Science's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries (Popular Mechanics, 2000)
The above article outlines various scientific concepts that are, thus far, only science fiction (at least in practice). But the one I'd like to focus on is the first concept of the article's second page: can we achieve immortality?
According to this study, we very well may.
Essentially, the article says that cancer cells are technically immortal, by way of a special enzyme that normal living cells don't have; however, if living cells could be made to produce that enzyme (telomerase), they could also become immortal. Surprisingly, or at least to me, this is hardly news - this article was published in 2000, after all.
Regardless, the effects of such a breakthrough would be immense, nearly unimaginable. What if we really did live forever? How would our literate knowledge and cultural advancement expand and develop? It could be argued that the single largest contributor to the inhibition of intellectual development is the simple fact that our time is limited. But what if it wasn't? What if time essentially became relative instead of objective? Granted, everyone would still die eventually, just not of age - given an infinity, the probability of death would eventually catch up to every individual one way or another. But if life expectancy was, for all practical purposes, unlimited, there would definitely be very, very significant changes over time.
With individual immortality comes the immortality of a generation. And if a generation is immortal, eventually as other generations spring forth and rub shoulders with it, those lines will blur, just as generational lines always do; but with immortality, older generations will continue to blur, but never be erased. The result? Honestly, I can't say. Honestly, who can? Honestly... I don't think I want to know. That may sound like a cop out, but I encourage you to think about it. Think about the residual effects generations have on one another as it is, then saturate those effects and draw them out even longer. It's hard to put a finger on why for me, but it really disturbs me to think about it - a culture with no beginning and no end, no limits and no reserve...
If human life is made functionally infinite, then so is the human capacity for everything else extended indefinitely. May I die peacefully before those days.