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November 1, 2007 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Aubrey de Grey may be wrong but, evidence suggests, he's not nuts. This is a no small assertion. De Grey argues that some people alive today will live in a robust and youthful fashion for 1,000 years.
posted by shotgunbooty (82 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
His ideas have the benefit of being irressistable to old rich people.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:00 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Never trust anyone over 300.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:00 AM on November 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


That's a lot of Windows Solitaire games.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:02 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


No, thanks. I'm having trouble trying to decide what to do with the next 40 years. I don't need 10x that.
posted by ninjew at 11:02 AM on November 1, 2007


Is that evidence peer-reviewed?
posted by DU at 11:02 AM on November 1, 2007


In before: "I wouldn't want to live so long -- I'd get bored."

Speaking of which, it'd be interesting to see what effect 1000 year lifespans would have on the proportion of lives ending in suicide. And the coincident societal attitude changes toward suicide.
posted by BaxterG4 at 11:03 AM on November 1, 2007


damn it, too slow
posted by BaxterG4 at 11:04 AM on November 1, 2007


Oh and let me guess--it's the poor people, right? People who happened to be born with some disadvantages, they are the ones that will live to be 1000. Did I get it?
posted by DU at 11:04 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


1,000 years? Psssht. I plan to live three times as long.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:05 AM on November 1, 2007


Man, that guy's beard will be SO FUCKING LONG when he's a thousand.
posted by dersins at 11:06 AM on November 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


I plan on living forever. So far, so good!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:06 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd be more interested if people hadn't been saying this for the past hundred years or so. It seems like Life Extension is always just a few years out.

...which is really disappointing and very depressing. Pardon me while I procure a rope and a chair.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on November 1, 2007


And they say divorce rates are bad now.
posted by empyrean at 11:10 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Speaking of which, it'd be interesting to see what effect 1000 year lifespans would have on the proportion of lives ending in suicide beheadings.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:10 AM on November 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


Just like I won't get a haircut from a guy with a mullet, I won't be seeking the immortality proffered by someone who looks like Methuselah.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:14 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Seems like Methuselah would be a pretty expert on immortality. Unless you mean the beard, in which case: If you offer me a pill that will make me live 1000 years, I'm not going to turn it down because of the unattractive facial hair.
posted by DU at 11:16 AM on November 1, 2007


Pretty expert: No
Pretty good expert: Yes
posted by DU at 11:17 AM on November 1, 2007


After looking at dersins' link: He looks kind of dead already, eh? That's the secret. Vampirism.
posted by blacklite at 11:18 AM on November 1, 2007


I'm interested in how people's opinions on things like global warming and peak oil would change if they knew they would have to deal with the fallout for the better part of a millennium.

*imagines a world where someone like Cheney could live for a thousand years*

*sobs*
posted by quin at 11:18 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


This guy has given a pretty interesting ted talk.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:18 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've had an ask.me in the back of my head for a while now, that's basically: How far are we from transferring our brains to solid state?

It seems to me we'd need two things: A way to run a brain in software, and a way to transfer the 'brain state'. Oh, and you'd have to believe, like I do, that the mind is the brain.

And then you kill the old you, of course.

So would that make you any more or less willing to 'live for a thousand years'?

I understand, say, the environmental arguments against prolonging lifespans, but I don't understand the folks who say they really don't want to live longer, like here. I would, for absolute sure. I might hesitate at 'forever', but I'd take 500 years no problem.

Anyway, I remember the original Technology Review article. I like that someone is approaching age as a problem to be solved. I have no idea if Mr de Grey has a good approach, of course. But at least his snake oil is science-colored.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:20 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there a Bruce Sterling book where long-lived people ruled they world because they had equity in old companies?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:23 AM on November 1, 2007


dersins, your comment and the linked photo therein immediately made me think of this Shel Silverstein poem.
posted by cog_nate at 11:24 AM on November 1, 2007


"aging is responsible for two-thirds of all death"

HAHAHAHAHAH!
posted by malaprohibita at 11:25 AM on November 1, 2007


I saw his TED talk posted here a while back and found him to be a modern day magi, complete with the John Dee "gray beard". A showman and charlatan that everyone loves, even if we know he is wrong because we all want to believe. Yeah, in theory many things are possible (time travel, etc).
posted by stbalbach at 11:26 AM on November 1, 2007


Previously?
posted by basicchannel at 11:28 AM on November 1, 2007


These Premises Are Alarmed: note that to get anybody to agree to this (hah!) you'd have to make it a gradual transition from meat to solid-state such that in the end the meat brain would be "empty".

Otherwise you'd end up with you sitting there attached to the computer saying "yep, looks like a copy of my brain is in the computer now... hey, who are these guys with guns?"
posted by BaxterG4 at 11:34 AM on November 1, 2007


Wasn't there a Bruce Sterling book where long-lived people ruled they world because they had equity in old companies?

