Thursday, August 10, 2023

Book Review: The Death of Death


๐•ป๐–Ž๐–ˆ๐–™๐–š๐–—๐–Š ๐•ฎ๐–—๐–Š๐–‰๐–Ž๐–™: ๐•พ๐•น๐–Ž ๐–š๐–˜๐–Ž๐–“๐–Œ '๐•ด๐–’๐–†๐–Œ๐–Š ๐•ฒ๐–Š๐–“๐–Š๐–—๐–†๐–™๐–”๐–— ๐–‡๐–ž ๐•ธ๐–Ž๐–ˆ๐–—๐–”๐–˜๐–”๐–‹๐–™ ๐•ญ๐–Ž๐–“๐–Œ' ๐–Ž๐–“ ๐–™๐–๐–Š ๐–˜๐–™๐–ž๐–‘๐–Š ๐–”๐–‹ ๐•ต๐–”๐–๐–“ ๐•ญ๐–š๐–“๐–ž๐–†๐–“'๐–˜ '๐•ฟ๐–๐–Š ๐•ป๐–Ž๐–‘๐–Œ๐–—๐–Ž๐–’'๐–˜ ๐•ป๐–—๐–”๐–Œ๐–—๐–Š๐–˜๐–˜.'

Here I review “The Death of Death: The Scientific Possibility of Physical Immortality and its Moral Defense”. The authors are Josรฉ Luis Cordeiro and David Wood; and you can scroll to the bottom where (in the interest of complete transparency) I provide some background information on my connection to one of the authors.

From the back cover: “Is death inevitable? Until now, nothing has been more certain... But according to Josรฉ Luis Cordeiro and David Wood, the prospect of death is no longer inevitable... Cordeiro and Wood not only present the major developments, initiatives, and ideas for eternal life, but also share powerful arguments for seeing death for what it is: the last undefeated disease."

The Table of Contents

Preliminary Warning: Even before I get into my review, I would like to preface it with this warning: This is not a quick or light read! A little over two hundred pages, this book is “dense!” Dense in the sense of encyclopedic, as it crams in an incredible amount of data and information from areas as diverse as history, philosophy, theology, geopolitics, and the sciences – general chemistry biology, and physics; cell biology, cryonics, genetics, etc. I read the book over a three-week period, and I’m a “2-3 books every weekend” type of guy! In reality, if a reader were to follow up by reviewing the copious notes (in the form of links) provided at the end of each chapter and dipping into the 9-page bibliography this could easily take several months to get through. 

Suggestion to the authors: perhaps you should talk to someone about turning this into a university course!

Despite having a density approaching that of a black hole, the authors are masterful in pulling off the feat of integrating everything and delivering it with a logical, coherent “flow” that enlightens while not overwhelming the reader. Finish the book and you will have been introduced to concepts and theories as diverse as ‘negligible senescence,’ ‘Malthusian trap,’ ‘longevity escape velocity,’ ‘terror management theory,’ the Pyszczyncki paradox,’ and many, many others. And you may find yourself convinced by the book's message... Or perhaps not.

So, what is in the book? It starts off discussing the possibility of biological immortality, providing examples of this in several lower life forms and speculating if this can be extended to man. This is followed by the scientific study of aging - what it is, what are the factors that affect it, and much more. Next up is a look at a new, developing anti-aging "industry," which traces the ecosystem of groups that have developed. It dives into 'scientific rejuvenation' and highlights eminent researchers/organizations and some of their successes and advancements in various related fields. A quick side trip ventures into the importance of and examples of exponential thinking, providing additional information on investors and different scientific approaches. Next up is a discussion of costs - the existing costs related to aging and death (for example, costs related to the burden of age-related disease); looking at research, etc. costs; and a discussion of the quantification of financial benefits that could theoretically result from a 'longevity dividend.' Then back to the subject of 'the end of death,' looking at many of the objections to this proposition and providing counterpoints. Current medical skepticism on this subject is compared to historical examples where medical thoughts and beliefs that had lasted for decades and centuries were eventually proven incorrect (two examples being medicine's reaction to Semmelweis and his ideas, and the practice of bloodletting, respectively). Next is a brief side trip into the subject of cryopreservation, set up as a Plan B "bridge" to the future. The authors then discuss the path forward, discussing potential obstacles on the 'abolition of aging' pathway. Finally, they conclude that the elimination of aging and death is an idea whose time is now upon us! Their final clarion call? "The future begins today. The future begins here. The future begins with us. The future begins with you today. Who if not you? When if not now? Where if not here? Join the revolution against aging and death! Death to Death!"

Conclusion: I definitely recommend that everyone read this book. You will not regret it. Even if not fully convinced you will still be greatly informed and 'up to speed' on where the world currently stands on this very interesting subject that effects everyone!

As for me, I started out very skeptical, see my tweet of July 13th below:

And now? I remain skeptical regarding 'the death of death.' Somewhat paradoxically, the more I read about the multiple scientific areas being pursued (senolytics, telomeres, stem cells, etc., etc.) the less I felt that the overall proposition was valid. The very multiplicity of approaches merely reinforced in my mind the astounding complexity of the endeavor and the difficulty of attaining the goal! Of course, this could just be an indication of a paucity of imagination on my part!

In the interest of full transparency, here is some ๐›๐š๐œ๐ค๐ ๐ซ๐จ๐ฎ๐ง๐ ๐ข๐ง๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ๐ฆ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง:

I first met Josรฉ Luis while both of us were attending The Fund for American Studies’ Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems summer program. It was what now seems like eons ago (in 1988!) and was held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. We struck up a friendship back then that has lasted, even though we are in touch rather infrequently via email, and have only met four or five times over the intervening years. My last email to Jose was probably six plus months ago, and I haven’t see him ‘in the flesh’ for several years. Below is a reference I gave Josรฉ Luis on LinkedIn almost a decade ago, it still describes him to ‘T.” I do not know, and have never met, the co-author, David Wood.

This review is entirely my own, I purchased the book via Amazon when the English edition became available, then read the book.

I'm not exactly sure why, but as I was about to read "The Death of Death" it brought to my mind the tale of Christian in John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress."

In this case, Mr. and Mrs. Tout-le-Monde are weighed down by great burdens (here their impending old age and death), but seek to shed them and get to life eternal in the Celestial City. I used "Image Creator by Microsoft Bing, powered by DALL-E" to generate some relevant images that I then combined to produce the header picture.

Additionally, the picture also includes some of their travails along the way - their transit of The Slough of Despond; having to choose the correct path, one of three at the Hill of Difficulty (the correct path being the most difficult-looking one, with the easier-looking byways leading to "Danger" and "Destruction"); having to pass on the path between the two lions; and having to defeat Apollyon (a huge demonic creature with fish's scales, the mouth of a lion, feet of a bear, second mouth on his belly, and dragon's wings). I also included a LEV (Longevity Escape Velocity) signpost! Completing the analogy, Josรฉ Luis Cordeiro and David Wood fill the roles of the Evangelist and the Interpreter.

Covers of various editions (English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Turkish, Bulgarian)

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