José Cordeiro, co-author of The Death of Death, says forget wishful thinking – the noble cause of longevity needs people to get practical.
The Death of Death is an international bestseller by José Cordeiro and David Wood that claims that “death will be optional by 2045” – or even earlier, if more public and private funds are invested in rejuvenation technologies.
Longevity.Technology: Already available in more than 10 languages, the book provides insight into recent exponential advances in AI, tissue regeneration, stem cell treatment, organ printing, cryopreservation and genetic therapies that, say the authors, offer a realistic chance to solve the problem of the aging of the human body for the first time in human history. In fact, the book‘s subtitle is The Scientific Possibility of Physical Immortality and its Moral Defense.
Given that until relatively recently, just mentioning the concept of ‘biological immortality’ was enough to raise eyebrows and with most of the opinion that it should be filed away under ‘science fiction’ or ‘charlatanism’. However, longevity science is advancing at an incredible pace and today there are people who no longer wonder if immortality is possible, but when it will be a reality. We sat down with José Luis Corderio PhD to find out more.
Of course, no matter what leaps science makes, death itself will never be completely avoidable, since there will always be accidents and homicides, but for Cordeiro, this is not the point of his book. It is death by aging that he has in his sights.
“Aging can probably be stopped and reversed very soon,” he says. “In fact, there are already cells and organisms that are scientifically considered ‘biologically immortal, in the sense that they don’t age, even if they can always die, but without aging.”
Cordeiro cites the example that all multicellular organisms have germ cells that are called ‘biologically immortal’ since they do not age, but they can die – in fact, they do die when the organism of which they are part, and which comprises mostly somatic cells, dies, since somatic cells do age.
“Another type of cells that are described as ‘biological immortal’ are cancer cells, and this is fascinating, since so many types of cells exist and what is common is that the cancer cells stop aging – perhaps their biological immortality is not so complicated, we just need to understand it.”
Of course, the idea of everyone living forever, barring accidents, raises the specter of a planet with finite resources bursting at the seems, but while this is a question Cordeiro often encounters, he feels it is a misguided one.
“Curing aging is like curing cancer or curing Alzheimer’s – only much better, since curing aging means curing all age-related diseases and stop so much suffering in the planet,” he explains, adding that he answers that he answers the question with a question.
“So, I ask back: ‘Do you want to cure cancer? Do you want to cure Alzheimer’s? If you do, then you should want to cure aging first, which is really the cause of cancer, Alzheimer’s and so many horrible and debilitating diseases!’.”
Cordeiro is clear about the burden of responsibility – curing aging should be a moral imperative for all of humanity.
“Curing aging is the most ethical thing that we can do, the most noble cause that we can work on,” explains, adding that the planet’s problem is no longer overpopulation – it is now underpopulation.
“If current trends continue, China will lose half of its current population by the end of this century, and similar demographic catastrophes are expected in Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain and many other countries,” says Cordeiro.
“Thomas Malthus already had similar warnings about lack of resources over two centuries ago, but the world has advanced incredibly, precisely because the most important resource, human resources, increased. People are the most important resource, but the populations of most countries are stabilizing and beginning to decline; this is actually a human tragedy.”
One of the book‘s statistics which finds its way into several reviews is death will be optional by 2045, and Cordeiro tells us the number is based on the work of his friend, the futurist Ray Kurzweil.
“Kurzweil has spent years explaining that by the year 2029 we will pass the Turing Test, and also reach what is called the Longevity Escape Velocity (LEV), which means that we will gain one year of life for every year we survive,” explains Cordeiro, adding that if, according to Kurzweil, if we make it from the year 2029 to 2030, will reach the LEV, and we will basically live long enough to live forever, while still aging.
“Fortunately, by the year 2045 we will have made enough progress to reverse aging and achieve biological immortality through cellular rejuvenation,” says Cordeiro, adding that there are many exciting new therapies being developed at the moment, including epigenetic reprogramming, stem cell treatments, CRISPR and gene editing, senolytics, parabiosis, thymus rejuvenation, cancer vaccines, and many more.
It is the perniciousness of aging – and humans’ ability to potentially do something about it – that has spurred Corderio to be a longevity evangelist. And getting the message out is important.
“You are dying, I am dying, all of us are dying. Aging and death is what causes most suffering in the world,” says Cordeiro. “Over two thirds of all the people in the world die of age-related diseases. In the OECD countries, the figure is close to 90%; this means that all other causes of death combined (accidents, homicides, suicides, Covid, AIDS, wars, terrorism, climate change, malaria, and other causes) only account for 10% of deaths in advanced economies. The common problem of humanity is aging and death, particularly in more advanced countries.”
While the project to conquer aging has made a great deal of progress over the last three decades, Cordeiro is aware that future progress will require more than “wishful thinking and cheering from the sidelines”.
“All of us can, and should, become more involved in practical ways: strengthening our ties to supportive communities, improving our personal understanding of the field, taking part in the public discussion, and, in some cases, undertaking research or making financial contributions,” says Cordeiro.
“If we put our lives in order, each one of us can make a very real difference.”