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ixfd64 September 18 2012 04:53 AM

life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
One area in which Star Trek technology may be falling behind its real world counterpart is life extension.

For example, a number of real life scientists predict we'll be able to use nanomedicine to cure aging and other diseases, making people virtually immortal (except possibly from blunt trauma). Some believe this will actually happen within the next few decades.

However, I can barely find any examples of such technology in Star Trek, where people still grow old in the 24th century. I know there are Augments, but they seem to be a minority.

Similarly, if transporters can rearrange matter, then why isn't there a device that resurrects a person by rearranging their molecules into a configuration such that the person is alive?

I can understand why such technology is rare in the Star Trek universe; the producers probably don't want stories in which characters have the potential to live forever. But is there an in-universe explanation for the lack of such technology?

Espašo-chica September 18 2012 06:51 AM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
Nano technology in TNG seems to be fairly new, also there is a prohibition on genetic treatment, so (separately) there might be restrictions on anti-aging.

Picard wasn't supposed to care about losing his hair, and according to Crusher people no longer feared dying.

So perhaps people in the 24th century simply lived out their time in this moral coils, and then philosophically accepted their own deaths when their time was up.


Timo September 18 2012 02:17 PM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
The episode "Rascals" is telling: none of the unexpectedly rejuvenated characters cherishes the idea of having extra years to live, thanks to the younger bodies. Instead, all want to get quickly back to their adult selves - save for the naturally long-lived Guinan and those people she manages to corrupt with her thinking.

Of course, our heroes might be more informed about this sort of thing than the audience: they might be aware that rejuvenation does not add any years into their lives (indeed, it may actually shorten them), and thus there's no real point in reliving the painful years of adolescence.

Timo Saloniemi

Mark_Nguyen September 19 2012 11:13 PM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
I always figured that ethically, the folk of the future was pretty happy with what they had, and that the driving force was to be better humans without using technology to indefinitely extend their lives. Sure, there're crotchety old Admirals who get to be 137 or older, who are certainly being kept alive with daily injections, entertainment therapy and kidney-growing Tylenol. But overall, the idea seems to be to make the best of the years you have, rather than worry about adding more of them onto the pile.

Humans weren't born to be immortal (unless you're Flint), so we should have fun before some moron figures we should all be pure energy instead.


ngc7293 September 20 2012 01:59 AM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
What about DeForest Kelley who was in TNG's first episode as the 200 year old McKoy? Certainly age has been extended to some extent without some technology being installed. I'm sure McKoy wouldn't let such devices be used on him anyway

Drago-Kazov September 20 2012 11:23 AM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
He probably visited Cerberus 2. That was the planet from Too Short a Season right?

Timo September 20 2012 01:11 PM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
The thing is, McCoy at 137 doesn't seem to be making any records yet. In "To the Death", O'Brien says he wants to die in his bed at 150, indicating that 150 is the new 100 - theoretically attainable, and serving as the very definition of a life not shortened by disease or accident.

McCoy is probably just dying young because of all the ailments he has caught from his adventures...

Timo Saloniemi

ngc7293 September 28 2012 04:25 AM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
I am still trying to figure out where I got the age of 200 for McCoy from. Oh Well. I have always seen the Doctor as older even in in TOS. Perhaps at 137, he really isn't that old. There was a book that gave the impression that he had a lot more years to live. But I think his life extension plan was similar to George Burns, lots of young women :p

Timo September 28 2012 02:57 PM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
...Finely ground, and with a morselful of mint?

There was some confusion when it was declared in "Encounter at Farpoint" that McCoy was "only" 137 years old. Granted, we didn't yet learn the year in which the episode took place, but when the season-ender suggested it was 2364 or 2363, the confusion grew: if McCoy was born in 2227 or 2226, he'd only be in his early forties in TOS, whereas DeForest Kelley was past his mid-forties. But the mismatch is not too pronounced.

What was confusing about "Encounter at Farpoint" was that Data indicated he had graduated in '78, supposedly then in 2378; if this year were in the episode's past, this would mean that McCoy would be in his thirties or perhaps twenties in TOS at very best! But we have to dismiss Data's claim now anyway. (Perhaps his being from "class of 78" means he had 77 classmates who could stand witness to him attending, as Riker doubting the attendance was what prompted Data to speak of the class in the first place.)

Timo Saloniemi

bryce September 29 2012 11:54 PM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
I've always thought that the lack of anti-senescence technology (which is very common in modern sci-fi) in star Trek to be pretty anachronistic too. People in the 23rd and 24th centuries should be regularly living for 200 to 300 years *at least* - and looking pretty young through most of that! Same for the lack of bio-cybernetics, and the rarity of AI. And the lack of gengineering as well - though at least there is an explanation for that.

