Sep 18, 2016

Live Forever

A weekend watching the promise of immortality get sold and bought at the Revolution Against Aging and Death Festival

Kate Knibbs

Staff Writer, The Ringer


Stepping onto San Diego's Town & Country Resort is like time traveling to summer 1962. The hotel specializes in a Rat Packy pseudo-opulence, with a slight, tarnished glamor. Palm trees surround a shuttered steakhouse, and the abundantly chandeliered entrance is empty. Fountains spurt pool-blue water lackadaisically in abandoned-looking courtyards. The motif is "tons of old mirrors." It's chic-bleak and highly Instagrammable.

Inside the Town & Country's conference hall on a white-hot weekend in August, however, it was not desolate. It was a political rally and religious revival and cocktail party for well-heeled hippies all at once.

"Revolution! Revolution!" a wiry man on a stage yelled to the crowded room. He was so excited that he could not stay still.

"Revolution!" The audience shouted back. The man, José Cordeiro, believes that some people will live forever. Cordeiro is part of a group called the Coalition for Radical Life Extension, and I heard him speak this August at San Diego's RAAD Festival, which bills itself as the "first conference ever to focus on human age reversal."

I was invited to attend RAAD after I wrote about people who want their pets to live forever. I was initially confused by the phrase "age reversal." Was it a promotional stunt for the eighth anniversary of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Would there be adult babies? I didn't understand, but I thought I might be able to score some antiwrinkle cream, so I said I'd go. As it turns out, RAAD sells something more audacious than pricey cosmetics or Li'l Brad Pitt. RAAD stands for Revolution Against Aging and Death. It sells the promise of eternal youth.

Also, Suzanne Somers was going to be there.

Harry Potter brought the philosopher's stone back as a cultural reference point, but the idea of a universal panacea against death is much older than J.K. Rowling. From Alexander the Great to Ponce de León, tales of conquistadors and rovers stumbling onto fountains of youth are a fable trope. Greek mythology addressed the horror of aging in the tale of pitiful Tithonus, kidnapped by the goddess Eos and granted eternal life. Eos fucked up and forgot to specify that Tithonus should stay young as well as living, and so her kidnapped boy toy aged into a trembling old man, lasting on and on in babbling, incapacitated misery. In some versions of the story he turns into a cicada, but the moral remains: Eternal life without eternal youth is a curse, which is why RAAD wants both.

It's not polite to call someone old, but at RAAD, where eternal youth is seen as a lost birthright, it was sacrilegious. People were "ageless." I was not a convert to the cause, so I can say it: The attendees were mostly 65-plus, tanned, caftan'ed, and old. Walkers abounded.

The people who organized RAAD are members of the Coalition for Radical Life Extension, which is the nonprofit offshoot of People Unlimited, a Scottsdale, Arizona–based group that describes itself as "a community of people living physical immortality." People Unlimited charges a $245 monthly membership fee, and holds regular meetings where members swap antiaging tips and listen to guest speakers. Many of the presenters at RAAD are also members or guest speakers at People Unlimited.

The coalition's online mission statement shoehorns immortality into a historical narrative of moral and social progress. "We have seen a transformation in attitudes toward gays, to the point where a sitting U.S. president voices support for gay marriage. This is the scope of change we want to realize in how [radical life extension] is viewed by the public at large," it reads. Radical life extensionists believe that eternal life will eventually be viewed as a sort of buried human right, as soon as they convince people that they're not delusional.

Outside the Town & Country's halls, radical life extension is still a radical concept, despite national magazine covers crowing about long-lived babies. Many Americans have never even heard of the idea, and when they're told about it, they view it with, at the very least, apprehension. Here's an excerpt from a 2013 Pew study on American attitudes toward aging: "Asked whether they, personally, would choose to undergo medical treatments to slow the aging process and live to be 120 or more, a majority of U.S. adults (56%) say 'no.'" The study also found that around half the people questioned had never heard of radical life extension; around half also answered that it would be bad for society.

