A curious side-effect of sentience is the awareness of death. Medicine, wellness, meditation, philosophy, neural transfers, even literature and the arts — a great deal of human endeavour is tasked with either trying to prolong life, or deal with the reality of its end. It turns out that even the best efforts — at least those that aim at corporeal immortality and longevity — are bound to be futile.
According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, the human body cannot survive beyond the age of 150 years, eating right and exercising notwithstanding. Researchers used a combination of data from blood tests from over five lakh people as well as mathematical modelling to conclude what we all know already: Everyone is going to die. The body will deteriorate to such an extent that it will not be able to fight disease or recover from even minor injuries. Despite the obviousness of the finding, its implications are serious. Prolonged old age — already, human beings are, on average, living longer than ever before — means that the burden on the working population is bound to increase, and that retirement will have to wait for many. After all, if you’re going to live to 150, it’s hardly possible to stop earning at 60. And, to make matters worse, there is no guarantee that the quality of life at 150 will really be something worth living for.
The fear of death, and the futility of life, is of particular resonance now — the pandemic has made people confront their own mortality on a scale not seen since World War II. In the aftermath of that war, the absurdity of social norms and ambition was articulated by the existentialists. This time, perhaps, the lessons that are drawn will be a little more hopeful: At the end of it all, people may simply give up the race against death and see that there’s more in the moment than planning for a future that can be robbed by a microbe.