The last generation whose members will be forced into death by aging is alive today. It won’t be the youngest of us, born in the past few years – they, most likely, have thousands of years ahead of them. It won’t be the oldest of us either, as even under the plausible best of circumstances we are twenty to thirty years away from a widespread deployment of rejuvenation therapies based on the SENS research program. As to the rest of us, just who is left holding the short straw at the end of the day depends on the speed of progress in medical science: advocacy, fundraising, and the effectiveness of research and development initiatives. Persuasion and money are far more important at this early stage than worrying about how well the researchers are doing their jobs, however.
We live in a world in which the public is only just starting to come around to the idea that aging can be treated, and demonstrations of rejuvenation in the laboratory could be achieved in a crash program lasting ten to twenty years, at a comparatively small cost. But still, most people don’t care about living longer, and most people try not to think about aging, or the future of degeneration and sickness that awaits. They think it is inevitable, but that is no longer true. If you are in early middle age today in the first world, then you have a good shot at living for centuries if the world suddenly wakes up tomorrow and massive funding pours into rejuvenation research. You will age and die on a timescale little different from that of your parents if that awakening persistently fails to happen.
So, roll the dice, or help out and try to swing the odds in your favor. Your choice.
Crowdfunding on Kickstarter and related sites is still the new new thing, the shine not yet worn off. One of the truths that this activity reinforces is that it is far, far easier to raise funding for the next throwaway technological widget than for medical research projects aimed at the betterment of all humanity. Research crowdfunding is a tiny, distant moon orbiting the great mass of comics, games, and devices on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and others. Hell, it’s easier to crowdfund a short film that points out how close human rejuvenation might be to the present day than it is to crowdfund a project to actually conduct a portion of that research. Is this a reflection of rationality? You decide, though it could be argued either way regarding whether a dollar given to raising awareness is more valuable than a dollar given to the researchers at this point in time. Both research and persuasion need to happen.
Set in the future when science first begins to stop aging, a daughter tries to save her father from natural death. The story takes place roughly 30 years in the future at the moment when science has first figured out how to stop aging through genetics. It is framed around the gulf between generations that would occur with the first release of this technology. A daughter who works for a company called Aperion Life – the first to bring this new technology to the public – wants to save her aging father. She starts him on the trials but he soon stops coming. The film continues with the conflict rising between them as she wants him to live on with her while he feels a natural ending is more human.The film centers itself around the natural conflict that would exist at this divide. Upon developing this story, I’ve asked many people and I’ve found a pretty even 50/50 divide of opinions strongly on one side or the other- either they want to die naturally and believe there is beauty in finality, or they want to see what the future holds and have more time to explore and learn more in life. I’d like to turn the question to you… Which side are you on? Would you want to live on or die naturally?
I feel this is a film that needs to be made. Asking these questions in the form of art and story will help start the discussion. Our world is changing very fast and the rate of technology is speeding up. What does all of this mean for humanity? Everything we know, from a book to a play to a song, ends… What does it mean when there is no ending? Would we be more complacent? Would life be as meaningful? Is there more of a beauty in the way it has always been with our passing or is there more beauty in our bodies and minds staying fresh and alive for many, many years to come? What about social justice and overpopulation? Would life become boring after living on indefinitely or would you find it exhilarating to have time to learn new languages, instruments, subjects – to read more books, to love more – to live several lifetimes? Would it be worth it if some of your most loved friends or relatives passed on and wouldn’t live on with you? Are you interested in seeing what the future brings in technology and social evolution or are you happy to have contributed and be a part of it for a short time?
Chicago filmmaker Tim Maupin launched a Kickstarter for a short film titled, “The Last Generation to Die.” Maupin thinks now is a great time to start a conversation about life extension. And he’s right. The idea that within decades a genetic fountain of youth may plausibly reverse the aging process, even indefinitely stave off death, seems to be rising up in pop culture. Maupin’s Kickstarter has so far raised over $15,000 – $6,000 more than its initial funding goal. Encouraged by the positive response, they’re dreaming bigger and hope to fund a stretch goal of $25,000 in the last 10 days of the campaign.
Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries.
This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.
Editor’s Note from G. Stolyarov II: I am proud to have donated $50 to help make the film The Last Generation to Die a success. I encourage all readers to donate during the remaining nine days in which the Kickstarter project is open to accepting funds.