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Sam North - the future of death is changing

Surrender Nothing
You want more -There are always new worlds to discover
New partners to find, two lives to live - extend your life forever
LifeXtension,inc will guarantee your future.™
“ I got the full works from, new heart, lung, new legs and hair and then I got myself a new bride of 30. You can bet your life I recommend LifeXtension,inc.”
Jerry Merryweather, age122

The future of death is changing. Not far down the bio-genetic road lies a world where, for a price, you will be able to extend your life by replacing limbs, internal organs, eyes, even nervous systems. Beyond that, LifeXtension companies will grow new whole perfect designer bodies for you ready for the day you want a mind implant. You walk in old, you walk out new, but with all your memories intact. Too fantastic? If you can think it, it will happen. That is the story of scientific development these past two hundred years. Technically, we are creating a future where some, the very rich, could live forever. (We are not, for sake of argument talking about psychological deterioration and brain atrophy over time- though no doubt through stem cell research brain regeneration will also accompany this body part revolution).

Fantastic? Yes. Possible? Absolutely. Who will have this? The rich - at first. Then as demand grows and techniques improve along with cost reductions, almost anyone could get this. What about the Third World? No chance.

So why live forever? What’s the point? Does everyone want to do it? Not right now. There is resistance. I spoke with Helene age 27. She has long espoused that she intends to die at 40. She refuses to give up smoking despite the fact that many in her family have had or even died of cancer. She doesn’t want a new lung, a new head or a new anything. ‘I want to go at 40’. She can’t image a world where she coudl find any happiness at 40 and she is expecting the cigarettes to kill her to save her the trouble. She is serious.

John Richard is just about to turn 55. He has a young wife and a boy of nine. He works in the I.T. intelligence industry. He has suffered a number of health related problems so I asked him, ‘ Would you like to live to 100? Or longer? If I could offer you new limbs for old, you could live forever.’
John was sceptical. He was thinking less about his boy and more about his pension. Living say another 55 years and most of that on a state pension would not be attractive. He loathes the idea of replacement body parts, but if pressed he’d go for the mind implant into a new fresh and most importantly young body.

Of course this technology is the furthest away and none of the new techniques are going to be available in time to help John. He paints a scene at the beach where all these people of 125 going on 30 are showing off their new limbs to each other as they get tans in St Tropez. Naturally the richest will sport slim muscular Gucci™ arms and lithe Nike™ legs. One can see branding reaching out to our very skins and body parts and then come the put-downs ‘She’s so poor all she could get was new thighs from Marks and Sparks’ or worse, you arrive with National Health makeover feet that don’t quite fit, shoulders with stitching coming away at the seams and sub-standard replacement skin grown in a Romanian factory instead of ICI™.

I spoke with Joanna who is 81 already. When asked what she’d like, at first she said she would like to replace everything, but then immediately relented. Even with a new legs and all those wrinkles trimmed, she couldn’t really think of any reason to live longer. ‘We are here for our allotted time. We bring children into the world, we live, we have our memories. If I live another 20 years who’ll pay? I just get a state pension. Twenty years of getting by - twenty years of more cold winters, my friends are already dead...I’d probably outlive my children. What is the use of that?’

There are people who warm to the idea. Catherine is 52, she has had a major brush with cancer and had her stomach removed. She didn’t give up. She has already had things replaced. Now she holds down a good job and wants to carry on, rebuild her life, find a new lover. She is well disposed to the idea of replacement body parts, and she doesn’t mind if they are cloned as long as they work and last, because she knows more than anyone, being in hospital for months on end is no joy.

‘If I was to have new legs, they’d have to last a lifetime. You see people having the hip operations all over again and each time they last less than the last time’. Catherine is a prime target for Lifextension,inc but even so, the price would have to be right. ‘It is no use spending so much on new limbs if you cannot afford to live afterwards’.

We are all different and whether we like this idea or not, it is coming. Sadly if you are already 50 plus, chances are you have missed the boat. Ideally, you order these body parts when you are born and they grow as you do, so you can replace if things break, just like cars. After all , if my Seat breaks down, I will replace the part and it is still a Seat. We are still the same we ever were with new limbs, just less cranky.

The trouble is the main income earning years are between 22 and 50. How are you going to acquire enough to pay for the body parts and a lifestyle that will keep you active until 100? How many careers, jobs, wives, vacations can a person endure? What about the young? If no one ever retires, how will they ever get a career going? Or will it all turn ugly, like Logan’s Run. The young will start shooting the old in the streets. ‘Hey watch where you’re shooting, I paid $100,000 for that arm’. (What if people get sneaky and start replacing themselves with teenager bodies so they can live even longer?)

In the future work will be precious, work will be a privilege. It could be that culture will become the equivalent of factory work with millions of people turning out crappy novels, and art and crafts which the other half are forced to buy. (Whoops that’s now). We’ll beg for real jobs, bashing metal, building cars, houses....

And there is the other thing, if they abolish sickness as well, what will ever relieve us of boredom? Just because life can be extended it doesn’t mean it will be worth it. In 100 years it might be, but in 100 years your world changes completely and even if you could afford to stay, even if you have replaced everything so much so your don’t even recall who you might not like that new world, at all.

For most of us, living longer with bankrupt pensions, damp housing, the British weather, it isn’t attractive. It may be altogether morebrutal, more desperate and one may end up in a backstreet market trying to sell of the new limbs they had grafted on, if they have any use at all.

When you're young and beautiful you will want to live forever. The mirror shall reveal, the mirror will tell you when its time to go. Remember the words of the perfect citizens in that sentient film Zardoz when the barbarian Sean Connery rides into a village filled with 200 year old beautiful, healthy but ancient people. ‘ Kill me, kill me first.’

© Sam North 2001


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