Should we live forever?
(…No, we shouldn’t)
Every human being who has ever lived in the history of mankind has one thing in common, Everyone dies. From Julius Caesar to Donald Trump everyone has or will eventually die. You will die, I will die, Lebron James will die, that is just the way the world works. As sad as this may seem, we are on the brink of a discovery that is beginning to look like it may allow us to cast aside the shackles of death, and live forever. I’m certain that the majority of people would be jumping for joy if they heard that they could live forever, but in this essay I will attempt to play the devil’s advocate and shed some light on the darker side of achieving immortality. Even now scientists are prolonging lab rats lives by three and even four times the average, STEM cells can be 3D printed to create custom organs designed for each patient, and the average life expectancy increases yearly (Sara Alavian.). Conservative estimates say within one hundred years (Hopeful estimates say as little as 50) the first man will undergo surgery to make him live forever. But what do you actually get from living forever?
Humans have been attempting to conquer death since our beginnings, from alchemists in the stone age to philosophers in the 19th century but we have never been as close as we are now to the cure for death. Living forever seems like something that has only ever happened in movies or on science fiction shows, but we are actually much closer than many would believe. There is a huge list of advantages to living forever; such as never getting sick, continuing to make money forever, being able to do things you never had the time to (Becoming a doctor or finally going to culinary school). Receiving a surgery to make you live forever puts you into a position where you could do or be anything you want. Living forever is the best way to maximize your hobbies relationships and happiness. Now I will discuss the disadvantages of living forever; One would be, how would the earth handle everyone living forever?
How Would Earth Cope?
Before taking a look at how Earth would manage with unlimited people hanging around, let’s take a look at how Earth is doing right now. As a species we produce roughly 500 billion tons of carbon waste (UCS). In the past 20 years the average global temperature has risen consistently by an average of half a degree per year (UCS). Global population is at an all time high at 7 billion and is expected to reach 10 billion by the year 2050 (UCS). Pollution levels have risen consistently but in the year 2016 they fell off (UCS). This shows that there is hope for our planet. The year 2016 was easily the most progressive in years, people are beginning to realize what is happening and a global effort is underway to help reduce our carbon footprints. Surprisingly, if everyone lived forever right now, the world would most definitely collapse. Obviously demand for resources would skyrocket. The need for energy would also jump to new levels. Physical space would become a hot commodity and eventually there would be next to no room for anyone. There is absolutely no way that we could live forever if we were doing things the way we are now. So how would it have to be done?
For starters we would have to get rid of all carbon based energy. Coal, gasoline and natural gas simply would not cut it. The amount of power generated by these simple fuels is just not enough to sustain a population of immortals (Declan Kuch.) . Not to mention the huge amount of carbon dioxide released from the burning of the resources would continue to pollute the planet. Clean, renewable energy is the only option for humankind if we want to live forever. Stephen Hawking one said “I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming” (Hawking, Stephen.). The main source of power for the undying population would come from nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is almost as clean as it gets, with minimal waste products and zero carbon emissions plus a huge yield of energy from a small amount of fuel. Nuclear plants would cover for roughly 60 percent of our energy. The other 40 would come from a combination of solar, wind, geothermal and marine current power. These options are excellent choices because they all produce no carbon emissions while also producing a large yield of power. Making these changes would definitely help the massive need for energy presented by a population of people who live forever by increasing the amount of power generated, but by also reducing the carbon footprint of man.
In respects to space we would have to be creative. Humans have been building up since the stone age, from huts to castles to the empire state building, we build up. When space becomes more tight we would have to begin to build down, building what would essentially be upside down skyscrapers. This would at the least double the capacity of all cities and create enough living space for everyone. The way we farm is not efficient in the least. The old way of farming requires huge stretches of land and backbreaking work to plant, maintain and harvest the crops. Shockingly 40 percent of all land in the US is farmland (USDA). Vertical farms would be the best solution to this issue. Vertical farms build upward to maximize space while also reducing the amount of water required. Farms in the US are responsible for 80 percent of freshwater consumption (USDA). Even in their prototype stages some vertical farms have been able to yield more produce and require just one third the water as a standard farm that uses almost ten times the space. Vertical farming along with building underground are the perfect solutions to the space issues created by everyone living forever. These solutions also help conserve water along with create more food, jobs and resources for the growing population.
