23 Oct 2009

Our Immortal Demise

This [unedited] guest post is by a student in my EEP100 class (background post).
Please praise/critique/comment on its economic quality and importance to you.

Ryan Lam says:

The rapid growth in the field of technology has led to the barrier breaking belief that immortality could be achievable by human beings. Advances in nanotechnology and an increased understanding of the human body may someday allow us to replicate our vital organs and cells with artificial “nano-bots.” These bots would theoretically be able to replicate the functions of our normal cells allowing us to technologically regulate our bodies and fix problems, just like fixing a computer.

The increasing potential and capacity to do this would have a profound effect on human institutions and regulatory practices. The ability to technologically improve, fix, and enhance humans would lead to new restrictions and barriers. An example: sporting events would need different types of tests and regulatory practices as nanotechnology would join steroids as possible performance enhancers.

At the onset of these emerging technological advancements, the resources for these procedures would only be available to those with enough money to afford them. There would be positive externalities to the widespread availability of such procedures (limiting the spread of diseases) that would incentivize governments and people to make these procedures affordable to all. However, in the long run, allowing humans to live longer would lead to increasing and quicker overpopulation. Overpopulation would drive up the competition for the other resources necessary for human survival (food, water etc.) and in the long run, overcrowding may be an undesirable result of messing with human beings natural lifelines.

Bottom Line: While we would all love to live longer, be free of disease, and have spare organs on hand whenever we need them, in the long run immortal humans will become too much for our earth, with its finite resources, to handle. We should leave playing God, to God, if it means the longevity of the human species as a whole.


  1. Can you follow your logic farther? What if people were not immortal but lived 150 years instead of 75? How might society adapt? There are lots of science fiction books that try to address the question not of immortality but of longer mortality. Is there a lesson to be learned from the change in lifespan from 27 in the early part of the 20th century to about 83 now?

  2. Your third paragraph should not be written in future tense. Overpopulation is not a problem for the future, it is already a huge problem - indeed it underlies most of our current environmental problems, and some of our economic difficulties. Health care for example, Social Security for another - increasing lifespan has consequences, and our society doesn't want to admit it.


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