The New StatesmanThe New Statesman

Can we live forever?

By Martin Rees

02 Jun 2023 · 5 min read

informed Summary

  1. Humans have long sought the elixir of youth, with the aim of conquering the ageing process.

Humans have long sought the elixir of youth, so it is not surprising that even non-scientists closely follow the latest research into ageing. But is the ageing process, which most people simply consider a fact of life, actually a disease that can be conquered? Or is there some insurmountable limit to the lifespan of human bodies?

Of course almost everyone, as they get older, yearns for at least a moderate extension of their lifespan – provided that they retain their health and faculties. If we could be kept alive only with the help of extreme measures, many of us would opt instead for non-resuscitation and solely palliative treatment. We might also find comfort in having the option of assisted dying as soon as our quality of life and our prognosis dipped below a certain threshold. We would dread the fate of the Struldbrugs depicted in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels – remaining alive, but in a decrepit state repulsive to those with normal lifespan.

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