June 01, 2004
Aubrey de Grey Decries Entrenched Timidity Of Aging Research Funding

David Stipp of the business magazine Fortune has an article about biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey and his radical views about the feasibility of halting and reversing aging.

Even if he's right, de Grey is well aware that scientific feasibility doesn't equal political will. In fact, he says his own starting point in gerontology was his recognition in the mid-1990s of an institutional "fatalism logjam." Since there have been few signs of progress in the quest for anti-aging therapies, funding agencies generally dismiss such work as a waste of resources, or worse, as attempts to brew up snake oil. They won't pay for research, so no progress is made—which, in turn, keeps the impression of intractability in place. Thus, serious scientists have long avoided the pursuit of anti-aging therapies for fear of being labeled flaky dreamers or aspiring charlatans. The closest approach to such work is the relatively modest quest for medicines that prolong good health during old age. This entrenched timidity "just makes me spit," says de Grey. Many researchers on aging privately agree, he adds, but can't afford to be as outspoken as he is because it might hurt their chances to get grants. (A problem he doesn't have, thanks to his genetics job.) Breaking the vicious circle, he adds, will require a big, bold stroke.

It is great that a mainstream business magazine is publicizing these ideas. As anyone who has been reading FuturePundit for a while must know by now, I share Aubrey's views about what is possible to achieve in human rejuvenation. Also, he is right to argue that we are not trying anywhere near as hard as we should to develop rejuvenation therapies given the excellent prospects for success within the lifetimes of many people now alive. So big is the potential pay-off that the failure to make the big push for rejuvenation is surely the biggest mistake in science policy now being made by the United States and the other developed countries.

On the bright side, some of the problems being worked on with the goal of treating various diseases are going to contribute toward the set of therapies that Aubrey has outlined as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. For instance, all the work on stem cells and tissue engineering builds toward the ability to grow replacement organs and to send in stem cells to replace cells lost from the accumulation of damage that comes with aging. Also, the continued development of a large range of technologies that accelerate the rate of advance of biological science and biotechnology are making it easier to develop rejuvenation therapies. So there are rays of hope in spite of the pessimistic and obviously wrong conventional wisdom that still guides biomedical research funding policy in the United States and other developed countries.

Aubrey is arguing for $100 million per year for a 10 year project to triple the life expectancies of bioengineered mice as a way to test out rejuvenation therapies for humans. To put that amount in perspective the US National Institutes for Health (NIH) is currently funded at $28 billion for Fiscal Year 2004. We are failing to spend even chump change amounts to pursue rejuvenation treatments that would obsolesce the need for the development of most disease treatments. Most disease is the result of general aging. Parts wear out and begin to act in ways that cause symptoms of disease. If the parts could be rejuvenated, if they could be replaced, if built up toxins could be removed then the vast bulk of diseases would never develop in the first place.

Update: The Fight Aging blog has a post with additional commentary about the Fortune article and mentions the Methuselah Mouse Prize which Aubrey and Dave Gobel have organized to provide incentives to researchers to develop longer lived mice.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 June 01 10:24 PM  Aging Reversal


Comments
Kurt said at June 2, 2004 11:37 AM:

I believe that Aubry's SENS project is the ONLY way to avoid the financial decline of the developed countries as a result of the aging problem. For a mere 4% of the current NIH budget over the next 10 years, we could effectively wipe out aging within 20-25 years and associated medical costs as well as economic burden associated with aging. Realize that 95% of medical costs in the U.S. are a result of aging. Once we get effective "agelessness" we can then eliminate both the social security and medicare programs, once and for all, and then eliminate the federal deficit.

It is absolutely criminal that SENS is not being supported and promoted by our political leaders and policy wonks in Washington D.C.

Reason said at June 2, 2004 11:41 AM:

We managed to get ourselves slashdotted in the wake of the Fortune article: I'm pretty pleased at the moment :)

http://www.longevitymeme.org/news/view_news_item.cfm?news_id=985
http://science.slashdot.org/science/04/06/02/1329252.shtml?tid=134&tid=191

froth said at June 2, 2004 2:33 PM:

Kurt,

Be wary of precision at the expense of accuracy. Studies show that 81.3% of all statistics are made up out of thin air. Then again, since this is not about criminality but about ideology, maybe your credibility won't suffer. After all, decades of publicly, loudly and humiliatingly being wrong haven't hurt Paul Ehrlich's reception among the very people who apoplecticly declaim research such as Aubry's. These people believe that reversing the aging process is fundamentally immoral.

They believe in a zero-sum economy, where one person's gain is necessarily another's loss. Progress and growth are only sad lies for foolish Pollyannas and the greedy. Look at Edward O. Wilson's last chapter in his book, Consilience, for a nice synopsis. After 265 pages of very nice science, he is taken over by his evil fascist twin brother, railing agains tampering with human genetics, about the imminent collapse of the ecosystem if we allow people in the third world to improve their lot through development, about the need to drastically reduce the Earth's population because of the planet's "carrying capacity," and about how great China's one-child policy is.

They have a well-developed and articulated ideology ("we've got ours") that hysterically dominates academia and the funding agencies. It is no accident that aging research is starved, and it not the policy wonks in D.C. who are primarily at fault.

Noah said at June 2, 2004 2:55 PM:

Boys, can I join your religion?

froth said at June 2, 2004 3:42 PM:

I guess. Just stay away from the sheep, Noah. Noah! That's "One"! I'm only going to count to three.

toot said at June 3, 2004 6:57 AM:

Yes, now that mankind has reached an apex at which it is optimally adapted to all possible futures, let us endeavor to freeze evolution at this high point so that this perfect work of nature will never be lost and we will be able to dodder endlessly on into whatever the future holds. Quaternary Park forever!

Dave said at June 3, 2004 7:19 AM:

I suspect that people don't want to fund this research because they are scared that the research WILL actually work. They realize that if their life span is lengthened indefinetly, they will need to find some way to support themselves. If Social Security is eliminated as Kurt proposes, they will need to work for centuries. Many people hate their job and only put up with it because it is a necessary evil in order to provide for their family. They can't wait till they are able to retire. Today, retirement lasts 25-30 years tops. This limits the amount of savings one needs to survive comfortably for that amount of time. If people lived to be several centuries or worse millenia, they would begin to feel like sisyphus, just when they get close to having saved enough to retire, medical science adds another century to their life and they need to start all over again.

toot said at June 3, 2004 7:49 AM:

One does not have to believe in a zero-sum economy to believe that we are already experiencing an intergenerational tradeoff dictated by the acceptance by many of the tenet of zero-population growth. Why else would it be that a large fraction of women believe that their most precious right is the right to abort the babies that they have conceived? Thus, to avoid the cost and sorrow of aging and death, we forego the joy and hope of new birth. I think that this kind of thinking is a sickness of the society which, if carried to a logical conclusion, will ultimately lead to its demise, and to its replacement by other societies. I shudder to think that a society of the Moslems may be more viable. I entirely agree with the comment of a poster above that it is not the cost of the anti-aging program that I fear, but rather the risk of its success.

Eric said at June 3, 2004 8:34 AM:

Dave: even worse, take your idea from the perspective of young people. Your elders are never retiring. They're holding on to mentalities of decades ago. And they're the ones who are setting the whole agenda of society. They've had their whole lives to build up skills, connections, and savvy. They've advanced to all the top jobs, worked their way into positions of power in every industry and organization that matters. And they have the energy of 25-year olds.

Basically, you as a young kid have to fall into line and work at shit jobs forever, cuz you have no chance of moving up.

If I were a young kid in that situation, I'd probably get together with my high school classmates and start killing off every old person I could identify (at least the ones who hadn't already committed suicide rather than spend forever working). One can easily imagine whole cults being started around this idea.

Maybe I'm just stuck in a mental trap which prevents me from seeing a society without aging as anything except an eternal zero-sum game. I really hope someone can point out lots of errors in my thinking here.

Tom said at June 3, 2004 9:24 AM:

"Maybe I'm just stuck in a mental trap which prevents me from seeing a society without aging as anything except an eternal zero-sum game. I really hope someone can point out lots of
errors in my thinking here."

Let me make two suggestions:

1) By itself, finding a way to eliminate the negative physical effects of aging, would be a huge, tremendous, gigantic positive-sum benefit for each curable individual on Earth, but you are correct in seeing it (if it all happened all at once) as a one-time step. There still could be other steps in other areas...

2) There's an awful lot of stuff (room, power, physical resources) beyond Earth...

Randall Parker said at June 3, 2004 9:25 AM:

Will evolution stop? It depends on how you define evolution. We will genetically engineer vastly improved replacement parts. Our rate of genetic change will actually accelerate by orders of magnitude.

Will older people enjoy permanent advantages from being better connected? I think there are a number of reasons why this is not the case.

  • Younger people will found their own companies that have their own status hierarchies. Some of those companies will wipe out older and more established companies. This happens every day and will continue to do so.

  • Younger people will be genetically engineered to have greater intellectual abilities and hence will have that as a competitive advantage.

  • Computers and robots will advance so far that most work will be automated anyhow and there will not be many low-skilled jobs to be stuck in in the first place.

  • I am more worried about the robots taking over than the emergence of a permanent older upper class.
New births will not stop entirely. I expect some people will migrate to other planets just so they can have the pleasure of having children.

JT said at June 3, 2004 9:37 AM:

Eric,
Only in a union or tenure-based system. Many (most?) in high positions earned their way there with creativity, innovation, common sense, etc, but nothing says there's not someone more skilled, regardless of age or experience (to a point), who can challenge the older person for the position. Competition will not cease if people live longer. One could even imagine the "bar" rising as people have the opportunity to gain more experience or experience in multiple diverse fields with more time at their disposal, to the benefit of everyone. About the only shift I could imagine is companies couldn't rely on early retirement based on social security.
Further, if stuck in a tenure-based system, I imagine that the longer life spans would ultimately lead to more new businesses. Gain experience and confidence in the lower level positions available, then strike out on your own to undercut the evidently stuck-in-their-ways older generation. Many people already do this for significantly less profound reasons, such as disliking their boss. There's no reason why that would change.
I could even imagine a longer life span (and the possible subsequent population increase) as a driving force for new ideas (greater creativity required to be noticed amongst an intelligent, entrenched elder class) and expansion (possibly space exploration -- what's 5 years for a trip to Mars if you live to be more than 100?), all quite the opposite of the assumption of longer life leading to a static society (mankinds apex?) . I find it hard to envision longer life as a doomsday scenario.

JT said at June 3, 2004 9:51 AM:

Randall and Tom put it better than I could (I was evidently writing my post when they posted)! Coincidence that 3 people brought up space?

froth said at June 3, 2004 11:09 AM:

JT,

Yeah, it's an eerie coincidence that people reading a blog called "FuturePundit" would bring up life-extension, robots and space colonization. Let's not open that pod-bay door, Hal.

Dave,

Cheer up, buddy. But if you don't want to, or can't, let's make it a matter of choice. Those who fear a lifetime of work, or can't quite manage to save for a few decades and retire, or merely aspire mulishly to mediocrity, or live moment-to-moment fighting the dying of the light, can still off themselves after some limited number of decades. Those who wake up with a smile, eager for the coming day and its challenges and opportunities, can continue to do so, freed from the present tyranny of the depressed and technological primitivity.

Randall's point is operative here. The future provides surprises and advances unabated. We can't predict either the consequences of new knowledge or the new knowledge itself. Living with the lifespans of gerbils places us in the Dark Ages of any future history, where a delineation will be marked at the point where unlimited lifespans were achieved that is as great as the ones we now mark for the Neolithic revolution or the invention of the printing press. We're all primitive barbarians now.

Randall Parker said at June 3, 2004 11:29 AM:

Regarding children and overpopulation: We could offer people the right to reproduce (2 kids per couple) if they agree to either die or emigrate off-plant within, say, 60 years of the birth of their first child.

Jack William Bell said at June 3, 2004 11:47 AM:

Heh... I don't care if there are downsides to life-extension, some people are going to want it enough that nothing will stop them from getting it. The rest will muddle through like they always do and, in the end, the smartest and best connected will be on top. Not much different than things are today, is it? Just the names, motivations, means and hair styles will be different.

My motto? "Live forever, or die trying!"

Mossback said at June 3, 2004 12:03 PM:

A fascinating number of people here see anti-aging as an opportunity for greater governmental control. It reflects a fundamental disbelief in the ability of people to solve their own problems which they have proven brilliantly capable of doing long before socialism came along. The only thing government does well is to provide the wrong answer to the wrong problem.

Clinical immortality (I think that term came from a game) means that I can travel to other galaxies and live to tell about it. It means I can become a doctor, a lawyer, a baseball player, a pilot, a writer, a naturalist, a filmmaker, etc., and spend a couple hundred years on each career before moving on to something else. It means that the term "older people" will lose all meaning. It means that people who hate their jobs will probably not hold on to the bright hope of retirement but instead will decide to find out what they love to do. It may mean that nobody will be willing to go to war as the risk of death would be the loss of thousands of years not 60 or 80. It means we will have the benefit of the greatest minds on earth for as long as they want to keep solving problems.

While the environmentalists have been crying about the end of all natural resources for the past fifty years, the productive people in society have been doing something about it. Now imagine those same clever and productive people building on their knowledge and experience for hundreds of years. What, then, will be impossible to us? I fear that only rationality will still elude humans in general.

Reason said at June 3, 2004 12:59 PM:

Well said, Mossback.

toot said at June 3, 2004 5:50 PM:

Let's see now. By agreeing to die within 60 years, I would be entitled to have two children. Then, at the end of 60 years, if I'm still alive, what? Is the government going to come around and kill me? Neato!

Randall Parker said at June 3, 2004 6:11 PM:

Toot, I provided two options. You responded to your strawman version of my argument.

No, the government wouldn't kill you. It'd just deport you to another planet or a moon colony or L5 habitat or perhaps a colony in the asteroid belt. The point is that you'd lose the right to live on planet Earth. If you wanted to go on living you'd have to leave.

froth said at June 3, 2004 7:55 PM:

Thank you, Randall "Logan's Run" Parker for that family values moment. I'd like to see how that would be phrased in some political party's platform: "Vote for us, soccer moms! We wouldn't kill you, just deport you to the moon or the asteroid belt! And health care for all!" And you're on the side that wants more money for aging research?