There are many complex moral issues presented by living forever. Throughout my research, every single source, website and article I found on the topic stated that the process for living forever would almost definitely be a complex surgery that initially would cost millions of dollars to receive. So the question arises, does the government pay for this procedure? If so expect a huge hike in taxes as everyone scrambles to the nearest hospital to get their free immortality. If not (Which is way more likely) than only the super rich would be able to receive the procedure, Isn’t that really messed up? Why do only the rich get to live forever, continually earning more and more money as they basically transcend to gods while the middle and lower class have to drudge on and die. This seems incredibly unfair to everyone but the top 5% of the country and would almost definitely cause mass anger, protests and maybe even riots. Another moral dilemma comes from the fact that if you are lucky enough to get this surgery, you’d have to sit by and watch all of your family, friends and loved ones die around you. You’d have to bury your wife (or husband) your kids, even your grandkids. Eventually, everyone you will have ever met will have died, ultimately resulting in you being alone… forever. A third situation comes from the fact that we only have so much to do, and forever is quite a long time. You could spend 100 years studying the stars, then the next 40 as a doctor and the next 200 as an opera singer but eventually you’d run out of things to do. What do you do after you’ve done everything? You’d wind up spending your entire existence just waiting for something to do, and (at least to me) that sounds terrible. The final moral situation that stems from living forever is that to an outsider, it seems extremely selfish. Out of anything you can do, living forever is easily one of the most selfish things you can do. Sir isaac newton once said “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” (Newton, Isaac) This means that all of his success can be attributed to those who laid the foundations for his studies, it also means that eventually he will be the giant and someone else will be standing on his shoulders, peering into the future. Humans have repeated this cycle for millennia, it is almost a rite of passage or a tradition. The old die and make way for the new, but not before hoisting them up a step or two on the ladder of human accomplishments. The act of living forever, bucks the system entirely. It says “I don’t care about the next generation of people, I want what’s best for me”. This kind of thinking is actually becoming more and more common today, as evidenced by the “Not my problem” mindset being taken towards global warming and pollution. This school of thought is the exact opposite direction we need to go in, we as a species need to pave the way for future generations, not protect our own self interests and leaving the world worse off for our youth. These situations, though hypothetical poke holes in the idea that living forever would be a good thing, they also reveal that we need to change our direction of thinking from worrying about us, to worrying about the future. As technology and medicine advance, it can become so easy to get tied up in the here and now, but it is imperative that we begin to teach love and unselfishness in order to preserve the future for those who will follow us, by ten, twenty or even one hundred years.
In conclusion, Living forever comes with a plethora of advantages for you as an individual. You would live out your dreams and explore every aspect of life. But every advantage to living eternally comes with five disadvantages to the human race as a whole. Not only would it be incredibly fiscally irresponsible to sign up for a multiple million dollar procedure, it would also cause tons of socioeconomic issues that in truth would take decades and billions of dollars to resolve. Living forever may have once seemed like a childish dream for people. Every person who has ever lived before you has yearned for the chance at more life, it is almost in our human nature to want to live forever, But surprisingly turning down the opportunity may be the most human thing you could ever do. I hope to have changed your opinion or at least made you stop and think differently about a question you would normally be quick to answer yes to.
BBC. “Do you really want to live forever?” BBC.com. N.p., 3 Dec. 2010. Web. 16 May 2017.
Declan Kuch. The Rise and Fall of Carbon Emissions Trading. New York City: New York Publishing Co, n.d. Print.
Hawking, Stephen. “Pollution Quotes.” Brainyquote. N.p., 26 Oct. 2013. Web. 17 May 2017.
Newton, Isaac. “Inspiring Quotes” Brainyquote. N.p., 23 Sep. 2013. Web. 17 May 2017.
Sara Alavian. “PUBLIC RELEASE DATE 2045 TO 2050 Impact Sources Read Comments Your Reaction The science of aging: Can we live forever, and should we?” http://www.quantumrun.com. N.p., 11 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 May 2017.
The compromise of Renewable energy. Dir. Science Plus. Perf. Trace Dominguez. Youtube.com. N.p., 5 Oct. 2015. Web.
The Union of Concerned Scientists. “Each Country’s share of CO2 Emissions.” http://www.ucsusa.org. N.p., 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 May 2017.
USDA. “Farming.” https://www.usda.gov. N.p., 18 July 2015. Web. 17 May 2017.