#2. Cloned Parts (or a Whole New Body)
While no one reliable has ever cloned (or claimed to clone) a human, it is scientifically plausible, and as a result, it has been suggested as a means to allow humans to sustain their lives beyond their normal mortal sell-by date.
The rest of us would rather be like Spam.
There are two ideas at work here. The first is the prospect of manufacturing new, healthy, completely "you" organs to replace the crappy old parts you were born with, or even that next-generation organ you put in 30 years ago, whenever they start to get old. Obviously, most people die because a specific organ fails (for Americans, the heart is the most common culprit). So being able to replace parts like you would swap out transmissions on a car could extend life indefinitely, even if nothing else on this list comes to fruition. And organ-farming is the less morally ambiguous cloning method, since it simply requires cloning individual body parts.
The other method can pretty much count on the government giving us a response of "Umm, no ..." (in fact, it already has), because it would use a fully grown cloned body as the receptacle for the brain of an aging person so that person could effectively go from 70 to 20 with a single operation. As you might imagine, this has led to a certain level of squeamishness, since it would mean either effectively killing a cloned person for his body or raising a fully functioning body that was brain-dead from birth.
The end result of this is better fast food.
All of this means that while it is certainly plausible, it is unlikely in the Western world. In the Eastern world, however, it may become a reality. Singapore and China seem to be less worried about the problems with human cloning, and are already working toward therapeutic human cloning (the first one).
Interestingly, the possibility of using cloned bodies for immortality isn't particularly new; they even made a shitty movie about it back in 1979.
'79. The year that gave us bioethics and Alien.
#1. Cybernetic Immortality
If we have learned anything from movies, and we have learned so much, then it's safe to say that of all the possible methods for achieving immortality, this is the most awesome. Scientists call this the RoboCop approach. Or at least they should.
Homo sapiens are tool users: that, maybe more than anything, has defined the advancement of our species. So even if we never crack the genetic aging code or perfect the method of growing replacement livers, we can turn to our ability to build awesome mechanical tools for immortality. It's what we do.
And we're already on our way -- with artificial hearts, replacement limbs and artificial nerves, we are already rebuilding humans, albeit piecemeal, into cyborgs. Put a stethoscope over the chest of former Vice President Dick Cheney and you'll hear nothing -- instead of a heart, he has a machine that pumps blood. If we can replace one part, we can replace another.
You heard it here, folks. Dick Cheney has a robot heart.
Many of the limitations of these technologies -- weight and durability of the materials and energy efficiency -- will go away with advances in technologies such as carbon nanotubes and metamaterials. Just as we built cars that can transport us faster than our legs, we will have replacement body parts that not only outperform our crappy natural organs but will be nigh invulnerable as well.
Fortunately, prosthetics don't have the same moral complications as cloning a human body or mind uploading ("So, will my soul be uploaded as well?"). The cultural acceptance of this technique will happen one limb at a time. Nobody would start hating Bill Murray if he got an artificial hip. And even if they had to keep going until they replaced his legs and arms and all his internal organs, we'd still hug him if we saw him on the street. Knowing that he now possesses the Terminator-style strength to crush our bones would actually make it better.
What if Jeff Goldblum had laser-eyes?
The downside of this one is that even after you replace the body parts, the brain is still the same age, so you're leaving it to a separate area of science to prevent Alzheimer's and the general degradation of the brain that awaits us all in old age. A gun-toting cyber-badass is a lot less badass when it forgets its own name and leaves its blinker on for miles at a time. If you're wondering why then we put this at #1, it's because the continuing mortality of your frail human brain goes down a lot easier when you can, at any moment, replace your left arm with a flamethrower.
Learn what else science can do for us in our new book! Or you can also check out 5 Superpowers Science Will Give Us in Our Lifetime and 6 Obnoxious Old People Habits (Explained by Science).
And stop by Linkstorm where we'll teach you how to attach that flamethrower without using all that technical bullshit.
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