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Medical Advances May Create New Class: The Lives and Live-Nots

Immortality may be acheivable in the near future, but at a high price


Medical Advances Create New Dreams for Immortality
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Medical advances offer the wealthy a chance to buy immortality

The good news: Immortality isn’t just the stuff of science fiction anymore. The bad news: Living forever isn’t going to be cheap. As long as the price tag is within reach for more than just than the ultra-rich, however, it’s a good bet that plenty of people will spend every penny they can get their hands on just to extend their lifespan with a few more good years.

Still, now that wildly-extended life spans aren’t merely the basis for a hypothetical discussion, the idea does force a person to consider if the avoidance of death is truly desirable. And if it is, how much is it worth, in dollars?

Immortality Isn’t a Crazy Idea Anymore

Money may not buy happiness, but plenty of the world’s uber-wealthy are certainly counting on money buying extra time on the planet. Take Oracle (ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison as an example. He’s set up the Ellison Medical Foundation for the purpose of finding a way to end mortality. The foundation doesn’t simply give lip-service to the cause either. It reportedly hands out $40 million per year to further the immortality movement.

Ray Kurzweil is another “kook” with dreams of living forever. Never heard of him? Don’t worry — a lot of people haven’t. He’s currently employed by Google (GOOG) as … well, an artificial intelligence inventor, for lack of a better way of saying it.


Cryogenic Freezing

Cryogenically Frozen in a state of suspended animation

Baseball great Ted Williams is one of approximately 270 people that have undergone cryopreservation procedures with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future.

And then there’s famed baseball player Ted Williams, who has already passed away, but expects to be revived from his cryogenic sleep one day when the proper reanimation technology is finally developed. He and a couple hundred other Americans are in a state of suspended animation, with most of the recent freezings coming at about $30,000 apiece … plus annual maintenance fees.
In other words, scientifically-driven immortality isn’t a joke. It’s real enough that some deep-pocketed people are spending heavily to make it happen.

To Live or Not to Live? That is (Almost) the Question.

With that being said, it becomes clear that, even if living forever truly becomes possible, it’s still not going to be cheap. Yet, like all new technologies, the longer it’s around, the cheaper it becomes. (Just think of cell phones, big-screen TVs, solar power, etc.)

We’re talking about immortality, though, so it’s tough to imagine it’ll ever be commoditized. Most plausibly, it’s apt to come at a cost that’s out of reach for the majority, but affordable enough for the affluent, even if its puts the lower tier of the world’s affluent under some serious financial pressure.

And that’s where things get tricky, not so much for the philosophers, but for the folks who want to finance their avoidance of death at the expense of a relatively normal, comfortable life. Is it worth becoming a slave to your own immortality, or is it better to enjoy life — and your wealth — even if only for the typical 77 years on the planet?

Obviously there’s no absolute right answer, primarily because it’s still only a hypothetical question. Once it’s no longer a hypothetical issue, however, the pro-immortality crowd may be surprised to find folks would rather live a full, enjoyable life for a limited time rather than pay a deep price (literally) for immortality that is — with most of the present solutions — not much of a life.

The perpetual maintenance of a youthful physical, biological body is admittedly a compelling idea. However, it seems to be the least popular possibility, in that it seems unlikely any amount of biotechnology could actually fix every form of deterioration of a human body’s cells. And, if a person spends enough time alive, it’s only a matter of time before a physical accident like a car wreck or hiking accident catches up with them, bringing an end to their immortality.

The alternative, obviously, is the digital storage of an individual’s brain, complete with a soul and/or personality. That “brain” can be downloaded into a robotic body, exist simply in a network as a program (a la The Matrix), or maybe even implanted into new, blank biological body … although there’s no conceivable technology — even by unforeseen future know-how — that could upload a digitally stored brain into an existing mesh of neurons. As such, that means cybernetic bodies or simple digital entities are the most likely solutions to immortality.

And this is where the whole matter is boiled down to one simple question: Would you really want to  live forever in a state where you could never truly smell a flower, taste chocolate, enjoy sex, see a sunset, or do any of a million more fantastic things without processing them as code and enjoying them only because your software tells you to enjoy them, and waste your “good body” years mostly financing your immortality?

Answer: No.

Remember, your digital brain will be smart enough to know it’s just a vast network of computer programming, and will also know that our true nature is one intended to be in a physical body. The technology may “work”, but we were never intended to live forever.

Immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, particularly when it comes at a life-limiting price.

As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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