An Open Letter to The Tech Bros Who Want to Live Forever.
Greetings Tech Bros, I get it. You’re possessed with biohacking and psychedelics (when you’re not talking about how AI will save the world or trying to get to Mars). For now, let’s chat about biohacking, also known as ‘let’s try to control our body so we can live forever.’ Now, I won’t try (nor do I want to) get into your psyche to understand your deep-seated intentions, but, personally, I’m getting a little tired of you masters of the universe focusing more on the length of life than its depth (which I’m happy to report is a lot less expensive of an endeavor).
Here’s my message. Do with it what you will:
If you want to live forever and cheat death, have at it! But, remember, death is the ultimate organizing principle for how we live our lives. Scarcity creates value and meaning. In your pursuit of eternity, be careful not to lose sight of the richness that mortality brings to our existence.
Bryan Johnson’s quest for immortality sounds so new, modern, and...expensive (a 6-pack gets more costly as we age). But, the myth of the fountain of youth goes back to pre-Jesus times and was popularized by explorer Juan Ponce de León’s Caribbean search more than 500 years ago. The list of your fellow tech titans investing in living forever is long. I’m looking at you, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Sam Altman. I’ll stop there. And, yes, this is a boy’s club (maybe the new midlife crisis alternative to buying a shiny red sports car).
You “body-obsessives” have blinders on: you’ve forgotten that life is more than your body…it’s your heart, your soul, your mind, your relationships with others, as well as with something greater than yourself. I fear that the biohacking movement is just a scientifically-approved form of narcissism. I wish you could learn that feeling good trumps looking good, especially as we age. Maybe it’s time to accept that we’re aging from the time we’re born. It’s better to be aging than aged; present tense beats past tense. The ultimate anti-aging product is death, as you’re no longer aging.
Okay, I’ll sign off on this rant with three pieces of advice that may have a greater impact on your longevity than all of this biohacking:
- Make a few friendships.
Dr. Bob Waldinger’s Harvard study shows that the number one common variable of those who were happiest and healthiest in their 80s was how invested they were in their relationships in their 50s.
- Pursue a purpose that serves others.
Bryan Johnson thinks he’s an altruist spending $2 million annually on his body, organs, and genes because it may influence global longevity. Still, true character develops when you serve others, expecting nothing in return and no acclaim. It’s more important to be useful than youthful.
- Adopt a “pro-aging” mindset.
Yale’s Becca Levy has shown that shifting your mindset about aging from a negative to a positive gives you 7.5 years of additional life, which improves longevity more than stopping smoking or starting exercising in midlife (or taking a spin around the earth in your rocket ship). Of course, this last suggestion probably won’t land with you since you already believe that aging is a disease.
Whether it’s colonizing space or biohacking your body, you may very well be the Ponce de León of this century. And for that, I wish you luck. But, remember, good ‘ol Ponce died at the tender age of 47, and I might add, while searching for the fountain of eternal youth.
Better to live every day as if it’ll be your last. That’s time well spent.
Best of luck in your quest for immortality.
P.S. Here’s what Eliott Jacques, the psychologist who coined the term “midlife crisis,” wrote in 1965:
“The compulsive attempts…to remain young, the hypochondriacal concern about health and appearance, the emergence of sexual promiscuity in order to prove youth and potency, the hollowness and lack of genuine enjoyment of life…are familiar patterns. They are attempts at a race against time.”
P.P.S. I know I’ve been judgmental toward Bryan Johnson, the poster child of the “don’t die” movement, so I’d like to share this conversation between him and Rich Roll that went live a week ago. It makes you realize that his motivations are more nuanced than you might think.