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View Full Version : Man wants to live to tomorrow so he can live forever...



hewhocaves
2005-Feb-15, 10:37 PM
http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/diet.fitness/02/15/one.mans.immortality.ap/index.html

I didn't know whether to stick it in "against the mainstream" here.
I tossed it here cause' i can't justify it on astronomical grounds.

The part I like best is that our cells have little computer programs in it. An interesting metaphor.. but what if our soul is Windows based? :o
I'd want to swap souls with a linux model then...

so what's the consensus on this guy... crank or genius?

John

tmosher
2005-Feb-15, 10:48 PM
The guy's smart.....but.....who would want to live forever?

Probably get a bit boring by the fourth or fifth hundred years.

Anybody remember that TOS episode where no one died on a planet? You know, the one where Kirk fell in love . . . I mean the one where the planet was basically full-up.

TriangleMan
2005-Feb-15, 10:50 PM
This is tougher to judge than your usual ATM stuff so here goes some analysis of his nanobots leading to immortality claim . . .

The claims are fantastic, but Kurzweil is no crank. He's a recipient of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT prize, which is billed as a sort of Academy Award for inventors, and he won the 1999 National Medal of Technology Award . . . .Perhaps the MIT graduate's most famous invention is the first reading machine for the blind that could read any typeface.
Okay, looks like he's got the credentials to have informed opinions on robotics and machinery. . .

His predictions, Kurzweil said, are based on carefully constructed scientific models that have proven accurate. For instance, in his 1990 book, "The Age of Intelligent Machines," Kurzweil predicted the development of a worldwide computer network and of a computer that could beat a chess champion.
Not great evidence: I was right on somewhat unrelated predictions therefore I'm right now. Also seems to be counting the hits and forgetting the misses -- how many of his predictions failed? Was a prediction of a worldwide computer network in 1990 that tough to do?

The article doesn't provide the other evidence that led to his conclusions but as soon as I started reading I immediately started thinking what this one critic was thinking:

Sherwin Nuland, a bioethics professor at Yale University's School of Medicine, calls Kurzweil a "genius" but also says he's a product of a narcissistic age when brilliant people are becoming obsessed with their longevity. "They've forgotten they're acting on the basic biological fear of death and extinction, and it distorts their rational approach to the human condition," Nuland said.

The article doesn't present a lot of evidence but so far I'm of the opinion that much of this stems from his concerns about his limited lifespan. Just speculation on my part though. :-k

Van Rijn
2005-Feb-15, 11:08 PM
I'd say genius ... but while I think he is basically correct, I am extremely skeptical of the "20 year" figure for the advances he mentions (note though that even he doesn't say this is absolute). There is no fundamental physical reason people must suffer the changes we call "aging." I would like to see a serious effort to study and directly affect the process, but there is a strong societal and religious attitude that aging is "good" and attempting to stop it is bad, goes against god or nature, impossible, etc. This makes it hard to get people to even take the subject seriously, let alone have serious money allocated to research the issue.

On nanotechnology: Molecular biology is all about molecular machines. It is an existence proof that complex molecular machines are not only possible but already exist. However, we don't know how hard it is to create complex molecular machines that do the things we want. And Drexler style nanomachines (what you usually hear being discussed) would work quite differently - mechanistic "dry nanotechnology" instead of the protein based "wet nanotechnology" of biological systems. There are a lot of problems trying to get true mechanistic systems to work at the nanoscale.

The upshot is that it isn't clear to me whether this will turn out to be an "easy" problem or a "hard" one - as advanced AI has turned out to be. From a physical standpoint, it is almost certainly possible to create human level AIs. It is an extremely complex problem, however, and it may be a very long time before it happens. The same may be true of nanorobotics capable of altering the body at the molecular scale. Also, it should be obvious that these are extremely powerful technologies, and stopping aging would be one of the smaller changes you would see. There would be great danger as well as great promise.

