Aubrey de Grey

Are we all doomed?

Aubrey de Grey

Doom comes in two main flavours: ageing, which dooms each of us at a time linked to when we were born, and "armageddon" (in either secular or religious form), which dooms all humanity simultaneously.

We cannot predict the timing of a religious armageddon. (No, really, we can't.) Secular armageddon, however, may be receding as a risk - and ageing certainly is. In the case of ageing, regenerative medicine is within striking distance of reversing the accumulation of the various types of molecular and cellular "damage" that eventually cause age-related ill-health; it will achieve this by periodically repairing that damage and limiting its abundance.

With this approach, we could postpone decrepitude indefinitely, just as we do with old cars. As for secular armageddon, I predict that humanity will take increasingly seriously the risks inherent in climate change, nuclear war and also more esoteric issues, such as asteroid impacts and nearby supernovae. It is implausible to suppose that even the latter will remain beyond our ability to avert within the many millennia that we have before such disasters are likely to occur. So my answer is: unless God intervenes, probably not.



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This article first appeared in the 06 June 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Are we all doomed?