Is Immortality Possible or Is Aging Inevitable? (2022)

“Could humans become immortal?” is something we get asked quite often, and the answer depends on what exactly you mean.

When it comes to immortality, what you mean is important

Whether human immortality is possible greatly depends on how you define it. If you define it as living forever and being unkillable like in a comic book or movie, then, no, it is highly unlikely.

However, if you define it in terms of showing no decline in survival characteristics, no increase in disease incidence, and no increase in mortality with advancing age, then yes.

To some people this may seem to be a matter of semantics, but it is not. The first is a science-fiction fantasy; the second is based on real-world biology that evolution has already selected for in certain species. This is known as negligible senescence. And in fact, some animals are already doing exactly this!

And the good news is that there is no reason why humans could not enjoy considerably increased healthy longevity if the appropriate technologies are developed. It isn’t even beyond the realms of possibility that humans might achieve negligible senescence thanks to the march of medical science and technology.

Senescence and negligible senescence

Senescence refers to the gradual deterioration of aging and is typically very obvious in almost every species. More accurately, senescence refers to a decline of survival characteristics, such as strength, mobility, and senses, and age-related increases in mortality along with a decrease in reproductive capability. Mortality rates for humans and most animals increase dramatically with age beyond reaching reproductive maturity.

A few species are more unusual and exhibit negligible senescence. An organism is considered negligibly senescent (NS) if it does not show any loss of survival characteristics, such as strength, mobility, and senses, an increased mortality rate with advancing age, or a loss of reproductive capability with age.


Recorded lifespan

(Video) Why Age? Should We End Aging Forever?

Rougheye rockfish205 years[1-2]
Aldabra Giant Tortoise255 years
Lobsters100+ years (Presumed NS)
Naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaberis)28 years
Sea anemones60–80 years
Freshwater pearl mussel210–250 years[3]
Ocean Quahog clam507 years[4]
Greenland Shark400 years
Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)152 years (Presumed NS)
Clams such as Panopea generosa160 years (Presumed NS)

Negligible senescence does not mean they cannot die

It is worth noting that even though these species enjoy negligible senescence and do not age or age immeasurably slowly, they are still vulnerable to predation, accidents, starvation, environmental dangers, changes to their environmental niches, and diseases. This means that extremely old examples of these species with negligible senescence are very rare, especially in the wild.

Is Immortality Possible or Is Aging Inevitable? (1)

To further complicate matters, we often need to sacrifice the animal in order to measure its age by examining the deep tissues and marks inside bones, much like measuring rings in a tree trunk.

This means that we cannot know the maximum age that might be achieved by these species, so the above numbers are based on what information we have; there could well be considerably older examples out there. The point here is that negligible species with senescence do not deteriorate with age and may live considerably longer than has been recorded.

Possibly even more intriguing is the hydra, a species that is observed to have no lifespan limit, as it regenerates very quickly. Barring predation and changes to its environment, it is one of the few species for which the phrase “biological immortality” would be appropriate [5]. The hydra is quite unique in how its cells work, and it is quite unlike the majority of other organisms on the planet; it is a true oddball but fascinating all the same.

Strategies for engineered negligible senescence

Is Immortality Possible or Is Aging Inevitable? (2)

Well, this is great news if you happen to be a lobster and avoid the fisherman’s pot long enough to reach a ripe old age, but what about us; how can we benefit from the same advantages that negligibly senescent species do?

It is clear that we would have to wait a long time, perhaps forever, before evolution selected the same traits in humans, so something a little more direct is needed.

(Video) Scientists Discover a Cure to Reverse Human Aging

Some scientists, such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey, propose that we can engineer negligible senescence by using a repair-based approach to the damage that aging causes. This is the basis of SENS, the strategies for engineered negligible senescence, and is being pursued by the SENS Research Foundation.

Other researchers have built on the original concept of SENS, and in 2013, the Hallmarks of aging was published. This landmark paper broke the aging process down into nine distinct processes known as hallmarks and essentially gave researchers a way to classify aging and an insight into what processes they might target to slow down or even reverse aging.