Though immortalists aren't mainstream, radical life extension has a burgeoning fan base in the tech industry. Along with Alphabet's Calico, which is a secretive Google spinoff focused solely on the study of aging, other prominent antiaging research labs and biotech firms have budded up among the techno-utopians. J. Craig Venter, who decoded the first free-living organism genome, started a biotech firm called Human Longevity Inc. Elysium, a dietary supplement company with six Nobel Prize laureates on its advisory board, is selling a "cellular health" pill that is meant to slow aging, although it's not allowed to come right out and say that. And Sirius XM founder Martine Rothblatt has, in addition to creating a more conventional biotech company, started a nonprofit called Terasem Movement, which is dedicated to the idea that humans might achieve a type of immortality by uploading mind files to a computer and creating "cyberconsciousness."

While the search for ways to stop aging and "cure" death is booming from a business perspective, the reality of biotech solutions for age-related problems is far more nuanced than the vision presented at RAAD, where researchers spoke in highly optimistic terms about progress just around the corner. Instead of treating antiaging research as a task that seeks to delay, the immortalists treat it as a foregone conclusion of a cure. Assuming that this research will lead to insight on how we age is one thing. Assuming it will free us from the bonds of mortality is an enormous leap. And so even within the community of researchers who study old age and life extension, immortalists are considered radical, and sometimes accused of peddling pseudoscience.

The immortalists have evangelizing to do.

To cast the widest possible net for converts, RAAD touted many different twists on the concept of living forever. No one path to immortality was placed above another. Many speakers were pursuing multiple antiaging treatments and strategies at once, in both their personal health and in their research. Experimentation was exalted. There were many different denominations of immortalists present, with a patchwork of philosophies and goals: stem-cell facials, telomerase research, transhumanism, cryonics, brain uploading, cyborgism, vitamins, blood transfusions, marathon running, sex. One presenter sang Sia's "Alive" — there was no such thing as being too on-the-nose at RAAD. Everyone was earnest and moisturized. The haphazard, inclusive, and often contradictory strategy embraced by RAAD is, more or less, throw everything against the wall until immortality sticks.

Google's chief futurist and techno-prognosticator, Raymond Kurzweil, was the event's keynote. The "keynote" designation was overly generous, as Kurzweil gave a speech via telepresence robot. A screen with Kurzweil's grainy face on it scooted around, and RAAD projected it onto two larger screens. Kurzweil's speech was interrupted when his telepresence robot froze. The audience waited patiently for Kurzweil to stop buffering. Once unbuffered, he discussed the singularity, a hypothesis that artificial intelligence will reach a point of sophistication that will enable exponential, unthinkable progress for humanity. It's basically the idea that Skynet will happen, but that Skynet willrule.

Kurzweil says that medical advances will allow for radically extended lifespans as soon as 2029, once the singularity occurs, so he stressed that the most important thing people need to do is just hold on and not die until roughly 2029, or ideally until 2045, which is when he says that the singularity will enable human neocortexes to be merged with a cloud-based artificial intelligence. (If that sounds familiar, you may have seen the 2014 Johnny Depp movie Transcendence, which is basically about a dude uploading his brain to a computer so he'll live forever.)

Despite Kurzweil's preoccupation with living forever and the fact that he is employed by Google, he does not work for Calico. The antiaging business is thriving, but most of its big names were not in attendance. Nobody from Calico was on the presenter's list. Instead, many presenters stressed DIY biohacking.

A few presenters just played videos, including wealthy Finnish Canadian retail mogul Peter Nygard. Nygard's tousled blond mane and "cocaine jungle party" fashion sense made him a startling presence onstage. He is best known for manufacturing low-end women's clothing, and second-best known for getting accused of hiring an assassin during a nasty feud over etiquette on a private Bahamian island. After amassing a fortune selling affordable polyester slacks, Nygard started indulging in a variety of pet projects, including eternal youth. He created his own biotech organization in the Caribbean, which enabled him to start performing experimental antiaging treatments without waiting for approval from U.S. regulators. At RAAD, Nygard claimed that the stem-cell injections his doctors have administered have reversed his aging. He then showed us this movie:

Any time the actions onscreen got too absurd, I looked at the faces of other members of the audience to keep myself from laughing. Some were chuckling and whispering to each other — but a disconcerting number of faces were rapt and reverent. The reverence and awe bordered on churchlike throughout the festival. When speakers like Cordeiro shouted for revolution, it was like taking in a futuristic psalm. Complimentary coffees were abandoned to the floor so hands could clasp and unclasp as we were promised to be baptized away from the cult of death and toward bounty and positivity, hallelujahs for everlasting salad days.