Randall Parker said at June 3, 2004 8:07 PM:

Froth, The deported people could always take their children with them.

Consider the alternatives:

1) The Earth becomes even more populated.

2) Birth is banned entirely.

Look, I want rejuvenation therapies to come sooner. Unless the human race is wiped out by an asteroid or a bioengineered plague or it falls all the way back to some sort of Dark Ages where all progress stops it is just a matter of time before we develop the ability to reverse aging. It could take 20 years or 30 or even as long as 50 years. But it is coming in this century. So what do you propose to do about the technology? You have about 5 choices that I can see:

1) Outlaw the use of rejuvenation therapies. Good luck on that one skippy - you'll need huge amounts of luck to outlaw it worldwide.

2) Allow rejuvenation and then limit reproduction.

3) Allow reproduction of those who will either die or leave the planet.

4) Let the human population go up and up and up on this planet.

5) Have a big war to kill off people.

You can take potshots at my option. But of course it is so much easier to play morally indignant critic than to come up with workable alternatives. What's your choice?

Also, do you think there is a basic human right to reproduce that is as basic as freedom of speech? I don't see the logical basis for such a right. It creates external costs for others.

froth said at June 3, 2004 10:10 PM:

OK, if you insist, with, ceteris parabus, negligible aging and off-Earth life:

Your solution presupposes that human life will be viable off-Earth, probably becoming less expensive with time. If that's the case, then, as Earth's population rises and the marginal cost of living on Earth rises, off-Earth looks better and better. People will move there, whether it's people with families or whoever deems it most economically feasible (single billionaires, entrepreneurial prospectors, cults, hedonist cooperatives, research collectives, covens, who knows).

You know, Econ 101, supply and demand. No jack-booted world government required. Option 4, slam dunk.

Ceteris parabus is the one situation we know will not occur, however. Machine intelligence will rise and surpass us, Drexler's gray goop will swamp us, we'll enter the Matrix, genetic engineering will spiral us to where monsters lie, who knows? It's all science fiction past the singularity. No one predicted falling population in the developed world, or the baby boom, women's lib, etc., etc.

I'm betting the entire concept of outlawing reproduction will be laughable, mostly because I just can't conceive of a scenario where it works. After only a few generations, the overwhelming majority of the population is composed of the descendants of cheaters. It's just not sustainable.

Randall Parker said at June 3, 2004 10:28 PM:

On cheaters and reproduction: We are entering the Surveillance Society era. As for jack-booted world government: it may happen. It may go even further and we may well enter the Borg collective consciousness era.

Another possibility is that, yes, as in The Matrix we may live virtual lives and some people will satisfy their desire to raise children by raising virtual children.

But suppose that all that doesn't happen for a while. Do then you have no objection to the population on the planet growing to 20, 30, 40 billion people?

Peep said at June 4, 2004 6:40 AM:

Nobody has yet mentioned the issue that, when these therapies come avaible then in first many only the richest probably may afford them as it often is with new things. The time between actual proven discovery and when the therapy will be effective and cheap enough should be ample enough to society take enough steps to adapt at least somewhat to the new way.

Also, i hope you dont mind me asking a bit off-topic question here.
What are the 'intelligent' machines/robots that some of you speak of?
So far, robots are operated by lines of code. IMHO that means the same amount of intelligence as a chariot. It operates/moves the way it does only because there are certain parameters set that make the machine move a production line 20 dm every 5 seconds / that make the chariot move easily when pushed.
Or is there any success on some new kind of artificial intelligence that doesnt consist of stuff like "if asks name command "SayRobbie" ELSE command "IDontUnderstandPleaseSaySomethingElse" ?

toot said at June 4, 2004 8:22 AM:

The essence of life is the reproductive cycle that allows the accrual of successes and the rejection of errors. An effort to put an end to this cycle of adaptive regeneration is an attempt to end life, leaving only a strange chemical reaction taking place in a museum. I understand that many reading this will assume that adaptation can be better performed deliberately by rational genetic engineering, but this requires a choice of direction, of goals, of purpose, an end. Who is to make such a choice? How is it to be made? Will next year's model stress higher acceleration, more ample seating room, or better gas milage? We cannot agree on issues as mundane as the design of vehicles. Yet there are people who would pretend to play God and choose the direction in which life will rationally evolve. That is the ultimate power trip! But perhaps more people could enjoy the trip if they confined it to playing Sims on their PC.

Fly said at June 4, 2004 11:22 AM:

Peep,

“Nobody has yet mentioned the issue that, when these therapies come available then in first many only the richest probably may afford them as it often is with new things.”

I doubt it will work that way. I expect rejuvenation technology to be an outgrowth of regular medical technology. Techniques developed to repair diseased hearts and brains will work to extend lifespan for healthy people. The early adapters will be those who have the least to lose and the most to gain.

If a very wealthy person wants to extend his lifespan, his best chance is to provide seed money to fund the technologies that will benefit all. Success depends on better understanding of the biology and development of an entire support industry. (If the seed project is successful that wealthy person would become far wealthier.)

Once the technology is available I expect it to be cheaper to rejuvenate a person than to maintain that person in a chronically ill state as is done today.

I believe the Methuselah Mouse Project is the key. Rejuvenate a mouse and a flood of funding will follow.


Peep, about A.I. …

At the lowest level, neurons seem limited and incapable of complex thought. Likewise a single rule in an expert system is not intelligence.

However, what happens when computers can perform more operations than a human brain and can store more information? And what happens when many different programs are working together to solve a problem? Some of those programs may be expert systems, some neural nets, some search engines, or something totally different. What happens when billions of those computers are networked together?

Nobody knows because it hasn’t happened yet. But it is coming.

Fly said at June 4, 2004 11:25 AM:

Toot,

“I understand that many reading this will assume that adaptation can be better performed deliberately by rational genetic engineering, but this requires a choice of direction, of goals, of purpose, an end. Who is to make such a choice? How is it to be made?”

I will make it for myself. As long as my choice doesn’t cause physical harm to others then why should THEY choose for me? Why should THEY be allowed to limit me?

“Life” did well to bring us to where we are now. Bacteria to humans. Caves to great cities. Wonderful. But “Life” doesn’t care about individuals. Born deaf or blind or missing a leg? Tough. Still enjoying life at fifty, living and learning? Tough, it’s time for your body to wear out or your mind to go. Why accept it? Because that is how it has always been? Screw that. Humans learn and change. That is our best quality.

“play God”

Do you mean like those who would tell others how they should live? What knowledge man was MEANT to have?

Did God mean for most children to die of disease or starvation? Are we “playing God” when we use what we have learned to better our environment and ourselves? Did God intend that we be naked apes on the savannah?

There are good reasons to be wary of the future. Loss of control over technology is a real threat. Or increasing complexity that overwhelms human adaptability and comprehension. Let’s look ahead and avoid danger as best we can. But do it by allowing more and better choices, not by trying to hold on to the past.

Randall Parker said at June 4, 2004 12:02 PM:

Toot, You seem to equate nature with God and anything that sentient human minds do as anti-God. When you say:

The essence of life is the reproductive cycle that allows the accrual of successes and the rejection of errors.

then you are arguing for allowing nature to run its course and reject errors. Let us explore the implications of that position.

Okay, then do you oppose heroic measures to save babies and mothers during troubled births? Do you oppose heroic measures to save people injured in car accidents? How about the use of antibiotics against pathogens? There are plenty of people alive now with weaker immunie systems because antibiotics prevented nature from weeding out the errors. So are you opposed to antibiotic use?

Or, hey, how about washing one's hands: it is done because we now have the knowledge that it helps protect against germs. Humans didn't use to know that this was protective and so natural selection operated to select for stronger immune systems. We are now defeating the will of natural selection when we wash our hands. Are we then defying God every time we grab a bar of soap?

I hear a Catholic family in Yorkshire England singing "Every Germ Is Sacred".

toot said at June 4, 2004 12:09 PM:

Fly,
Many of the schemes mentioned in this thread for accommodating perpetual life entail, either explicitly or implicitly, suppression of new life. So, in a real sense it is not simply a matter of your choice leaving others unaffected. I understand that the dynamics of this problem are such that there will really be no way that life-perpetuating technology can be suppressed short of a kind of totalitarianism, which I certainly would not advocate. Perhaps the answer can be found in the development of an ethic of restraint. If not, I suspect that our kind will be replaced by another more vigorous kind comprising individuals less concerned with clutching a momentary existence.

froth said at June 4, 2004 12:10 PM:

Randall,

I agree with part of toot's point: Life adapts, and when it doesn't it's not really life. Thirty or forty billion people will result not from normative planning, but from simple arithmetic. Even in low-growth countries like Japan and Italy, there are people whose parents came from large families, who are part of large families, and who have large families. They will soon dominate the populations of those countries, due to a combination of mutually reinforcing genetic predispositions and family-based culture. Life adapts, those with low Darwinian fitness diminish in number, and those with high Darwinian fitness increase in number.

We'll work to make it sustainable. Those prophesying doom have been wrong since Malthus published his famous essay over 200 years ago. How? Well, prediction is difficult, especially when it involves the future. I didn't even predict wifi, but if you want speculation, look at Niven's Ringworld. Or look at Kurzweil's stuff, or a thousand others. As problems grow, so will our toolset to sove them, including both knowledge and increased capacity for obtaining and applying knowledge.

Sorry for the relentlessly upbeat tone, but it's in my nature. I'm sure others can come up with dystopic futures ad nauseum.

toot said at June 4, 2004 12:34 PM:

Randall Parker, when you assume control of a process you must have principles whereby you excercise that control. I suspect that a doctor faced with undertaking the kinds of heroic measures that you bring up would take into consideration whether the patient could be expected to lead a meaningful existence if the measures are successful. My point here is not to argue that such a consideration would be right or wrong, but only that there has to be a guiding principle. The guiding principle that I discern in your argument is that those lucky enough to be here now are entitled to be here forever. I don't think that such a principle is consistent with the perpetuation of the species. Now you may argue that perpetuation of the species should not be the guiding principle, to which I reply, Fine, but evolution has got that bet covered, too.

Bob Badour said at June 4, 2004 3:39 PM:

Randall,

We have a right to life, and reproduction is inherent to any definition of life. Yes, life imposes costs on those around us. We defecate. We urinate. We produce tons of garbage. Yet, we still have a right to it.

We do not need to do anything remarkable to limit reproduction. Economics and long lives will do that.

Right now, women can put off childbirth for only so long before they have to give it up forever. If they can put it off indefinitely without giving up the option, many of them will. If we live for centuries, we will devote much less of our lives to raising young.

Long before we suffer any malthusian disaster, the rising costs of housing and feeding children would cause people to opt for more recreation and less procreation.

toot said at June 4, 2004 4:06 PM:

Bob Badour's contribution makes part of my argument for me. We do not need a Maoist totalitarian government to suppress new life. The intrinsic selfishness of people will suffice to cause potential parents to put off childbirth until--when? Until they have deteriorated in some sense to a point at which they do not desire to go on living themselves? I don't think the species can persist under such conditions, and I suspect that if such a benefit of medical science were achieved it would amount to species suicide. This whole issue is one that deserves serious debate. I cannot recall any open national discussion that justified the spending of federal funds on this enterprise.

Fly said at June 4, 2004 6:35 PM:

Toot,

“Many of the schemes mentioned in this thread for accommodating perpetual life entail, either explicitly or implicitly, suppression of new life.”

I don’t think it is possible to suppress “new life”. (If we really could freeze the world exactly as it is now and have everyone be immortal, I’d be more sympathetic to your concern.) Change will come faster and faster. We are gaining the ability to alter ourselves and enhance our minds and bodies. New technologies are accelerating our ability to solve complex problems. More and more of the world’s population (i.e., China and India) are joining the information age. I don’t believe limited resources are a concern.

In fifty years I expect the world to be very different. In a hundred years I expect a human of today to seem very limited and quaint. I don’t know whether that future will be good. Maybe the machines will have taken over. Maybe the Borg collective. Maybe a human of our time would be aghast at what lies ahead. I don’t think we have to worry about resources running out or over-population or boredom.

toot said at June 4, 2004 7:09 PM:

Fly,

From the early postings I had supposed that this thread was about pursuing those things that you say would, if possible, make you more sympathetic to my concerns. I've taken enough biology to lead me to think that there may well be discoveries that would allow us to freeze the aging process. Medical research operates on the presumption that to be able to do so would be a good thing, as would be the ability to better control births. Where is ongoing research of this kind going to lead, if not to the freezing of life as it is now? To count on not suffering possibly bad consequences because the effort is doomed to failure seems to me to be whistling in the dark. Indeed, I have little expectation that we would be able to keep Pandora's box closed even if there were general agreement that my fears are justified. All I can hope for is that those with the knowledge that allows them to pursue these ends will give some thought as to where they are taking us. In the mean time, I would certainly argue against encouraging with government grant what seems to me an ill-considered pursuit.

Randall Parker said at June 4, 2004 7:30 PM:

Toot says:

Where is ongoing research of this kind going to lead, if not to the freezing of life as it is now?

No, what is going to happen is an acceleration in the change of human body design. But it will be done under sentient control.

Look, evolution by natural selection is an incredibly slow technique for developing designs. Lots of design variations are randomly produced and the vast bulk of them are failures. There is no conscious direction (unless you buy the arguments of the Intelligent Design crowd) controlling natural selection. It is happening randomly and the vast bulk of the design variations are just harmful because most ways of changing systems are deleterious. There are more ways to go wrong than right.

But with simulation we will be able to try out huge numbers of design variations much more quickly and we will be able to use heuristics to choose candidate variations that are more likely to improve upon some component's functionality. Basically human genetic changes will be made using computer aided bioengineering software.

I fail to see what is inherently more moral about trying out lots of real designs on real organisms in order to very rarely find a design improvement. The vast bulk of mutations are, again, purely harmful. They aren't just not an improvement in a particular environment. They are just plain harmful no matter what environment. Do you want to see what evolution looks like? It looks like miscarriages. It looks like babies born without some limb. It looks like a baby born retarded. That is nature trying out changes in DNA sequences.

toot said at June 4, 2004 8:40 PM:

Hmm! The topic of the thread seems to have changed from the perpetuation of the lives of individuals to the creation of some future superrace. I have no problem with eliminating birth defects, whether by genetic engineering or by proper nourishment in utero. I do object to eliminating them by eliminating births, by attempting to retain indefinitely some fortunate few who meet some idea of the ideal and suppressing new births to leave room for them. Doubtlessly we can each make a case for our point of view by throwing the word "moral" around a lot. However, I will be a bit crass and make the argument on utilitarian grounds. (1) It will likely be easier to train new humans for new jobs than to retrain old ones. (2) One's perception of time is based on the time that onel has already experienced, so there is more subjective time for happiness within a population of the young than in a numerically equal population of the old, (3) the indoctrination and coercion required to avoid a Malthusian disaster makes your Brave New World seem quite unattractive--consider what you will have to do to all those unenlightened folks who do not buy into your idea and go on breeding.

Bob Badour said at June 4, 2004 10:55 PM:

Toot,

Your preconceptions are showing:

(1) It will likely be easier to train new humans for new jobs than to retrain old ones.

Why should it be any easier to train a juvenile than a rejuvenile?


(2) One's perception of time is based on the time that onel has already experienced, so there is more subjective time for happiness within a population of the young than in a numerically equal population of the old

Then why do I know so many miserable young people and so many contented retirees?


(3) the indoctrination and coercion required to avoid a Malthusian disaster makes your Brave New World seem quite unattractive--consider what you will have to do to all those unenlightened folks who do not buy into your idea and go on breeding.

As I explained above, neither indoctrination nor coercion are required. Simple economics will prevent any malthusian disaster. Malthus was wrong. Changing technology will lead to changing social norms as well as a new and improved species. Looking ahead a century or two, I think Miranda's exclamation is probably very appropriate. As for Huxley's work, many of the "horrible" social changes he predicted have already happened and do not seem quite so horrible in retrospect.

Fly said at June 4, 2004 11:07 PM:

Toot,

“I've taken enough biology to lead me to think that there may well be discoveries that would allow us to freeze the aging process.”

I just don’t see the advances stopping at freezing the aging process. Look around. People want to be better. They want to be stronger, faster, more intelligent. First stem cells will be used to repair damage, then to rejuvenate, and finally to improve ourselves.

We’ll also augment ourselves with implants. Biomechanical-electrical systems that are offshoots from the early ear implants and pacemakers.

We’ll also have far better computer tools and communication interfaces. We might be able to access a global information database as if it were our own memory. Or use remote sensors as if they were our own eyes.

We will evolve ourselves rather than our descendants.

So I don’t see humanity stagnating as immortals that have stopped evolution and change. Evolution and change will be faster than ever before. I do think it is likely that many people wont be able to adapt. Or that some of the worst elements of humanity will be the first to accept radical biotech and lead to a discouraging future. (As a silly example, N. Korea using cloning technology to create thousands of genius scientists dedicated to building a master race.) Nor is it clear to me that these advances will lead to a peaceful cooperative world.

“In the mean time, I would certainly argue against encouraging with government grant what seems to me an ill-considered pursuit.”

I believe you are right to worry about the coming dangers. Drastic changes are coming. What it means to be a human will be questioned. My own philosophy is to embrace change. I’m dissatisfied with the present human condition. I want to learn faster and understand more. I want every human to have access to food, shelter, and information. I see aging and death as a tragedy just as I would the untimely death of an infant.

“The topic of the thread seems to have changed from the perpetuation of the lives of individuals to the creation of some future superrace.”

I don’t foresee someone creating a future superrace. (Except in the worst scenarios.) I see many people such as myself choosing from numerous options to expand our capabilities. I’d expect free choice to result in a wide variety of entities with a broad range of talents rather than a superrace.

“However, I will be a bit crass and make the argument on utilitarian grounds. (1) It will likely be easier to train new humans for new jobs than to retrain old ones.”

Why? Today it takes over thirty years to train a medical specialist. If a trained specialist remained young and alert and regularly updated himself with the latest biotech and augmentation hardware, why would you waste all that training and experience? Besides I’m part of society and I choose to upgrade me rather than replace me.

“(2) One's perception of time is based on the time that onel has already experienced, so there is more subjective time for happiness within a population of the young than in a numerically equal population of the old, “

Sorry, this just doesn’t make sense to me. My daily experience of time has been rather consistent for the last thirty years. I do have a wider range of memories and prior experiences. Any diminishment in happiness I feel, I attribute to a failing body. I very much value the skills I’ve learned and the financial independence I’ve earned.

“ (3) the indoctrination and coercion required to avoid a Malthusian disaster makes your Brave New World seem quite unattractive--consider what you will have to do to all those unenlightened folks who do not buy into your idea and go on breeding.”

Several people on this thread have already pointed out the Malthusian fallacy. Human technology and creativity are expanding faster than the human population. That means we will have more resources per person, not less. I agree this wont go on forever. I have no idea what will become of humanity within one hundred years.

I do believe there will be conflicts in the future. Some people will try to impose their will on others. The conflict could be resolved through enlightened negotiation or through bloody horrendous high tech war. The development of immortality has little or nothing to do with possible future conflict.

Fly said at June 4, 2004 11:09 PM:

Whoops. Bob already addressed these points. Snooze and lose.

Randall Parker said at June 5, 2004 2:09 AM:

Fly, You state:

Sorry, this just doesn’t make sense to me. My daily experience of time has been rather consistent for the last thirty years. I do have a wider range of memories and prior experiences. Any diminishment in happiness I feel, I attribute to a failing body. I very much value the skills I’ve learned and the financial independence I’ve earned.

Well, see Tyler Cowen on subjective time for older and younger people. Younger people experience the same absolute time as longer subjectively than how older people experience it.

But while the experience of subjective time is an important enough subject in its own right it seems irrelevant to me when arguing about whether we should grow old and die or stay perpetually young.

I do not see why we owe it to some future generation to die off to make room for them. They don't exist yet. They never will exist unless we bring them into existence. So I don't see how we owe hypothetical potential people whose existence may never come to past anything. I don't think we owe it to them to bring them into existence. If we don't do that then we don't have to even consider whether we are being fair to them since they wouldn't exist to be unfair to in the first place.

toot said at June 5, 2004 9:54 AM:

Randall,
Thank you for the reference to Tyler Cowen. My assertion was based on an extension of Fechner's law to the perception of time, augmented with my personal experience. I only meant to argue that there is more subjective time available to a young person for a given expenditure of sustenance; I certainly cannot assert the young would necessarily make better use of it in experiencing happiness. Your argument about not owing posterity anything seems to me to be equivalent to Hobbes' understanding of a man's relationship to others in a state of nature. Why do you owe anything to anyone? For all that you really know, perhaps the others that you see are no more than patterns of electical impulses being fed into a brain in a vat, ala Berkeley. Well, we none of us base our lives on synchronous solipsism, and neither, I believe, should we on generational solipsism.

froth said at June 5, 2004 11:28 AM:

Tyler Cowen refers to a limitation in current human brains, a misperception of time when we are not focusing on time. I imagine one of the first brain augmentations we'll see is a better internal clock, autonomously marking events. Maybe our perception of time will slow drastically, especially if our brain power expands. Everyone else will seem to be swimming in molasses.

Randall,

While I find myself agreeing more often with Fly and Bob Badour, I find myself again arguing for toot's perspective in his latest post. In their gut, many feel that children are a burden or a duty. In others' guts, preparing for and raising children is a paramount goal (cf. any human-interest story on infertility for the emotional tone). Conversations are largely with siblings, cousins, parents, and the topic of conversations is mainly the kids. This gut difference is, in many cases, I believe, due to genetic predisposition.

Fair enough, each to his own preferences, and all that. Except that a few generations down the line, the nonbreeders will be overwhelmed and marginalized by numbers. Voting, the culture, the economy, your choices, and more, are largely ruled by numbers alone. Future generations will arrive ineluctably, and your immortal future may be dominated by others wondering what they owe you, rather than vice versa.

Wars, ethnic cleansing, totalitarian thugocracies, zero-sum miser collectives, politically correct envy-based nanny states, even socialized medicine, all look with jaundiced eyes on older models eating up resources. Surely we are not done excorcising these possibilities from our future (just look at this thread). Solipsism can be an ugly thing.

Randall Parker said at June 5, 2004 12:05 PM:

Solipsism is a philosophy where you believe that the universe is a product of your imagination. I fail to see how what I'm arguing demonstrates a lack of belief in objective reality existing independent of my mind.

I agree with Froth that we will be able to genetically engineer our minds to change our sense of subjective time.

As for children: lots of people will genetically engineer their offspring. The more they do it the less their offspring will be like them. This will change relationships between generations.

If someone decides to have children due to a strong genetically-based desire that does not mean that they will choose to give their children that same desire. Maybe, maybe not. I guess the chances are greater that they will since most people who have children will want to have grandchildren. Therefore the frequency of genes for the instinctual desire for offspring could actually increase quite rapidly and far more rapidly than current Darwinian pressures are selecting for (and natural selection is almost certainly now selecting for greater desire for kids).

As for "each to his own preferences": One of my fears about the future is that people will select genetic qualities that widen the gaps between individuals in their preferences and values with resulting political and military clashes. We may all diverge and become less alike each other as people with mild preferences in certain directions select genetic variations that strengthen their offspring preferences in those same directions. I've written about this before. I haven't offered a solution to the problem.

toot said at June 5, 2004 12:32 PM:

Froth,
Of course in the minds of all the would-be Ponce de Leons on this thread the perpetu-lifes would be just a handful of young-seeming people among the hordes. These would argue in favor of--what? Having come into existence at a time in which the world was less populous and developed they would likely want to hold to some semblance of the golden days that they had once experienced and argue for various measures to assure zero population growth and to suppress development. They would also feel some kind of vested interest in sustaining the purity of their kind and preventing breeders from crossing over. The breeders, on the other hand, would feel less dissatisfaction with the extent of development and the population pressure, for it would change relatively little during their limited lifetimes. Of course, human nature being diverse, some of the breeders would indeed attempt to cross over, and would invoke some kind of a natural right to do so. Sounds like a sure recipe for a good deal of strife down the road.
With regard to the perception of time, as noted above, I based my surmise on Fechner's law, which applies to all sensual perception. I doubt very much that it is merely a "limitation in current human brains." In order for an increment of absolute time to be perceived always as fixed amount of subjective time, it would have to perceived as a fixed fraction of all the time that we recall. Thus, it can be made constant only by imposing on the brain a horizon of memories that is at a fixed interval from the present, reducing our lifetime experience to a sliding window, much like the data that affects a moving average. Thus, to "fix" our defective perception of time would seem to negate the very reason for perpetu-life.

toot said at June 5, 2004 6:20 PM:

Randall,
Solipsism provides a justification for selfishness, just as does the freedom from encumbrances enjoyed by man in his natural state as described by Hobbes. I invoked the concept only as a convenient way of referring to your denial of responsibility to a future generation that, because of your own choice, might not even come into existence. I regret if it has added confusion to the discussion. I note that in your last posting you seem not to be assuming nonexistence of future generations, so perhaps we are in agreement that some kind of accommodation would have to be made between the breeders and the perpetu-lifes. I don't think that any evolutionary enhancement of the differences will be required for there to be problems, as there is already ample variation to sustain a good deal of strife.

Randall Parker said at June 5, 2004 6:55 PM:

Toot,

I am deeply suspicious of arguments that hold that the selfishness of an act makes it immoral. Like Rand I believe that one can be ethically selfish. Also, altruism can be deeply destructive (e.g. witness the welfare state's effect upon the family or the altruistic arguments for our deeply harmful immigration policy). So your attempt to connect solipsism to selfishness to wrongness falls pretty flat with me.

You say:

Of course in the minds of all the would-be Ponce de Leons on this thread the perpetu-lifes would be just a handful of young-seeming people among the hordes.

You are misrepresenting the views of the life extensionists. I expect life extension and engineered negligible senescense to become very widespread for the same reason that computers have become so cheap: the nature of the technologies lend themselves to radical cost reduction. Anything small can be made eventually be made cheaply. I expect most people will be able to afford rejuvenation therapies. Obviously that will not be the case immediately. But it will eventually and once it is cheap I expect most people to opt to use the treatments.

The real conflict will come between various factions of the perpetually young. Some will want to limit the population of the planet. Others will personally want to reproduce and even to have many children over a period of decades and centuries.

Of course I am not assuming the non-existence of future generations. Even with engineered negligible senescence and a fixed population there will be death from accidents, suicides, and murders. Also, there will most likely be more toleration for reproduction off-planet. However, I can imagine that if a majority can be won over to enforcing no population growth then there may even be sufficient support for a gradual decrease in population before allowing a resumption of a limited amount of reproduction.

froth said at June 5, 2004 7:11 PM:

toot,

Your hair-raising leaps of logic are quite acrobatic. There would be no "crossing over," because breeders would also benefit from life-extension technologies. Non-breeders, or "Dodos," would maintain the purity of their kind in a platonic sense by being extinct. "I'd like you all to meet my friend, toot, jr. He comes from a long line of childless couples." "Oh, Mommy, it's that scary old man down the street who hates children!"

BTW, here's what the first result from google says about "Fechner's law:"
"A pioneering though incorrect formulation of the relationship between the physical strength of a stimulus and its strength as perceived by humans, proposed by G. T. Fechner in 1860. ... Later experiments have shown conclusively that the law doesn't generally apply." Sounds like a "law" that comes pre-broken, sort of like J-Lo and Ben Affleck's "marriage."

Randall,

You are right. I was just working off of toot's figurative remark in urging a greater intergenerational emphasis.

