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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

Technologies for Immortality: A study of Human Futures

Alternative title: Teknologier for udødelighet: en studie av den menneskelige fremtid

Awarded: NOK 11.9 mill.

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Project Period:

2021 - 2025


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Our first joint fieldwork on an important immortality and anti-aging event, Raadfest (revolution against aging and death festival) took place in October this year. This festival attracts several hundred anti-aging enthusiasts, who are eager to get the latest news from the pharmaceutical industry, bio-tech companies as well as the newest in health and wellbeing trends. Also people interested in cryonics, as well as those who do research on the topic, and representation from the organizations, attend. Several of the interviews we conducted show a continuation in the interest in anti-aging and an interest in cryonics. The border between anti-aging and immortality is however important to uphold for people in this field. Cryonics can be defended as interesting as long as it is presented as a research-area in the bio-medical fields, but not if it is presented as a method of achieving eternal life. The latter is perceived to be more religious. It is all about science.

Technological innovation in human-computer interfaces, breakthroughs in biotechnology, and the emerging notion that aging is a disease seriously challenge established understandings of what a human being is, or might be. A substantial reason for current popular interest in emerging technologies is the possibility of living forever; the prospect of human immortality. This project will explore contemporary pursuits of immortality in order to enhance our understanding the social and cultural basis for these developments.We might distinguish between three different approaches to the field of immortality, taking three different questions as a point of departure: Firstly, what is possible, through technology and science? Secondly, what is the social and cultural significance of it, and thirdly: is it desirable? The first question is an established research area in biology (anti-aging medicine, bio-technology etc) and AI (humanoids, "mind transfer" etc), and the third question is often dealt with in the field of ethics, mainly from philosophy, religion and theology etc. The second however, is only to a very limited degree developed. With this project we want to explore the socio-cultural significance of the immortality movement, looking specifically at kinship relations. How are relations developed and imagined in contexts where mortality is sought overcome? Concretely, we propose with this research to develop comparative analysis of ethnographic case studies of immortality practices in Russia and in the US. Due to particular historical contingencies rooted both in the histories of the late nineteenth-century religious modernism and experimentation, and the Cold War technoscientific imaginaries and science-based competition between the Soviet Union and the United States, these are the two locations where immortality projects like the ones described above are most developed and vocal.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam