First things first; I, Alex Horne, am still on track to become the World’s Oldest Man. I’m just a month away from yet another birthday and then just about a century away from the record. I can almost smell it.
The plan at this point is still simply trying to stay alive as much as possible. I’m taking each day as it comes, keeping focussed and doing my best not to make too many enemies. Thanks to innocent (my sponsors who are sending me food and drink purely so that I don’t die) I’m eating healthily, I’m doing semi-regular exercise, but mainly I’m just being quite careful. But could I do more? If I’m really serious about this thing, should I be looking at other, perhaps more sinister options?
In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen two things that made me think about cheating. The first was fiction and might not strictly be classed as deception, the second fact and definitely (allegedly) fraud.
If you’ve not seen The Island, a 2005 movie starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, I wouldn’t particularly recommend you spending two hours of your life in front of it. It’s fun, yes, but so is chucking a Frisbee around, and that’s got to be more healthy (although I find my throwing hand can get quite sore after a while). It wouldn’t make my own 50 things to do before you die list.
The basic plot (thank you IMDB) is this:
A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a "harvested being", and is being kept along with others in a utopian facility.
I suppose that’s fine. Films can’t all be about people pottering about their normal lives, reheating food and flicking through magazines (I’m still not convinced my plans for a World’s Oldest Man Movie are going to come to anything). Some of them have to be about ‘harvested beings’. I think I’m just more into films that aren’t entirely ridiculous.
But what did manage to grab my attention was the reason why the beings in the film was being harvested (and at this point I ought to say something like SPOILER ALERT. So here goes):
These beings were being grown and then harvested as clones of other ‘normal’ but very wealthy people. They were insurance policies. Say I was one of these normal but very wealthy people, I would pay $4 million (I think that was the price – I wasn’t taking notes) to have a clone then if I ever needed a liver transplant or new eyes they’d be waiting for me in the body of that clone who was living in joyful ignorance that he was a clone in a strange underground (or very high in the air – I wasn’t ever sure) clone harvesting facility (run by Mr Bean) (Sean Bean).
Reading that back, it doesn't sound like too bad a story and really, when I say the film was entirely ridiculous I’m mainly talking about McGregor’s accent and eyebrows. After all it’s not completely unthinkable that one day people will be able to grow spare organs in case of emergency; perhaps scientists somewhere are already on the case. But what I want to know is whether or not this is cheating? If I managed to say alive for hundreds of years simply by replacing body parts whenever they developed a fault, would that be alright (on a Guinness World Records level, not anything more legal or ethical)?
I'm now going to weight it up.
Right, done. And the verdict is this:
On balance, I think it would be fine to get replacement body parts from a clone. Sure, it’s not particularly natural, but all of our atoms are coming and going all the time anyway, who’s to say what’s really ‘me’ at any point? We're made of of completely different matter when we die compared to when we were born, shedding our skin like snakes throughout our lives, so yes, I don't think it would matter too much if we got more involved with the whole healing and regeneration processes.
What I think I’m saying is this; if you happen to be reading this at your own cloning facility I’d be happy to come in for a chat.
A cheaper, simpler but more rubbish scam was revealed in Tokyo last week. According to the BBC website (and many other sources), ‘officials’ had planned to visit a man called Sogen Kato and congratulate him on his 111th birthday. That’s the sort of thing that happens if you’re the oldest man in a city, and that’s why I want to become the oldest man in the world. I want to be sung happy birthday by officials, not just my not very musical family.
Mysteriously, however, these benevolent officials were greeted not by proud great-great-great-grandchildren, but by a rather solemn granddaughter who sent them away, saying that Mr Kato ‘doesn’t want to see anybody’. The officials called again, desperate to offload the birthday cake they’d had made specially and ‘family members repeatedly chased them away’. ‘Chased’! That’s the word the BBC used. It’s a strange old story but I think that’s a lovely image.
Understandably, the officials smelt a rat (this might, literally, have been true). Why would anybody not want to be wished happy birthday by officials? So the police were called, the door broken down and Mr Kato was found; in bed, but very very dead.
Can you be very dead? Yes you can. Mr Kato was mummified. That’s more than just dead. He was wearing underwear and pyjamas but he’d been dead for more than thirty years. Again, it’s a strange old story but I think that’s a lovely image.
So, Mr Kato has been stripped of the title of Tokyo’s Oldest Man and his family are being investigated for pension fraud. But, like the clones on The Island, I don’t think this was too bad an idea. If you’re aiming high, you’re going to have to take risks at some point. If I really want to be the Oldest Man in the World, I may have to cut some corners at some point.
I would therefore like to announce to my family, and anyone else who might be able to help, that if it looks like I’m not going to make it to 130 years old, please try to clone me as quickly as possible And if that doesn’t work, mummify me and chase the officials away. At least Mr Kato got in the papers. At least he made his mark.