I also agree that once we can direct the course of our own evolution, different "genetic lines" will choose different paths. Vive la difference, celebrate diversity, let monsters live, fear the new master race, and let them fear the still newer master race. Interesting times await, and, like the Chinese saying, I'm not sure whether that's a curse or a benediction. Probably both.

toot said at June 5, 2004 9:24 PM:

Randall,
I don't recall saying that selfishness is either immoral or wrong, and if I did it was a slip up because I do not regard it to be such, within bounds. I regard it to be a natural trait of man which we suppress only when our rational deliberations tell us that it is necessary to do so for the benefit of something we hold dear. I also accept your thought that life-extension technology may become so cheap that nearly everyone could afford to practice it. The problem here is that not everyone might choose to practice it. For example, people expecting an entry into heaven might not. How long do you think it would take to convince that Moslems that they are wrong, and that they should forego having children and seek their heaven here on earth? The problem that you would have is that they would have every reason to expect to prevail and establish the new caliphate over the entire earth, out-breeding the less viable culture of the life-extenders. I don't think that you would be able to win them over, particularly if they see victory within their reach. To prevent their success would likely require taking measures that we would find quite troubling to ourselves. I note that you suppose that the population of say the U.S. might comprise both life-extenders and breeders. This might make the population more viable, but it would also risk the same kind of conflict of values without the need to invoke an external culture.

Froth,
My reply to Randall also addresses one of your points regarding making life-extension available even to breeders. In brief, there are groups with different agendas. Regarding Fechner's law, it is a reasonably good approximation and is far nearer the truth than is the supposition that an increment of absolute time is perceived the same by the old and the young. Also, I do not accept the idea expressed somewhere above that it is just a matter of a greater enjoyment of life in retirement. I assure you, I enjoyed life as a child much more than I do now, but now that I am in my 60's the time seems to pass with astonishing rapidity.
Perhaps it is senseless to dwell on the issue of imposing population control on those who may be unwilling. This is a problem that will arise regardless of whether or not life-extension is practiced. However, I do believe that people with extended lives will be more sensitive to the development associated with population growth and will be more insistent upon limits.

Fly said at June 6, 2004 12:27 PM:

Toot,

“The problem that you would have is that they would have every reason to expect to prevail and establish the new caliphate over the entire earth, out-breeding the less viable culture of the life-extenders.”

This argument has little to do with life extension but is important to understanding worldwide conflict.

In the distant past high birth rate was not a winning cultural strategy because it led to increasing poverty, disease, and starvation. (There is an interesting parallel between why humans tend to have single births and why countries with high birth rates are poor.)

In the middle past high birth rate was not a winning cultural strategy because wealthier societies converted many from the poor societies. In the past this involved religious conversion and the spread of language. Today it is Western culture that is winning converts. (Likewise the culture of small families could dominate as long as it gets sufficient new converts from the children of the large families culture.) (A strong component of anti-US feeling is because much of the world feels it is drowning in US culture. Being from the US I see the same phenomenon but see it as Western civilisation rather than US culture. It includes Japanese cartoons and Indian movies and Mexican tacos.)

In the recent past high birth rate has become a successful cultural strategy. The Islamic religion puts up high barriers to conversion. The Western societies provide technology and aid that prevents wide spread disease and starvation in Muslim lands. The Western societies don’t protect their borders so the poor overflow population is supported by the Western societies. The society penalty for high birth rate is removed. (I’m simplifying and generalizing excessively. I’m aware that all societies are mixtures of diverse types. There are Muslim scientists.)

I don’t expect this trend to continue. At some point I expect citizens to defend their own culture and refuse to support the “other”. Either they will force “conversion” or they will expel the invaders. (Note that Western culture is highly tolerant, so only the most intolerant cultures would be rejected rather than assimilated.)

The current demographic dynamics are strongly affected by technology. The technological advances that meant child farm labor or support during old age were no longer valuable and the birth control advances that made it easy to choose a small family.

I expect new technologies to play a strong role in future demographics. Practical cloning means a society could quickly expand its “proven” winners. Artificial wombs would remove the physical constraints of bearing children. Presumably developments in child rearing and education would also be important so that few societal resources would be used and the children would be strongly supportive of their society. When a society could quickly expand its numbers with highly productive loyal members it would have a significant competitive advantage. (I’m not advocating such a society. I’m only pointing out one scenario.)

toot said at June 6, 2004 5:53 PM:

Fly,

I may not be following your argument correctly, but as I understand it, you are claiming that birth rate or family size somehow causes a nation to be either wealthy or poor. However, elsewhere I've seen claims that the causation is in the inverse direction, families adjusting to increased standards of living and improved health by having fewer children, knowing that those few would likely suffice to carry on the family, etc. You leave yourself considerable wiggle room by using the terms distant pass, middle past and near past without indicating exactly when each of these periods occurred. However, your points about immigration and conversion are interesting and thought-provoking.

Let's use as a model 19th century America, when families typically had between 6 and 12 children, and these were augmented in numbers by a flood of new immigrants from the old world. This period saw the United States transform from a precarious colony hugging the eastern seaboard into a continental power, able to contend with European powers in the 20th century, even after the debilitating Civil War. Now in my attempt to apply your kind of reasoning to this, the story would be that the rapidly increasing population of settlers, along with the flood of immigrants were expanding into a continent left relatively vacant by the epidemics of European diseases that swept through the native population after early contact in the 16th and 17th centuries. There were adequate resources to support large families and in turn the large families produced wealth and national power. Thus, it corresponds to the exponential growth that Malthus postulates prior to approaching the limitations imposed by resource availability.

I suspect that the coincidence of small family size and high standard of living would occur as the resource limit is reached and the family can choose to reduce the number of its children in order to assure that those children it has will be well nourished. However, such a reduction will only be attempted if the family is confident that the few children it has are not taken away by childhood disease. Otherwise, a large number of births may be desired to assure that some of the children will survive to adulthood.

Having said that, what pertinence does this have to our present situation? What is there to explain the flood of immigrants, while at the same time there is a rather low birth rate, particularly in Europe? I suspect that it indicates that where the would-be immigrant sees the West as a relatively vacant land offering ample resources with which to flourish, the native born Europeans and Americans see a level of resources that is inadequate for them to flourish.

Will the youth among the immigrants convert to a Western culture? I wouldn't bet on it. Youth always wants its own culture and is not likely to adopt that of the aging native born whom they are displacing. Thus, we see bilingualism and the retention of religion by the immigrants to America and to Europe; unlike the earlier immigrations there is less tendency to convert.

Fly said at June 7, 2004 5:30 PM:

Toot,

I’d characterize my ideas as talking points rather than arguments. The world and history are far too complicated to be meaningfully captured in my musings. Certainly I don’t really believe that family size makes a nation wealthy or poor. However I do like to consider single factors and ask how they contribute to a very complex whole.

“However, elsewhere I've seen claims that the causation is in the inverse direction, families adjusting to increased standards of living and improved health by having fewer children, knowing that those few would likely suffice to carry on the family, etc.”

The causation can go in both directions. Suppose a society is on a cusp. Slightly lower birth rate and families accumulate wealth. More wealth leads to lower birth rate and so wealth accumulates even more rapidly. On the other hand a slightly higher birth rate leads to families becoming ever poorer.

So what is the optimal birth rate to maximize a country’s economic power?

It would depend on the childrearing and training costs for each worker and on how effectively each new worker could be employed. (Thirty years and lots of educational resources to make a new doctor is very costly.)

Agrarian societies required minimal resources for child rearing and education and all laborers could be fully employed. Agrarian based societies grow wealthier with a high birth rate (or mass migration and assimilation). The limit was available land.

In a high tech society, unskilled labor has little value. Wealth is generated by technology labor multipliers that increase each worker’s productivity. One advantage to high birth rate is many opportunities to create a few highly skilled individuals. All workers require significant educational resources. And technological improvements require significant investment capital. A high tech society would benefit from a high birth rate for its brightest most creative citizens. (And from brain drain from other countries.)


“I suspect that the coincidence of small family size and high standard of living would occur as the resource limit is reached and the family can choose to reduce the number of its children in order to assure that those children it has will be well nourished.”

I believe this describes the history in China and India where all land resources were fully developed and the population was limited by periodic famine. I don’t believe it ever applied to the US. US population growth has never been limited by resources.

US population growth slowed when more resources were needed to raise and educate each child and the economic value of the child to the parent became negative. The advent of easy birth control then led to small middle class families.


“the native born Europeans and Americans see a level of resources that is inadequate for them to flourish.”

I don’t think so. I believe individual Westerners are making choices based on their own best economic interests. Having one or two children satisfies the parental need. Any more just adds to child rearing labor and economic cost. I don’t think parenting decisions are made based on best interests of the country. (I do believe people will have fewer children if they see little hope for the future.)

Singapore has recognized the problem and is attempting (with no success) to increase the middle class birthrate. Most western political elites have little political will to change this situation.

I expect this situation to change in the coming decades. If present demographic trends continue, Japan will face major problems. I see no reason to believe Japan wont take steps to solve this problem. I fully expect Japan to make use of the latest biotech to insure a growing population of high value citizens.

“Will the youth among the immigrants convert to a Western culture? I wouldn't bet on it. Youth always wants its own culture and is not likely to adopt that of the aging native born whom they are displacing. Thus, we see bilingualism and the retention of religion by the immigrants to America and to Europe; unlike the earlier immigrations there is less tendency to convert.”

The situation is highly complex. I believe all youth around the world are forming a new global culture. Global communication and the Internet spread entertainment, music, fashion, and ideas. People travel and immigrate. Even after they immigrate they keep close contact with their native land.

Western culture will be affected. However fundamentalist Islamic culture will crumble. The belief system can’t coexist with others and rejects change or compromise. I expect a major shakeout in Muslim societies. The results wont be Western but it wont be fundamentalist Islam either. If the Islamists don’t destroy Western civilization they are doomed.

The situation with Mexican immigration is different. I don’t foresee a major civilizational clash. I expect a merging of cultures with traditional Western values predominating.

Bob Badour said at June 7, 2004 6:06 PM:
I believe all youth around the world are forming a new global culture.

I have known too many youth who grew up in the west who held fundamentally illiberal values due to the home environment to find your believe at all reasonable. Pop music does not a culture make.

Kurt said at June 7, 2004 11:00 PM:

man, I really do not understand this "toot" guy. He seems to be against the idea of immortality because once we have it, people will stop having kids or, more likely, have them alot less. What's wrong with that? As long as we protect the Earth's environment, which I think the "ageless" will be much more inclined to do, since they will have much more time to live with the consequences, I don't any problem with SENS. My point is that people who maintain their physiological "youth" are going to remain productive and cost the system much less in terms of health care costs.

I do not buy the argument that if people live "forever" that its going to limit opportunties for new people. First, the birthrate is going to be much lower than it is now. Secondly, the late 90's demonstrated that in an open, freemarket economy, that young people can go out and start new businesses and be fully competitive with their more experienced older people in the marketplace. If the "young-old" maintain a strangle-hold on corporate power, the new-young will simply go out and start new businesses that well compete with the "young-old". As long as the system is open and competitive, it will remain dynamic and innovative. The system will not ossify at all. This issue is more an issue of capitalism vs. socialism rather than immortalism vs. the current system.

Also, the whole argument against immortality is based on the concept of zero-sum economics. Entreprenueral free-market economies are not zero-sum, but are possitive-sum systems. Growth and opportunity begets more growth and opportunity.

I am into SENS for the simple reason that I just absolutely despise the idea of growing old. I have lived a very "open" life in the sunbelt (U.S. Southwest) and through out Asia. I am very much a "young adult" person and enjoy the freedom and open opportunities of this kind of living. Nothing enrages me more than the idea of loosing this, which I consider to be an inseparable part of my personal identity and the relationship that exists between me and the rest of the world. I have no interest and have never felt the desire to live the "conventional" life-cyle of having kids. I'm too busy trying to build a business that will allow me (in a few years) to bounce back and forth across the Pacific to my heart's content. My basic principle in life is: why should I pursue anything that my heart is not into? I depise the current system of planned obsolescence of human beings.

The people who are not into vastly extended youth-spans do not have to undergo the therapy. Noone is going to make them do this. So what is the problem? They seem to have this obsession with wanting to "convert" us to their way of thinking. If death is such a wonderful thing, why not allow people the option to self-euthenize when they decide that the quality of life is no longer worth living?

The other thing that amuses me about the deathists is how they think its wrong for people to live forever and, yet, think that self-induced or assisted euthenasia is a bad thing. I mean, come on folks. Are we pro-life or pro-death. I would have alot more respect for the anti-immortalists if they were to at least be consistant one way or the other here. We immortalists are consistant on this issue. We are pro-life. The deathist should atleast be consistantly pro-death. They are not. It is this cognitive dissidence on the life vs. death issue that really drives me nuts about the deathists and especially the christians, and is one of the reasons why I dumped religious belief when I was in college.
I have found that christianity is a piss-poor immortalizing strategy.

A rational debate on the life and death issue should start with a resolution on whether there is an afterlife or not. Does or does not human conscienceness survive physical death? Any public debate on the life and death issue seems quite meaningless to me without, first, resolving this issue once and for all.

Kurt said at June 7, 2004 11:21 PM:

Dave, in an "ageless" society, one does not "retire" until one is independently wealthy. This is defined as when your investment income exceeds your expenses. Since the nestegg is indefinitely self-sustaining from this point on, "retirement" can last forever. If you save 10-20% of your annual income, I see no reason why anyone cannot become independently wealthy within a century. Once you have done so, you will never have to work again if you do not want to.

Work life will change when we get immortality. The end of aging will bring about the end of age discrimination. This means that many people will opt to have a series of "mini" or not so mini careers, with periods of backpack travel slacker life-style mixed in between the careers. People will not do the same thing "forever". I might be a control system engineer, working freelance on projects through out Asia. 10 year later, I might decide to start a company making analytical instruments. Later, I sell this company and might decide to packpack travel through out Latin America. Then, I might start a software or a nanotech company. Then I might get interested in..... I think you get the picture. This is really how I expect people to live when we get immortality.

Job boredom and fixed career paths are not going to be a problem here. You are making much ado over nothing.

