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Everything you need to become an immortality expert

BÁRBARA MALAGOLI FOR QUARTZ
By Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

While humans have been on a quest to cheat death for millennia, the new business of immortality is just now heating up. With Silicon Valley investing in everything from longevity research to experimental startups, keeping up-to-date—not to mention separating fact from fiction—can be tough. Here are a few of our recommended resources to help you get informed and stay abreast of new developments.

What to read

Nonfiction books

  • Philosophy professor Paul Edward’s 1992 anthology Immortality offers a selection of philosophical and scientific works that address topics including the soul and the body, reincarnation, and transmigration.
  • For a firsthand account of one man’s personal dive into the world of immortality, read The Book of Immortality (2013) by Adam Leith Gollner. Highlights include a visit to David Copperfield’s purported “fountain of youth” and a tour of a cryonics facility.

Fiction books

The topic of immortality has inspired centuries of writers whose imaginative books grapple with the ethical and moral consequences of chasing eternal life. Here’s your reading list:

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh (21st century BC), an ancient Mesopotamian tale about a king’s journey to find an immortal man and learn the secrets to eternal life.
  • Eos and Tithonus” (8th century BC), a Greek myth that ponders the pain of living in perpetuity.
  • Gulliver’s Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift, in which the hero visits an island where people can age, but do not die.
  • Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker, the ultimate undead tale.
  • Peter Pan (1902) by J.M. Barrie, the bittersweet story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. (The 2003 film is also great.)
  • The Jameson Satellite” (1931) by Neil R. Jones, a short story that inspired many in the cryonics movement.
  • Tuck Everlasting (1975) by Natalie Babbit, about a young girl who discovers a spring that bestows eternal youth upon those who drink from it.
  • The Harry Potter (1997) series by J.K. Rowling, in which the chief antagonist, Voldemort, goes to great lengths to achieve immortality, and which features the real-life alchemist Nicholas Flamel.
  • Eternal Life (2018) by Dara Horn, about a woman who cannot die.

Articles

  • If you’re interested in recent science involving life extension and longevity, check out Nature, Science, and Cell, and keep up with the latest from the National Institute on Aging here.
  • Click here for a full list of articles I read from major publications in preparation for this project.
  • Be sure to read Tad Friend’s 2017 New Yorker article on Silicon Valley’s quest for immortality.

What to watch

TED and other talks

The silver screen

  • Forever with Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisan
  • The Westworld episode that satirizes tech bros’ quest for eternal life

Odds and ends

If you want to get in on the action:

  • The 2019 Undoing Aging Conference is happening place this May in Berlin, with speakers running the gamut from Singularity devotees and transhumanists to mainstream aging scientists.
  • Check out Reddit’s longevity and life extension communities to see what longevity hobbyists are up to (proceed with caution).

Multimedia options:

  • Download WeCroak, the app that reminds you you’re going to die.
  • Follow Tad Friend, the New Yorker writer who wrote the immortality feature we recommended above, and the NIH for updates on aging research. And follow along with me @sangeetaskurtz.