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Reports in the media on extending human longevity have always enticed me, and I am sure, many of you too.  Even most of those who believe in an afterlife or reincarnation still cling to life and hope to live as long as possible

Many of these reports speak of enabling people to make it to what is considered the natural limit of human longevity — approximately 120 years.  That would be quite a biological feat, but there is no reason to believe that we won’t be able to push that limit much higher, perhaps to 200 or 300 years at some point.  And why not suppose that someday, admittedly far off, we will be able to eliminate that limit entirely and enjoy immortality, whether by completely freezing or reversing the aging process; developing artificial enhancements to, or replacements for, our bodies; uploading our consciousnesses to some ultra-advanced repository; or by some other means not yet contemplated.

Sounds great for those who want to make use of it.  (Studies show that a majority of people would not want to live forever.  But who knows how people would respond to the question if immortality actually became a possibility.)  However, much like an episode of the Netflix show Black Mirror, there could very well be a dark side of such scientific advancements to which I would think few, if any, people have given much thought.

For example, it occurred to me that even if the human age limit could be vastly extended or done away with, it would probably be impossible to completely eliminate death.  For example, presumably there would still be death by accident or murder, and it may be the case that it would never be possible to eliminate disease entirely and that people might still die from them, however rare that might be.   (The only type of future immortality scenario that might have a chance of eliminating death would be one where people’s consciousnesses are uploaded to a receptacle where they could be securely maintained, but, even then, one can imagine circumstances where such consciousnesses might meet their end.)

Now imagine what it would be like in a world with greatly extended human longevity or immortality where someone dies or is killed prematurely, due to, for example, an airplane crash or a medical mistake.  Think about the extraordinary sense of unfairness and trauma it would bring to a person’s loved ones if someone who was supposed to live a very long time or be immortal were not able to do so.  Such deaths are certainly tragic no matter how long one’s expected lifespan, but that tragedy would take on extraordinary proportions in a world where death has been held off or done away with entirely.  In other words, in a world with far greater longevity, premature death takes on a far more tragic cast.  Without the familiarity of death as a part of life, death becomes shocking beyond words and difficult to reckon with.  How could individuals or societies ever survive such trauma?  What sort of compensation would accrue to those they left behind if someone else were responsible for the premature death?  These are just some of the questions that arise from this notion.

And ponder this:  What if the life-extending technology only kept people from aging from the point in their lives when such treatment commenced, meaning that the elderly would be frozen at old age, while the ranks of the young would continue to expand and represent an ever-increasing segment of the population?  The elderly would be stuck in older bodies, while the rest of the population remained in a more youthful form.  (Of course, I am assuming that there was no technology for restoring older bodies to their younger condition.)  Imagine how resentful these older people would be towards that more youthful cohort, stung by an understandable feeling of unfairness and bitterness.

Of course, these are not the only problematic issues that could arise from greater longevity or immortality.  For example, would some humans become bored and seek to have their lives ended, opting out of greater longevity or immortality?  It is important that we think through these notions at some point before they become reality so that we can consider how to address them before they become serious problems.  Seen in this vein, greatly extended longevity and immortality no longer appear to be the unthinkingly positive advancement that we might suppose.