The muslim cultures will evolve into something else, just like Japan has. In the 1930's Japan was viewed as a fundamentally warlike, illiberal society. Today it is a peaceful, liberal (but non-western) society. Similerly, I expect Islamic society also to evolve into modern, non-western societies. Examples of this already exist. Malaysia, Indonesia(which I have spent lots of time in) and Turkey (which I have not). I expect Iran to become liberal in the coming years as well.

BTW, there have been recent articles (supportive) on immortality in both print and on-line media in both Malaysia and Iran.

Fundamentalist Islam is really Arabism, more sepcifically Wahhabism. This will start to go away once Saudi Araba decends into the balkanized ethnic strife that is characteristic of the Balkans.

Fly said at June 8, 2004 11:19 AM:

Bob,

“I have known too many youth who grew up in the west who held fundamentally illiberal values due to the home environment to find your believe at all reasonable. Pop music does not a culture make.”

They reject the US and many Western values but they carry the seeds for the destruction of fundmentalist beliefs. They like toys such as the Internet and cell phones. I’m not saying they will become liberal democrats. They may be very intolerant, but they’ll also be intolerant of a mullah who attempts to take away their Internet access or cell phone.

Kurt,

I see the world much as you do.

However, I do have sympathy for Toot’s point of view. Or rather, since I don’t really know Toot’s views, I have sympathy for a more conservative worldview.

The world is changing incredibly quickly. Social changes, political changes, technology changes. Can people adapt? Can society adapt? Is it all going to crumble? What is happening right now that could lead to the destruction of all one holds dear? Shouldn’t we slow down and see how some of it works out so we can be sure our children have a world?

For myself, I don’t have children. I love new ideas and new technology. I tend to feel new technology will save the world, not destroy it. I want to learn faster and understand better.

However, even I wonder what the next decades will bring. We are going to change the fundamental nature of man. History is no longer a guide to the future. How does a society change if the top percent have IQ’s of over 200? Or when nanotech makes material goods as cheap as potatos? Or when an unhappy, precocious youth can design, manufacture, and release a bioterror weapon?

Many people can’t express these concerns logically and rationally. And it’s not just one thing like life extension; it’s all of it together. They just know things are moving really fast and it is scary.

Kurt Schoedel said at June 9, 2004 9:48 AM:

Fly:

A conservative world-view is fine, as long as it is not used as a weapon against individual liberty and free choice. I am 41 years old. I despise seeing old people and realizing that, without an effective anti-aging technology, that I will become like that. I view this, more than anything else as the existential threat against my life and my dreams and goals. I have lived in several Asian countries as well as the U.S., times where I saw "pale faces" only on the occasional Saturday evening (in Roppongi). Times when caucasion women with blond hair were really quite exotic to look at. Adapting to new social venues is no problem for me.

I have no desire to "slow down" in the development of anti-aging technology and hold no value in a society built around the "planned obsolesense" of human individuals. I hold no value in anything that might be lost in the conquest of aging and death. You say the world is changing too fast? I say its changing far too slowly. As long as the black cloud of personal decline is still on the horizon, science and technology are changing far too slowly for my taste.

Besides, an effective anti-aging technology will make us far more robust and self-reliant. Just the thing to make us more resilient so that we can cope more effectively with "great social change".

Bob:

I have spent half of my adult life in non-western societies. I can tell you that the non-western world is "liberalizing" at a very rapid rate. Social change is ocurring through out East Asian at a much faster rate than it is in the U.S. Imagine going through the urbanization revolution of the 30s and 40s, the social revolution of the late 60's and 70's, and the technology revolution of today; all at once! Thats what China and India are doing. Feature that!

Even the middle-east is undergoing social change. Thats why there are backlashes like Al Quada. In Egypt and Lebanon, for example, is the emergence of a youth, pop culture. J-pop is, of course, very popular through out "greater China" and S.E. Asia (among the Chinese) and Bollywood is popular among the Indians in Malaysia.

There is no question that "youth culture" is going to change the world. Just don't equate liberalization with westernization.

Japan: a liberalizing, non-western society.

froth said at June 9, 2004 11:52 AM:

"A rational debate on the life and death issue should start with a resolution on whether there is an afterlife or not. ... resolving this issue once and for all."

We'll get right on that, Kurt. Does a powerpoint format work for you, say Tuesday?

toot said at June 9, 2004 12:05 PM:

Staying focused on one issue is a bit difficult on a thread like this; there is so much tendency to go off in less relevant directions. However, the past few postings have put us back on what seems to me to be the important discussion. Kurt, for example, clearly advocates a kind of "life" about which I have been expressing reservations: one in which a death rate of zero is balanced by a birth rate of zero. As I understand it, he envisions a world in which one is free to choose eternal life. The question of whether one has children, I presume, is equally a matter of choice that is made independent of whether one practices life extension. One possible outcome of such a world would be that nearly everyone chooses to have no children and so there prevails a kind of stability where all live the kind of life that Kurt likes, one in which there is neither the sorrow of aging nor the joy of birth.

However, another possible outcome is that there will be a component of the population that regards the world large enough to accommodate them as well as their offspring, and these will go on breeding. Human nature being what it is, they will also go on living, practicing the techniques of life extension. Population, of course, will increase in such a case. At some point there will arise in some part of the population the idea that this process must be stabilized. Various proposals will be considered. Some highly technical, such a interplanetary migration or providing a virtual existence to brains in vats. Others will be legal/coercive, such as forcing individuals to choose between eternal life and breeding. My point has always been that once we assume control over life and death, it will be necessary to have a principle by which that control is exercised. What will that principle be?

Perhaps it will be useful to take a different perspective on these questions. Suppose that it were decided to address the problem of population pressure by providing the option of becoming a brain in a vat so that the "emigrants" are provided a quite satisfying virtual existence. Thus, rather than a real existence in the crowded real world, one could opt for a virtual existence in a world populated or otherwise furnished to one's own taste, independent of the constraints imposed by the desires of others. In effect, instead of being a vehicle-load of Richard Dawkins' selfish genes stuck with the same vehicle and same companions for eternity, one could opt to become a brain in a vat playing video games forever, but with perhaps a change of game from time to time. Put aside for a moment your fears that the video game might not have a high enough fidelity to satisfy you; assume that it does and that it has sufficient complexity to maintain your interest. My question is in what respect would the brain in the vat existence be inferior to the perpetual life that is being advocated in this thread? Why would you choose one over the other?

Ken said at June 9, 2004 1:03 PM:

Fears of population pressure are overblown.

The carrying capacity of the Earth is not constant - it depends on the capabilities of the human population in question. Higher technology means a higher carrying capacity.

Technological development in turn is related to the productivity of human beings - it comes from human effort diverted from producing for current consumption.

The total level of human effort available is in turn determined by the skillset and the health of the human population. Let your geniuses gather more and more experience and retain their youthful bodies, and they'll be able to devote more effort to technological advancement than ever before. This enables faster technological advancement and a faster increase in the carrying capacity of the planet, along with a faster development of spacecraft and space habitat technology.

Now there is no need for any law to require people to leave Earth, to limit their reproduction, or anything else. The closer the human population gets to the carrying capacity of the Earth, the higher the price of food, water, and other things. The more crowded the Earth gets, the higher the price of land. Given spacecraft and space habitats, these price signals will induce people to leave Earth, and will induce more people to leave Earth as prices here get higher. Problem solved. Ain't capitalism beautiful?

Kurt said at June 9, 2004 1:04 PM:

On population:

I made a rant about this over on TechCentralStation, which also has an article on the SENS project. It is copied below:

We actually did up some numbers on future population projects based on immortality or not. If we all go immortality tomorrow (death rate goes to zero) and the birth rate remains at current levels, we end up with 13 billion people by 2100. It would be crowded, but this is actually sustainable if we either go to nuclear power or space solar power (the petroleum will be gone, all other resources are plentiful).

The reality is that birthrates go down as countries develop, for a variety of reasons. This include increase costs of raising kids (education, cars, other goods) as well as the desire to have more free time to travel and enjoy life, in general.

This trend, which started in Europe, has spread through out most of East and Southeast Asia as well as Latin America. The regions with high birthrates are South Asia (where its coming down) and SOME (not all) of the middle eastern countries. The big population countries here; Egypt, Iran, and Turkey (together about 200 million people) are experiencing declining birthrates. The former Soviet Union is experiencing population decline.

The only disaster area is Sub-Saharan Africa which is entering a malthusian population crash.

My point is that with continued economic development, the population bomb will get defused, but there will be no population crash. Neither over nor under-population is a problem.

I believe that the advent of immortality will furthur reduce birthrates because it will eliminate the societal pressure put on people to have kids. I think that immortalists will choose to live the 'open' life of a typical 25 year old because I am an immortalist and that this is the life that I find most fulfilling.

The reason why I am into life-extension is because I like the 'young adult' open life style and consider aging to be the only limitation on my ability to live this kind of life. Most other people I know who are into life-extension have attitudes similar to mine.

None of this takes into account the old L-5/space colony scenario that Gerard O'neill proposed using boring 1970's technology. If anything, nanotech will make space colonization far cheaper and easier than the way that O'neill proposed in the 70's.

My point is that I really don't think that over-population is a valid argument against immortality.

On conservatism:

The reason why I do not consider the conservative argument against immortality to be valid is because this choice will not go away. The people who value the birth-death based conventional life-cycle will continue to live it. If people didn't, it means that they see no value in it.

The future is going to be a very diverse society full of everykind of option imaginable. The people who want to live the traditional life will continue to do so. The people who want to live forever young, but remain mostly biological (such as myself) will do this. Others may upload into cyberspace. Others may decide to go to Alpha Centuri. My point is that as technology progresses, new options are continuallu added to the menu. The old ones remain there. As long as you have a society based on freedom and openess, and all of the options are AVAILABLE to those who choose them, everyone gets what they want. I do not see how there can be any problem with that.

Even if half the people remained "traditional" and the other half choose immortality, the birthrate would still be half of what it is now. This kind of argument is certainly no show-stopper of immortality.

My problem with the conservatives is that they are more obsessed with DENYING other people the right to choose other options, rather than just defending their right to live their options. As long as conservative people can live the life that they want, what does it matter to them that others live a different sort of life? I have no patients with this kind of intolorance. It really has no place in modern society.

Why do we all have to think and do the same? Vive le difference! Everyone should be free to choose their own destiny in life. There is no one size fits all.

Kurt said at June 9, 2004 1:56 PM:

More on conservatism:

I do not understand this current wave of "conservatism". I came of age during Reagan and consider him to one of the greatest presidents we ever had. In the 80's, I was conservative. Conservative ment freedom from government regulation, pro-free markets, and individual self-reliance. I believe in free-enterprise and hard work and optimism about the future. I will always believe in these values and consider them to be the basis of REAL conservatism. The SENS project and the conquest of age and death in NO WAY conflict with these basic values of conservatism.

toot said at June 9, 2004 2:35 PM:

Kurt,

You argue that the number of people that can be supported on Earth is far greater than the current population. I will grant you that. The problem is not the physical reality but rather the perception of the people. There are people who already feel crowded by the current population, and you find many of them among the Greens and Liberals. The largest experiment in coerced birth control was that in China, with its bizarre outcome. I was attempting to address this problem of perceptions with the brain in the vat fantasy, in which I intended to postulate the ability to support tremendously large earthly populations, along with the the illusion that the people are not constrained by the need to accommodate others. I am attempting to postulate everything that you ask for to accommodate a large population, and all I ask of you is to provide the guiding principle, the purpose. Can you explain the advantage a penned reality would have over an unconstrained dream?

froth said at June 9, 2004 3:00 PM:

toot,

But what if the Agents tried to stop Neo from freeing those who wanted to be freed? Rent The Matrix, for crying out loud.

toot said at June 9, 2004 3:15 PM:

froth,
Yes, I saw The Matrix quite some time ago, and it raised some similar questions. Please remind me why Neo and the others wanted to be free.

Ken said at June 9, 2004 4:22 PM:

"You argue that the number of people that can be supported on Earth is far greater than the current population. I will grant you that. The problem is not the physical reality but rather the perception of the people."

Really, it's a flawed prediction made by people. We shouldn't just acquiesce to restrictions on our movements or birthrates, or to a remove of any chance we have for a stay of execution, just to appease people who are afraid of things that will not happen.

"There are people who already feel crowded by the current population, and you find many of them among the Greens and Liberals. "

People who "feel crowded" should move. Lots of areas they can go to where they won't feel crowded.

Fly said at June 9, 2004 4:23 PM:

(I wrote this response while reading Toot’s post. Others have responded to the same points. Hmmm, and did it better.)

Toot,

“One possible outcome of such a world would be that nearly everyone chooses to have no children and so there prevails a kind of stability where all live the kind of life that Kurt likes, one in which there is neither the sorrow of aging nor the joy of birth.”

Give it up. There is no Garden of Eden. The world always changes. Whether there is immortality of not, human civilization is in a period of accelerating change. Immortality won’t stop or slow down progress. It won’t halt the cycle of renewal.


“At some point there will arise in some part of the population the idea that this process must be stabilized.”

Why do you believe this? The trends in the wealthy world indicate birthrates below replacement level. So if most of world were wealthy and immortal, there would be a doubling of population every fifty to one hundred years. This population would be getting more intelligent and have access to better and better technology. Presently the earth is almost totally undeveloped, lots of room for expansion without crowding together. In a hundred years the technology should exist for cheap colonization of the solar system. How long would it take to fill the Oort Cloud? (I don’t think this will happen because long before a thousand years have passed mankind will have changed beyond my comprehension. Why hasn’t SETI detected alien signals…I think we’ll find out in the next few hundred years.)

Toot, I do think there will be conflict and methods for negotiating that conflict. The methods might be benign or they might be ugly indeed. I just don’t see that overpopulation need be a major point of contention. (I’d be more concerned that a fanatical cult would rapidly expand its members using advanced biotech. Like a cancer gone wild.)


“In effect, instead of being a vehicle-load of Richard Dawkins' selfish genes stuck with the same vehicle and same companions for eternity”

Why do you think people wouldn’t change their genes? They are curing diabetic mice with gene therapy today. The diabetics I know are eagerly waiting for a chance to change their genes. Several therapies for Parkinson’s Disease use gene altered stem cells. When the technology is safe and effective won’t people opt for better teeth, a more handsome face, or a better body? Wouldn’t you increase your IQ if you could? There are lots of people trying to do that with ineffective supplements today.

