouldn’t feature.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

It depends very much how you define “creativity”. When i spoke of leaving “a legacy” it wasn’t restricted to artistic or scientific creativity, but the development of anything worthwhile that could then be passed onto succeeding generations (e.g. a business, or simply an inheritance through hard work).
Those who might be regarded as “creative” often do demonstrate their prowess in the 20s/30s, but if you look at the truly great artists (in any genre), most of them develop throughout longer lives a more mature and profound body of work, in the knowledge that their later years are not to be wasted but the most important of all, with the benefit of experience that those in the younger age groups simply don’t possess.
Think of Beethoven, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Monet, Rothko. (I’m an artist so have greater affinity with that category whose work took a lifetime to evolve to its full potential.)

Last edited 10 months ago by Steve Murray
Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Depends on what you mean by creative. Nurses and care assistants creating consolation for the unfortunates in their care, are far more creative (and usefully so) than 99% of “creatives.”

Prashant Kotak
PK
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Also, the experience of child prodigies does not indicate this correlation. Creativity is typically at its greatest when young twenties and thirties, when thoughts of mortality are far away. Take John von Neumann mentioned above, he wasn’t making jokes in classical Greek at the age of six with his father because he was concerned about dying. He did that because he could.

Last edited 10 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
9 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Depends on what you mean by creative. Nurses and care assistants creating consolation for the unfortunates in their care, are far more creative (and usefully so) than 99% of “creatives.”

Johann Strauss
JS
Johann Strauss
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

For some maybe. But for myself, no. If you think about it, who cares if one is recognized when one is dead because one cannot bask in the recognition. After all, I’m sure van Gogh would have preferred to sell a single painting in his lifetime, as opposed to having his painting worth millions many years after his death.
On another note, it does seem to me that the study of aging and prolonging life or certainly prolonging a healthier more vital life while one is alive is not a bad thing. And I suspect in the end the solution will be rather simple and it will be possible to extend life to say the age of 200 (about the life span of giant turtles). I say this because there are obvious mysteries that seem eminently solvable or explainable. Compare dogs with humans, for example. At the DNA level, the differences are not that great, but dog’s don’t just only live for say 10-15 years compared to 70-90 years for humans, but contract all the diseases of old age (cancer, cataracts, arthritis, muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass) at a very young age (e.g. 10 and upwards): that is to say an age where all these diseases of old age are basically unheard of in humans. In other words dogs suffer from progeria. So what exactly is going on? What genes are controlling senescence? For sure we’ll know the answer in the next 100 years (but unfortunately I probably wont be around when the answer and solution are found).

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Hard thing to prove when such a small number of people within humanity are in fact, creative. But what interests me is the knock-on implication. A thought experiment: say it becomes possible, by someone inventing such a test, to identify who has the potential to be creative. It then follows that you would want to restrict the lifespans of such people to trigger said creativity. It also wouldn’t make sense to impose the same restriction on the rest of humanity, because why would you if you gain nothing. The results would be rather interesting. This would then mean for example, that you would impose the restriction of mortality on, say, John von Neumann, but not on, say, Henry Charles Albert David, Duke of Sussex.

Last edited 10 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

For some maybe. But for myself, no. If you think about it, who cares if one is recognized when one is dead because one cannot bask in the recognition. After all, I’m sure van Gogh would have preferred to sell a single painting in his lifetime, as opposed to having his painting worth millions many years after his death.
On another note, it does seem to me that the study of aging and prolonging life or certainly prolonging a healthier more vital life while one is alive is not a bad thing. And I suspect in the end the solution will be rather simple and it will be possible to extend life to say the age of 200 (about the life span of giant turtles). I say this because there are obvious mysteries that seem eminently solvable or explainable. Compare dogs with humans, for example. At the DNA level, the differences are not that great, but dog’s don’t just only live for say 10-15 years compared to 70-90 years for humans, but contract all the diseases of old age (cancer, cataracts, arthritis, muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass) at a very young age (e.g. 10 and upwards): that is to say an age where all these diseases of old age are basically unheard of in humans. In other words dogs suffer from progeria. So what exactly is going on? What genes are controlling senescence? For sure we’ll know the answer in the next 100 years (but unfortunately I probably wont be around when the answer and solution are found).