I don't know about Sterling (never read him) but it's a recurring theme in Heinlein's work.
posted by dersins at 11:35 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is the new kind of celebrity, a scientist not bogged down in experiments and math and stuff, but has nonetheless secured the telephone number of a publicist..

There are a lot of researchers concerned with aging. They are geneticists and cancer researchers. de Grey would know this if he actually did any research.

The real scientists working the problem don't give hip Ted talks, they publish incredibly boring papers in incredibly boring journals that address 1 billionth of the problem, bringing us 1 billionth of the way closer to the solution. But progress is progress.

This guy? He's wasting the many of the precious few moments we have.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:36 AM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


I will live forever or die trying...
posted by DreamerFi at 11:37 AM on November 1, 2007


So this guy is about to cure heart disease and cancer?

(This is not the science you are looking for. Please give money to real scientists instead.)
posted by parudox at 11:39 AM on November 1, 2007


Therse Premises Are Alarmed:

We have about 10^11 neurons, 10^14 synapses. That's a lot, and each neuron does a good deal of computation. A realtime simulation will probably be possible some time after 2020, but how far depends on Moore's Law holding out.

To do that simulation, you'll need to know how the neurons in the brain interact with a lot more precision that we have at the moment. That is the goal of the Blue Brain Project, and it'll probably only take one long research career - less if the process can be intelligently automated somehow.

Then you need an accurate copy of your brain. This is in my opinion the most difficult part. The resolution of current imaging processes is nowhere near good enough, although improvements are still rapid. I see little prospect of non-destructive data collection - I think you'll have to be frozen/vitrified, microtomed and scanned with some superduper scanner. This gets around the whole issue of there being two of you (why would you kill 'the original'? Just keep getting scanned, you'll wake up digital sooner or later).

Worst case scenario IMO: Moore's Law peters out at 2020, so that by 2070, when the microtoming is finally just about good enough, it still takes a huge supercomputer drawing power in the megawatt range to run you at 1/3 realtime. On the bright side, some rich man will have done it, and all you need to is freeze your head until the cost comes down to a level your trust fund can handle, sometime in the 2300s. If, that is, you are still alive in 2070.

I've actually encountered Aubrey de Grey once, at a "fresher's fair" three years ago. I believe his opening gambit was indeed "How would you like to live to 1000?" His beard was a bit shorter then.
posted by topynate at 11:42 AM on November 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Something like what I described is to be found in Permutation City, by Greg Egan, by the way.
posted by topynate at 11:44 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and you'd have to believe, like I do, that the mind is the brain.

Not really a matter of belief, though--there is increasing evidence that mind is the sum of brain and body, and that a disembodied consciousness--at least, anything we'd think of as human consciousness--is simply not possible.

(No links, sorry, but read some thoughts on it here.)

I'd take 450-500 years, sure. With lifespans like that, I think our ideas about suicide would certainly change, more like 'choosing when to exit this looong process'. Marriage, too, probably into something like limited term contracts that can be renewed if one chooses.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:48 AM on November 1, 2007


I bet he was upset when OMNI stopped publishing.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:49 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


1,000 years seems a little optimistic to me.

Say you did eliminate the effects of aging. If you're optimistic, throw cancer and heritable disease on the trash heap as well. But wouldn't destroying the "natural" causes of death just open up statistical elbow room for accidental causes? I'm no actuary, but I would think that the odds of falling victim to "unintentional injuries" would catch up to everybody but the most paranoid shut-ins long before their quadricentennial birthday.

Stem cell research may well lead to freedom from cancer, and resveratrol seems promising for longevity, but I don't think we're particularly close to cures for "hit by car" or "slipped in bathroom" or even garden variety "hunting accident."
posted by Iridic at 11:50 AM on November 1, 2007


I said believe because that's what seems likely to me, but I don't know that much about it. So maybe there's compelling arguments to be made otherwise, I haven't been exposed to them. So I say it's a belief, because I wouldn't have any guns in a fight between neurobiophilosphists.

And really, I guess I'd put my belief as "the mind is the brain (and nervous system)".
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:53 AM on November 1, 2007


I think the most appealing aspect of the potential to live that long is as LooseFilter said- leaving when you are ready.
posted by zennoshinjou at 11:57 AM on November 1, 2007


The problem isn't living for a thousand years; it's who else would live for a thousand years.

Most people say that wouldn't want to live forever, but I'd rather be bored than dead. If the people important to me are living that long too, awesome.
posted by spaltavian at 12:02 PM on November 1, 2007


Everybody lives forever already. Before you were born, there was no time. After you die, time ends. The period that you are alive: that is all the time that there is.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:06 PM on November 1, 2007 [11 favorites]


"You get what everyone gets, you get a lifetime."
posted by greytape at 12:10 PM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Even if they never get close to 1000 years or even 500 years, there is still appeal to improving our quality of life past the midway point.