The crowd whooped loudest for Suzanne Somers. On the conference's first full day, she came to talk about her latest book, Tox-Sick: From Toxic to Not Sick, and it was obvious that she was the big draw, especially for women attendees, who punctuated Somers's speech with bouts of vigorous clapping.

I knew Somers as the hot mom on Step by Step, and many people know her from Three's Company or ThighMaster commercials. But she's a different sort of celebrity in the world of antiaging and alternative medicine, where she's regarded as a mouthpiece and a mascot. Somers has published 25 books, including 2006's Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones, wherein she declares, "I have substantially reversed the aging process in my body." Somers credits a controversial "bioidentical" hormone replacement routine for her robust health.

"Are we dying of heart disease or are we dying of hormone depletion?" Somers asked at RAAD as the audience cheered. "No one really understands how hormone replacement works. A lot of doctors don't understand how hormone replacement works. It's not really taught how it should be taught in medical school — with all due respect; I'm not a doctor," she said.

Some doctors who study bioidentical hormone therapies for a living have denounced how Somers promoted them in Ageless. "Many of the claims throughout the book are scientifically unproven and dangerous," a group of seven doctors wrote in 2006, in an open letter to the actor. Admonitions from the medical community haven't shaken her, and among RAAD's friendly crowd, Somers was at ease, tipping the audience off to her favorite Japanese oxytocin website and sharing that she takes her hormones in accordance with the lunar calendar. Women, she says, have their horniest day when the moon is full. She noted that applying estrogen cream directly to the clitoris "feels incredible."

But the hormone was discussed in Ageless, and Somers had a new line to sell. She explained that she had recently shifted her focus to the problem of toxic chemicals. "When the chemicals come in, the liver is groaning. Everybody's liver is so stressed and exploding with toxins," she said. "This is where the ADD and ADHD and OCD and autism and schizophrenia come from."

Somers does not shy away from blaming toxins for mental-illness-induced horrors. This is what she said about Sandy Hook Elementary School killer Adam Lanza in a 2013 Huffington Post interview: "Everybody's looking at guns — I look at it and go, 'What is the diet of that guy who went nuts? What toxins was he exposed to? What kind of household cleaners are they using?'"

After she ran through her spiel, Somers sat down with Bill Faloon, another superstar within the life extension movement. Faloon founded the Life Extension Foundation in 1980, and he was ready to back up every last irresponsible word Somers uttered. "There is a tremendous amount of peer-reviewed literature to substantiate what Suzanne has said, including diet and health," Faloon said.

The lovefest ended when they started discussing diet. "When it comes from the cow, don't eat it," Faloon said, listing cow products that people should avoid: milk, meat, cheese. Somers interrupted to confess that she both loves and eats butter and cream. "Don't you think that different bodies react different? What I don't eat is chemicals," she corrected Faloon.

Faloon had his own presentation slot, and almost as much applause as Somers. He didn't use the time to elaborate on dairy products. Instead, he showed us a montage of recently dead rich people, including Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy and investor Thomas Perkins. It was an "in memoriam" with an accusatory twist. "How do you die with $31 billion from a chronic illness without doing something about it?" Faloon asked the crowd about Perkins.

"These famous people did not use their money or their fame to do anything about aging," he said. "I don't know how someone can allow themselves to die when they have the financial resources to go to doctors to do research on them."

Faloon didn't go entirely negative — he applauded PayPal cofounder and noted Gawker enemy Peter Thiel for donating money to antiaging causes. Thiel has donated to gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, who founded the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Foundation. De Grey is a British man with objectively too much beard who is famous among futurists and infamous among scientists for claiming that the first person who will live to a thousand years old is alive today. He's good at raising money for antiaging research and courting celebrities to join his cause. SENS has an ad campaign that features Steve Aoki, Herbie Hancock, Edward James Olmos, and the guy who played Little Carmine on The Sopranos.

Thiel wasn't at the conference, but he was repeatedly brought up as a fan of life extension. In addition to signing up for cryonics and giving money, Thiel has expressed interest in young-blood transfusions for personal health, and Faloon talked about how much he likes this experimental procedure, called "parabiosis." "Old blood is dangerous, and when young blood is put in animals, it makes them younger," Faloon told the audience.