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
10 months ago

The fact of death is the greatest driver of human creativity. The desire to leave a legacy (of whatever kind) occurs only with the kniwledge of what the word “legacy” implies – one’s demise. Remove it, or start extending the boundaries, and the desire to live usefully will also dwindle. The consequences don’t bear thinking about, but absolutely no mention of this by the scientists. Staying healthy for longer is a different matter, and would only help us to create our own legacies.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago

“…Let’s be clear: he really does want to be immortal. And I’m not sure there’s anything noble about that…”

I have seen plenty of pieces of this sort, and they invariably strike me as (cost-free) cake. I hesitate to say hypocritical, because, well you know, saying such a thing would be uncharitable. But to clarify what I mean, it costs the opinion expresser nothing if they were to decide at some future date, that they in fact quite fancy the idea of extending life and regaining youth, *specifically their own life*, when powers start slipping away and the reaper begins to beckon. Because, the option to extend life is theoretical – until that is, it becomes real and is offered to *you and yours* on the free market.

As in: What would *you* do, if life extension is offered to *you and yours*?

At which point the option you actually take might just mark out every one of your past stances as a lie. And to clarify what I mean by “yours” here, say the biotechnologies take such a turn that it becomes possible to build-in much greater longevity for humans, but only if some procedure is carried out when still a baby. So the question might then arise: would you then make such a decision on behalf of your own children in the negative, because you think looking for longevity or even immortality, is not, um, “noble”?

So, to make this all a tad more reverse-faustian, let’s say we make it a fantasy requirement by statute: anyone expressing such opinions is automatically barred from taking up any great life extension should such become available by technological or biotechnological means at some future date. (Beyond a reasonable limit of course, say 110 years, because we wouldn’t want the law to be unreasonable). So, Mr. Author, what do you say? Game to make such a commitment?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Rubbish. My father is ancient and quite looking forward to popping off. There comes a point when life just becomes painful, repetitive and tedious. Death can be a great gift.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I repeat my point: will you eschew great longevity if it is offered to you? And you just saying so is of no value. What will you commit to, such that you then see through your stance instead of backtracking?

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Your point is entirely irrelevant. All animals have a survival instinct; humans are distinguished by their ability to reason. And reason tells us that immortality would not be good for humanity (or, in my opinion, for individuals). But when faced with death, even many of the sickest will try to hang on as instinct takes over. So your “test” is just so much bollocks.

Prashant Kotak
PK
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

To say that you (specifically) believe that immortality (or even longevity beyond the natural span) is not good for humans, but you (specifically) reserve the right to nevertheless search for means of life extension for yourself when at death’s door, because your instincts which you can’t control will take over, is, um, cake.

And you can always prevent that (but will you?): just state now, while of sound mind and body, that if you change your mind in the future and start looking for means to prolong your life, you are to be prevented from doing so, because it won’t be you who has changed his mind but your instincts. Which of course, are no part of the *real* you but are instead some subversive mechanism built into you by the malign god who created you, like attaching a time-bomb to you..

It all gets just a tad circular, doesn’t it?

Last edited 10 months ago by Prashant Kotak
harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

No it just gets a wee bit stupid.

harry storm
HS
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

No it just gets a wee bit stupid.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  harry storm

To say that you (specifically) believe that immortality (or even longevity beyond the natural span) is not good for humans, but you (specifically) reserve the right to nevertheless search for means of life extension for yourself when at death’s door, because your instincts which you can’t control will take over, is, um, cake.

And you can always prevent that (but will you?): just state now, while of sound mind and body, that if you change your mind in the future and start looking for means to prolong your life, you are to be prevented from doing so, because it won’t be you who has changed his mind but your instincts. Which of course, are no part of the *real* you but are instead some subversive mechanism built into you by the malign god who created you, like attaching a time-bomb to you..

It all gets just a tad circular, doesn’t it?

