In 2045, the End of Aging?

Time here looks at Ray Kurzweil's timeline for the development of biotechnologies that can defeat aging: repair the old, remove biological damage, and eliminate frailty and age-related death. "The Singularity isn't just an idea. it attracts people, and those people feel a bond with one another. Together they form a movement, a subculture; Kurzweil calls it a community. Once you decide to take the Singularity seriously, you will find that you have become part of a small but intense and globally distributed hive of like-minded thinkers known as Singularitarians. ... At the 2010 summit, which took place in August in San Francisco, there were not just computer scientists but also psychologists, neuroscientists, nanotechnologists, molecular biologists, a specialist in wearable computers, a professor of emergency medicine, an expert on cognition in gray parrots and the professional magician and debunker James 'the Amazing' Randi. ... After artificial intelligence, the most talked-about topic at the 2010 summit was life extension. Biological boundaries that most people think of as permanent and inevitable Singularitarians see as merely intractable but solvable problems. Death is one of them. Old age is an illness like any other, and what do you do with illnesses? You cure them. Like a lot of Singularitarian ideas, it sounds funny at first, but the closer you get to it, the less funny it seems. It's not just wishful thinking; there's actual science going on here. ... People have begun to realize that the view of aging being something immutable - rather like the heat death of the universe - is simply ridiculous. It's just childish. The human body is a machine that has a bunch of functions, and it accumulates various types of damage as a side effect of the normal function of the machine. Therefore in principal that damage can be repaired periodically. This is why we have vintage cars. It's really just a matter of paying attention. The whole of medicine consists of messing about with what looks pretty inevitable until you figure out how to make it not inevitable." I don't see it as plausible that we'll have everything in hand by 2045, but if we make a good start now, then we could have enough to put us into actuarial escape velocity - gaining life expectancy faster than we age, and thus able to wait for far better technologies that arrive later.



Personally I think 2045 is right on. Recall the state of the personal computer 35 years ago - right, there was no state at all, because it didn't exist! I doubt that defeating aging is a harder problem than that, but I've been wrong before. However, now that it's on the cover of Time, hopefully the "subculture" can grow from a "hive" to encompass many normal people as well.

Posted by: Will Nelson at February 10th, 2011 8:30 AM

Nice to see the idea gaining in public exposure. It doesn't mean that it will actually happen, though.

Posted by: kurt9 at February 10th, 2011 5:56 PM

This is a revision of Kurzweil's earlier prediction. Something tells me that when 2020 rolls around he'll have to revise it into the future once again. I don't know if the Singularity will happen or not, or how much it would affect us if it does, but I think all the bloggers who spend most of their time theorizing about the singularity would better use their time by focusing on advocating for longevity/rejuvenation biotechnology.

Posted by: Kim at February 10th, 2011 8:43 PM

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