Dreams of ever-lasting life and living “forever young” have persisted in human culture for eons. Between searches for Holy Grails and Fountains of Youth to today’s thirst for biotechnologically prolonged life, it’s easy to be caught up in the mad pursuit of immortality. Human lifespans, in a matter of decades, have reached historically high averages in developed countries. We’re talking an almost 100% increase in age of mortality compared to just one hundred years ago. But in this unbridled pursuit of life everlasting here on earth, what have we got to lose?
We don’t like to think about the nasty side effects of living even just two or three hundred years without wrinkles, but we’re going to have to face those realities someday. One of the first impacts you might see is the impact on jobs and the economy. The average middle class American saves up for retirement and might need to keep themselves alive for a couple of decades (if they’re lucky and retire at 65). But if biotechnology (or magic or whatever) has granted that individual near-immortality, those retirement plans aren’t going to cut it. That same person needs to work for a much longer period of time and so do all that individual’s coworkers. The normal cycle of get a job, get promoted over a span of decades, and then retire is out the window. Available jobs could be clotted with two hundred year old workers who need the same position they’ve been working at for a century and a half to support their immortal lifestyle.
Besides jobs, the very idea of families may be drastically altered. If great-great-great-great grandma and grandpa still look (and feel) like they’re thirty, what if they want to keep having kids? Medical technology could keep those offspring popping out for years to come. This might at first be a good thing as we’ve heard scares of population declines plaguing countries everywhere from Japan to the Baltics. But an increased demand on Earth’s already diminishing resources could pose enough problems to fill another series of blog posts for the next year.
Culturally, we’d be faced with a host of new challenges. How should prison sentences be altered for someone who might be near-immortal compared to someone expected to die a “normal age?” Would the idea of marriage change if someone realized that at the age of twenty-five they were vowing to spend several hundred years with the same individual, for better or worse? If the worlds of politics, business, science, and arts get clogged by people who have been in their position for hundreds of years, will we see the influx of new ideas and progress that are often catalyzed by an influx of younger generations? Maybe the “cure for aging” is a technology that only the wealthiest can afford—does no one else deserve immortality? I don’t know if there are concrete answers to any of these questions, but they’re all valid concerns that we must learn to deal with as we broach the possibility of enhanced lifespans.
Each day that we slowly unlock the secrets of aging through the development of biomedical and biological sciences, we’re altering the way humans have viewed our mortal lives since we first became a self-aware species. To quote the immortal words of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.” May the wisdom of good ol’ Ben Parker ring true with us we confront the implications of radically enhanced lifespans in the near-future.
About The God Organ:
The LyfeGen Sustain is an artificial organ designed to bestow recipients with virtual immortality. Instead, its owners are dying.
In 2063 Chicago, a rapidly growing company, LyfeGen, drives a biotechnological revolution that enables people to live significantly longer lives, free of cancer, genetically inherited diseases, and even wrinkles. But these benefits are only available to those people with the money to afford these advanced technologies.
The prolonged lives of the moderately and extremely wealthy is upending the economy as job growth and opportunities stagnate, causing widespread unrest in the general populace. Threatening drastic action, extremist religious groups protest these unnatural artificial organs. Competing companies are desperate to take advantage of LyfeGen’s seemingly grim future as the chaos unfolds.
Caught in the midst of this turmoil, the inventor of the artificial organ, Preston Carter, worries that someone with no regard for human life has betrayed his company and is setting him up for failure. He is not alone in his fears.
Amid the confusion, backstabbing, and all-out assault on the biotech industry, a young bioengineer races to findthe fault in the artificial organ; an investigative journalist delves into a story that will alter her career; a destitute man struggles to make a living in the biotech world, as he turns to desperate measures; and an amateur hacker infiltrates LyfeGen as she roots out the secrets of their technology. With a Sustain organ implanted in his own body, Preston must weather the perilous storm, determined to save his company and the lives of all who once trusted LyfeGen—before he’s killed by his own invention.
Joel reached out to the glimmering incandescent light bulb and wrapped his fingers around it. It didn’t burn him, even when he clenched it tighter and his mind screamed at him to let go. Instinct was hard to shake. With an unquenchable curiosity, he squeezed the bulb and let out an embarrassing yelp as the glass shattered. Shards projected from his open palm as he rotated and examined his hand. Silver blood streamed between his fingers.
Stepping away from the holofield, he headed back into the main art gallery. He shook his head in quiet amusement and rubbed his hand against his black slacks. No blood actually seeped over his palm and no glass shards were embedded in his hand, but he couldn’t help trying to get rid of the mess. It was just another strange exhibit in the modern art museum, an illusion.
But the pain burning beneath his skull, making his vision swim, was no trick. He fell, his body going numb and his world going black.
Anthony J. Melchiorri grew up in Normal, Illinois. After a regular (it’s hard, but he refuses to make a pun of it) childhood in Normal, he left for the University of Iowa to get a degree in Biomedical Engineering. But he couldn’t give up reading and writing, and there really wasn’t enough of that in engineering (unless you’re into thick, no-thrills books on thermodynamics and polymer physics). He picked up a second degree in English while working on the Biomedical Engineering degree and has since counted himself fortunate for making that decision. Iowa City, North America’s only official UNESCO City of Literature, is a thriving hotbed of writers and readers, with some of the best visiting the city for their renowned workshop or famous authors dropping by to read a story they’ve written and chat. He had the opportunity to meet plenty of great writers and storytellers that inspired him to keep writing, even when he graduated and entered a doctoral program at the University of Maryland for Bioengineering.
Today, when he's not writing and reading, he's primarily working on tissue engineered blood vessels, gearing his work for children with congenital heart defects. He gets to work with awesome 3D printing technologies and is always astounded by the rapidly advancing technologies coursing through the veins of universities and research settings. Much of his writing has been inspired by those advancements and his conversations with other researchers, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and many others interested in our evolving world.
For more about Anthony and his writing, check out his website, follow him on Twitter and Facebook, or stop by hisGoodreads author page.