Forever young

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					Reversing The Aging Process, Should We?

In the length of time measured as human lifetime one can expect to see a
full range of differing events. It is assumed that during a lifetime a
person will experience every possible different emotion. If one is
particularly lucky, he will bear witness to, or affect some momentous
change in humanity. However is it reasonable to ask what would be
experienced by someone who lived two lifetimes? Up until recently the
previous question would and could only be rhetorical. There is no answer,
because no one has ever lived that long. Of course that was up until now.

At McGill University, nematodes (tiny organisms) have experienced five
lifetimes (Kluger). Through complex scientific experiments nematodes and
fruit flies have had their lifespans increased not by fractions of life
times, but by multiples of lifetimes (Kruger). Mankind is using the
discovery of DNA as an opportunity to play G-d by changing the aging
process. Man has a natural tendency to play the role of G-d. Man has a an
inherent need to affect others, be it through the vises of war, power,
manipulation or politics. However man's natural tendency to play G-d has
reached it's final manifestation. By attempting to slow down the aging
process man is using himself as the ultimate canvas, to play the role of
the omnipotent.

Research into the process of aging began in 1961(Rose, Technology
Review:64). Since then a great deal of time, money and effort have been
appropriated into discovering the causes of aging, it can therefore be
inferred that humanity has an almost "personal" interest in aging. Of
course the culmination of discovering how we age, is discovering how to
stop it. An intrinsic characteristic of Man is His obsession with
superficiality. Superficiality is equated with appearance. The appearance
of beauty can be equated with youth. Therein lies man's obsession with
age, ceasing to age means being eternally beautiful. As usual man's
actions are dominated by ego and self-preservation. Within the confines
of youth there lies a certain fountain of power. Power which cannot be
accessed once one ages. Things like physical and sexual prowess. The time
of youth is often refereed to as the "prime of your life". It is
therefore not difficult to understand and conceive of man's motivation to
stay young and to wish that the immedia
te people surrounding him stay young.

If a mathematician wished to create a formula to describe the life of one
man he would say that life is equal to a series of interchangeably
quantized, experiences and emotions. With the advent of a retarded aging
process, that which we know as life changes. While life is composed if
those quantized properties there are a finite amount of them, therefore
decelerating the aging process has major implications. First and foremost
among them is what to do with all that extra time? In 1900 the average
life expectancy of a baby born in the United States was 47 years.
Conservative estimates place life expectancy of children born today in
the united sates at 76, while less conservative estimates place the life
expectancy at 100 years. Presently man is unable to cope with this extra
time. Many septuagenarians spend days sitting around doing next to
nothing. The term "waiting to die" has been applied in reference to such
activities, or rather lack thereof. Even while the average life-span has
increased, whose to say tha
t the time added is quality time? Another general comment overheard in
the population at large was "what's the point of growing old and having
to suffer through ulcers, cataracts, hemorrhoids, and cancer. Isn't it
better to die young and healthy then to die old, infirm and brittle?" The
essential question being proposed is one of quality versus quantity. Is
it better to live for a long time with much of that time spent in
dialysis, or is it preferable to enjoy a short but "fun" life. Even if
the scientists can cure humanity of the ailments of the elders, there
still remains the question of how to manage one's time. "We're bored" has
often been used as the battle cry of youth, people who haven't even lived
two decades. What are people who have lived twelve decades supposed to
do? These questions are stuck in the realm of rhetoric. There are no
answers to these questions. It is altogether possible that there never
will be.
         Scientists involved in the dissection of the aging process have
made what they believe to be an important discovery (Gebhart,174).
Scientists discovered a small area at the tip of the chromosomes that
served no apparent purpose (Kluger). Dubbed a telomere, this area of the
chromosome wasn't responsible for any physiological traits. What was
discerned however was that whenever a cell divides to create two new
cells each of the daughter cells has less telomere than the mother cell
(Kluger). Once the cell has undergone a maximum number of divisions the
telomere was reduced to a stub, exposing genes which initiated proteins
that caused the deterioration of the cell (Kluger). The most applicable
analogy would be that of a bomb. The telomere acts as the fuse to the
bomb. The fuse is lit from the time of birth, and when the telomere\fuse
runs out the bomb goes off. Only in this case instead of instantaneous
death, the victim succumbs to the equivalent of radiation poisoning. The
victims condition is terminal
from the start and slowly degrades to the point of death . The conclusion
is that life is just a case of terminal death. Or is it? Scientists also
discovered an enzyme known as telomerase prevents the loss of telomere,
essentially stomping the fire out (Rose, Technology Review: 64). There
are many substantial and immediate implications raised by this. What are
the ethics of immortality? Was humanity meant to be immortal? Are there
benefits to being immortal? Are there consequences?

While it seems like quite a neat thing to do immortality would place an
incredible strain on our resources. Not only on social actions and mental
coping but also on the resources of this planet. There are a limited
quantity of resources available for consumption on this planet. As a
result of human immortality, the first consequence would be overcrowding.
No one ever dies, therefore there's no room to go "out with the old and
in with the new". The next major problem would be a food shortage. With
an ever-increasing population and a constant food supply, there wouldn't
be enough food to feed everybody. Either the vast majority of the planet
would be starving while a few noble class people feasted, or in general
people would have to reduce the amount they eat. Which introduces the
problem of waste disposal. Not only human and animal defecation but
garbage, where would it go?
A common complaint from a number of people, and most teenagers is that
there parents place too much pressure on them, and that they're always
trying to find out things that are none of there business. Well imagine
the pressure placed on someone who has not only his parents, not only his
grandparents, but also his great-grandparents, his great-great-
grandparents, their parents, and their parents. A person would have an
endless supply of ancestors, and would be constantly overseen. These are
huge ramifications that would change the way humanity not only acts but
also the way humanity perceives itself.

      Lastly there is the ethical aspect of increasing humanity's
lifespan. Regardless of whether there is or is not a some omnipotent
watchperson whom we in our rather limited capacity perceive as G-d there
are ethical issues which must be dealt with. Humanity has always
perceived itself as more than just the sum of its parts. However that
isn't to say that if you change one of the parts humanity will stay the
same. There is nothing more immediate than DNA to a human. What right
does humanity have to go stumbling around down there. A baby doesn't
change its own diapers does it? If humans were meant to live for a
certain amount of time who are we to say we should live longer. On the
other hand who's to say we shouldn't. Yes the human lifespan has been
adjusted in the past, but those were all external stimuli, war, famine,
disease and the CIA were all responsible for changing the definition of
a lifetime. However adjusting DNA is an internal change. Changing our
society and hygiene is light years away from control
ling microscopic chemical reactions. Man is referred to as G-d's ultimate
creation, the universe his canvas. But what happens when humans steal the
canvas and decide to redecorate, would you want to recolor your Picasso?
Is there any justification for living that long, does there need to be?
These are not easy questions, and there not intended to be, but should
scientists prove successful in their endeavors, all of these questions
will have to be resolved. How can certain establishments which frown on
cosmetic plastic surgery frown on the reorganization of protein strands?
There is no doubt that the people in charge of those organizations would
take advantage of these technologies (Rose, Melatonin,: 6). How are the
two things different? There are no possible answers to these questions
for now they must remain rhetorical.

It is increasingly obvious that the   repercussions of these technologies
stretch across the board. As always   the horizon of the future stretches
before us, only revealing a glimpse   of that which is to come. The
resounding questions that will soon   confront us can only be concluded
with the passage of time, something   apparently humanity will have a lot
of.