29. The changing concept of aging and the quest for immortality

D. Wile

Abstract


The desire to extend human lifespan has spurred scientific and philosophical interest back to the earliest recorded piece of human literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which documents the quest of a mythical king to become immortal. In the intervening years between then and now, and particularly in the last century, human lifespan has increased dramatically. Though it is commonly held that there is an upper biological limit to human lifespan, there are some who believe its recent meteoric rise can continue indefinitely.
The story of human lifespan has two largely separate prongs: that of the important advances in sanitation, agriculture and medicine that have effected the greatest change in our life expectancy, and the recurring myth, legend and popular beliefs surrounding greatly advanced or eternal human life.
In recent years, the myth and science of life expectancy have coalesced, creating a core group of people who believe that immortality is a technically achievable goal. Such claims have muddied the concept of aging such that it is now commonly described as both a disease process and a fundamental part of life.
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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25011/cim.v30i4.2789

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