Normandy6644
2005-Feb-16, 12:32 AM
I think a lot more problems arise with immortality than we are willing to consider, such as population and things of that nature. Although perhaps given enough time we would figure out ways to colonize other worlds. Even still, it's hard to say whether or not he will turn out to be correct.

Ilya
2005-Feb-16, 03:00 AM
I am currently reading "Pandora's Star" by Peter Hamilton. It is a very dense book, by SF standards, with many plot lines going in parallel, so it makes for a slow reading, but I am impressed with Hamilton's interpretation of near-immortality, and of its social implication. I don't think I had ever seen anyone put as much thought into that matter.

Chuck
2005-Feb-16, 03:41 AM
This is an excellent book of short stories on the subject:

http://chuckgaydos.homestead.com/files/immortals.jpg

http://chuckgaydos.homestead.com/files/immortalscontents.jpg

um3k
2005-Feb-16, 03:52 AM
I don't want to live forever, I'd settle for 250.

Chuck
2005-Feb-16, 04:30 AM
I almost forgot, we're all already immortal. I mentioned it back here (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=45844&highlight=immortal#45844) in 2002 and I'm still alive which is confirming evidence.

Inferno
2005-Feb-16, 04:57 AM
If you're gonna live forever, you better well spend at least some of your time developing interstellar space ships, otherwise your going to spend a long time in rather uncomfortable conditions when the sun becomes a red giant.

Brady Yoon
2005-Feb-16, 05:03 AM
I wouldn't complain if humans could become immortal. But there would be a lot of problems, probably the negative effects would shadow the positive. If you could live forever, nobody would take any risk whatsoever and death becomes the thing that people always fear.

Not a society that inspires hope..

Grey
2005-Feb-16, 05:36 AM
I am currently reading "Pandora's Star" by Peter Hamilton. It is a very dense book, by SF standards, with many plot lines going in parallel, so it makes for a slow reading, but I am impressed with Hamilton's interpretation of near-immortality, and of its social implication. I don't think I had ever seen anyone put as much thought into that matter.
Can you at least summarize his ideas briefly?

Chuck
2005-Feb-16, 05:44 AM
Here's (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345461622/qid=1108532468/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_b_2_1/103-7294320-6439866) a review. I've already ordered a copy.

Normandy6644
2005-Feb-16, 06:01 AM
If you're gonna live forever, you better well spend at least some of your time developing interstellar space ships, otherwise your going to spend a long time in rather uncomfortable conditions when the sun becomes a red giant.

I was always curious about what happens to an immortal when the sun becomes a red giant. Do you still feel pain? What happens when you're stuck in space with no air to breathe?

Mars
2005-Feb-16, 06:08 AM
I'd take up sword fighting.

kucharek
2005-Feb-16, 07:00 AM
If you're gonna live forever, you better well spend at least some of your time developing interstellar space ships, otherwise your going to spend a long time in rather uncomfortable conditions when the sun becomes a red giant.

I was always curious about what happens to an immortal when the sun becomes a red giant. Do you still feel pain? What happens when you're stuck in space with no air to breathe?

Immortality usually just means that your body isn't aging or degrading in other ways. It doesn't mean that your body is indestructible.
I agree that people would become much more afraid of dying by ways of an accident. We are already a pretty risk-adverse society. Immortality in our time would have a lot of negatives for society and perhaps most people couldn't handle it. Some Star Trek-like society may be a better base for such a development.
I don't see colonization of space as a way to avoid overpopulation. At our current growth rate, you would have to launch thousands of people each hour to counter the growth rate.

TriangleMan
2005-Feb-16, 11:49 AM
I don't see colonization of space as a way to avoid overpopulation. At our current growth rate, you would have to launch thousands of people each hour to counter the growth rate.
Sagan once said you'd have to launch 250,000 people per day to counter the growth rate. It is probably even worse now.

eburacum45
2005-Feb-16, 12:53 PM
And in a society of immortals, the birth rate would need to balance the rate of emigration exactly, assuming that immortals did not have any other way to leave the population.
Actually there might be other ways for immortals to make way for new members of society; I expect that suicide might be common and socially acceptable, as in Ian Bank's Culture novels. Perhaps they could elect to be uploaded into electronic form, as they would take up less volume that way; or immortals might elect to be stored in an inert form for later reanimation.