Why do you think people wouldn’t change their vehicle? I look forward to an implant with a very high bandwidth connection to the nearest Mega Internet Node. I’ll use it to augment my memory. I’ll use it to immediately access all the world’s info. I’ll make use of translations services so that I can communicate with anyone. I’ll use it to set up and run simulations. Why would I give all that up to stick with the old version 2000 model?


Randall Parker said at June 9, 2004 4:43 PM:

All,

Advancing technology is not a reason to be Panglossian about a future of eternal youth:

1) We can't count on declining birth rates to prevent a future population explosion. Aging reversal therapies will include rejuvenation of female reproductive organs. Declining birthrates in the West are therefore a temporary thing. Once women can have children in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond quite a few will.

2) The "Earth is not crowded" argument misses an obvious point: The uncrowded places are mostly far less desirable places to live. The Earth may not seem crowded to someone living in North Dakota but North Dakota is not a place where most people want to live. The desirable places with the nicest climates are getting steadily more crowded and more costly to live in.

3) As more of the world industrializes the percentage of the world's population that uses a lot of resources and generates a lot of pollution is rising. Plus, as more people become more mobile those people who are already living in nice places are increasingly faced with the arrivals of people from less desirable places. Look at Southern California to understand what this means for the future. "Call some place paradise and kiss it good bye". He got that right. This will only get worse.

4) Rejuvenation will increase crime rates. Rejuvenation will increase crime by returning old criminals to youthful levels of energy.

5) A return to general youthfulness will bring much higher levels of energy to all political conflicts. A lot of people stop launching terrorist attacks because they become middle aged. Well, imagine Abu Nidal, Yassir Arafat, and assorted other terror masters never growing old.

There is not a simple utopian free market libertarian future ahead where all this works out without any risks or pain or impositions or restrictions on personal choice. In the future we face everything from population growth, nuclear WMD proliferation, nanotech goo, sentient robots, genetically engineered viral plagues that will alter personalities, to who knows what else.

Kurt said at June 9, 2004 4:54 PM:

Toot:

You are correct that the perception of crowdedness will make life undesirable long before the actual material limts are reach. I have lived in Tokyo and can attest to that (although I liked living in Tokyo). My point is that this is not a valid argument against immortality because I really do believe that people choosing to live forever young are less likely to have kids. This, in turn, will result in an absolute birthrate minus deathrate being lower than if the immortalist option were to somehow be banned. An immortalist society will have lower population growth than the current society, even if a large percentage of people still choose to live the "conventional" life-cycle.

With or without immortality, our numbers will reach a sort of stasis in the next 50-100 years. I don't consider over-population to be a "show-stopper" on immortality.

Also, eventually we will expand into space. First, the solar system and, later, the stars. Gerard O'neill presented a workable proposal in the 70's on how we could do this using boring 1970's technology. He also work with population growth numbers that are larger than what we have now. There were significant flaws on the economics of manufacturing the solar power satellites that were supposed to pay for it all. But the technical aspects of the project are valid. I bring up space colonization for two reasons. First, materials processing and manufacturing capabilities based on nanotechnology will make the O'neill scenario much more doable, at lower costs. Secondly, everyone I've met who wants to live forever young want to leave Earth for space. Many of the people in the transhumanist movement were active in the L-5 Society in the 80's. If we get immortality and I make it, I personally do not want to hang around on Earth longer than about 200 years or so.

Ken said at June 9, 2004 4:58 PM:

"We can't count on declining birth rates to prevent a future population explosion. Aging reversal therapies will include rejuvenation of female reproductive organs."

Maybe, maybe not. Don't the eggs themselves get created before a woman's birth and eventually run out?

I guess she could whip up some more through advanced technology, though. But it wouldn't be as easy as the old fashioned way.

"The "Earth is not crowded" argument misses an obvious point: The uncrowded places are mostly far less desirable places to live. The Earth may not seem crowded to someone living in North Dakota but North Dakota is not a place where most people want to live. The desirable places with the nicest climates are getting steadily more crowded and more costly to live in."

Cheaper and easier-to-control personal aircraft can mean that people can live pretty much anywhere and still go where they want on a regular basis. With "driving distance" meaning hundreds or even thousands of miles, people won't need to cram together into metro areas just to live within driving distance of work, school, shopping, or entertainment.

"Rejuvenation will increase crime rates. Rejuvenation will increase crime by returning old criminals to youthful levels of energy."

They'll have youthful energy, but the level of experience of older people. They'll have the stamina of a youthful person, but not necessarily the tendency to do idiotic things.

"A return to general youthfulness will bring much higher levels of energy to all political conflicts."

It'll also bring much higher levels of energy to our side of political conflicts. Since many of the troublemakers have a more youthful demographic than we do, we'll get more advantage out of this change than they will.

It'll also bring much higher levels of energy to productive work, especially productive work done by experienced people.

"As more of the world industrializes the percentage of the world's population that uses a lot of resources and generates a lot of pollution is rising."

With much higher levels of energy brought to productive work, significantly more resources will be made available than would otherwise be the case.

Randall Parker said at June 9, 2004 5:28 PM:

Ken,

Women will have replacement ovaries grown for them or gene therapy and cell therapy to repair their reproductive tracts. Women who already had to have hysterectomies will have new organs grown for them. Or they use use their own adult cells to create eggs using lab manipulations. Then IVF can be used to implant fertilized eggs in their wombs. There are already women in their 40s using donated or purchased eggs and the prices are steep for high IQ eggs. When you see Hollywood starlets having kids in their 40s that is what some of them are doing. They will also be able to use artificial wombs.

Air cars do not make the amount of space in Santa Barbara or Imperial Beach any greater. People live near the ocean in California because the weather is milder. They do the same in other places as well.

Lots of criminals are criminals by nature. Therefore rejuvenation will not make them wiser in any positive fashion. Old criminals will just be more skilled at what they do. We will also face the problem of what to do about people sentenced to natural life jail sentences.

The threat of asymmetric warfare will grow when more of our enemies are youthful. Asymmetric warfare is a growing threat due to technology trends anyway. So, yes, greater youthfulness in conflicts will increase the intensity of those conflicts. Read intensity here to mean lethal.

I don't doubt that a more youthful workforce will be much more productive. I've argued this point in the past.

toot said at June 9, 2004 6:06 PM:

Folks keep bringing up the idea of space migration as a cure for overpopulation. The idea that by space travel we could populate some other planet seems plausible enough to me, but not the idea that we could significantly depopulate our own.

Invoking the observed decrease in birth rates in countries with a high standard of living is just another way of saying that some people are opposed to a higher population growth. These people likely go along with the idea that the population should be no greater, and if we extrapolate to the case in which there are no deaths requiring replacement, such people may well stop having children. As pointed out, there are a limited number of ova that a woman develops near the time of her birth, so a long-lived population may not be able to regenerate itself if necessary without extraordinary measures. It is this that leads me to question the viability of such a population.

I'll refrain from speculating about whether retaining the energy of youth will lead to a prolongation of the rebellious teenage phase and the corresponding tendency to commit crimes, though I shudder at the thought of remaining like teenagers any longer than necessary.

Fly said at June 9, 2004 7:33 PM:

Randall,

“Once women can have children in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond quite a few will.”

Which is why I predicated a doubling of the population every fifty to one hundred years. If only the young had babies the rate of growth would be far lower.

“The uncrowded places are mostly far less desirable places to live.”

This is an opportunity for free enterprise. Why do people want to live in large crowded cities when most of the US is empty; employment opportunities, entertainment, friends, or climate? Better communications should address the employment and entertainment issue. Perhaps a large transparent, domed city with extensive recreational areas could provide a better climate. Canadians could have Florida year round. Technology should make far more areas desirable habitats.

“"Call some place paradise and kiss it good bye".”

So build a new paradise. Build it in Mexico. Build it in Oklahoma. If you don’t want poor immigrants, then pass restrictive community zoning laws. Form a community of like-minded people and build your own town.

“Rejuvenation will increase crime rates.”

Yep, restore those testosterone levels and aggression goes up. So let’s find better ways to prevent and solve crimes using the latest brain research.

“There is not a simple utopian free market libertarian future ahead where all this works out without any risks or pain or impositions or restrictions on personal choice. In the future we face everything from population growth, nuclear WMD proliferation, nanotech goo, sentient robots, genetically engineered viral plagues that will alter personalities, to who knows what else.”

On this I totally agree. Advanced tech will create new dangers, which our society is ill equipped to handle. I predict turbulence ahead.

Randall Parker said at June 9, 2004 7:49 PM:

Fly, As for the idea of building paradises I have one word for you: Climate.

Mexico: I'm the one who argues against letting the US turn into Latin America. Why would you think I'd find it acceptable to move there?

Fly said at June 9, 2004 7:59 PM:

Toot,

“Folks keep bringing up the idea of space migration as a cure for overpopulation. The idea that by space travel we could populate some other planet seems plausible enough to me, but not the idea that we could significantly depopulate our own.”

Not using technology we will have in the next twenty years. However consider what should be available in fifty years. Rotating beanstalks or very large inflatables to get to low earth orbit. Tether launchers for interplanetary travel. Robotic, nanotech manufacturing to transform space rock and ice into desirable habitats. Remember the wealth and technological resources available to each person is growing exponentially.

“Invoking the observed decrease in birth rates in countries with a high standard of living is just another way of saying that some people are opposed to a higher population growth.”

I doubt it. People may say they aren’t having children because the world already has too many people, but I don’t buy it. I’m guessing those people find raising a lot of toddlers a major inconvenience and a significant financial drain. I don't have children, but I'd like to see the birthrate for scientists and engineers go way up. The more bright creative people solving problems the faster my wealth increases and my own life improves. (I'm happy that there are a lot more Chinese and Indian scientists and engineers competing with the US.)

Fly said at June 9, 2004 8:00 PM:

Toot,

“Folks keep bringing up the idea of space migration as a cure for overpopulation. The idea that by space travel we could populate some other planet seems plausible enough to me, but not the idea that we could significantly depopulate our own.”

Not using technology we will have in the next twenty years. However consider what should be available in fifty years. Rotating beanstalks or very large inflatables to get to low earth orbit. Tether launchers for interplanetary travel. Robotic, nanotech manufacturing to transform space rock and ice into desirable habitats. Remember the wealth and technological resources available to each person is growing exponentially.

“Invoking the observed decrease in birth rates in countries with a high standard of living is just another way of saying that some people are opposed to a higher population growth.”

I doubt it. People may say they aren’t having children because the world already has too many people, but I don’t buy it. I’m guessing those people find raising a lot of toddlers a major inconvenience and a significant financial drain. I don't have children, but I'd like to see the birthrate for scientists and engineers go way up. The more bright creative people solving problems the faster my wealth increases and my own life improves. (I'm happy that there are a lot more Chinese and Indian scientists and engineers competing with the US.)

Fly said at June 9, 2004 8:11 PM:

Randall,

“Fly, As for the idea of building paradises I have one word for you: Climate.”

So lets build a very, very large transparent dome held up by positive internal pressure and regulate the climate. Include recreation areas with interesting scenery for walking, hiking, biking, swimming, etc. Let’s use zoning laws to control who can afford to live in the community. Let’s build the community to emphasize safety and security.

“Mexico: I'm the one who argues against letting the US turn into Latin America. Why would you think I'd find it acceptable to move there?”

I thought you might like the idea of turning the tables. Make some of Latin America into a new US. (My girl friend’s real estate company is looking into a project to do precisely that.)

Randall Parker said at June 9, 2004 8:27 PM:

Fly,

The big flaw I see in your analyses in general is illustrated by your proposal for the huge dome: Lots of technologies will be available 40 or 60 or 100 years from now to solve (IQ enhancement) or in some cases partially ameliorate (local climate engineering) various problems. But before we get any of those solutions demographic changes are going to make many things worse. Actually that has already happened and continues to happen. Why subject ourselves to the decades of lousier living while we wait for the techno-utopian solutions?

Adjust your telescope back to this decade and next decade. We have to live thru these years that are coming sooner and some of us may not even live to see these wonders.

Fly said at June 9, 2004 11:29 PM:

Randall,

“Lots of technologies will be available 40 or 60 or 100 years from now to solve (IQ enhancement) or in some cases partially ameliorate (local climate engineering) various problems.”

I’m much more optimistic (also pessimistic in that bad things could happen sooner as well). I believe most of the technologies I’ve mentioned will be available to some within twenty years and to most within thirty. Within that time frame it makes sense to ride out some issues.

I expect the genome connection to IQ to be largely known within five years. I believe that knowledge will lead to drugs to enhance brain performance in another five years. We may get lucky and find that treatments to repair brain damage that are now being tested in mice, restore the brain to better than normal. Or medicines developed to slow brain loss of function make healthy people better than normal. These technologies should be very advanced within twenty years.

Nanotech is a wild card. If self-assembling nanomachines are developed the changes to society would be immense. If this report from General Dynamics, http://www.niac.usra.edu/files/studies/final_report/pdf/883Toth-Fejel.pdf, is correct such devices are possible with today’s technology. If so the technology should be widespread and available for many tasks within twenty years.

These are only two examples. Breakthroughs that greatly alter society could (and will) come from many other areas. (Quantum computing, vastly improved A.I., e.g.)

As for the city dome, I think it could be built today. It should be easier to build than some of the large balloons that have been designed. Hmmm, lots of factors to consider…rain, snow, lightning, air circulation, cost. I’m guessing we’ll see a sequence of ever-larger domes. Maybe the early ones will be very large green houses or an amusement park. Seems like “Summer Land” would be popular in Canada.

Randall Parker said at June 10, 2004 2:23 AM:

Fly, Again, I think you are still overly optimistic about IQ boosting of the adult population.

As for enhancing cognition of the dummies: It will not be as easy to do to already adult people as you imagine. Reasons:

1) Skull size. Part of the problme is that the smarer people have more brain mass. Well, if you want to grow the brain sizes of the dummies where are you going to get the room?

2) Adding in new neurons that are genetically enginered to be smarter: Well, once this can be done by reseeding adult neural stem cell reservoirs the problem is that the vast bulk of neurons will contine to be existing dumber neurons.

3) It is quite possible (I would say likely) that some types of intelligence enhancement are due to architectural differences in how wiring up happens early on. Reworking brain architecture isn't going to be easy. Plus, you run into the problem of literally changing who a person is if you intervene deeply enough to cause it.

4) It will be relatively easier to genetically engineer offspring to be smarter than to raise IQ of fully developed adults. But I suspect once the genetic variations for differences in intelligence are known the initial uses will be in selecting donated sperm and donated eggs and in mate selection. It will take longer to get to the point of genetically modifying fertilized eggs to introduce desired variations. The problem is that this is a very risky thing to do. Picture deformed babies or weird brain development that causes unexpected personality types and behavioral weirdness. People are going to be reluctant to embrace offspring genetic engineering until a lot more is known about safety and consequences.

If we start genetically engineering offspring in 10 years the labor force will not even start to see the effects of that for about 20 years. That puts us in the 2030s or later. But the start will not immediately lead to universal adoption. So maybe the 2040s or 2050s before really widespread IQ enhancement of future generations really impacts the economy. In the mean time we really need border control and deportation of illegal aliens. We have too many dummies.

Fly said at June 10, 2004 2:25 PM:

Randall,

This is a topic that greatly interests me. Hopefully, being so deep in the comment thread, going off the “life extension” topic won’t annoy people.

Some discoveries have snowballing importance. Any discovery that accelerates how quickly new discoveries are made and new technologies are created will have immense societal impact. (You’ve pointed out the importance of biotech tools for understanding biology and scanning tools for understanding the brain.)

So what accelerators are operating in today’s world?

Some are mundane. Much more of the world populace is engaged in knowledge work, so more minds are working on the problems. Much more capital is available for new development. Competitive companies are focused on change. Successful companies must introduce new products and continually re-invent themselves.

Some are better science tools: gene chips, molecular probes, brain scanning, etc.

Some are better information processing tools: better computers, better software, faster networks, etc.

However one factor is more important than all the others, intelligence. Intelligence limits how fast we can learn, how deeply we can understand, and how effectively we can create new knowledge.

I see three main approaches for increasing intelligence. One is artificial machine intelligence that could lead to the “singularity” scenario. (I won’t discuss AI here.) Second is enhancement of biological brains. The third is a hybrid of machine and biology, cyborgs.

The cyborg technology that increases intelligence will be outgrowths of implant technology used to augment hearing and vision and pacemaker technology used for heart disease and inhibition of seizures. This technology will converge with better man-machine interfaces so that the human connection to computers and the Internet will be much faster and deeper and more transparent. This is happening now and will be far advanced in twenty years.

On this thread we’ve touched on enhancement of the human brain. (Sorry it took me so long to get here.)

Again there are several approaches:

Use our knowledge of genetics to breed smarter humans. You have mentioned using computer simulation to improve over natural selection. Once we know the SNPs associated with intelligence this should be possible. However predicting the phenotype from the genotype is a tough computational problem. There is already a more effective method, clone the humans that have already shown exceptional abilities. When cloning technology has matured so that human clones are as likely to be healthy as babies from natural birth, I expect some countries to begin cloning their most productive members. (Even if countries don’t do this I expect sects to arise who do or even wealthy individuals.) This approach will lead to a surge of humans with I.Q.’s approaching 200. The main impediment to this approach is that training these geniuses will take fifteen to twenty years and another five to ten years for them to gain adequate experience in their fields. So this method will likely lose out to faster methods for increasing human intelligence. (Unless technology is developed to speed clone maturation and learning. Artificial wombs also augment this approach.)

Our knowledge of brain function and the biology of intelligence are growing rapidly. As we learn what genes and proteins affect brain performance, new drugs will become available for enhancing performance. The main driver will be to compensate for loss of brain function due to damage and disease and aging. But once the possibilities are recognized the US armed forces will push for enhancement. (Likely already happening.) I expect these drugs to operate at many functional levels. Some will stimulate the growth of more neurons. Some will increase dendritic interconnection. Some will stimulate brain transmitter release and re-uptake. Some will affect brain transmitter receptors. Some will affect brain cell metabolic efficiency. Some will affect brain cell recycling of accumulated junk.

As the technology matures, the effects will be better targeted to the local brain regions that need to be tuned. Specific regions such as the hippocampus might be enlarged.

Two other approaches will likely play a major role: stem cells that we have discussed before and brain implants. Brain implants will monitor regional brain centers and directly electrically stimulate local areas under computer control. Thus we could program ourselves to stay alert or enhance memory function. (We could also set our appetite, sex drive, etc.) Both approaches are being prototyped today. Initially the focus will be on repairing damaged or diseased people. Enhancement will follow.

I can’t predict how much of an I.Q. boost will be possible from these approaches. (Unlike with cloning or breeding where the upper limit should be what is currently seen in the world population.) My guess is that I.Q.’s far beyond 200 will be possible within twenty years. (I don’t suggest all humans or the average human would be enhanced to that level, but a significant percentage of humans would.) These boosted humans would immediately impact all aspects of human society. (No birth, training, or accumulation of experience delay.)

“1) Skull size. Part of the problem is that the smarter people have more brain mass. Well, if you want to grow the brain sizes of the dummies where are you going to get the room?
2) Adding in new neurons that are genetically engineered to be smarter: Well, once this can be done by reseeding adult neural stem cell reservoirs the problem is that the vast bulk of neurons will contine to be existing dumber neurons.
3) It is quite possible (I would say likely) that some types of intelligence enhancement are due to architectural differences in how wiring up happens early on. Reworking brain architecture isn't going to be easy. Plus, you run into the problem of literally changing who a person is if you intervene deeply enough to cause it.”

Skull size and existing wiring are real constraints. However I expect significant enhancements are possible even while engineering under the existing constraints. In the long term (40 to 60 years) those constraints could also be removed.

Will a person still be the same person?

Even today it is hard to say who a person is. Behavior altering drugs, brain injury, and diseases of old age can all drastically change a person. I don’t have access to my memories as a youth, only a dim recollection filtered by my adult mind. In many ways I’ve changed since 911. That attack and my study of world events and other nations and cultures have significantly altered my worldview. I might have difficulty conversing with that earlier me.

I don’t think we can stay the same person.

I expect to make a series of changes that drastically alter who I am. Some of those changes may result in lost memories. Some will alter my personality. (Hey it’s a feature, not a bug.) If I could see today the person I might become, I might be horrified or disgusted or just feel no connection at all.

For me there is no choice. My drive is to learn and understand. As I am, I’m too limited. The world is beyond my comprehension. (Given the competitive nature of the world I don’t believe any society has a choice. Either adapt or be left behind.)

Randall Parker said at June 10, 2004 3:02 PM:

Fly,

Certainly rejuvenation therapies will boost cognitive function in older people and doing this will raise average society IQ. Certainly anti-aging treatments that make us young again will increase the fraction of the population that are knowledge workers who operate at the highest intellectual levels.

Also, I expect some enhancements in cognitive function just by changing gene regulation. Want to learn more rapidly? Up-regulate genes involved in forming new neuronal connections while studying.

But, again, I think it will be easier to make smarter offspring than to enhance adults. The reason is that we will be able to look thru all the genetic variations and bring together the best existing genetic variatiosn for cognitive function (and I hope someone saved a sample of Richard Feynman's tissue for DNA sequencing btw).

As for the number of years between a baby is born and it is doing something useful: A 150 IQ kid could be doing something useful and rather advanced at the age of 20. The kid just needs the educational opportunities. I favor filming all college lectures and making then available to bright kids. Speed up education by allowing kids to learn from home by watching the best minds on all subjects.

I agree that the rate of advance is accelerating.

Fly said at June 10, 2004 4:26 PM:

“But, again, I think it will be easier to make smarter offspring than to enhance adults. The reason is that we will be able to look thru all the genetic variations and bring together the best existing genetic variatiosn for cognitive function (and I hope someone saved a sample of Richard Feynman's tissue for DNA sequencing btw).”

Ditto on Feynman. How fast could science advance with 10,000 Feynmans?

If we could do a good job of predicting phenotype from genotype and we had the computational horsepower to optimize for intelligence the result might far exceed anything yet produced by nature. The genotype solution space is so large that only a very small subset has been explored by natural birth. However this is a very tough problem. More likely we’ll identify a few common SNP’s groupings that are associated with high intelligence. I wouldn’t expect this approach to yield individuals any brighter than the top 0.1 to 1.0 percent.

The biggest limitation I see to this approach is that it sticks with the limitations of the original biological hardware. The present brain is constrained by its biological nature, its evolutionary ancestorary, and the necessity to develop from a single cell. Imagine if an engineer had to design a car that would grow from a single egg cell. That would be a severely constained car.


” I favor filming all college lectures and making then available to bright kids. Speed up education by allowing kids to learn from home by watching the best minds on all subjects.”

I strongly agree. The Sesame Street and Electric Company programs were an excellent beginning. We should follow this approach all the way through high school. Create numerous programs suited to different learning styles and speeds. Try to match the course material to the student.

toot said at June 10, 2004 5:00 PM:

Fly,

Dropping one of the parenthetical expressions, you said:

"My guess is that I.Q.’s far beyond 200 will be possible within twenty years. These boosted humans would immediately impact all aspects of human society. (No birth, training, or accumulation of experience delay.)"

This strikes me as rather optimistic. So that I can be a bit more specific regarding my doubts, please let me use the metaphor of a computer system. Suppose that I have been running a computer for a number of years to analyze events. Suppose that this computer has just enough power to classify the events and to compute first order statistics among events of various kinds. One day I purchase a better and faster computer that is capable of not only computing the same statistics as the old one, but is also able to compute higher order statistics as well, say all kinds of second order statistics. Now if I substitute this new processor for the old, I do not realize any immediate benefit. Not until it has processed enough new events to generate the new second order statistics will it allow me to discover some previously undiscovered connection among the events.

The metaphor for what you seem to imply is the case where you buy a new hard drive, preloaded with improved operating system and software, as well as with the results of already processed historical data. The problem is that the preloading a biological system of that kind is equivalent to an education.

Kurt said at June 10, 2004 6:22 PM:

I actually think it will be easier to take someone with an IQ of 85 and boost it to 120 or 140 than it will be to boost a person with an IQ of 140 up to 200. There are reasons based on neuroscience for believing why this will be the case.
Also, once the therapy comes out, it will initially be expensive, but will come down in price as the market develops, particularly if it happens to be developed in India or China (which is quite likely, no cumbersome FDA regulations to deal with).

Gregory Stock, who wrote the book "Designing Humans" and who is an advocate of "improving ourselves" believes that this will be the case. He believes that the immortalist/non-immortalist divide will be a generational thing rather than a wealth vs. poor thing. If this turns out to be the case (and I believe it will), then there will not be the social strife based on the rich getting to become smarter and living forever young while the rest of us don't. Which means that anyone who wants this therapy will not be precluded from having it, on the basis of economics. In fact, if its cheap enough, the developed countries make actually subsidize it for those who cannot afford it, because it will be cheaper for the tax payers to immortalize everyone rather than having to pay for all of their old age medical care benefits. Aubry himself advocates this and also believes that with everyone functionally youthful, that economic productivity will go up and that we will actually have more economic growth and prosperity. The economy will be more dynamic bacause there would be more "young" people (the whole populace) with the drive and energy to do technological , innovation and become entrepreneurs. Since it is a win-win situation, a positive sum game, opposition to immortality is not only irrational, it is immoral.

Unlike Aubry, However, I have not become more risk averse. I enjoy life and have no problem going to places like Malaysia or Indonesia, on business or holiday, if I have the chance. I may live to be 5000 years old in perfect youth and health, or I may die tomorrow. My point is that I believe in living life completely on my terms and noone elses, regardless of how long I live (I actually don't care so much about immortality, per se; I just want to live a completely open youthful life as long as I do live). My problem with religion and other philosophical believe systems is how they questions the right of the individual to live life fully on his or her own terms. Thats why I have nothing to do with them.

Anti aging immortality is really about freedom. Some call it freedom's final frontier. I call the endlessly open youthful life span my personal "undiscovered country".

toot said at June 10, 2004 8:56 PM:

Kurt,

This thread originate not to seek permission to do life extension research, but rather to seek a government grant to support it. Don't get confused.

Fly said at June 10, 2004 9:00 PM:

Toot,

My mental model of I.Q. 200 is slightly different. Imagine the fruits of knowledge hanging just out of reach. A small increase in the intelligence of our brightest people brings much more fruit into reach.

Or here is another analogy. No amount of time or education will allow a hamster to comprehend the world as well as a human.

So I don’t see I.Q. 200 as just speeding up normal thinking or addings a few tricks. I’m also tossing other factors such as high creativity into that I.Q. 200 label. (Sloppy writing since I know I.Q. and creativity are different.) Feynman is a good example of the type of individual I envision.

“The metaphor for what you seem to imply is the case where you buy a new hard drive, preloaded with improved operating system and software, as well as with the results of already processed historical data. The problem is that the preloading a biological system of that kind is equivalent to an education.”

You may be right. My abilities vary considerablely from day to day and month to month. I tend to see increased I.Q. as always having really good days. If so, enhancement would immediately expand my abilities. However, I see your point. Perhaps I’d have to use my new ability to re-examine my old beliefs and develop new, enhanced experiences to get the full benefit. Training from birth might even be necessary.

Ken said at June 10, 2004 9:03 PM:

"I'll refrain from speculating about whether retaining the energy of youth will lead to a prolongation of the rebellious teenage phase and the corresponding tendency to commit crimes, though I shudder at the thought of remaining like teenagers any longer than necessary. "

I also shudder at the thought of remaining like teenagers any longer than necessary, but we keep imposing that very thing on our kids.

