A Different View of Where We'll All Be Around About 2030

A couple of days ago, I pondered the medical technologies of 2030 and the unpleasant spectre of aging too fast for the rate of development of rejuvenation medicine to catch up with. The synopsis is that we live in a strange fast-slow world; between here and 2030 is a single iteration for the weighed-down, regulated nigh unto death industry of medical development. But the biotechnology industry, like the computer industry, will have gone through many iterations and advanced enormously in the same period - the disconnect between what is possible thanks to new research and what is permitted by uncaring bureaucrats is huge now in the field of medicine, and will only get larger.

So it is that while 2030 is just a little way away for medicine, we can see smart people on the computing side of things predicting that 2030 is a good outside date for the Singularity - general artificial intelligence engineered one way or another. After that happens, you'll quickly get recursively self-improving general artificial intelligence, or so the argument goes. Personally, I think that it'll all happen more slowly than that for many of the same all too human reasons that medical development isn't as fast as we'd like, but you can't argue with the trends in raw computational power. At the present rate, improvements in hardware will allow us to simulate whole brains - create duplicate people - before researchers figure out all the details of how brains actually work to produce our minds.

There is something of a tendency in some circles to handwave "it becomes possible to solve meaningful problems rapidly" on the far side of a non-catastrophic Singularity. Which may be true after a few decades of we slowpoke, self-sabotaging humans sorting out how we interface with self-improving artificial intelligences. But to return to the point made in my last post, as things move much past 2030, those of us in middle age now have an increasingly poor outlook when it comes to deployment of working rejuvenation or longevity therapies. If significant progress hasn't come to market by 2030, our prospects start to look dire.

Sadly, I see no contradiction in a vision of a 2030, for example, in which a generation of artificial intelligences are being created the brute force way (scan and simulate a brain) to revolutionize and speed research, yet the medical technologies we are excited about today (stem cell organ regrowth, immune system reconstruction, repairing mitochondria, etc) are only just getting out into the field as broadly available medicine. That discrepency, if things happen that way, will be entirely due to relative levels of regulatory cost. If computer hardware was regulated the same way as medical technology, we'd still be stuck in a world of dedicated spreadsheet processors, room-sized mainframes, dial up BBS systems, and slightly more powerful systems restricted to research centers. Not to mention that all the progress in fundamental life science research enabled by bioinformatics in the past decades wouldn't exist.


Your gloom is misplaced. People will simply side step organisations like the FDA by going to China, India or any one of another dozen emegent economies.
The FDA doesn't know it yet - but the collapse of its bureacratic structure is already happening.

Posted by: Tom Chellew at April 28th, 2009 2:06 AM

The FDA has proven they can raise the cost of a particular procedure or drug for US residents. They cannot however stop those procedures outside the borders of the US, For the wealthy there are a variety of cosmetic procedures done in the carribean, You can buy injected suntans in Europe. India has some excellent medical facilities with harvard trained physicians. Uproven stem cell therapies can be had in china.

Even for the poor, you can look to black market oxycodone, and back street reproductive procedures during the prohibition on those. The FDA/DEA cannot stop procedures or medications for which there is a strong market demand, especially in a world market.

They can however make a particular product less profitable for companies developing them by reducing demand inside the United States. Unfortunately I see quite a number of ways that demand for future medical procedures might be reduced in the United States, and the FDA is not the only player. An even greater danger for example might be a regulatory environment that discourages consumption.

For the sake of debate lets say a discussion begins about when to cut costs by witholding care to individuals beyond some arbitrary age. I would consider that a much greater threat than an inept over cautious regulatory environment.

Posted by: brian at April 28th, 2009 12:42 PM
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