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die

Fram
2005-Feb-16, 12:55 PM
Much too complicated a subject to give answers in just a few sentences, but just a thought on the overpopulation.
In many developing countries, people get lots of children for a variety of reasons (religion being one of them), but one of the main reasons is that those children wil take care of you when you're old.
Now, if you don't get old, you don't need a bunch of children to look after you, so the growth rate will slow down considerably (after a transitional period of course). After all, in many western countries there is no population growth nowadays (but we still die, so the calculation gets complicated).

I'm rambling, my point is that with immortality, people will get less children (perhaps one every fifty years or so, wild guess), so you need to ship less people off to other planets 8)

Ilya
2005-Feb-27, 02:11 AM
I am currently reading "Pandora's Star" by Peter Hamilton. It is a very dense book, by SF standards, with many plot lines going in parallel, so it makes for a slow reading, but I am impressed with Hamilton's interpretation of near-immortality, and of its social implication. I don't think I had ever seen anyone put as much thought into that matter.
Can you at least summarize his ideas briefly?

Here's an even better review (http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue358/books2.html).

However, it touches little on the life-extension angle. To summarize, human beings are capable of functional immortality. Those who can afford to do so (meaning any rich, and middle class with some foresight) go to a clinic to be rejuvenated every 40 years or so, emerging with an 18 year old's body, with all that implies. Memory implants and storage mean that even in the event of bodydeath one can be cloned and old memories downloaded, although this is wretchedly uncomfortable and takes several years.

The power structures are what you'd expect in a system where all rich people just keep on getting richer, and corporations never get turned over to the next generation -- at least not irreversibly. All people who are good at making money keep on doing it, for centuries. The Grand Families (Earth based) and Intersolar Dynasties (Phase One and Two worlds) have an awful lot of influence on the political process, hardly surprising as they own whole planets. The Commonwealth is a democracy, but the wealthy enjoy an extreme advantage over the common plebe in the process.

And yes, very few middle class people have children. Reproduction seems to have become the province of the poor (who need children to support them in old age) and the very rich (who need children to help run commercial empires). Middle class neither need children nor can really afford them.

Hey, isn't this situation coming about already?

SkepticJ
2005-Feb-27, 06:58 PM
I'm failing to see why one would have children if you're immortal. The purpose of having kids is because life dies. In a changing world new children being born and the old ones dying off is good because life couldn't evolve to fit the environment if this didn't happen. However since humans will be able to change our genetics and structures on the fly with stem cells and nanotech then this is no problem. Instead of populations evolving individuals can. Taking it even farther why wouldn't we just be a big brain in a tank in a few hundred years? You have several bodies that give their sensory input back to you. You control them via radio. If one gets run over by a hover train then you're not even hurt. The damaged robotic body would be dropped into a vat of micro and nanomachines for repair, then you get it back.

Messenger
2005-Feb-27, 08:33 PM
Here's the thing: Sociologically, religion is not the main force behind population increase, education is. Specifically, education of women. Given more options to power, they choose to bear fewer children.

I was informed when I was in the fifth grade that by now, I would have available to me about as much personal space as an average phone booth, because of population increases. Then AIDS hit. The reality is that biological checks and balances still affect human populations, and so no prediction about population density can be held to be anything more than an educated guess. One good dose of the flu, one pandemic, and all the predictions go out the window. And that's leaving aside the dramatic decrease in population growth in Europe & North America, where economics and education have affected birth rate.

Immortality will be the privelege of the elite -- but it's unlikely in the extreme that it can be accomplished. If we were even at a stage where we understood how our bodies work, I could be optomistic about this, but we don't. We don't know how to "turn off" cancer, we don't know how our hormones work, exactly, we don't know if nerve tissue regenerates, or how to stimulate that -- we cannot design machines to do things that we ourselves do not understand, and we are decades away from understanding these things. So while I admire anything that promotes health (not necessarily immortality), I think this is wishful thinking.

