“What’s the matter?”
“The patient says that she is not happy with her new heart and wants a replacement. I’ve called in the technician so he can fix it for her. With the new heart which will be fixed into her in a short while, I think it will be safe for us to say that she might be able to live up to the age of about three-hundred until she gets it replaced again.”
Fifteen years ago this same dialogue would have sounded to many as utterly fantastic and hilarious. But, for some reason, in today’s world this ‘could-be’ reality sounds much attractive to some people as it sounds highly dangerous and apocalyptic to some others. Unlike the ancient philosophers and religious figures, modern men and women of science believe death to be a technical problem- the hardest problem, but nevertheless technical- and not our inevitable destiny. About two decades ago even a scientist would have laughed at this bizarre idea, but now it is believed that it can be done- we just need a bit more time and money.
Gilgamesh of Uruk was a valiant warrior who had been unsurpassed in the art of war. People of the kingdom feared him because of his arrogance. One day his dear friend, Enkidu died. As grief washed over Gilgamesh, he vowed to conquer death. He travelled far and wide over mountains and seas, spanning the face of the earth in search of death so he could rule over it. However, the intrepid sovereign returned empty-handed. In the twenty-first century we have seen the outset of Project Gilgamesh and SENS, the two research projects whose objective is to extend human beings’ lives indefinitely; in simple words, to finish what Gilgamesh set out to do around four-thousand years ago.
SENS research scientists believe ageing to be the deterioration of our cells and tissues. As the microscopic structures start failing, we start experiencing diseases which ageing gives way to. SENS Research Foundation’s goal as they put it is ‘to apply the principles of regenerative medicine to repair the damage of ageing at the level where it occurs’1, that is at a microscopic level.
What exactly is meant by ‘regenerative medicine’? Regenerative medicine is a field concerned with the replacement and repair of injured tissues2. What the SENS research scientists plan to do is use this exact method at a microscopic level so they can reverse ageing.
SENS research scientists have classified the types of cell deterioration in 7 classes. This makes it easier for them to study the causes, which are yet only partially known to us. What makes it harder to carry out the principles of regenerative medicine at a microscopic level to reverse ageing is the limited knowledge about the definite causes at our disposal. Scientists predict that we might succeed in the coming thirty years.
Many activists are showing a great amount of concern regarding this new idea of becoming a-mortal or as the Israeli professor of history and the author of Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari puts it, a ‘god’. Essentially we are planning to go beyond our abilities, to alter this world. In the long term, scientists predict, that there will be a rise of a seventh kingdom, known as Technium.3, 4
This kingdom of Technium will not contain animals nor will it contain plants; it will contain something that the human race has always feared- cyborgs; half-human, half-machine. We know that a machine is perfect at what it is supposed to do, and what Project Gilgamesh plans to do in the coming century is exactly this- snatch the power of perfection from the Almighty and become the conquerors of Pluto.
1. Yuval Noah Harari, ‘Sapiens’, 2011
2. ‘The Technium’, https://kk.org/thetechnium/the-seventh-kin/
3. Schenold, Terry, ‘The Technological Imagination’, HS 260, Fall 2015, http://courses.bloodedbythought.org/dti/wp-content/uploads/HS260_L02-09.14_macrological-the.technium.pdf
4. ‘Regenerative Medicine’, http://www.ncabr.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/chapter_regenerativeMedicine.pdf
© Anurag Inamdar, 2019