Is death just a ‘technical issue’ or an inevitable human experience? While science tries to find the key to eternal life, immortality will always come with unsolved ethical dilemmas. A new Netflix movie, “Paradise” creates a dystopic world where time is currency and eternal life is possible, but the stakes are high.
How valuable is time to you, and how much are you willing to pay for it? Paradise, a new German sci-fi thriller, depicts a world of the not-so-distant future, where time has become a currency.
It starts with a biotech company called Aeon, which has developed a procedure that allows people to reduce their aging by transferring time from one person to another. In this new time-based economy, those needing money can donate their time, and those willing to pay can use it to reduce their age.The PlotThe movie's protagonist, Max, is a successful time broker at the Aeon company, where his job is to convince people to sell their lifespan. The company is controversial – there are counter-Aeon movement groups that violently oppose age transferring and are known to attack de-aged people. Despite this, Max dearly believes in the idea of technological progress and defends his company against its many critics.
The movie takes a turn when Max and his wife, Elena, find their apartment in flames. The insurance company refuses to pay, and the couple needs to repay the loan they took for the apartment. To acquire the apartment, Elena put down 40 years of her life as collateral and is now obliged to repay the debt. Elena is taken to Aeon premises for the procedure and ages instantly, while Max feels shattered by his wife giving away half of her life to the bank. He searches for a way out and discovers that the procedure can be reversed. All you need to do is bring the donor and the recipient to an illegal clinic in Lithuania that does the procedures. Max goes on a search for those who took his wife's age, only to unexpectedly discover that Aeon isn’t as innocent as he once thought. Max and Elena are left at the crossroads of an ethical dilemma – to fight back in the same evil manner or do the right thing.
Immortality is for the rich
The movie’s storyline itself is not groundbreaking and has been seen before. However, it precisely depicts the social disparities that the wealth gap creates. Rich can pay and undergo pharmaceutical procedures to get more years of their lives, while low-income members of society and marginal groups are tempted to sell their time for money.
Though time is the most precious thing that defines life, money somehow comes above, as surviving in the unfair system depends on daily income. Since time is often viewed as an inexhaustible resource, the current moment is more important than the unknown decades ahead.
Fighting death is as old as death itself
The movie touches on the fundamental theme of humanity’s longing for eternal life, which is as old as humanity. Even the oldest book in human history, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” talks about a king who began a long journey to the underworld to discover the secret of immortality.
Nowadays, the tech world is becoming increasingly intrigued by biohacking and the science of immortality. From a metaphysical phenomenon, death is downgraded to a biologically-driven process that can be solved in the lab. And Silicon Valley is interested.
For example, Google has invested billions of dollars in its subsidiary company Calico Labs, researching the aging process and developing interventions to enable people to live longer. So maybe, the Aeon corporation depicted in the movie is not as far away in the future as it might seem. If death is understood as a technical issue of the biological mechanism, which is the human body, it could definitely be solved.
Developing a bionic immune system composed of millions of nano-robots, which could inhabit human bodies, to fight viruses and bacteria, eliminate cancerous cells or open blocked blood vessels, could bring immortality from the realm of science fiction towards the reality of modern science. And it will be a big business. Yuval Noah Harari, the author of best-selling books “Homo Deus” and “Sapiens” said that at the commercial level, health is the inexhaustible market, especially when moving from a concept of health that focuses on healing the sick to a “concept of upgrading the healthy.”
This is already is a big business, and you don't have to look far for examples. One of the most obvious is 45-year-old ultra-rich software entrepreneur Bryan Johnson, who has invested in a medical facility at his home, run by 30 doctors that constantly monitor his health and apply methods and therapies that he hopes will reverse his biological clock back to just 18 years old.
Among the experimental therapies Johnson has tried are things like youngsters’ blood plasma transfusions, with his own son being among the donors. The fight with time costs him $2 million yearly, and he’s managed to reverse his age by around ten years so far. Still a long way to go to reach his goal, but he certainly seems to be committed to the cause. The question is – at what cost his youthfulness? Expensive monetarily, that’s for sure, but are there other prices to pay, too?
The irony is that Gilgamesh, at the end of his epic journey, returned back to his kingdom empty-handed. He learned that death is the inevitable destiny of man. What we will learn in our quest for immortality? Time will show.
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