Faloon had a missionary's conviction, but the closest thing to a religious leader at RAAD was Neal VanDeRee, who is an actual preacher. VanDeRee is the officiator of Hollywood, Florida's Church of Perpetual Life, which calls itself the first transhumanist congregation. Its followers worship eternal life on earth, and believe that humanity is destined to discover a way to live forever. Services are livestreamed on YouTube. And, like any church, the Church of Perpetual Life relies on donations from its congregation.

Everybody was plugging something. To be an immortalist you need to buy things. The presenters were shucking, often explicitly. A speaker named Joe Polish, who hosts a podcast about marketing, gave a speech about why marketing is morally good and why people shouldn't hesitate to sell their belief systems; it was like attending a seminar for salespeople in training, and that was the point. RAAD was designed to encourage its audience to view themselves as advocates for a community, with a moral responsibility for the group's success. It wasn't enough to believe in the concept. People were encouraged to act on their beliefs by purchasing antiaging products and services, donating to antiaging research, and selling their social circles on the concept.

Max More, the CEO of the cryonics company Alcor Life Extension Foundation, was there to plug his business. "We're not going to bring you back as an old person," he said. "We're going to bring you back as a young, healthy version of you." He didn't elaborate on how exactly Alcor plans to go about making the bodies it stores younger and healthier before unfreezing them, though he did lay out how much it costs to be put on ice: "If you want to reserve just your brain, it's $80,000. And if you want to do the whole body, it's $200,000."

"If you can afford to go to Starbucks each day and get a grande cappuccino, you can probably afford this," he said.

Before the speeches began each morning, an exposition room for participating companies and organizations opened to hawk wellness products, such as vitamins and "genetic evaluations" and alternative-lifestyle reading materials. At the expo, I met a gregarious man in a cowboy hat selling special life insurance that covers cryogenics, and he assured me that I could find some New York life insurance provider that could guarantee my brain a cheap, everlasting freeze. I grabbed a brochure for an experimental addiction treatment center that specializes in "all natural" detoxing with an intravenous vitamin elixir. I saw people lined up for thermal-imaging facial scans, to check if they had thyroid disorders, migraines, or leaky amalgams. I put my name down on all the email sign-ups just to see what sort of promotional missives I'd get; when I returned to my apartment in Brooklyn there was already a bottle of chalky tablets labeled "Life Extension Pills" waiting for me, courtesy of Bill Faloon's supplement empire.

RAAD was weird. I usually like weird, but when I saw how ardently people glommed on to the idea that they could permanently conquer death, I was more upset than anything else. RAAD's most compelling speakers talked about ways we might intervene and extend our lives through scientific progress, but they cloaked advancements in the terminology of immortalism, which meant that even research with valid promise was distorted by grandiose framing. It is one thing to listen to a researcher discuss unconventional antiaging experiments as a moonshot; it is another to hear one do so under the guise that it will lead us to eternal life. I thought I'd be dipping my toes into a zany subculture, but it's no fun to be an ironic dilettante at another person's place of worship.

It's even less fun to watch senior citizens get sold on an empty promise. The audience was told, again and again, that it was in their power to direct how they age; they just had to open their wallets.

"We don't brainwash people," a man named Javier Hernandez told me as he stood at People Unlimited's booth at the conference, smiling as he pushed a clipboard into my hands. I hadn't said anything.

Before People Unlimited was People Unlimited, it went by a number of other names: the Flame Foundation, People Forever, and CBJ. "CBJ" stands for the names of its founders: Charles Paul Brown, Bernadeane Brown, and James Strole.

Bernadeane, who goes by just the one name, and James Strole run People Unlimited, although Charles Brown was the original leader (and Bernadeane's husband). Brown, a former nightclub singer, claimed that he had experienced a "genetic restructuring" that left him immortal, and started his movement in 1982. He preached to his followers as a religious figure, promising that following him would lead to healing, enlightenment, and the conquering of death. Brown insisted upon the possibility of physical immortality, and said that the Bible indicated it was possible.

Brainwashing accusations aren't hard to find on the internet. In 1991, GQ sent a writer to People Unlimited's (then CBJ's) "cellular intercourse" conference in Tel Aviv. The story focused on cult accusations, such as:

"Back in 1983, a Tulsa family, seeking a court ruling that their 77-year-old mother was incompetent to manage her affairs, charged that she had been bilked out of $150,000 by CBJ, which at that time was known publicly as Eternal Flame. The judge denied the petition 'with great reluctance,' but the publicity surrounding the case did some serious damage to Eternal Flame."