While there are quite a number of aging theories, the Hallmarks of aging appears to be the most popular, judging by how many times it has been cited and how often it is used in academia. Essentially, the Hallmarks of aging has given researchers a list of targets to develop therapies for and now the race is on to create them.

Should negligible senescence be achieved in humans through SENS or other approaches such as partial cellular reprogramming, it would potentially mean the end of age-related diseases and ill health, a most worthy goal indeed.

The inevitability of multicellular aging

Back in 2017, a great deal of fuss was made about humans achieving negligible senescence, with a number of articles suggesting that it is impossible. The reason is that the mainstream media has interpreted this paper very badly, assuming that the authors imply that because aging is inevitable, we cannot do anything about it [6].

The media was been filled with articles almost smugly proclaiming in some cases that aging is unstoppable and mathematically impossible to defeat. The problem with this interpretation is that it is just plain wrong. The original paper is, strictly speaking, correct in that aging damage is indeed inevitable, but it makes no assumptions about interventions. The publication says a great deal about what evolution has done and is likely to do based on observation, but that says absolutely nothing about what medicine may achieve in the future.

One cannot apply such thinking when it comes to engineering negligible senescence in humans through the periodic repair of age-related damage. So, quite simply, publications like this make little difference to work in this field, and they change the plausibility of us achieving negligible senescence in no way whatsoever.

No, aging is not inevitable

A more recent example in 2021, which was again met with almost gleeful declaration by the press that aging cannot be stopped, was the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ paper [7]. Unfortunately, once again the reporting was based on the a similar misunderstanding of what the study actually said.

(Video) Getting older without getting old - with Andrew Steele

The study was actually not a study about longevity or that aging was inevitable. It was trying to understand what influences the rate of aging across species and how much results from evolved biological processes versus the effects of the environment. While the research itself has obvious merit scientifically speaking, the popular press chose to represent it in a different light.

The irony is that instead of showing that aging is indeed inevitable, the research instead shows that eventually humanity will run out of ways in which environmental improvements will increase our lifespans. At that point further gains will only be achieved through medical interventions that address the aging processes directly and either repair the damage aging does, or slow aging down by make us more resilient.

What if humans were immortal?

Imagine the possibilities that would come with living forever! You could spend more time with loved ones, master a variety of careers, and travel the entire world! If everyone on Earth were immortal, we’d all have a chance to recover from our mistakes, and our society could save a ton of money on healthcare


There is a clear difference between Hollywood-style immortality and negligible senescence, with the latter being a plausible goal in the next few decades. Evolution has already demonstrated that negligible senescence is indeed possible; now, the next big challenge is to use an engineering approach to aging to see if we can emulate in people what nature has done in a few lucky species. The good news is, we have a list of targets and a far better understanding of what aging is than we did even 10 years ago, and there is a lot more interest in tackling aging from both the academic and investment communities.

If you enjoyed this, you may also like our video about the Marvel film. the Eternals. We explore if humans could live as long and age slowly as the Eternals for real.


[1] Munk, K. M. (2001). Maximum ages of groundfishes in waters off Alaska and British Columbia and considerations of age determination. Alaska Fish. Res. Bull, 8(1), 12-21.

[2] Cailliet, G. M., Andrews, A. H., Burton, E. J., Watters, D. L., Kline, D. E., & Ferry-Graham, L. A. (2001). Age determination and validation studies of marine fishes: do deep-dwellers live longer?. Experimental gerontology, 36(4), 739-764.

[3] Ziuganov, V., Miguel, E. S., Neves, R. J., Longa, A., Fernández, C., Amaro, R., … & Johnson, T. (2000). Life span variation of the freshwater pearl shell: a model species for testing longevity mechanisms in animals. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, 29(2), 102-105.

(Video) Life Extension and Anti-Aging. Is Immortality possible?

[4] Munro, D., & Blier, P. U. (2012). The extreme longevity of Arctica islandica is associated with increased peroxidation resistance in mitochondrial membranes. Aging cell, 11(5), 845-855.