Chuck
2005-Feb-27, 09:52 PM
Even if all diseases can be cured and aging stopped, people still won't live forever. Death will still be caused by war, crime, and accident. Maybe computer chips in our heads can stop the war and crime but there's no way to put an end to accidents completely. It's not possible to control everything.

Even if your body somehow manages to stay alive for a million years, the person who inhabits it now will be long gone. People change over time and gradual changes accumulate. The mind controlling that body won't be anything like yours any more. There won't be any moment of mental death when you could be said to have ceased to exist, but you'll be gone none the less.

Messenger
2005-Feb-28, 12:20 AM
Yeah...we could all be immortal, and crazy :(

Apothis
2005-Feb-28, 02:36 AM
hey chuck,
where can I find that book that you posted? I tried searching on barnes and noble but I'm not having much luck. Any help would be appreciated!

(Ok, now back to the discussion :D )

Chuck
2005-Feb-28, 04:09 AM
Here (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/044100539X/qid=1109563681/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/102-8049223-2004967?v=glance&s=books), at Amazon.com.

SkepticJ
2005-Feb-28, 10:37 PM
Even if your body somehow manages to stay alive for a million years, the person who inhabits it now will be long gone. People change over time and gradual changes accumulate. The mind controlling that body won't be anything like yours any more. There won't be any moment of mental death when you could be said to have ceased to exist, but you'll be gone none the less.

But I think the personality and important memories would be passed on. I have the same love of science I always have. I'm still as humorous as I was as a child. I still like to draw and so forth. The things that have changed is what I know and my worldview. If I was immortal I'd always be learning new things, but my naturalistic worldview is here to stay.

bacterium-in-spaceship
2005-Mar-01, 11:50 PM
I don't see colonization of space as a way to avoid overpopulation. At our current growth rate, you would have to launch thousands of people each hour to counter the growth rate.

Why couldn't this be feasible in the long run, given economic and technological growth, economies of scale, and so on? (I have no opinion myself, because I haven't done the math.)

(For uploads, it's easy: you can beam them around at light speed.)

Van Rijn
2005-Mar-02, 01:28 AM
Why couldn't this be feasible in the long run, given economic and technological growth, economies of scale, and so on? (I have no opinion myself, because I haven't done the math.
(For uploads, it's easy: you can beam them around at light speed.)

The issue is exponential population growth. Exponential growth will eventually run into any finite limit. If you have a "magic matter maker" the sphere of humanity would eventually (in some number of centuries depending on the growth rate) collapse into a black hole from the mass confined in a small area. If you can travel at the speed of light, you would have a sphere of humanity expanding at the speed of light into the universe - but it wouldn't be able to continue to grow exponentially, only cubically. If you can go anywhere in the universe instantaneously, and assuming the universe is finite, humanity would be everywhere in a few thousand years. And so on. Exponential growth can only continue forever if there are infinite resources. Understand that this is NOT an argument against life extension - we can handle exponential population growth just fine already.

Ilya
2005-Mar-07, 10:19 PM
New book on the subject I greatly recommend: More Than Human (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0767918436/qid=1110210300/sr=8-2/ref=pd_bbs_2/102-1124880-0131304?v=glance&s=books&n=507846) by Ramez Naam[/url].

I found particularly interesting the observation how disingenuous is the "eugenics" argument that many opponents of cloning, or life extension, or genetic engineering use. They equate such "human-enhancing" techniques with the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century, offshoots of which were adopted by the Nazis.

Eugenics was a part of totalitarianism -- a government forcing people into a single genetic ideal. The irony is that today proponents of these technologies are seeking them for use by the free choice of individuals, while the opponents wish to implement government policies to prevent their use. In effect, it is rabid opponents of human gene enhancement (http://www.billmckibben.com/) who are true eugenicists: they are determined to hold all humans (explicitely against their will) to a single genetic norm -- the one we happen to have today.