Last edited 10 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

In all honesty, it’s hard to tell. I’m young and healthy so death is a pretty abstract concept to me at this point. It’s pretty easy to be blasé about passing away when it’s not an immediate danger. However, I do believe that there comes a point when living just becomes wearisome. As we get older our thought patterns become ossified and we end up becoming our habits. We start to live in repetitive cycles, repeat the same stories, jokes, and arguments, and lose curiosity in others. The pursuit for eternal anything (beauty, life, youth, wealth, comfort), while all-too human, would not work out very well for humanity if it were eventually to be achieved. It is death and our special awareness of our own finiteness that separates us from the rest of the universe. I also think a belief in the afterlife may help in processing the concept of one’s own death too.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Your point is entirely irrelevant. All animals have a survival instinct; humans are distinguished by their ability to reason. And reason tells us that immortality would not be good for humanity (or, in my opinion, for individuals). But when faced with death, even many of the sickest will try to hang on as instinct takes over. So your “test” is just so much bollocks.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

In all honesty, it’s hard to tell. I’m young and healthy so death is a pretty abstract concept to me at this point. It’s pretty easy to be blasé about passing away when it’s not an immediate danger. However, I do believe that there comes a point when living just becomes wearisome. As we get older our thought patterns become ossified and we end up becoming our habits. We start to live in repetitive cycles, repeat the same stories, jokes, and arguments, and lose curiosity in others. The pursuit for eternal anything (beauty, life, youth, wealth, comfort), while all-too human, would not work out very well for humanity if it were eventually to be achieved. It is death and our special awareness of our own finiteness that separates us from the rest of the universe. I also think a belief in the afterlife may help in processing the concept of one’s own death too.

Prashant Kotak
PK
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I repeat my point: will you eschew great longevity if it is offered to you? And you just saying so is of no value. What will you commit to, such that you then see through your stance instead of backtracking?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Rubbish. My father is ancient and quite looking forward to popping off. There comes a point when life just becomes painful, repetitive and tedious. Death can be a great gift.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago

“…Let’s be clear: he really does want to be immortal. And I’m not sure there’s anything noble about that…”

I have seen plenty of pieces of this sort, and they invariably strike me as (cost-free) cake. I hesitate to say hypocritical, because, well you know, saying such a thing would be uncharitable. But to clarify what I mean, it costs the opinion expresser nothing if they were to decide at some future date, that they in fact quite fancy the idea of extending life and regaining youth, *specifically their own life*, when powers start slipping away and the reaper begins to beckon. Because, the option to extend life is theoretical – until that is, it becomes real and is offered to *you and yours* on the free market.

As in: What would *you* do, if life extension is offered to *you and yours*?

At which point the option you actually take might just mark out every one of your past stances as a lie. And to clarify what I mean by “yours” here, say the biotechnologies take such a turn that it becomes possible to build-in much greater longevity for humans, but only if some procedure is carried out when still a baby. So the question might then arise: would you then make such a decision on behalf of your own children in the negative, because you think looking for longevity or even immortality, is not, um, “noble”?

So, to make this all a tad more reverse-faustian, let’s say we make it a fantasy requirement by statute: anyone expressing such opinions is automatically barred from taking up any great life extension should such become available by technological or biotechnological means at some future date. (Beyond a reasonable limit of course, say 110 years, because we wouldn’t want the law to be unreasonable). So, Mr. Author, what do you say? Game to make such a commitment?

polidori redux
polidori redux
10 months ago

Steve Jobs sounds like the only sane member of the Silicon Valley Brigade.
The whole point of evolution is that individuals are mortal, otherwise we would still be creeping around in the primeval ooze congratulating ourselves on our victory over death..

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

So, I take it you don’t mind humanity being superceded by our Robot Overlords then?

Last edited 10 months ago by Prashant Kotak
polidori redux
PR
polidori redux
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The promise of Immortality for our current generation of whizkids will not stop the Robot Men from taking over.

Last edited 10 months ago by polidori redux
polidori redux
polidori redux
10 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The promise of Immortality for our current generation of whizkids will not stop the Robot Men from taking over.

