Issue 293: 2021 09 16: Immortality

16 September 2021


If you fancy it.

By Neil Tidmarsh

So you’ve given up smoking, and alcohol, and meat, and dairy produce; you wear a mask 24/7 and wash your hands 20 times a day and you’re double-jabbed and haven’t left the house or touched another human being or even been within 2 metres of one since March 2020; you do yoga and count your steps daily and run marathons and take ice-baths and swim in frozen lakes; ok, so you’re doing well in your bid for longevity, nay, immortality, but are you doing enough?  Have you considered the next step – cryogenics?

For instance, the Russian company KrioRus will keep your frozen body in an indefinite state of suspended animation (well, not indefinite of course, but only until some genius scientist in the future has worked out how to bring you back to life again – yes, yes, of course it will happen!) in a vat full of liquid nitrogen, temperature minus 196C.  All for a mere £26,000.  Or for an even more affordable £13,000 a head, just your head, if you’re happy to be carried into the future by only your brain rather than your whole body.  You can even have your beloved pets frozen – apparently, the bodies of 10 dogs, 19 cats, 4 birds, 2 rabbits, 5 hamsters and 1 chinchilla are already hanging around in KrioRus’s liquid nitrogen, as well as the remains of 80 human beings.

The risks?  Well, apart from the possibility that the necessary scientific breakthrough never happens after all (and KrioRus can’t guarantee it, of course)… This week, thieves reportedly raided the company’s storage facility near Moscow.  Intruders apparently cut through a fence, drained the liquid nitrogen from some of the metal vats, loaded them and their contents onto lorries and then made a swift getaway.  Luckily, staff raised the alarm and the police managed to apprehend the body-snatchers on the road not many miles away from the plant (let’s hope that it was a proper freezing cold Russian night).  Danila Medvedev, the owner of KrioRus, claims that his ex-wife Valeria Udalova was behind the heist.  She was a co-founder of the business and has set up a rival cryonics company.  Ms Udalova denies her ex-husband’s accusations.  “An investigation is under way”.

Not for you, then, cryogenics?  Can’t say I blame you.  That future you’re looking forward to may well be run by reliable robots, but until then the human factor can be guaranteed to make eternal life a rather messy and unpredictable business for the present.  But don’t despair.  There were other, more cheering, stories for you in the news this week.

In Silicon Valley, the Masters of our Virtual Universe are investing fortunes in hi-tech start-ups investigating the scientific possibilities for longevity and even, hopefully, immortality.  Amazon’s creator Jeff Bezos is backing Altos Labs, a “rejuvenation company” researching the ageing process and how it might be slowed down or even stopped altogether.  Its board members include Shinya Yamanaka, a Nobel prize winning stem-cell scientist.  Five years ago, Bezos and Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal) invested in another start-up, Unity Biotechnology, dedicated to developing “therapeutics to slow, halt or reverse diseases of ageing”.  Eight years ago, Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched Calico Life Sciences, an outfit aiming to uncover the biological secrets of human ageing.  Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have founded the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative which, while not explicitly chasing the philosopher’s stone of longevity or immortality, aims to defeat all disease by the end of the century.

The last ten years have seen a Silicon Valley boom in companies which aim to “cure ageing” by developing the sciences of cell reprograming, gene modification, parabiotic rejuvenation, etc, etc.  And Yuri Deigin, scientist and founder of Youtherium Genetics, is confident that one of them, sooner or later and thanks to their billionaire backers, will inevitably come up with the goods.  “It’s kind of a booming area now” he said, quoted in The Sunday Times.  “There’s a lot of money being thrown into researching it.”

Ah, immortal life!  The future!  Imagine it, to live forever on an over-populated and then de-populated planet, its resources exhausted, its ecology collapsed, overwhelmed by climate change and ravaged by new diseases, where human life can only be sustained by robots and artificial intelligence and only for the privileged few.  And imagine the company you’ll keep into infinity in that survivors’ sterile bunker, an exclusive elite of the billionaire geniuses who have destroyed independent bookshops, gifted us with the curse of social media, trapped us in the labyrinth of the internet, tracked and exploited our every move through their virtual world…

Hang on, where are you off to?  The off-licence?  What for?  A packet of fags and a bottle of scotch?  And a beefburger from the fast-food place on the corner?  But isn’t it time for your ten-mile run and your five-hour session at the gym?  No?  Lost interest all of a sudden?  Can’t be bothered any more?  Well… Sod it, bring us some beers back from the offie, will you?  And a saveloy and chips from the take-away?



tile photo: Mike Peel (Creative Commons).


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