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July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 14 - Life Meets Death and Twists its Tail
This chapter opens with the obituary of a man who died in 2019, at the age of 109. He intended to live forever, and it appeared he might do it, but he was killed in a car wreck. In the obit his long life is attributed to a slew of advancements in medicine, diet and exercise. He was a pioneer real estate developer on the moon and Mars, and his funeral will be shown on 3V (I assume that's three-dimensional television).
After this intro, Clarke says that people born in the mid twentieth century can expect to live into their hundreds. Hunger diets, antioxidants and DNA repair enzymes will prolong life. Hormone therapies will be developed to notch down type-A personalities (driven, aggressive, like the man in the obituary) so they won't burn out young and die.
Organ transplants will play a major role in life extension, and there will be tax incentives for people to become donors. For a while there will be a glut of organs. The bodies of brain-dead donors will be kept alive on machines, awaiting surgeries. Funeral wakes will sometimes have "breathing" corpses. And then the Great Transplant Strike will take place in 1991. Hospitals will become so full of the living dead, or "neomorts," that doctors, nurses and paramedicals will go on strike.
But the problem of keeping the brain-dead alive will become a moot point in 2001. The short shelf life of removed organs will be extended to six months thanks to a newly developed incubator. Its computer will regulate a chemical bath, stimulation and so on.
Artificial organs won't catch on, except for artificial skin. Whole-body plastic surgery lifts will become popular in the 2010s. An electronic ear implant will be popular. The device will allow you to hear higher and lower frequencies produced by new musical instruments. Limb transplants will become commonplace and brain grafting will be the rage among the rich.
A death industry will flourish. Right to Die laws will proliferate, death drugs mixed with hallucenogenics will be popular, and there will be a booming business in comfortable seaside and mountain retreats to house the terminally ill.
Funerals will be expensive, so cremations will become the norm. But for the wealthy there will still be the traditional funeral with caskets and holes in the ground, even New Orleans style jazz funerals if you want.
Grave markers will be quite advanced in 2019. It won't be uncommon for markers to contain screens that run video of the late lamented. Walk-in mausoleums will show holograms of the deceased. If you're willing to pay the hefty cost, you'll be able to leave behind a life-sized robot fashioned in your image. It will be programmed with your values, opinions and preferences.
And then there will be space burials. The wealthy will have the option of launching their cremains into earth orbit or into deep space.
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