Last edited 10 months ago by polidori redux
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

So, I take it you don’t mind humanity being superceded by our Robot Overlords then?

Last edited 10 months ago by Prashant Kotak
polidori redux
polidori redux
10 months ago

Steve Jobs sounds like the only sane member of the Silicon Valley Brigade.
The whole point of evolution is that individuals are mortal, otherwise we would still be creeping around in the primeval ooze congratulating ourselves on our victory over death..

Alan Gore
AG
Alan Gore
10 months ago

What’s with social critics and the biology hackers? Leftists fear that the one-percenters are about to become immortal and leave the rest of us behind. The right thinks that their favorite sky spirits will be offended.
We started playing God the first time we removed a diseased appendix. Nobody is close to achieving anything like immortality yet, but because I love this world and the adventure in it I will take any improvements in healthspan I can get.

jane baker
JB
jane baker
10 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

It’s actually highly likely that the self chosen Elite who I can’t name but we all know they’re out there would love to seriously decrease the surplus population now they don’t need us as a market or a labour force,and bask in the beauty of a human free,rewilded,as pristine as they can get it,natural world.

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
9 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

Appendicitis isn’t a disease of ageing, even among the elderly.

jane baker
JB
jane baker
10 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

It’s actually highly likely that the self chosen Elite who I can’t name but we all know they’re out there would love to seriously decrease the surplus population now they don’t need us as a market or a labour force,and bask in the beauty of a human free,rewilded,as pristine as they can get it,natural world.

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
9 months ago
Reply to  Alan Gore

Appendicitis isn’t a disease of ageing, even among the elderly.

Alan Gore
AG
Alan Gore
10 months ago

What’s with social critics and the biology hackers? Leftists fear that the one-percenters are about to become immortal and leave the rest of us behind. The right thinks that their favorite sky spirits will be offended.
We started playing God the first time we removed a diseased appendix. Nobody is close to achieving anything like immortality yet, but because I love this world and the adventure in it I will take any improvements in healthspan I can get.

Gordon Arta
GA
Gordon Arta
10 months ago

Oh dear, Unherd going down the same road as the MSM, getting a journalist with absolutely no clue about science (or medicine, defence, technology, etc) to write a column about it. So what do you always get? Lots of vaguely remembered, and totally misunderstood, odds and end of press releases, interviews, and scraps picked up and cobbled together with lurid prose.

Gordon Arta
GA
Gordon Arta
10 months ago

Oh dear, Unherd going down the same road as the MSM, getting a journalist with absolutely no clue about science (or medicine, defence, technology, etc) to write a column about it. So what do you always get? Lots of vaguely remembered, and totally misunderstood, odds and end of press releases, interviews, and scraps picked up and cobbled together with lurid prose.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
10 months ago

Among the primates, humans already live oddly lengthy lifespans. Women stop reproducing at about 45, but tend to live until 65-70 even without modern medicine. There is no evolutionary reason for this, and adding to this time seems somewhat absurd.
I have no desire to be Methuselah. My job is to produce, raise and acculturate the next generation, and then get out of the way. I know where I’m going, and it’s better than anything the anti-ageing gurus can provide.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
10 months ago

Grandparents play (or in our ancestral past, would have played) a useful role in child care. Not that I would argue in favour of extending human longevity. But we can all do much to extend our “healthspan” already. And it’s largely free.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

“Women stop reproducing at about 45…”

Not according to someone quoted in this article, who suggests those in their 30s “should ask their 95 year old mother” about aging.

One hopes their applied maths is better when working in the lab.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
10 months ago

Grandparents play (or in our ancestral past, would have played) a useful role in child care. Not that I would argue in favour of extending human longevity. But we can all do much to extend our “healthspan” already. And it’s largely free.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

“Women stop reproducing at about 45…”

Not according to someone quoted in this article, who suggests those in their 30s “should ask their 95 year old mother” about aging.

