Tuesday, 30 May 2017


Fiction reflects life when series characters age and contradicts it when they do not. Whereas James Bond will be automatically taken off the 00 list and given a staff job at Secret Service Headquarters when he reaches the age of forty five, Dominic Flandry, thanks to antisenesence, can contemplate starting a family at the age of seventy. Twenty five years is a quarter of a century. I value extended lifespans. What is the alternative?

Increased life expectancy is a major indicator of social progress. Regional differences in life expectancy show social inequalities. In Britain at present, people are living longer, causing problems for hospitals, social care and pension funds. Better to have these problems than not. They will be addressed. Ian Fleming died at 56. One of my best friends from University died at 59, having lived a lot more than many of his contemporaries.

Sf writers, including Heinlein and Anderson, imagine longevity and immortality but ordinary extended lifespans are worthy of respect.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I remember reading somewhere, in one of the Technic Civilization stories, that antisenescence and DNA repair enabled human beings to live to about age 110. I can see that as possibly happening. WORLD WITHOUT STARS, more implausibly, shows humans needing only a single treatment of an antithanatic to extend human life spans indefinitely. FOR LOVE AND GLORY, by contrast, has humans needing some kind of life extending treatment every few decades. Which I thought more likely than what we see in WORLD. And both stories grapple with the problem of memory overload. With some means of memory editing and deleting being used.

Of all these speculations, the Technic antisenescence seems more plausible, because I see mention of work along such lines in the real world. And that kind of work was the theme in Ben Bova's novel TRANSHUMAN.

Yes, even our current ordinary medical technology has extended life spans longer than was the average in circa AD 1900. And the problems you mentioned are better than the alternatives!

Perhaps I should mention THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS as well. Because Poul Anderson speculated about the possibility of some kind of age resisting mutation enabling a small group of people to live indefinitely, unless killed by violence or accident. I don't see how a genetic ACCIDENT could do that, however. And Anderson was realistic, showing the "immortals" of BOAT also having to somehow cope with memory overload (I thought that problem was skimmed over too quickly).


S.M. Stirling said...

Keep in mind that some people have always lived into their 90's. The reason the average was much lower was that many people, particularly children, died much younger of infectious disease, which is now fairly rare in advanced countries.

Even when the 'average' lifespan was 35 or 40, people who lived to reach 20 usually had another 40-50 years.

That's why the Bible mentions 'three-score and ten' (70) as the 'years of man'.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr.Stirling,

Yes, there were always some exceptions. One example I thought being very striking being Pepi II of Egypt's VI Dynasty. The king lists attribute a reign of 94 years to him.

Yes, I agree infectious diseases were the biggest killers of people till after 1900. Now we have to worry about "old age" diseases such as heart disease, thyroid disorders, cancers, etc.

I remember that line from the Bible! And how, if you were "strong," a man might even live to age 80.


S.M. Stirling said...

Essentially, we age because our cellular repair mechanism runs down. This is not an inherent characteristic of our type of life; there are organisms which don't age. There's no necessary reason we can't learn to "cure" the process. Eg., there's strong evidence that repeated transfusions from younger mammals (of your own species, of course) result in de-aging, and there are other approaches.

Paul Shackley said...

So there could be some mileage in suggesting that we are under a "curse"?

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling and Paul,

Correct, and I have read about how telomeres "wearing out" also has a role in our repair mechanisms breaking down. And I don't object to research into ways of slowing down or preventing that process.

Paul, yes, that is what I believe. Or, more precisely, that death was one of the consequences of the First Man's sin. And I recall how the Book of Wisdom has a line about how death came to mankind thru the envy of the Devil.