A High Level Glance at Life Extension Technologies

From Wired: "Over the past decade, the main areas of research - brain emulation, regenerative medicine and cryonics - have gradually been departing the realms of science fiction and making a name for themselves in scientific journals. Back in 2009, when Avatar suggested that people could one day upload their brain to an invincible body-double, it seemed like something only James Cameron could dream up. Then a student in Israel controlled a robot with his mind from 2,000km away. In 2009 Aubrey de Grey announced - to more than a few raised eyebrows - that the first person to live to 1,000 thanks to regenerative medicine was probably already alive - and by 2012 a four-year old became the first person to receive a life-saving blood vessel made from her own cells. And around about the same time the horrendous 1997 film Batman & Robin painted cryonics as a field best reserved for psychotic villains, Gregory Fahy and William Rall announced the development of the first cryoprotectant able to vitrify the human body slowly enough that ice crystals don't form and cause tissue damage. ... The 1,000 year life span [Aubrey de Grey] is predicting will be the norm is explained by a straightforward calculation: 'we just look at how often people in the industrialised world die today of causes that are not related to ageing -- if you get to the age of 26, your chances of not getting to 27 is less than one in a thousand.' And how would the planet look with this evergreen, undying population? de Grey is not too worried about that, and is clearly incredulous that anyone else would be. For one thing, if the age women are choosing to have children is already rapidly on the rise, it stands to reason this trend will continue. Menopause won't be an issue, neither will natural resources - by the time we have to worry about a rapidly-growing population, technology will have advanced to cope with the factors we battle today. It could come down to a future universal equivalent of China's one-child policy, but whatever the solution, de Grey says it is ultimately our obligation to give humanity the choice. 'I want to make the choice whether I want to live to 100 when I'm 99, rather than having that choice progressively removed from me by my declining health.'"

Link: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-09/08/life-extension?page=all


There's a vast gulf in feasibility between the SENS strategy and "brain emulation." Nobody has put forward anything like the detailed SENS roadmap for acheiving this. I think articles like these are harmful, because they show lack of discrimination and relegate something imminently practicable to the status of "cool, wierd future stuff" to be mentioned alongside things for which there exists no plan outside airy hand-waving speculations. Similarly, the technology needed to revive cryonics patients is vastly beyond what would be required for SENS. The brains of these individuals have broken into moderate sized chunks under thermal stress and these chunks have slipped relative to each other along faults in the glassy vitrified solid. With the sort of nanotechnology needed to fix something like that, SENS would scarcely be difficult enough for a secondary school term project.

I would be encouraged if the emulationists could describe in detail any method to read the firing state of individual neurons in vivo. How about "We want to design a synthetic microbe that can extend flexible nanowires from a connector array at the base of the skull and home in on projection neurons by following chemical gradients, eventually attaching the distal end of these nanowires to the cell membranes?" I just made that up, but it's far more concrete than anything these people have ever said. Moreover, we can meaningfully assess the requirements and pitfalls of that kind of proposal.

The sheer amount of piffle these people put out is astounding. "If technologies for transferring our personalities to another body are developed, it is quite possible that we will be able to make use of several bodies at once. For example, we could live in our biological body on Earth, and in our cybernetic body we could travel into outer space." I wonder if he realizes that it takes more than a second for light to travel to the moon. Talk about lag! Hope nobody steps out in front of cyber!you while you're on a tear.

Posted by: José at September 12th, 2012 9:17 AM
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