One hopes their applied maths is better when working in the lab.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
10 months ago

Among the primates, humans already live oddly lengthy lifespans. Women stop reproducing at about 45, but tend to live until 65-70 even without modern medicine. There is no evolutionary reason for this, and adding to this time seems somewhat absurd.
I have no desire to be Methuselah. My job is to produce, raise and acculturate the next generation, and then get out of the way. I know where I’m going, and it’s better than anything the anti-ageing gurus can provide.

Chris Hume
CH
Chris Hume
10 months ago

Proponents see the quest for longevity as morally noble, arguing that it will eventually benefit all humanity. Detractors say there’s no evidence to suggest the benefits would trickle down to the non-billionaires.

I have no clue as to whether or not this kind of technology is plausible, but detractors always say this about new technologies. From cars, to air travel, to mobile phones, it’s always said that it won’t benefit normal people, until it does.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hume

Cars? Air travel? Mobile phones? All good? Now that’s a fine jest!

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Chris Hume

Cars? Air travel? Mobile phones? All good? Now that’s a fine jest!

Chris Hume
Chris Hume
10 months ago

Proponents see the quest for longevity as morally noble, arguing that it will eventually benefit all humanity. Detractors say there’s no evidence to suggest the benefits would trickle down to the non-billionaires.

I have no clue as to whether or not this kind of technology is plausible, but detractors always say this about new technologies. From cars, to air travel, to mobile phones, it’s always said that it won’t benefit normal people, until it does.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
10 months ago

They’ve already got all the money and assets of this generation, now they want them for all time. Psalm 37 comes to mind.

Martin Smith
MS
Martin Smith
10 months ago

They’ve already got all the money and assets of this generation, now they want them for all time. Psalm 37 comes to mind.

harry storm
HS
harry storm
10 months ago

I’m of the opinion that “immortal” people would all kill themselves eventually.

harry storm
harry storm
10 months ago

I’m of the opinion that “immortal” people would all kill themselves eventually.

Arthur G
AG
Arthur G
10 months ago

If humans weren’t mortal, we’d be paralyzed by fear, and bored to death. Even if you conquer aging, there is still accident, unfamiliar diseases and pathogens, and homicide. If a person believed themselves to be immortal, these risk would loom much, much larger, as he’d be losing an infinite life, rather than a finite one. Also, after 60 or 70 years, you’ve pretty much done all there is to do. WTF is going to motivate a 130 y.o. to get out of bed in the morning and be productive?

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
10 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Eh? I’m past the ages you mention and have hardly started on ‘all there is to do’, whatever you mean by that. I’m probably well past the bulk of ‘all there is to do that I am presently capable of doing’ but that’s a different matter altogether. If I’m still going at 130 it may well be the right moment to start learning Portuguese, or finally get to grips with whatever the devil ADS/CFT convergence may be. But that I suppose will not meet your banausic definition of ‘productive’ activity.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
9 months ago

To live to 130, we will have to stop children being born.

Oh…we already largely have.

Tony Buck
TB
Tony Buck
9 months ago

To live to 130, we will have to stop children being born.

Oh…we already largely have.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
10 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Eh? I’m past the ages you mention and have hardly started on ‘all there is to do’, whatever you mean by that. I’m probably well past the bulk of ‘all there is to do that I am presently capable of doing’ but that’s a different matter altogether. If I’m still going at 130 it may well be the right moment to start learning Portuguese, or finally get to grips with whatever the devil ADS/CFT convergence may be. But that I suppose will not meet your banausic definition of ‘productive’ activity.

Arthur G
Arthur G
10 months ago

If humans weren’t mortal, we’d be paralyzed by fear, and bored to death. Even if you conquer aging, there is still accident, unfamiliar diseases and pathogens, and homicide. If a person believed themselves to be immortal, these risk would loom much, much larger, as he’d be losing an infinite life, rather than a finite one. Also, after 60 or 70 years, you’ve pretty much done all there is to do. WTF is going to motivate a 130 y.o. to get out of bed in the morning and be productive?

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
9 months ago

The solar system isn’t immortal, the universe isn’t immortal.

The multiverse is unlikely to be reachable, even if it exists.

So Hard Cheese, ye seekers of immortality !

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
9 months ago

The solar system isn’t immortal, the universe isn’t immortal.

