I’m feeling some anxiety about something that I recently was reminded of by my Amazon Alexa cylindrical best-friend-for-life device thing: the world will end in “a few billion years” when the sun swells into a red giant. Be careful what you ask her. To narrow that down a bit I turned to “Fried Planets,” an inappropriately whimsically titled article provided by NASA. Looks like a mere five billion years. Some people of a more optimistic bent would probably see that as too far away to worry about. They could be wrong. Forget about your infinitely great-to-the-googolplex grandchildren. Consider the possibility that just around the corner there might be a medical breakthrough that will extend life (probably at first just for nonsmoking fasting vegan/neolithic diet consuming meditators who take vitamin D supplements) indefinitely for you and me. That looming red expansion would take on a whole new look and who’d be laughing then? It’s enough to make a reasonable person lose some sleep.
Now the baseball great Ted Williams is known to have had his head removed (after his death) and shipped to a cryogenics company for storage until such time as it can be reattached to some sort of body and reanimated. While his baseball and fly fishing skills would likely suffer, his intellectual faculties would theoretically switch right back on and he could pick up wherever it was that he left off. This isn’t a choice for everyone due to the cost, the lack of quality head freezers, and the iffiness of our existing electrical grid. It might be best to try to hang on to what you have as long as possible, giving some genius recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship a chance to pull off a big win.
A 2015 article in The Guardian focuses on a California (of course) hedge fund manager named Joon Yun who would like to see the current odds of a 25 year-old dying before the age of 26 (now 0.1%) remain constant for everyone at every age. Nice, but the result would still only get one to about the age of 1000…not enough. His Palo Alto Longevity Prize offers $1 million in two phases for success in “finding ways to restore the body’s balance when it comes to its internal response to stress or calm — a process known as homeostatic capacity,” first in test animals. Certainly a noble goal, but test animals can’t be expected to know about the impending red giant in our neighborhood, something a sentient human can’t be expected to just ignore, thus making “homeostatic capacity” a bridge that’s likely too far.
Peter Thiel, another Silicon Valley guy and a real life Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons, says “I believe if we could enable people to live forever, we should do that. I think this is absolute.” He’s putting some of his many dollars where his mouth is. If you’ve seen a movie or two in which at some point there’s a startling view of a vast room filled with Tylenol-shaped transparent containers holding the naked bodies of young humans hanging from cables and trailing tubes leading somewhere, so apparently has Peter Thiel. The idea is that plasma transfusions from younger to older people, parabiosis, might trigger long term changes in the recipient…changes that could extend life. Ambrosia, a Monterey, California (of course) company is now conducting a patient funded study, leaving the FDA out in the cold, to see if there’s merit in the idea. If this works, Baby Boomers will become an even greater irritant to younger generations, something the young ones probably didn’t think was possible. “Sure you can move back in, honey. Mom and I will only be needing you to donate every couple of weeks.”
Probably the best news of all for eternal life on this planet fans is that Google is into the game as of 2013! The company founded the California Life Company (Calico), and In 2014 along with another entity called AbbVie, established an R&D facility “focused on aging and age-related diseases.”
That’s it. Game over. If Google is on the case, I assume it’s a deal that’s as good as done. At least for now I’m asking the search box twice a day “where do I sign up for Calico’s eternal life solution?” So far they’re being coy. To supplement that–just in case–I’m also asking Alexa on a regular basis “Alexa…how can I live forever?” Right now she’s saying “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand the question,” but I can tell from the spinning blue light that she’s looking into it. That’s all right. I can wait…for a while.