23/07/2015 11:26 BST | Updated 23/07/2015 11:59 BST

Selfless Movie's Living Forever Theory Is Not Impossible Scientists Say

The premise of Neverland has always held a fascination for quite a few of us, primarily because of the sheer impossibility of achieving immortality.

Hollywood's latest movie offering, Selfless, features Ben Kingsley who plays a wealthy cancer patient who finds a way to live forever by transferring his consciousness to a healthy young doctor, played by Ryan Reynolds.

The narrative, is not a far fetched one according to scientists who were present at an LA screening of the film.

During a panel discussion, University of Arizona researcher Wolfgang Fink and USC Stem Cell researcher Michael Bonaguidi went through the plausible steps that science has to take in order for us to live forever.

"For me, immortality is something that is a little science fiction, currently," Bonaguidi said.

But he added: "I would never say never in the future because there will be people who can imagine things today and tomorrow and beyond that we could only dream about yesterday.

"And that’s evidenced by a lot of the technology that is commonplace to us, such as portable devices and so forth."

At this point, Fink also joined in to say that biology was the most likely scientific field to give us the answer.


Fink explains that the key would be to find a way to prevent cell death or figure out how to expand the cells' life beyond "its natural life span."

One of the key things to keep in mind however, is that science often works in stages. There are usually several things that need to happen before we can enjoy a breakthrough.

Bonaguidi explains this logic in the context of whether scientists will one day be able to take a person's brain and graft it onto something else.

"It’s a lot of small progress, small progress, small progress, and then, all of a sudden, there’s this big leap forward that happens," he said.

"So, for example, one of the questions that I’m interested in is if you have new cells that are born into a circuit, how does the circuit actually adapt to these new cells?

"And that’s one of the steppingstones toward trying to understand — if you were to then to try to take an entire brain or an entire mind and graft that onto something else — how would that take?

"So we’re trying to take some of these small steps to eventually get to slowing ageing.

Fink then took the conversation down a more robot-focused route, discussing his vision to see a world where humans could live on through machines.

"And I would like to take the abiotic standpoint..." he added.

"Not necessarily mapping the mind of somebody onto a system to make them immortal, but basically creating autonomous systems from scratch — so basically a system that can persist by itself and generate its own thoughts and its own memories and its own actions without human interaction."

Whether we live on forever, or do it through robots, it's a nice thought to know that Neverland, in some shape or form, is not a distant impossibility.

The only downside is that if science does find the road to immortality, it will most likely be the rich who take the first tentative steps towards eternity.

Bonaguidi said "generally, with technologies, they are available to those who have the funds at the onset.

"And then over time, it becomes more cost-effective and then becomes available to the public.

"You may have heard about how the genome was sequenced back in the early 2000s.

"And when this was originally done, it cost millions and millions and millions of dollars. And now it’s a few thousand."