The multiverse is unlikely to be reachable, even if it exists.

So Hard Cheese, ye seekers of immortality !

Mark epperson
ME
Mark epperson
10 months ago

Nice article. The “elite’ sleazeballs have again spun their desire to live forever into helping humanity with just about everything. My question is has Altos Labs produced anything that has helped the common woman or man? Bezos is the poster boy for these bizarre and greedy bastards. They all look like cadavers, including Bezos, so they must think they are close to the end and need to goose the elixir of eternal life. They should take Job’s advice and croak to clear the way for the new folks who hopefully will not be all consumed with greed and power.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
10 months ago

Nice article. The “elite’ sleazeballs have again spun their desire to live forever into helping humanity with just about everything. My question is has Altos Labs produced anything that has helped the common woman or man? Bezos is the poster boy for these bizarre and greedy bastards. They all look like cadavers, including Bezos, so they must think they are close to the end and need to goose the elixir of eternal life. They should take Job’s advice and croak to clear the way for the new folks who hopefully will not be all consumed with greed and power.

Emil Castelli
EC
Emil Castelli
10 months ago

Kid F** king Lizard People, as Salty Cracker on Rumble calls them.

The old Adrenochrome thing is back there in all this kind of story… Even Hunter Thompson was onto it – and the Lizards…haha. And if not literal, then a very apt analogy, metaphorically………

”’The Dark Virality of a Hollywood Blood-Harvesting ConspiracyA favorite topic of interconnected QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy communities, so-called “adrenochrome harvesting”

”Hunter S. Thompson mentioned adrenochrome in his 1971 book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. [16] This is the likely origin of current myths surrounding this compound, because a character states that “There’s only one source for this stuff … the adrenaline glands from a living human body. It’s no good if you get it out of a corpse.””
(I add the Hunter S above for fun – but it is a child-weirdness-cult-live-for-ever creep-show these companies are up to.)

Epstein Island and the creepy building…

Actor Jim Caviezel on Bannons War Room: The Sound Of Freedom. Child trafficking is a horrible and real big problem. The crime is being deliberately ignored by our politicians and also the fake news propaganda “news” networks. Hollywood has additionally created very few movies and documentaries on this sickening topic.”

True Story released July 4 youtube trailer, ‘The Sound Of Freedom” on child tracking… watch the trailer if you wonder about this billionaire obsession with youth….. same as it always has been. He talks of adrenachrome in the movie….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyyyKcfJRGQ

It is all evil – this immortality the Elites seek – you can just feel it in the articles, and for a great many reasons……

Emil Castelli
Emil Castelli
10 months ago

Kid F** king Lizard People, as Salty Cracker on Rumble calls them.

The old Adrenochrome thing is back there in all this kind of story… Even Hunter Thompson was onto it – and the Lizards…haha. And if not literal, then a very apt analogy, metaphorically………

”’The Dark Virality of a Hollywood Blood-Harvesting ConspiracyA favorite topic of interconnected QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy communities, so-called “adrenochrome harvesting”

”Hunter S. Thompson mentioned adrenochrome in his 1971 book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. [16] This is the likely origin of current myths surrounding this compound, because a character states that “There’s only one source for this stuff … the adrenaline glands from a living human body. It’s no good if you get it out of a corpse.””
(I add the Hunter S above for fun – but it is a child-weirdness-cult-live-for-ever creep-show these companies are up to.)

Epstein Island and the creepy building…

Actor Jim Caviezel on Bannons War Room: The Sound Of Freedom. Child trafficking is a horrible and real big problem. The crime is being deliberately ignored by our politicians and also the fake news propaganda “news” networks. Hollywood has additionally created very few movies and documentaries on this sickening topic.”

True Story released July 4 youtube trailer, ‘The Sound Of Freedom” on child tracking… watch the trailer if you wonder about this billionaire obsession with youth….. same as it always has been. He talks of adrenachrome in the movie….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyyyKcfJRGQ

It is all evil – this immortality the Elites seek – you can just feel it in the articles, and for a great many reasons……