The authors of the Death of Death are regulars on the conference circuit for aging research, the longevity industry, and patient advocacy for the treatment of aging as a medical condition. The book was originally in Spanish, and has finally been translated into English. It is a popular science overview of progress towards technologies that will first slow aging, then enable the control of aging, and eventually, at some point, produce large gains in healthy human life span, postponing death by aging essentially indefinitely. The book and its authors also unapologetically and straightforwardly stand in opposition to the horrors of having to decline, become sick, and die, when one would rather not. I think that we need a lot more of that sort of sentiment in the world. Less acceptance, and more raging against the dying of the light, is the path that leads to the medical technologies of rejuvenation.
It is commonly thought that death is the natural consequence of life. In time, everything decays. Sooner or later, the old must make way for the new. In that case, won't death always be with us?
Actually, biology provides many indications that there is no necessity for living creatures to age and die. The more that we study biology, the more we can appreciate that life has an innate potential to keep on living. That's what we learn from various unicellular organisms, and also from the sad example of cancer cells. It is also what we learn from organisms that have negligible senescence: although these animals become chronologically older, they don't become biologically older, meaning that their likelihood of dying in the next twelve months remains constant from maturity onward. In other words, nature already possesses intrinsic mechanisms for rejuvenation, damage repair, and indefinite life spans. It's the task of rejuveneers - the engineers of methods of rejuvenation - to understand, improve, and augment these mechanisms, so that humans, likewise, can experience indefinite lifespans.
Different organisms have evolved to have different lifespans. Indeed, some creatures have evolved to have negligible senescence. But aren't these lifespans fixed?
On the contrary, over recent decades, a great deal of evidence has emerged about the plastic nature of lifespan. Numerous experiments have increased the typical lifespan - and typical healthspan - of creatures such as worms, fruit flies, mice, rats, fish, and more. Among other things, we now know about large numbers of genes that control parts of the aging process, about the role of the enzyme telomerase to allow cells to keep on dividing, about a range of "pillars" of aging, about the problems caused by the accumulation of different types of damage within and between cells, and, crucially, about interventions that have the potential to comprehensively address each of these types of damage - by removing, renewing, repairing, or reprogramming aspects of our biological makeup.
For more than a hundred years, scientists have been talking about extending human lifespan. So far, progress is slow. Since the year 1997, no one has reached an age higher than 119 years. Transferring potential treatments from mice to humans frequently hits problems. Isn't a significant extension of human lifespans something for the far future, rather than an imminent possibility?
We need to be aware of the common pathway for major technological breakthroughs. The hopes of visionaries often proceed slowly and disappointingly before reaching tipping points and then leaping forward. Prior to the tipping points, a general scepticism often prevailed, before being forgotten. Examples can be found in the fields of transport, communications, energy, and computation. The solution of aging will move along the same trajectory from "impossible" to "indispensable". In practical terms, what will accelerate progress is the parallel emergence of what will likely become the world's largest industry - the anti-aging industry - and the world's largest activist community - the anti-aging community. Until recently, many scientists were shy to speak of their ideas for solving aging, but they are increasingly finding their voice. A combination of science, business, finance, activism, and governments will drive the realisation of a new paradigm: that aging can, and should, be treated and cured.
Even though these new treatments may arrive in a few decades, that will be too late for many people, who may succumb to disease beforehand. What advice is available for them?
The best advice - "Plan A" - is to take steps to remain in good health long enough that it will be possible to take advantage of rejuvenation treatments when they become available. In other words, remain alive long enough to be able to live forever. However, there's a "Plan B" option that people should consider as well: low temperature cryopreservation at the time that they are declared legally dead. Arguments against cryonics mirror those against the reversal of aging: supposedly, it can't be done, and even if it could be done, it shouldn't be done. In both cases, the arguments are mistaken. There's plenty of evidence that cryonics can provide an "ambulance to the future" so that people who have the misfortune to die "at the wrong time" can be given another chance to reunite with family and friends.