Immortality

30 November 2008

Forget the metaphorical gaia nonsense – every human cell is descended from another human cell. The human species is all descended from other humans – there aren’t new magic cells coming down out of heaven to start each new baby.  If human mothers can create baby cells with $time=0 through procreation, why can’t we do the same thing within an individual to indefinitely extend life?

With evolution in mind, I would argue that death is as necessary a part of the species as birth. Death of organisms is a feature that lets the species as a whole progress.  If we treat this feature as a bug and engineer it away, we’ll find ourselves susceptible to the problems this feature solved.  We will no longer evolve biologically.

If you look at the historical progress of our species, and the tendency for the elderly to become obstinate and set in their ways, immortality might halt cultural evolution too.

If we make it to the distant reaches of outer space before we all become immortal and refuse to risk our lives on space missions, will we find planets out there whose residents evolved exactly to the point of immortality, and never any further?  Or will we only find their ruins, and if we’re lucky, some indication of the small and gradual environment change that they found their species incapable of evolving to deal with?