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5 Ways To Cheat Death In The Future | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
Humans have always tried to beat death... and now we could be on the brink of some incredible breakthroughs! In this video, Unveiled looks at all the ways we might be able to avoid dying in the future. Including innovations in medical science and revolutions in digital technology, could this generation be the ones who live forever??
Transcript

5 Ways to Cheat Death in the Future


Death comes to us all, but humans have never stopped trying to beat it… striving to extend how long we can survive on this mortal plane. There are myriad ways in which we try to carry on, whether it’s by putting our faith in an afterlife or by turning to science for the answers. Now, though, we could be on the brink of some truly remarkable breakthroughs…

This is Unveiled, and today we’re uncovering the extraordinary ways you might be able to cheat death in the future.

It doesn’t sound all that exciting, but the slow march of modern medicine is probably the biggest and most immediate way we can hope to avoid death. In the last few centuries, medicine has developed at an incredible rate, and the average lifespan of a person is still increasing with every generation. With this in mind, in the future there’s set to be new medicines and treatments developed that haven’t even been thought of yet, and they’ll become a routine part of life. Just look at how something like chemotherapy is now so widely and vitally used, when decades ago it wasn’t even an option - arriving as recently as the 1940s.

Innovations in everyday medicine will continue to prolong life and tackle disease into the future, then, especially in countries with accessible healthcare where everybody can get the best treatments. But this isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty more outwardly futuristic avenues for medicine to go down, as well. Gene-editing technology like CRISPR, for example, might mean that in just a few years or decades we’ll be able to effectively delete cancers and genetic conditions from a patient’s DNA… meanwhile, neuroprosthetic implants and other artificial enhancements could soon be used to treat brain conditions like Parkinson’s Disease. There are even plans to grow organs for all types of procedure (including transplants) in the future, rather than relying on human donors. For doctors, biologists, all medical scientists, we could be about to embark into one of the most ground-breaking and defining eras in the history of medicine.

All of this progress isn’t without controversy, though. Cloning is already a very real scientific field - with Dolly the sheep famously becoming the first cloned mammal back in 1996 - but in more recent years it has expanded… with cases where pet dogs have been cloned, as well as a headline-making story in 2017 which saw students in China produce two cloned monkeys (which were the first cloned primates). According to some, we’re already moving on from synthesising just body parts, then, and are edging closer and closer to potentially cloning whole human beings.

In the context of today’s question, it provides another approach towards “cheating death”. While standard scientific progress could well prolong life, perhaps even indefinitely, cloning is more about a fresh start. Cloning doesn’t duplicate a creature’s or (potentially in the future) a person’s consciousness, so it’s more like a redo rather than a revival. But it does technically offer a way to keep someone, or at least the appearance of someone, alive. The jury’s very much out on whether cloning will ever be truly safe, however. It was widely reported how Dolly the Sheep suffered with arthritis and lung disease before she died, leading some to ask whether she may have been born old. So, at these early stages, this particular way of cheating death comes with ample risk.

Not every life-prolonging, near-future possibility is about preserving someone’s physical body, however, but rather to preserve their consciousness. Mind-uploading (or mind-copying) is among the most popular pieces of potential, future technology debated today. For many, the road to immortality is paved with the bits and bytes of digital data. And, digitizing and uploading a brain into an entire VR world might be technology’s best option for creating a genuine afterlife. But mapping someone’s entire brain is much easier said than done; and some proposed brain copying procedures may actually destroy the organic brain as part of the process, so they’d only ever be an option at the very end of someone’s life – or even only during a post-mortem. If this were the case, then it would be cheating death at the last possible moment.