More recently, People Unlimited put out a press release in 2013 explicitly stating that it is not a cult. "Who ever heard of a fun and empowering cult?" the release states. Here is one of the reasons, from the release, why People Unlimted is not a cult:

Womanless beauty pageant. … The pageant is hilarious. And no, we're not a bunch of cross dressers, but once a year several guys do dress up and perform as women to support People Unlimited Charities.

Even in a sea of sinewy, white, blond, moisturized people, it is easy to pick out People Unlimited's figurehead, Bernadeane. She favors all-white outfits and a blunt, platinum-blond wig; she looks like an ageless SoulCycle Sia with a trail of admirers. In the lobby, cloisters of attendees would part so she could walk; she seemed to know everyone, grabbing hands and hugs every few steps. When it was her turn to speak, she confessed that many women ask her what her secret is. She said that she works out regularly.

Bernadeane has a son named Kevin Brown, who looks like steampunk Anderson Cooper. He is a DJ, and he spoke on behalf of People Unlimited. The theme of his speech was, loosely, "donate your money." "Your pocketbook is where a lot of this counts," he said. "If 900 of you gave $10,000 each by the end of this year, we'd have 9 million to go to research."

"How much is your life worth to you?" Brown asked.

Kevin Brown's father and Bernadeane's former husband, Charles Brown, died in 2014 from complications with Parkinson's disease and heart disease, his immortality fiefdom foiled. Since Brown Sr.'s demise really screwed with the group's "living forever" vibes, he is no longer featured prominently on the website or in its literature, and Bernadeane did not mention her late husband while she spoke at the festival. Instead, she credited her much younger current romantic partner, Joe Bardin, with helping her stay young.

Bardin served as People Unlimited's communications director at the time of Charles Brown's passing. "While the ideas of immortality burned brightly within him, the living of it often eluded him," Bardin wrote in an email to The Arizona Republic. "Too much stress and not enough exercise undoubtedly contributed to the heart disease and Parkinson's from which he suffered."

Bardin was one of RAAD's busiest organizers, and he contributed a comedic sketch about the frustrations of describing radical life extension to nonbelievers that I would charitably describe as "very bad." "It's very plausible that our revolution could bring about world peace," he said when it was his turn to address the crowd.

The one thing immortalists hate more than mortality is skepticism toward their cause. The idea of living long past our ordinary biological lifespans has jogged weighty ethical debates about how the planet, and society, could accommodate a population that does not die out. Questions of overpopulation and accelerated degradation of the environment come up. At the conference, Aubrey de Grey argued that "curing aging" was not incompatible with addressing climate change, and said that it could galvanize researchers. "When we have success in any one of these difficult areas, it changes people's attitudes," he said. "The more progress we make in our single worst and oldest problem, the problem of aging, the more we'll be able to think positively and practically to address climate change."

But many of the participants at RAAD view these questions with unconcealed hostility.

"In South Florida, there's too much water — they're dumping it into the ocean. In California, there's a drought. For a fraction of the price of the Iraqi war, we could've created an aqueduct to bring water to California," Bill Faloon snapped when asked about climate change. "Those are just little simple technological changes that could, perhaps, solve that problem."

An audience member asked about overpopulation. "If you really believe there are too many people, make an example of yourself and commit suicide," Jose Cordeiro said. There was no follow-up question.

I knew that what they were saying didn't make sense, but I felt jealous of their certainty. I have a soft spot for bullheadedness and big dreamers, and RAAD was an incubator for raging against the dying of the light. But the missionary zeal was unnerving, and I felt, often, that I was witnessing something deeply exploitative.

Aweek after the conference, still rattled, I drove into the Mojave Desert, past car lots and In-N-Outs and signs for cheap gas, past thousands of monolithic wind turbines jutting up from miles of rocks and dirt. I wanted to see if anything good could come from ruined dreams of immortality.

After turning off Old Woman Springs Road and onto increasingly winding trails dotted with scraggly Joshua trees, I encountered advertisements for cattle shows and UFO-themed art below a huge blue sky. It was 107 degrees. I was driving to Landers, California, to see the Integratron, a white dome in the middle of nowhere with its own connection to the movement.

