Kirkland says most of these tests will fail. Most tests are available. “Everyone should try to be uncompromising, even though everyone has a stake in this game. I mean, everyone lives like that.”
I called biologist Martin Raff, who retired from University College London 20 years ago, when he was not yet 65. Among other things, Raff studied cellular aging. He told me that after a long and blessed life, he felt ready to depart.
Today the field that Benzer foresaw in his Flies Room over the last century is being valued not only on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and Riyadh but also in the National Institutes of Health. It started off as more of a normal branch of medical research, just a more sensible program to pursue.
The idea, of course, is to add good years to our lives without counting the last bad years.
The study of clocks can actually teach us how to slow down some of the fundamental degradation we call aging, to treat whatever makes our bodies increasingly susceptible to chronic diseases. as we age – cells age, for example. If we can do that, according to the geoscience hypothesis, we can fight all those chronic diseases at once: arthritis, atherosclerosis, cancer, deafness, dementia intelligence, diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke.
The idea, of course, is to add good years to our lives without counting the last bad years. This is called repression of illness. No one knows if it can be done or not, so suppressing the disease is really on a hypothesis. However, it is something most centenarians can do. They live healthy two or three decades longer than the rest of us, and many of them feel pretty well by the age of 100. “The bird is fine, the bird is fine, the bird is fine, it’s dead.”
But we are all mortals, and our fellows will be mortals for a long time.
I zoomed in with a Canadian writer and scholar I know, Andy Stark, author of Favorable conditions of death. Maybe it’s just sour grapes, Andy tells me, but he thinks we’re really better off being mortals. His book explores many of the drawbacks of eternal life, including the problem of terrible boredom. How many times do you really want to ride a roller coaster? In Longing for this world, I also consider other issues, including the sixth extinction – the planetary catastrophe that is happening around us, caused by the fulfillment of so many human wishes. What percentage of that disaster do you really want to see?
A few years ago, Andy Stark gave a talk at a symposium on the science of longevity. Aubrey de Gray was in the audience. When Andy was done, Aubrey strode onto the stage and challenged him. If I offered you another 30 years of good health, Aubrey said, you’d take it, wouldn’t you? And then, won’t you take the next 30 years, and the next 30? And such?