Regardless of whether it could ever constitute a means of avoiding death or not, neuron-mapping technology is coming along (although very slowly). In 2019, for instance, scientists were able to completely map all of the neurons in a worm, one of the simplest organisms there is. But, while that certainly ranks as an incredible feat, it also highlights how far we currently are from being able to map an entire human being, let alone being able to put them into a working VR world. It’s more a sci-fi dream than a real-world reality, at the moment… even if it does raise a number of interesting, ethical questions. For example, say we could prolong human consciousness via digitalization, what would stop us from creating two or more versions of any given person to exist at the same time? And which one of those multiple, computerised variants would be the true version? We’d have cheated death, yes… but might also have rearranged life, as well.

Luckily, there are some more physically straightforward ways as to how we might avoid death in the coming years - arguably the most popular of which being cryonics. Cryonics (not cryogenics, which is something else!) is the process of freezing a corpse with the aim of resurrecting it in the future - as most sci-fi fans will know! The first person to be cryonically frozen was James Bedford, back in 1967… and Bedford’s remains are still frozen to this day and stored in Arizona. Cryonics is by no means a failsafe process, though… and while modern cryonics does exist, there are plenty of problems and pitfalls with it; namely, we don’t yet have a way to resurrect anybody who’s been frozen. So, there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever be woken up.

Why, then, do some people still choose to do it? Well, you do actually have to be dead already before you can undergo cryonics, so perhaps there’s a feeling as though there’s “nothing to lose”. In general, the leading reason people opt for (or are even interested in) cryonics is the unknown possibilities that the future might hold… If, say, you had a terminal illness in this day and age, there’s the hope that at a future time there could be a cure, and you could be brought back to life to receive it! In theory, it’s amazing; in reality, though, it’s not such a sure thing. The process essentially amounts to bringing someone back from the dead, and there’s zero guarantee that we’ll ever be able to reanimate bodies in this way. This means that a cryonically frozen person is completely at the mercy of the future generations that they’ll never get to meet (unless those future generations come good and invest in - and develop - successful reanimation methods). If people were to ever see frozen bodies from the past - like that of James Bedford’s - brought back to life, then cryonics could well become the norm. But we’re still a long, long way from that stage. Right now, the most plausible route toward cheating death in this way is arguably to combine cryonics with mind uploading - to recreate just the brain of a dead person, and thereby revive them digitally. Yes, it requires two not-yet-fully-realised technologies, but it could still represent a safer option.

Finally, there’s another death-defying, futuristic method of life preservation which bridges the gap between the physical person and the non-physical consciousness. Because, while we all live out our lives inside our organic bodies at the moment, the future might one day grant us a replacement. And then another one. And then another, indefinitely. Cyborgs, synthetics, or androids could ultimately be used to preserve human life forever. Here we have endless potential to a) digitalize a brain, and b) roboticize a body. We’d be mind-mapping so that our brains - our human brains - could exist not just inside a computer, but inside a new, potentially unbreakable, immortal vehicle all of our own - a one hundred percent artificial and enhanced body, with a totally authentic consciousness. Incredibly, we have already made moves towards this, too... as in 2014, when scientists succeeded in putting the brain of another worm into a body made of Lego. While it’s unlikely that future humans will also be made of brightly coloured bricks as standard… it does highlight just how far-reaching the technology could be, and how far-removed from us (as we are now) it might feel. Still, we’re a long way from achieving that and, in fact, it might never happen… but in the meantime we are seeing some really exciting developments with specialized cybernetics, and there are plenty of hopeful predictions for the future. Scientists, today, are aiming for cybernetic organs and implants throughout the human body which aren’t susceptible to disease, for example, to replace the organic ones which are… We’re also seeing the development of cybernetic eyes to tackle blindness.

Although, in science fiction, the mix of medical science and machines often results in an ominous march toward some kind of automated dystopia, in the real world it could soon offer some truly life-changing possibilities. It’s clear that as technology and medicine continue to advance, in just a few decades we could have a wealth of options when it comes to extending our lives. And, even if organic human beings do continue to go the way of all flesh and die, that might not necessarily need to be the end of the story. And those are five ways to cheat death in the future.
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