The Integratron offers a $26 "sound bath," because its owners, the Karl family, say the dome is "acoustically perfect." It was constructed amid the yuccas and dust out of huge curved slabs of Douglas fir and is held together with glue. The Integratron is an architectural oddity that is sought after by musicians as a recording space because of how unusual its acoustics are. Sounds ping-pong and boom around its insides. The first floor looks like a glamping yurt. The second floor is where the action happens. Mats are arranged in a circle, heads pointing inward. "Sky mirrors" (windows, in civilian terms) flood light onto the mats and wood.

Our guide told us to test the room's odd acoustics by standing in the center and saying our names. I mumbled, "Hello," and it reverberated like I had screamed. A man who looked exactly like Castle from the show Castle said "Breckin Meyer," when he stood in the middle. I wondered if saying "Breckin Meyer" was a new meme I hadn't heard about yet. Then I looked behind me, and American actor and comedian Breckin Meyer was chuckling at his friend Nathan Fillion, the star of Castle.

I laid on a comfy mat along with 20 strangers and Breckin Meyer and Nathan Fillion as our guide told us about the Integratron's history, how its wooden curves were welded together without nails, how the curves were forged by shipbuilders, how the ground below us is a geomagnetic vortex. He told us to leave if we coughed, since the sound would be so amplified; I worried about what would happen if I farted. He told us to wake up our neighbors if they snore. I worried about what would happen if I snored.

As he spoke, he played a series of wide quartz cups, the reverberations brimming into an incantatory New Age clamor. I felt like I was on an airplane made of crystals and Ambien. I fell asleep amid my fellow pilgrims, lulled beneath the 16-sided dome, dreamily thinking about Breckin Meyer's underrated Clueless performance.

The Integratron was built for activities far more esoteric than hippie sound baths. An aviation technician named George Van Tassel erected the structure (with funding from Howard Hughes) in 1959 for other reasons: to time-travel, to defy gravity, and to rejuvenate human cells so that people could live longer. The exact method of rejuvenation was never explained. It was intended to be a machine to transcend human limitations, to upend natural laws, to communicate with aliens. Van Tassel said that an alien from Venus had provided him with the design; he was an active leader in the burgeoning UFO community that settled in the desert in the 1950s following Roswell.

Like the people who organized, presented at, and attended RAAD, Van Tassel dreamed of a different, less limited mode of being alive, a version of humanity that could stave off death to reach for a stardust-strewn life. While the presenters at RAAD talked of colonizing Mars, Van Tassel believed that Venusians had already found their way to Earth, and he shared a fervent belief in the nearness of other worlds and the potential bigness of our own lives. When he died, in 1978, Van Tassel was still working on the Integratron. Afterward, it languished as ownership changed hands and nobody quite knew what to do with the big white desert dome. Its transformation into a gentle meditation enclave came years after his death.

Van Tassel died with his project unfinished, but what he began was completed and is now a strange and touching monument, something that withstands whipping desert winds and oppressive heat to provide a unique experience. His vision for the Integratron came nowhere close to true, but it also didn't come to nothing. While it doesn't render visitors weightless or arrest death, the Integratron is a soothing oasis. It cannot upend humanity, but it's a mighty nice place to think about how to be human.

I thought about the immortalists as I drove away from the Integratron, and I thought about them more when I got home. I kept coming back to a memory from the conference, from the last night of the event. There was a party to cap things off, and it wasn't anything like I expected — there were no little trays of vitamins scattered around. The food was dairy heavy. Kombucha wasn't on the menu, but you could get a ridiculous pour of chardonnay. Presenters mingled with audience members. They weren't pitching anymore; they were among friends. (Well, many of them — Suzanne Somers had long since left the premises.) Transhumanists mixed with curious baby boomers looking for a quick health kick. Bernadeane and her young disciple Joe slow-danced, blonde heads leaning into each other, and they looked teenaged and hopeful.

And yet. Even more indelible than the gentle image of immortality chasers dancing are the memories of the other people in the audience, on the outer edges of their lives and looking for a way back in. Telling old people that death is defeat is unconscionable.

I see something admirable in chasing astonishments like they are birthrights. And I imagine that researchers who seek a cure for aging could stumble onto solutions for more specific maladies. Maybe this zeal will propel the studies that untangle Alzheimer's, or leukemia, or AIDS. Perhaps, like Van Tassel and the Integratron, the best outcome for the immortalists will be to miss their mark but still leave something beautiful behind. Even that outcome, though, will leave behind a trail of people sapped of their money and convinced that dying is a human failure instead of just human.


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