This question traumatizes both the young and the old. Everyone gradually comes to terms that life is not forever. The fact that our family and friends and our memories are just really synapses in our brain and that eventually, just as an electric bulb goes out, our brain’s electrical signals fades out after death, erasing all of our “life”. But have you ever wondered – why do we die or why can’t we live forever?
Why do we die?
Why do we die? One could also ask why not. The important thing here is to separate the cause and the necessity. Our deaths are caused by the aging of cells and their inability to renew themselves. Our biological clock goes haywire. Our heart has a number of beats just as our pointing mouse has a number of clicks. After a couple of billion beats, the heart’s synchronization fails. Organic fatigue causes its efficiency to go down.
Is it hardwired, this dying process? It seems so from some of the evidence. For example, our chromosomes come with a lifespan timing device in itself called the telomeres. Do these telomeres only “sense” the lifespan or do they in themselves “control” the lifespan in some way? This is not yet known.
The usual fallacy in thinking about life is this: since in the last two centuries, the average human lifespan has continually increased, eventually we can be immortal. Whether or not we can be immortal is another question entirely, but it cannot be achieved by the same procedures as increasing our lifespans. Our lifespan without any mechanical augmenting devices will always be finite, since the organics of our body eventually wears out and stops having self-ability to replace itself.
The biggest puzzle in the whole thing is the brain itself. Are we programmed to die? In other words, can the brain really get “overloaded” after a time? It is a known thing that life “seems” shorter the older you grow. A baby’s first year is equivalent to that of a hundred years because of the rapid changes in its memories and adaptation to its surroundings. So, then, is aging really a memory-related fatigue that sets in, eventually, after living through so many memories? Every memory becomes a tad bit like another long before.
In a way, our cells are programmed to attract diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. At the cellular level, once the replenishing process goes haywire, the diseases start creeping in. The genetic information gets reduced every time cell replenishment takes place. The telomeres get shorter and shorter, and eventually we die.
Currently, there is plenty of research going on in the immortality department. Some of them use an augmentation approach that aims at replacing the “defunct” parts of a body, thereby keeping it healthy for another 10-15 years. Other approaches include looking at this from the cellular point of view. Whether or not these research procedures succeed is yet to be seen.
But it will be interesting to move from the question of ‘Why do we die?’ to ‘When should we die?’, right? That will happen if the researchers find a way to keep us alive for longer. We hope you found good things to ponder upon in this article.
Till the time scientists do that, you should keep your focus on your goals. Good luck 🙂