ETA: Even simple things like cryogenically freezing terminal patients until they can be worked on later, are missing from Trek. And I don't necessarily mean for long periods...but people who die suddenly, when maybe the resources of a starbase or just the doctor having more time to develop a treatment. It's like death is not only considered natural in Trek...but something not worth fighting against too hard.

But with the tech level in Star Trek, the lack of any post-humans/trans-humans is a bit...backward. for all the magical technology that they DO have, In many other ways it like the Federation is a big...Luddite. Not just technologically, but socially too. Their society and institutions and values are very 20th century! People in the 24th century are really just people in the 20th/21st but with FTL spaceships and transporters. Where are the group marriages? gay marriages? Etc...? Gene Roddenberry tried to introduce a "futuristic" social sensibility in the TMP novelization and in early TNG episodes (Troi's comments about marriage to her mother, male creweman wearing skirts - not as a transgender thing necessarily, but just that fashions have changed in 300-400 years) but those were dropped, and by Voyager's time, Tom Paris and the rest pf the crew in the 24th century weren't all that different from Enterprise's crew in the 22nd century - or us here now in the 21st...

But I guess you have to consider the time Trek was created in - even TNG. But compared to people and institution and societies in modern written scifi - by authors like John Varley, Greg Egan, Ken McLeod, Iain M. Banks, just to name a few - Federation society seems pretty...stagnant and conservative.

Crazy Eddie September 30 2012 06:16 AM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)

ixfd64 wrote: (Post 6977881)
But is there an in-universe explanation for the lack of such technology?

Life-extension technologies have a bad reputation. They all either have horrific side effects (e.g. you keep getting younger and younger and younger until your cells implode) or you get zapped back into your early childhood and nobody takes you seriously (in my private canon, the age reversal from "Rascals" was actually permanent and they would have been stuck as children forever; that's what you get for basing your diagnoses on a weekend seminar on speculative genomics). The only other alternative seems to be making some sort of devil's pact with semi-omnipotent creatures from another dimension, which may be more trouble than it's worth.

The only WORKING example of life extension technology would be that creepy guy on DS9 who was pitching the Cellular Entertainment System, a way of seriously prolonging your lifespan by staving off cellular boredom.

Smoked Salmon September 30 2012 06:26 AM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
People seem to live a pretty long time in the Star Trek world. If the expanded stuff is to be believed then most of the TOS crew went on and on and on. I'd say that's life extending stuff. he he.

Timo October 1 2012 09:13 AM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)

Even simple things like cryogenically freezing terminal patients until they can be worked on later, are missing from Trek.
It's fun enough that they do address this very thing. That is, in "The Neutral Zone", they run into some patients who were frozen (after their deaths, to be sure, but for the above purpose), and Dr. Crusher brings them back to life as a hobby project, and she and Picard discuss the utter perversity of doing such a thing. It seems that there is some merit in their minds to the idea of freezing a person before death for later cure, but doing the freezing after nature has had its way is just plain weird for our heroes. Even if the victim is barely in his forties or whatever.

Certainly none of the TNG era heroes or even of the villains consider prolonging of life a goal worth pursuing. Only a comical sidekick has such aspirations, and even then mainly because the accomplishment would prove his unconventional theories.

Which makes it all the weirder that the same heroes mourn a comrade who died violently in the course of duty (say, "Skin of Evil", "The Ship"). Why is death through violence more objectionable than death through acquired disease or inborn ailment? All involve circumstances conspiring against advanced age.

Timo Saloniemi

TheRoyalFamily October 19 2012 09:27 PM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
Things that might seem theoretically easy according to present science, with the right tech, might not actually be so easy, or at least not messy. We might not know what we don't know, or once we do have the tech to go down those avenues of investigation, they might not pan out like we'd hope - or they might develop differently than we would imagine.

As it is, we know in Trek that humans have a bad history with genetic manipulation/betterment of the species, so that would ethically close off that line for them. Also, they seem to have done away with most of the diseases that presently shorten our lives, and improved old age generally through various means. I'd say life has been extended quite a bit in Trek. Just because they haven't achieved immortality yet doesn't mean they won't, or haven't tried; nor do present ideas of trans-humanism have to mean much to the society hundreds of years from now.

publiusr October 27 2012 07:56 PM

Re: life-extension technology in Star Trek (or lack thereof)
I think there was aline where Dr. Crusher talks about humans losing fear of death. Add ecological concerns, a humanist worldview that de-stresses an afterlife--that may be more liekly with psionics that exist (katra) so life-extension beyond a certain point seems greedy.

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