Timelines For Agelessness Through Medical Technology
Permalink | View Comments (3) | Post Comment | | Posted by Reason

I thought I'd point out a couple of Future Blogger posts today, as it's good to be able to demonstrate the spread of ideas when it comes to longevity science and the future of longer, healthier lives through advanced medicine. Let's start with a life span of 1000 years - which is the average age you'd reach if you lived as incautiously as folk do today, but age-related cellular and molecular damage in your body was regularly repaired:

10 Reasons You Will Live to 1000

#9: Human Desire. I understand perfectly well that a vast majority of people are terribly uncomfortable with the idea of radical life extension. Nevertheless, there are thoughtful and intelligent people such as Aubrey de Grey who are actively challenging society to think differently. Rather than accepting aging as an inevitable aspect of life, they are instead encouraging society to view aging as a disease - something to be treated. This is a profound paradigm shift, but is it any more profound than Copernicus telling people 500 years ago that they were not at the center of the universe? History has a way of demonstrating that the future often turns out much different than most people appreciate and that what constitutes "conventional wisdom" in one era is laughed at and mocked by future generations. Our "acceptance" of death might be one such issue.

A triad of things to think about in this context: firstly, moment to moment, people want to continue to live in good health. Secondly, people will do almost anything to avoid change, and death and aging are presently the status quo. Thirdly, people still, nevertheless, manage to plan the course of their changing financial lives decades ahead of time.

The future of progress in the science of longevity will be formed of a million little personal thinking wars; planning versus fear of change versus the desire to live and take part in the world. How many will help to develop the technologies of rejuvenation, versus sit on the sidelines and hope? It is the foresightful and energetic who shape tomorrow, setting out plans and taking actions that will lead to better lives for their future selves.

By 2040, we will live in ageless, disease-free bodies, experts say

Imagine living in a body fashioned from "designer cells" that can never age or get sick; and sporting a mind that thinks millions of times faster than today’s brain. Though this may seem too optimistic to happen in just 32 years, experts believe that nanotech, biotech, infotech, and cognitive science advances over the next three decades could create this future by 2040.

...

[Nanotechnology researcher] Robert Freitas believes that tiny medical nanobots expected by late 2020s will help us upgrade our bodies. "However we won’t reengineer ourselves all at once," he stresses, "It will be an incremental process one step at a time; and it could begin with artificial respirocytes replacing red blood cells, giving us an immense energy boost."

I suspect the timeline is somewhat aggressive. You have to count business cycles when thinking about how long it takes before products arrive; until we have general artificial intelligence or greatly augmented natural intelligence, human organization is going to be the incompressible element in broad progress. It takes ten years to move from laboratory to halfway decent product with widespread adoption in the least regulated markets, and twenty years to see mature products in that market. Little of that time was research and development - time is constrained by fundraising, organization, legal barriers, weight of regulations, and so forth.

I think that it's a viable prediction to say that the fundamental building blocks of artificial bodies will mostly be demonstrated by the 2040s: advanced nanorobotics; artificial cells; bioartificial organs; massive computational capacities; a complete control over evolved biological cells; a working understanding of all human biochemistry (with small gaps, rather than the present great gaping unknowns); reverse engineering of much of the brain's functionality. Biology and machinery will be well blended by that time, as much of the new nanomachinery in the molecular manufacturing industries will operate at the scale of cells and molecules.

However, it's a big jump from what is demonstrated in the laboratory and what is commercialized, proven and widely available as a product, especially in oppressively regulated areas like medicine. We live in interesting times, in that the rate at which new medical technologies become available over the next few decades - and therefore the length of healthy life we can expect - is much more dependent on what we want and are willing to pay for, and, sadly, what regulators are willing to forbid, than on constraints imposed by what is scientifically possible.

The 2050s could see the medical technologies necessary for agelessness available to the masses ... or their development might still be in the future at that time, buried beneath decades of delay, regulatory costs, suppression, and lack of advocacy for development. The future we get is very much up to us.

Comments

I'd like to point out an error in your article that states "Nanorex Chief Scientist Robert Freitas believes that...".

Robert is not, and never has been, Chief Scientist of Nanorex. Robert was a member of the original Scientific Advisory Board of Nanorex, but that board was dissolved in 2006.

I would appreciate it if you'd correct the article to reflect this.

Thank you,
Mark Sims
President
Nanorex, Inc.

Posted by: Mark Sims at May 10, 2008 6:45 AM

Thank you; that'll teach me to quote without fact checking because I'm familiar with the science. Corrected.

Posted by: Reason at May 10, 2008 9:42 AM

Hi Reason,

Off-topic: have you seen Fold It, the protein folding game developed by the same team as Rosetta@home?

I think scientific gaming has great potential, both as an educational tool but also as a research tool in fields where the brain's pattern recognition capacity is greater than computers (for now)..

Check it out:

http://michaelgr.com/2008/05/11/fold-it-the-protein-folding-game/

Posted by: Michael G.R. at May 12, 2008 1:11 PM
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