Ramblings & ephemera

The social perils of immortality

From John Shirley:

Immortality? Maybe. There’s one company …: “There’s that UCSF scientist who keeps cropping up with roundworms. Now and then you hear something new about her and her program: Cynthia Kenyon. She’s started a company called Elixir. She’s working on ways to tweak a gene called daf-2 which controls how well cells repair themselves over time. This gene gets shut off somehow–she’s trying to turn it back on, I take it…She did it in roundworms first. Now she’s done it in mice, vastly extending their lifespans. Daf-2 apparently controls a host of proteins and hormones that repair cells, eliminate free radicals, destroy bacteria and so on. All this may be far more complex in humans than in animals though…

If it works, chances are that it’ll be so expensive that it won’t appreciably add to overpopulation. Only a few people will be able to afford it. The rich will become semi-immortal. The poor may be kept in ignorance about how this is done, lest revolution demand everyone gets relative immortality. This partial suppression of the relevant biotech can be justified, perhaps: not only for reasons of space and sufficient resources in an overpopulated Earth, but for reasons of encouraging genetic diversity–mortality is motivation for reproducing. The human race seems to need death…

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