Can humans defeat death? Science says “maybe”

The idea of dying may become a thing of the past in the next 40-100 years, some respected scientists claim. New technologies can certainly make people look younger and extend their lives – but not everyone qualifies.

Throughout the annals of history, humanity has harbored a relentless yearning for "eternal life," an aspiration to transcend the boundaries of our current lifespan and perpetual youth. Despite our inherent vulnerability to illness, our propensity for destruction, and our unwavering stubbornness, the collective human effort has, over the past two centuries, remarkably elevated our species' average life expectancy.

For the uninitiated, life expectancy denotes the anticipated number of years one can anticipate at a specific age. Naturally, curiosity arises: how long can humans truly extend their existence? According to Our World in Data, the average life expectancy stands at 72.6 years. However, as many may be aware, there exist select groups, primarily in affluent nations, that have far surpassed this benchmark.

Some individuals have achieved remarkable longevity, reaching ages of 100, 110, or even beyond, with the illustrious Jeane Calment from France holding the record at 122 years and 164 days.

But is it possible for humans to extend their lives even further? If given the opportunity, how long would one choose to live? Two centuries? Five centuries? Perhaps an entire millennium? Although this might appear reminiscent of science fiction, technological advancements may conceivably pave the way for humans to attain immortality.

In fact, some futurists posit that by the year 2050, mortality could become a rarity, compelling us to take extra precautions.

Futurist Ian Pearson ventures to speculate that through the harnessing of technology, humanity might eventually meld our consciousness with machines, rendering our organic bodies obsolete. One could envision attending their own "body funeral." Pearson envisions this future: "At some point, your physical body ceases to function, and with it, your brain ceases to exist, but this is no longer a grave issue.

An astounding 99% of your consciousness remains intact, thriving within the realm of IT, within the cloud. Assuming you have made adequate preparations, you could connect to an android to serve as your new vessel, participate in your own funeral, and continue your existence, still fundamentally yourself, albeit within a rejuvenated, vastly upgraded form."

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This marks just the initial foray; beyond 2050, numerous possibilities exist for preserving one's consciousness. Humans might transition into different humanoid forms, akin to acquiring a new vehicle with updated features. Or, with the advent of initiatives like Neuralink, the transition from organic to digital could be a few clicks away, allowing individuals to transfer themselves into a computer or robotic body.

Millennia from now, humanity might collectively opt to reside within colossal megastructures that shape our own customized realities.

A plethora of emerging technologies could fundamentally redefine the course of human existence, prompting the question: could humans eventually attain eternal life? Let’s explore these possibilities.

Android body

Imagine inhabiting a fresh android body, a notion that seems torn from the pages of science fiction. Yet, visionaries such as Theodore Berger of the University of Southern California, Mikhail Lebedev of Duke University, and Alexander Kaplan of Moscow University entertain the possibility.

Enterprises are already devoted to bridging the gap between our minds and machines, a pursuit motivated by pragmatic considerations like enabling individuals with mobility impairments to lead more fulfilling lives.

Nonetheless, the scope extends further. If the mind resides within the cloud, it free to inhabit any android it desires within the tangible world. It might reach a point where one could lease an android body for a day. Instead of embarking on a journey to Hawaii, you could simply upload your consciousness to an android stationed there.

Or imagine a captivating concert in a distant city, thousands of miles away, with the ability to upload your consciousness and savor the experience. This progression could conceivably render fleshy bodies obsolete.

3D printing limbs and organs

The advent of 3D printing has revolutionized various industries worldwide, including healthcare. In recent years, separate research teams from different institutions have demonstrated the ability to 3D print human organs. A team of Israeli scientists, for instance, unveiled a 3D-printed heart with human tissue and vessels just last year. Companies like Skorpio Medical have even embarked on research into 3D-printed limbs.

In the near future, it may be feasible to replace a deteriorating body part as easily as upgrading a malfunctioning device. Advances in biotechnology could eradicate the aging of cells or even reverse the process entirely. Lost a finger? Simply print a new one. In need of a new arm? Contact a doctor to install one.

Cryogenic freezing

Cryogenic freezing, once met with skepticism, has gradually gained acceptance within the scientific community. Although we cannot presently freeze ourselves and anticipate revival, a future exists wherein individuals may preserve their bodies in a state of cryogenic stasis for extended periods, awaiting a predetermined date or scientific breakthrough.

This method might find utility during interstellar voyages spanning hundreds of light-years. Additionally, research delves into leveraging cryonics to decelerate tissue aging.

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Virtual world

Enter the creation of a virtual world. The notion of existence within a virtual realm has been postulated and is gaining traction, especially in the era of electronic immortality. In this paradigm, humans could opt to inhabit a cloud-based virtual reality system, where they could eternally coexist with chosen avatars. Given that many already spend a substantial portion of their lives on the internet, this transition seems inevitable.

But what comes after? While this prospect may lie far beyond 2050, potentially millennia away, it remains conceivable. Humanity could ultimately simulate reality on a cosmic scale via a concept known as a "matrioshka brain," inspired by the Dyson sphere. This hypothetical megastructure, envisioned by Robert J. Bradbury, could harness an entire star's energy output to power advanced computer systems, capable of simulating reality and reshaping the universe as we perceive it. Although this concept may presently appear fantastical, the idea of uploading one's consciousness into a computer once seemed equally implausible.

Evolving into cyborgs

Human evolution may also encompass the realm of cyborgs. Elon Musk's Neuralink project is diligently working toward establishing direct brain-computer connections via non-invasive devices. While the current focus lies in aiding individuals with neurological impairments, Musk's vision extends far beyond, aiming to forge a symbiotic relationship between humans and artificial intelligence, creating a "digital superintelligence layer."

Moreover, advancements in robotics and prosthetics could pave the way for human-robot hybrids. Procedures may grant individuals bionic eyes, robotic limbs, or other enhancements tailored to their preferences and needs. Much like a toolbox, one could switch out different limbs and appendages for various activities, facilitating a more versatile and dynamic existence.

Are these things real?

Most futurists delight themselves with the idea that by evolving into cyborgs, or uploading their minds in cloud, or enhancing human brains with AI assistants, people will indeed live forever. But realists fear that the moment AI takes control over an individual’s brain, he should be pronounced dead.
And some scientists doubt that clouds will really help – normally when someone clones his brain’s neural links and uploads them on a mechanical server or another biological body, all he gets is an exact copy of himself while he still remains a distinct personality, and when he dies… well, he dies. The copy lives as his twin personality.

What humans are able to do for sure – and this will be a fact by the end of this century – is to double or triple their lifespan, thanks to biotech. Not everyone will qualify though – only people who can afford the above-mentioned upgrades.