on July 20, 2017 :
The Last Enemy
parts 1, 2 and 3
The title is borrowed from a well-known soubriquet for death. Genes stop generating. Suppose a drug could make life as immortal as cancer cells, described in that modern classic “The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.
The author gives a plausible fiction of the coming of the anti-ageing drug. It has to carry some conviction, if the social problems of its invention are to be seen as more than academic.
The inventor perceives that he is riding a tiger, as any number of his kind will stop at nothing to take away his gift to humanity.
In his search for helpful associates, the narration shows a great breadth of sympathy with people of all cultural origins. Individuals are better than organisations.
The author gives the impression of considerable awareness of the worlds various secret agencies, and of the entwinement of legal and illegal practices. And again a certain common humanity is manifested by the individuals within them.
Eventually, tho, the inventors closest partners develop diverging interests and distrust seeps in. All of which has to be allowed for, philosophically.
Disguising their immortality is itself a formidable identity problem. Again, the author gives a plausible scenario of how even the best laid plans may be discovered inadvertently by the ever watchful security services.
Besides the personal problems of the inner circle of immortals, the passing of the decades requires the background scenery of a future history. We are shown rising big powers wars for resources, with technology losing the battle against climate change.
The power of parasitism seems to render human weakness inevitable, no matter the technical advances that could bring security to all.
Even as the human race faces extinction, the author goes so far as to suggest that the immortality treatment may become self-sustaining and confer beneficial side-effects to memory and mental ability, in effect creating a new species, another vision of the Superman.
Something of the sort may happen, for all I know. Only lack of imagination leads us to doubt a continued increase in human longevity (unless the human parasite kills the human host).
However, the technical problems are likely to prove much more intractable, and such progress, as is made, may bring with it commensurate drawbacks, before we even consider the sociological and psychological implications
(review of free book)