Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Fluffy Forever! Scientists Announce that Immortality for Pets has Arrived!

with 4 comments

OK, I’m joking. Sort of. There’s reason to believe that someday soon, maybe next year, maybe next decade (studying cosmology has really warped my perception of time) it will be possible to go to the vet, get Fluffy a shot, and Voilà,  immortal pet. Well, as long as it doesn’t run under a bus, or fall prey to any of the other bad things that can happen to a small pet in a big scary world. And while there’s no guarantee that this sort of breakthrough will be made, scientists are studying ageing extensively, and there’s been a lot of progress recently. So best to think about this beforehand, what then are the implications of immortal Fluffy?

First off, one’s childhood pet could stay with one their whole life. That has at least some social implications. People tend to get really attached to childhood pets, allowances would have to be made when peeps went to college and stuff. Would politicians be judged on whether or not they still had their childhood pet? There would also be the issue of what to do with an immortal pet if the owner died. People would have to take more care in their wills. Then there’s just the weirdness of things like, “Oh yeah, that’s my great grandmother’s budgie. She died decades before I was born, but we still have her bird.” I guess one would get used to it, but still. Then there’d be the issue of famous people’s pets. Imagine if Winston Churchill’s bulldog was still around, or the Queen’s corgis lived forever. Whole palaces full of immortal royal pets?

The dog and cat show circuit would have to adjust somehow. Champion show animals would never age, so would they win year after year? The Kentucky Derby would be interesting, the greatest racehorses would live on and on to face each other again and again. Would there be a limit to how many years they could win? I suppose you could have two categories, one for immortals and one for mortals. There are some interesting and possibly disturbing implications for animals used for research. One could run really long studies. One could run rats through mazes that took years to navigate. Granted I can’t see any reason for that, but scientists come up with some interesting research sometimes. Would be good for studying things like really long term exposure to low levels of toxins or cell phone radiation or whatever I suppose. Good quality stud animals could live forever. This has some creepy implications too. Puppy farms could keep the same females constantly pregnant forever. Same problem with farms. Chickens, locked in a  box forever, basically just an egg machine. Same for cows. Granted these sorts of animals are not exactly well treated now, but still, forever? And if this living forever thing is genetic, and we’re really speculating here, what if it could be passed on? Imagine a population of immortal rats or mice on the loose. Or  deer, pigeons, or any number of “pest” animals.

On the plus side, it would be a boon for endangered species. Just make your condors or whooping cranes immortal and it’s going to be a lot easier to rebuild their populations. It would certainly be handy if highly valuable service animals like seeing eye dogs or rescue dogs lived forever. And I would get to keep cleaning the same litter box forever, that’s certainly a mixed blessing.  There’s probably all sorts of legal angles to any and all of the above too I suppose.

Is there a point to this post? Yes and no, it’s mostly a fun post. The only serious  point I’m making is that when we make changes, the implications need to be thought about. We are very possibly approaching the day when it may be possible to make humans immortal. If making pets immortal has so many implications, including many I’m sure I didn’t think of, imagine the changes in our society that immortal humans would imply. Yet research continues, and outside of a few medical ethicists, I doubt people have given it much thought.

And sadly, this is a very common trait in humans. We make all sorts of tremendous changes with little or no thought to the implications and consequences. People do this individually, we do it as a society. It’s kind of an interesting approach for a species that considers itself intelligent, nu? And as the power of modern technology and medicine grows by leaps and bounds, one can only hope that we get into the habit of giving things a bit more forethought. While futurology and future studies do exist, they certainly aren’t much a part of mainstream thinking for the most part. And even if they do exist, listening to scientists has been going out of style for decades. I dunno, I’m pretty sure that being able to predict the winner of American Idol isn’t going to be of much long term use to the race.

Tomorrow, random nonsense and upcoming changes to Doug’s Darkworld.

(The above image is used with the kind permission of the photographer, Mary Molnar. Credit and Copyright © Mary Molnar, all rights reserved. The cat’s name is Ginger Rogers. A little puzzling to me, it would be like naming a ginger cat “Blackie.” I’m puzzled a lot these days, in fact the more I figure out about life and the world, the more puzzled I get. Life, it’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with no edges and new pieces arrive in the mail every day.)

Written by unitedcats

May 20, 2010 at 8:30 am

Posted in Health, Philosophy, Science

4 Responses

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  1. Some of these implications are already in the real world. You mention “the issue of what to do with an immortal pet if the owner died” … that’s already an issue with many birds and reptiles. Parrots can live for more than 100 years for some species, and so can many kinds of turtles. If you get a baby Macaw and take care of it, chances are VERY good that you will have to think about it in your will. When I was in Africa, I knew a Canadian High Commission employee who was the third owner (that we knew of) of a turtle that was well over 100 years old, after the first owner (that we knew of) died and willed the turtle to a game preserve, and then my friend rescued the turtle from the game preserve when it fell into hard times some decades later. When I knew Charlie the turtle, he was several hundred pounds, his shell was about 6 feet across, and the best estimate we could make was he was about 150 years old.

    Those considerations would be magnified by immortal pets, but we already have to have mechanisms in place to deal with some of the animals we already keep as pets, since they will almost certainly outlive us.

    Lyle Bateman

    May 20, 2010 at 10:14 am

    • You’re right about the reptile thing. When I was 9 years old I was given a box turtle as a pet. I am now 32 and still have the box turtle. Apparently they have a lifespan in captivity approaching 40 years, they didn’t have google back then so who knew. Occasionally a conversation will get started where people are talking about their long dead childhood pets like fluffy the cat, Fido the dog or swimmy the goldfish. When its my turn to chime in I say Wilma the box turtle and ask if they would like to stop by my place some time to see her, I get lots of strange looks until I explain she is very much alive, not stuffed and mounted or in a formaldehyde jar.

      I’m fond of the box turtle and have enjoyed having her as a pet, but it is quite a responsiblity to take care of a pet for decades. I don’t think I would wan’t one for an entire lifespan and cetainly not one to pass on to the grand kids.

      Josh V.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:39 am

  2. “technology and medicine grows by leaps and bounds, one can only hope that we get into the habit of giving things a bit more forethought”

    Well, I think part of the reason we even have our tech and meds is because its in our nature to run head on into a wall and hope for a window, door, or in some cases expect the wall to move…..sometimes it works out, sometimes….

    People living forever would be interesting, I wonder how that would affect the prison systems, murder and other offences would have to be be more severely punnished. No more “life” in jail, eternity in a metal box perhaps? It would give new meaning to “locking them up and throwing away the key”…
    Pretty scary, what if you were innocent…guess you’d always have the chance of probation, lol….good post.

    Peace

    Pyrodin

    May 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm

  3. Anything made immortal probably should be made sterile. Not able to reproduce.

    Jason

    July 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm


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