People don't act like teenagers because there's something wrong with their brains. People act like teenagers because there's no real payoff for behaving like an adult. No matter how maturely they behave, they still have to serve their entire sentence until their 18th birthday. No matter how immaturely they behave, their parents still have to feed and house them until their 18th birthday. The incentives you and I live with aren't present for them, because of the role that our laws and customs relegate them to, and so they behave differently from us.

A rejuvenated 100 year old isn't going to have that problem. Legally, he remains a full-fledged adult, and gets to reap the profit from mature, responsible behavior, and pay the full cost of immature, irresponsible behavior; also, he's had a long history of mature, responsible behavior and isn't going to drop it just because he's not bedridden anymore.

"The big flaw I see in your analyses in general is illustrated by your proposal for the huge dome: Lots of technologies will be available 40 or 60 or 100 years from now to solve (IQ enhancement) or in some cases partially ameliorate (local climate engineering) various problems. But before we get any of those solutions demographic changes are going to make many things worse. Actually that has already happened and continues to happen. Why subject ourselves to the decades of lousier living while we wait for the techno-utopian solutions?"

Because the payoff, even for decades of "lousier living", is thousands of years of damn good living.

And I'm still not going to predict "lousier living". We've got problems, and a few of them have gotten worse, but they've been outweighed by all the ways in which our lives are busy getting better right now. For every way that new technology can bite us in the ass, there's several ways that new technology can be a valuable tool for solving other problems that have seemed insoluble for all of human history, and make so many improvements in our lives that it's well worth putting up with the problems that remain.

"On this I totally agree. Advanced tech will create new dangers, which our society is ill equipped to handle. I predict turbulence ahead."

Damn it, of course our society is ill equipped to handle the new dangers. That's because we don't have the new tools we'll also be building along the way.

Fly said at June 10, 2004 9:27 PM:

Kurt,

It may be easier to boost low I.Q.s to 140, but I have a personal interest in the higher I.Q. boosting. I’ve known many people with I.Q.s in the range from 140 to 170. Having a few more won’t accelerate knowledge generation all that much. (Raising the average for the whole populace would obviously have a major impact.) I’ve known only one person with an I.Q. near 200. That person operated at an entirely different level. New discoveries seemed obvious to him. He could listen to a math professor's lecture on original research and immediately point out ramifications that the author had missed.

(He was also very, very weird. Like talking to a Martian who happened to speak english. He was very difficult to motivate and had little interest in writing down or communicating his ideas. Imagine growing up surrounded by people who were so dull they seldom understood your most interesting ideas. And they seldom had an idea that interested you. After awhile you might lose interest in communicating with them.)

Kurt said at June 10, 2004 10:47 PM:

Fly:

My comments about boosting IQ was in the context of uplifting people on the lower end up to high level, rather than those on the high level to even higher. Yes, I also would probably boost mine up to 200, if it was an option. My argument was to attack the notion that the top percentage would go out to 200, leaving everyone else in the dust. I don't believe that this will happen.

Keep in mind the economic principle of comparative advantage. If the top 5% of the intelligent people boost their IQs to 200, think of all of the technological innovation that they could do that they could not do otherwise. They would still have to make commercial products that they would sell to the rest of us. Thus, the rest of us still benefit, even if we don't go out to 200. It is a positive sum game.

The social strife would only occur if there were people who wanted to enhance themselves, but were for some reason, unable to do so (presummably because of cost).

Initially, these technologies will be expensive (like computers in the 60's and 70's), then it will become cheap. This will eliminate the basis of social conflict.

Toot:

I personally do NOT favor government funding of SENS for the reason that government-funded science never works out in the end (NASA and the fusion program come to mind). I think it will go faster with private funding (less politics and bureaucracy), perferably as open-source biology. Note the rapid completion of the human genome project under budget and ahead of schedual, because of private efforts. We believe SENS will cost substantially less than the human genome project (US$1 billion as opposed to US$3 billion). Rapid developments in MEMS and micro-fluidics technology make cut this cost considerably in the coming decade.

However, there is a very strong economic argument for the NIH to fund SENS exclusively, and to cut the government funding of most other biomedical research. 95% of human diseases are a manifestation of aging. Check out the local hospital or clinic. You see mostly old people there. Also 90-95% of medical costs in the U.S. is medicare, which means age-based medical problems. A successful war on aging would eliminate this 90-95% of this medical cost, minus the cost of the anti-aging therapies, which would be a small fraction of the current medical costs. That is, the government could fund SENS, pay for the entire U.S. population to get the immortality therapy, and it would still be far less than NIH budget is for one year alone.

Just on the basis of economics and cost savings, we would be fools not to do SENS.

The point is that SENS-based immortality is a no-brainer.

Randall Parker said at June 11, 2004 1:55 AM:

Kurt,

NASA is not a good example to cite for the efficacy of government research funding. Little of NASA's budget funds is allocated to basic research. Most of its budget doesn't go to applied research or technological development either. NASA spends a lot on Shuttle operations and ISS. This is just a big showy jobs program.

As for the DNA sequencing effort: Venter and Celera were very good publicists. But they had less effect on speeding up the rate of sequencing of the human genome than press reports would lead you to believe. A new book I recently read, entitled Digital Code of Life : How Bioinformatics is Revolutionizing Science, Medicine and Business by Glyn Moody, paints a different picture of the whole late 90s DNA sequencing effort. Moody interviewed many of the principal figures and reconstructed the events. The company that played the bigger role was the company that made the DNA sequencing machines. But government funding for DNA sequencing played the key role in creating the demand for those machines, driving that company to produce successive generations of those machines. The basic science and technology for those machines was laid by guys (e.g. Leroy Hood who deserves far more credit than Venter as do some other guys who went off to found ABI) who were at Cal Tech working with funding from government grants starting in the late 70s and into the mid 80s.

I saw Hood present a seminar back in '80 or so about his DNA sequencing machine. He had NSF funding to take a mass spectrometer that was developed for Mariner (i.e. developed with NASA money) and adapt it for DNA sequencing work. The machine was a total marvel for its time and it started the ball rolling toward commercial sequencers with Cal Tech guys eventually (after they had solved major problems) leaving to start a company that became a very major player.

Also, the original Maxam-Gilbert and Sanger DNA sequencing methods were developed in academia, not industry. My guess is that government money funded both teams in that earlier stage as well.

Government funded science works incredibly well. There is not enough incentive for the private sector to fund the science because much of the work can not be owned via patents or other intellectual property law.

Kurt said at June 11, 2004 9:36 AM:

Randall:

If you believe in the effectiveness of government-funded R&D, then you need to be writing your congressman urging their support of SENS. A successful outcome of the SENS project will obsolete much of the research that NIH is currently funding and save the tax payers hundreds of billions of dollars. As I mentioned in my first posting on this board, it is criminal for the U.S. government to impede SENS in anyway what so ever.

As a taxpayer, I consider the SENS research to be a far more effective course of action in biomedical research than anything that the NIH is currently funding. Even if SENS does not enjoy effective funding, we think that its objectives will be achieved 10 years later on the basis of independent research that is already ongoing. That is, if fully funded, the mouse gets immortalized around 2012. If not, it will probably happen by 2020 or so. Human therapies could emerge within 5-10 years after this point, because the basic scientific research will have been done. In any event, we are looking at immortality by 2030 or so.

I really do believe that the opponents of immortality (people like Kass, Fukuyama, McKibben) will eventually be successful prosecuted for crimes against humanity (Nuremburg style) in some future court, if they are still alive at the time. If this is the case, I want to see them hanged, just like the Nazis were. I look forward to seeing this trial.

In the meantime, when the biochip scanner that my friends are developing comes out later this summer, I will use the sales of that (world-wide) as a entry to promote SENS research through out the various Asian countries as well.

Some of the people in the Malaysian ministry of health are aware of SENS. Aubry will be making a presentation on SENS at an anti-aging conference in Singapore in July.

In any event, I regard the development of human immortality as inevitable. Its only a question of when.

RAy Rostan said at June 16, 2004 11:38 PM:

Those writing comments must be young. My concern at 72 is how to regain as much youth as possible. I have been reasonably successful and getting better. I have a wife and four young children. I began some 45 years ago by giving up smoking, a few years later taking up running, and a few more years greatly reducing sugar,salt, and white flour consumption. All brought about minor improvements. Then I came across the Dr. Rinse breakfast [see Online]and began taking it daily 4/1/82. A few months later a sonogram revealed my left carotid artery was about 30% occluded in a wide part of the artery. The Rinse diet was said to reverse artery clogging. So I stuck with the diet and a year later a sonogram showed no signs of the clogging. The same the next year. I was cured. But aging continued. No reversal.
But two years ago, 4/1/02, I began taking daily a slightly modiiified version of the Dr. Johanna Budwig diet [Online]. I used 1/4 cup Yoplait Nouriche liquid nonfat yogurt mixed with 2 tablespoons of omega-3 fatty acids consisting of the contents of two pierced capsules of long chain omega-3 fish oil and the balance short chain omega-3 organic flax oil. The results were noticeable almost immediately. Peripheral vision improved. Brain function improved and is still improving to this day. Maybe a total of one standard deviation. A nickle-sized age spot disappeared in three months. Another much older on my arm took near two years to disappear.
The liver spots, or lipofuscin, is said to accumulate in the brain, heart, lungs, liver and other places internally. I assume they are now completely gone internally and externally. Hair is starting to regrow on my bald pate. I now hear about as well as ever and my eyesight has changed but little since 1978. Both blood pressure and pulse rate are low. Energy and brain levels are the highest they have ever been, and still improving. Associative memory is high-every experience relates to what I have in memory. I read 4 or more newspapers a day.
i don't have time to wait around for science to rescue me. I must take what action I can to maximize health. Maybe then I will be around to take advantage of what science may produce, if anything.
In case it isn't completely obvious, the health establishment will never cure any chronic disease because it is against their monetary and Luciferian interests to do so. The FDA was set up to frustrate the appearance of any such cures. Trillions of dollars are at stake. Cures would likely reduce the health care establishment by at least 80%. Heart disease, our leading cause of death, has been independently cured by both the Dr. Rinse and Dr. Budwig diets. In addition, the Budwig diet reverses high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, liver disease, cancer, liver spots, and a host of other conditons. There seem to be a number of other cures for these diseases. The difference is that the Budwig and Rinse cures use commonly available foods.
Recall that after the Salk vaccine got rid of polio, Congress determined never to allow such a cure again. Hospitals were emptied of their iron lungs. Hospitals, drug makers, and doctors lost a bundle in income. The misery and heartbreak of polio were no more. And they were mad as hell. So Senator Kefauver pushed through a plan to have the FDA rule on the efficacy as well as safety of all new treatments, using the Thalidomide scare as a launching pad, even though the FDA had kept Thalidomide off the Ameircan market for lack of proof of safety.
So today no treatment that is not for a major disease or is not patentable can receive FDA approval due to the $800 million cost of bringing the treatment to market.
For the same reason, no funding will be forthcoming for anti-aging research, because that requires the cure of chronic diseases.
Just look at the professors and administrators who populate our universities. In many ways, they act like idiot savants, elevating the 0.001% possibility into the 100% certainty. They purvey political correctness, which is to say the stiffling of truth and independent thought. And that goes for the National Academhy of Science. Did you know that the speed of light has been slower every time it has been measured since 1676, even though by the same people on the same equipment? Of course not. Were this known, the ancient universe theory would shown to be contrary to fact. Of course, so would evolution, but we already know that is nought but a religious fairy tale for scientists whose only purpose is to counter the Genesis creation story.
We have the best Congress and Supreme Court mney can buy, held in check only by fear of fury of the people.
Selective breeding comes natural. Smart men like to marry smart women and have smart kids. See Murray and Herrnstein's The Bell Curve. I suspect the problem with Europe is that their many wars have greatly reduced their best and brightest. With the French is was their Napoleonic wars and WWI. With the Germans, and to a lesser extent the English, WWI and II. With the blacks and the Mexicans, their habit in past generations of slaughtering the entire families, men, women and children, of captured leaders. With the Arabs, their habit of slaughtering all who opposed them.
What could account for the flowering of Europe is use of herring and flax. William the Conquerer's Domesday survey counted the barrels of herring a shire cuold produce. The Church fed its university students on herring. Day after day. And it produced the intellectual giants that changed the world: Erasmus, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Newton, and a host of others. But it wasn't only university students who ate a lot of herring. Thus we have Shakespeare. And Europe was dependent on flax for fibre from the stalk to make linen cloth and oil from the seed for food and use in paint. Their omega-3 fatty acid content was an enormous aid to brain function. The EPA compponent of fish oil has been shown by Dr. Puri of Hammersmith Hospital in London to regrow the shrunken brain of a 28 year old schizophrenic back to normal size and to make his behavior normal in 18 months. Flax oil was pressed daily in some areas and sold house to house for use as food.
Consider also that all high civilizations were centered around rivers, lakes, and the ocean. But it took the northern people of Europe with their use of herring and flax oil to usher in the modern age. Dr. Budwig has been the chief agent for the reintroduction of omega-3 oils into our diet. The oil binds with the protein in the yogurt and become water soluble and storable in the body, escaping destruction in the liver in its water
soluble form. Daily use will absolutely improve mental and physical function.
By the way, not only am I smarter and healthier than ever, I am also wealthier than ever, having trebled income and accumulated an extra two million in the past five years
For me, the pursuit of truth has paid off. The truth you see shall set you free, said Jesus.

dagon said at April 6, 2005 7:19 AM:

I'd rather be immortal as a 387 year janitor with healthy body equivalent to a 25-year old, going to work smiling every day, than be DEAD. I'll learn buddist meditation to feel happy. Time enough.

But more likely at 387 I'll be programming iceburner robots from a mansion in .3G, in a large spindle habitat orbiting, say, Uranus within 100.000 kilometers, harvesting the few remaining carbuncle vacuum flowers from an inner Uranian moon, to move them to a reservation on Triton. And after some 25 hours of programming these chrome squidlike robots I'll play a little with my genetically engineered bioroid pleasure girls. For 5 hours, nonstop.

Or, tenthousand years later, I'll be somewhere in the NoCoZo (www.orionsarm.com) in some capacity I can't even define yet.

Dead in 40 years? Please no. It's be such a waste.

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