[5] Martı́nez, D. E. (1998). Mortality patterns suggest lack of senescence in hydra. Experimental gerontology, 33(3), 217-225.

[6] Nelson, P., & Masel, J. (2017). Intercellular competition and the inevitability of multicellular aging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201618854.

[7] Colchero, F. et al. The long lives of primates and the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis. Nature Communications (2021), doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-23894-3

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Is immortality possible? ›

Cryonics holds out the hope that the dead can be revived in the future, following sufficient medical advancements. While, as shown with creatures such as hydra and Planarian worms, it is indeed possible for a creature to be biologically immortal, it is not known if it will be possible for humans in the near-future.

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How can we achieve immortality? ›

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What is the maximum age for a human? ›

Among their findings: Researchers estimated near 100% probability that the current record of maximum reported age at death — Calment's 122 years, 164 days — will be broken; The probability remains strong of a person living longer, to 124 years old (99% probability) and even to 127 years old (68% probability);

How does immortal come back to life? ›

Resurrection: While still potentially able to be killed, his body does not decay, remaining perfectly preserved and even still physically healing. To which, if his head and torso are reattached to his body, he will ultimately revive.

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Your heart stops beating. Your brain stops. Other vital organs, including your kidneys and liver, stop. All your body systems powered by these organs shut down, too, so that they're no longer capable of carrying on the ongoing processes understood as, simply, living.

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There are four major types of Symbolic Immortality; the first three are the most universal. Most people feel that even after dying, there is hope of an afterlife, with an immortal soul: “I can live on in mankind.” This provides continuity of a family's heritage and the passing of memories from generation to generation.

Why do we get old? ›

Cellular aging

Cells are the basic building blocks of the body. Your cells are programmed to divide, multiply, and perform basic biological functions. But the more cells divide, the older they get. In turn, cells eventually lose their ability to function properly.

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The increased longevity of humans is, in part, attributable to environmental changes; improved food, water, and hygiene; reduced impact of infectious disease; and improved medical care at all ages.

Who is the oldest ever? ›

The oldest person ever whose age has been independently verified is Jeanne Calment (1875–1997) of France, who lived to the age of 122 years and 164 days. The oldest verified man ever is Jiroemon Kimura (1897–2013) of Japan, who lived to the age of 116 years and 54 days.

What is the average dying age? ›

Average age of death
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How long will people live in the future? ›

Global life expectancy at birth has now topped 70 years for men, and 75 years for women. And the population living to 100 and older is predicted to grow to nearly 3.7 million by 2050, from just 95,000 in 1990.

Who is the immortal person in the world? ›

Markandeya, a sage who was granted immortality at the age of sixteen. Sir Galahad (born 2nd-6th century), one of the three Arthurian knights to find the Holy Grail. Of these questing knights, Galahad is the only one to have achieved immortality by it.

How old is the immortal? ›

Biography. The origins of the Immortal remain unknown, even to the Immortal himself. It is known that he is over 3,000 years old and around that era he was involved in an accident (the nature of which is unclear) that gave him superpowers.

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Powers. Flight: Immortal can achieve Mach 3 as flight speed. Superhuman Strength: Immortal has strength much greater than normal humans. Immortal was able to throw Bi-Plane from the sky all the way to space.

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100,000 Years From Today

We will also have larger nostrils, to make breathing easier in new environments that may not be on earth. Denser hair helps to prevent heat loss from their even larger heads. Our ability to control human biology means that the man and woman of the future will have perfectly symmetrical faces.

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Humans have certainly had a profound effect on their environment, but our current claim to dominance is based on criteria that we have chosen ourselves. Ants outnumber us, trees outlive us, fungi outweigh us. Bacteria win on all of these counts at once.

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By 2050 , the world's population will exceed at least 9 billion and by 2050 the population of India will exceed that of China. By 2050, about 75% of the world population will be living in cities. Then there will be buildings touching the sky and cities will be settled from the ground up.

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Visual or auditory hallucinations are often part of the dying experience. The appearance of family members or loved ones who have died is common. These visions are considered normal. The dying may turn their focus to “another world” and talk to people or see things that others do not see.

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