April 16, 2024

Wolverine and bioethics

Hi there,

“The first person to live for a thousand years is possibly already alive”, claim longevity advocacy communities. They believe this fervently. Aubrey de Grey, the British biomedical gerontologist, who is possibly the best known voice for wildly extended human lifespans, recently donated $13 million of an $16.5 million inheritance to research into “engineered negligible senescence”. This doubles the budget of his foundation.

I wonder what he would have to say about The Wolverine, the latest X-Men blockbuster. (I have a weakness for B-grade sci-fi; here is a link to the trailer.) Logan, the mutant whose professional moniker is Wolverine, is certainly on track to live a thousand years. From the rather murky backstory, it appears that he is about 200 years old and has fought in every war he possibly can. Because of his particular mutation his body regenerates rapidly, almost instantaneously, from trauma. In the latest film, he gets stabbed, impaled, shot, slashed (lots of ninjas and samurai in this one), poisoned and incinerated. But, even better than Silvio Berlusconi, he always bounces back.

Does this make The Wolverine happy? Not on your nelly. Having accumulated too much toxic life experience, he wants to shuffle off this mortal coil ASAP. But he cannot die.

This raises the very interesting question of whether Aubrey de Grey is squandering his inheritance. What exactly is the point of living a thousand years if you become a soul as tormented as the Wolverine? Any ideas? 

Michael Cook
Is it so great to live for ever?