We are moving towards A-Mortality, a time whereby we will live for centuries, a stepping stone to the ultimate prize of immortality. Ultimately we are moving towards a time whereby all death-causing diseases will be preventable. Allowing us to live on and on, so long as we avoid accidental or violent death.
However this isn't going to happen within a societal finger snap, it will be a slow process and it will not be available to all.
It was once said that you can judge how advanced a society is, by how it treats its old and infirmed members. How does it look after the ones that are too weak to look after themselves?
As a global community that question will only grow in relevance as we move towards A-mortality.
A-Mortal Or A-Moral? Let The Cleansing Begin
As a species we often sit back and look at our achievements with admiration. We have cured previously incurable diseases, we have created technologies that allow us to communicate in the blink of an eye.
We have made the blind see, the lame walk, we have cheated death in numerous ways. We can create robot limbs for amputees that they can control with their minds. We have raised infant mortality and rid ourselves of ailments that were robbing us of our progeny.
Only, that is, if you are lucky enough to live in certain regions of the world. For instance the other day I was watching a fascinating video about how bioscientists had created a robot arm that not only could be controlled by the mind. The limb also connected to the body via real nerves, therefore the amputee who used this arm, could actually feel it, just as if it were her real arm.
The only catch, the arm cost almost $400,000.
Clearly this cost will go down as the technology ripens and matures. For the foreseeable future however, it will remain at least tens of thousands of dollars. That price clearly makes it prohibitive to most people on the planet.
Will an amputee begging on the streets of Delhi have access to that amazing robot arm?
The answer is obviously no. We can already see this happening today.
The Price Of Life
For instance, even though HIV is currently incurable, your prognosis is very different in the West than if you are in a developing country. However the divide is not as black and white as that, the disparity even between developing countries is growing.
Take three different people, they all have contracted HIV. One lives in Nigeria, one in the UK, the other in the United States.
All three people are considered low income in their respective countries. What happens to them?
The first person probably has a life expectancy of ten years or less. In Nigeria the drugs that will keep you alive are hard to come by and expensive. This means that you don't get enough and unfortunately you will die a premature death.
In the UK you are lucky, as a resident you are entitled to free healthcare. As long as you take your medication everyday, you will live almost as long as you would have, had you not contracted HIV. Life will still be tough, but you'll be alive.
In America it will totally depend on your health plan. The chances are you will not be entirely covered for contracting a condition that will affect you for the rest of your life.
At some point your insurance company may even refuse to pay for certain drugs, because they don't believe you'll be able to afford the follow up treatments.
A-Mortality For Sale
So we can already see that if you want to live a longer healthier life, you must pay for it. In a world whereby the maximum life expectancy is around 120 years this isn't really noticed as much as it could be.
However let's jump forward to a time whereby you are able to get various genetic upgrades and treatments that allow you to live two or even three hundred years.
In that future world, if Tom is richer than Sarah, then he will live longer. Simply because Tom will be able to afford A-mortality treatments. Sarah may still live a long life by today's standards, but not by tomorrow's.
A Light In The Gloom
We can only really look to history to guide us as to what may happen in the future in these matters. By doing so we realise that things aren't perhaps as doom and gloom as they at first seem.
If we look at the bubonic plague which was easily the greatest threats to human mortality in the last millennia. The plague first spread in Europe at a time before scientific knowledge and modern medicine were born. Hence it was estimated to have killed roughly 60% of Europe.
However once the cause and subsequent vaccine were discovered and synthesised in 1894, cases of the plague have dropped to near zero. Whilst there are still very rare cases today, the cure was not withheld from people based on whether they could afford it or not.
Self Sabotaging Society
Today we have the luxury of cooking up bizarre conspiracy theories around the very medicines that have enabled the human race to grow to over seven billion in number. Today a person is more likely to refuse life extending treatment than not to be able to afford it.
We saw this in 2003 when scientists were agonisingly close to wiping the polio virus from the face of the earth. An imam in Northern Nigeria spread a rumour that the vaccine was part of a nefarious plot to sterilise young Muslim men, or infect them with HIV and/or cancer.
Unfortunately all it takes is one child with polio and the disease can start to spread again . . .
Idiot Conspiracy Theory: 1
Life Saving Technology: 0
Maybe A-mortality technology will be treated differently, but somehow I doubt it. The only difference is, after a few hundred years of using the tech, the only people left alive will be the ones who fully believe in it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK; WILL WE BECOME A-MORTAL ANYTIME SOON? WOULD YOU TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE FOR AN EXTRA PAIN-FREE 100 YEARS? WILL THERE BE AS MANY CONSPIRACY THEORIES SURROUNDING THE TECHNOLOGY AS THERE ARE WITH OTHER LIFE EXTENDING TECHNOLOGIES? OR CAN SUCH A THING BE COMPARED TO WHAT WE HAVE TODAY?
AS EVER, LET ME KNOW BELOW!
Title image: Andrei Lazarev on Unsplash