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Offbeat – 10 January 2014

Of course, as with most things scientific, this is probably the beginning of a series of catastrophic disasters.

I asked for some fairly impossible stuff on my Christmas list for 2013. Apparently it wasn’t so impossible after all. I asked for winter weather during summer, with rain. I got both, just a week or two apart. I also asked for a reduction in crime. That happened in my neighbourhood. Everything was quiet as far as I could see. I was told the botsotsos went elsewhere for Christmas and New Year. I was very, very happy with that.
The other thing I asked for was a couple of hundred more years of life. The possibility of that happening arrived a couple of days before Christmas in an announcement in a mind-numbing medical article.
It works like this. Cells age, which is why we get older. Everything in the body is made out of different kinds of cells. Up until just before Christmas, the general assumption was that scientists would find a way to halt aging of cells. A couple of scientists threw that concept out of the window with an announcement that they reversed cellular aging.
They were quite happy to be the owners of an eighteen month old mouse that had been turned into a six month old mouse. That announcement came in the news on 19 December. The next steps are fairly obvious. They want to start testing it on humans, and then get it into production so that they can get extremely rich. I think they deserve a large amount of money for that discovery.
My immediate thought was I would really like a pill that could turn me into a 25 year old again, but they are being cagey on that matter. Apparently the trials will look at specific things like dementia and cancer and so on, so for now it will come in bits and pieces.
My guess is that we will have to wait a bit longer for that one pill that turns us all into stupid, hormonal teenagers again.
Of course, as with most things scientific, this is probably the beginning of a series of catastrophic disasters.
Firstly, youth unemployment will shoot up. If you are hiring for experience, the human resources departments obviously have only one way to go. The kids aren’t going to be happy about that, and we all know the kind of mischief, rioting and looting that happens when kids get rambunctious.
Secondly, there’s the whole thing of population sustainability. I think if that sort of longevity happens, it will have to go together with planned infertility. That should not be the Chinese kind which does it with taxes, but the complete-permanent-removal-of-ability-to-breed kind of infertility. Perhaps having testicles or ovaries will become a social embarrassment. Anyway, we can’t feed everyone, so a pill that replaces food might be a good idea as well.
On the bright side, perhaps extreme personal ambition and manipulative behaviour will become a thing of the past. Maybe elderly sociopaths will finally be able to get over their repeated attempts to find feelgood gratification in causing misery for others, and get on with their lives, maybe find hobbies and finally become slightly likable. For some people, the wisdom of age comes slower, and extra years really will help.
Things don’t really get finished to my satisfaction. There are a couple of people who really ought to have lived a bit longer. Tolkein is one of them, for instance. His notes don’t make easy reading, and I think novelisations would have helped.
There are also mysteries that need to be sorted out that longevity could help with, for instance the whole thing of religion and spirituality. Atheists are quick to dismiss gods, but that feels a bit like denying something unimaginable, like thinking travel to the moon was a fantasy in the 18th century. Perhaps with time and research, anomalies in the dull pattern of empirical rationalism will begin to noticed. For now, for my part, I’ll just go with my superstitions.
It’s that time of the year when I normally wish readers Happy New Year. This year, the typical addition to that. ‘may there be many more’ appears far more convincing then other years. May there be many more!

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