From all accounts, getting old kinda sucks.
posted by dsquid at 12:13 PM on November 1, 2007


TPAA: Wasn't there a Bruce Sterling book where long-lived people ruled they world because they had equity in old companies?

Don't remember, but for a classic SF treatment of medical immortality check out Spinrad's Jack Barron.

Brain-in-a-can has also been covered by many people, H.P. Lovecraft among them.

Also, it seems like Spinrad fans missed out on Burrougs, or my brain is malfunctioning
posted by the number 17 at 12:15 PM on November 1, 2007


A back of the envelope calculation: from this site, risk of accidental death in 1 year in the US is 1 in 1743, or you have a P=1742/1743 chance of not dying in that year. Over 1000 years, your chance of not dying by accident would be P^1000=0.563.

In other words, roughly 7/16 of the population would die by accident before reaching 1000.
posted by cardboard at 12:21 PM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Interesting; thanks, cardboard! I hereby retract 9/16ths of my pessimism.
posted by Iridic at 12:28 PM on November 1, 2007


If this means I am going to have to start texting a lot and riding a fixie, for 1000 years, I do not want.
posted by everichon at 12:29 PM on November 1, 2007


I always thought the secret to immortality was swimming with Wilford Brimley. Shows what I know.
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:31 PM on November 1, 2007


Altered Carbon's stacks for everybody!
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 12:37 PM on November 1, 2007


Oh my god, being a teenager in a world filled with 1,000-year-old people is going to be excruciating. If they think it's tiresome hearing their parents tell them how little they know, imagine hearing it from 30,000 sets of grandparents. (assumes extended fertility period, and that nobody checks my math)

Birthdays should be lucrative though!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:41 PM on November 1, 2007


Oops. 1/1743 isn't just the risk of accidental death: that number includes all death due to injury including murders, war, suicides and medical mistakes as well.
posted by cardboard at 12:42 PM on November 1, 2007


It seems to me we'd need two things: A way to run a brain in software, and a way to transfer the 'brain state'. Oh, and you'd have to believe, like I do, that the mind is the brain.

what? that goes against what you just said. If the mind is the brain, then you can't download it to software - it's a bunch of fleshy bloody neurons and such. You can't "download" that. You have to believe the mind is a pattern of information that is represented by the brain, or something, in order to be able to imagine a scenario by which these patterns could be transferred into digital code and still think and feel and have meaningful experiences. And you have to believe that these patterns can be copied and transferred without altering the "ownership" of the consciousness, so to speak (as we argued about around here another time.) In a way you have to think the brain is pretty accidental to the whole thing to believe you can download the mind.
posted by mdn at 1:07 PM on November 1, 2007


What I mean when I say "the mind is the brain" is that there's no extra-physical component to it. That is, if you could map the fleshy bloody neurons and their electrochemical state, you could extract consciousness. IE, no 'soul' that would be destroyed in transfer. Maybe "the mind is the brain" doesn't clearly express that?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:18 PM on November 1, 2007


quin -

I'm interested in how people's opinions on things like global warming and peak oil would change if they knew they would have to deal with the fallout for the better part of a millennium.


Given that I am still a little hung over, I'm guessing that humanity's ability to take future consequences into account stops at around the 10 hour mark. Credit card balances and waistlines my be also be relevant...
posted by bonecrusher at 1:39 PM on November 1, 2007


This will have some interesting implications for lifetime appointments.

All hail the 1000 year reign of Justice Clarence Thomas!
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:46 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


dersins wrote "Wasn't there a Bruce Sterling book where long-lived people ruled they world because they had equity in old companies?"

Even older. H G Wells, When the Sleeper Wakes, if you want; one person ends up owning a controlling stake in nearly everything, thanks to compounding interest and a long, long nap.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:47 PM on November 1, 2007


The problem isn't living for a thousand years; it's who else would live for a thousand years.

Yikes, and if we all had access to this fountain of age, pretty soon we'd be waist-deep in other people. You thought over-population was a problem now? I don't see a rise in suicides, accidents -- I see a rise in state-mandated neutering.
posted by not_on_display at 1:48 PM on November 1, 2007


Meatbomb writes "Everybody lives forever already. Before you were born, there was no time. After you die, time ends. The period that you are alive: that is all the time that there is."

That's nice to think, but it's solipsistic.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:11 PM on November 1, 2007


When he talks about people soon putting a higher premium on health than wealth, he twirls the ends of his mustache back behind his ears, murmuring, "So many women, so much time."

how much is he charging for mustache rides?
posted by snofoam at 2:23 PM on November 1, 2007


TPAA: You're thinking of Holy Fire.
posted by Cassilda at 2:31 PM on November 1, 2007


Teenagers act like idiots because they think they're immortal. And, fractionally speaking, they have only lived around 1/8 of their life.

Does that mean people will be idiots until they are 125?

The fact is, that humans are not living remarkably differently than they did 2 thousand years ago. No, shut up, they're not. We still primarily get our food from eating, we generally live to be somewhere in the 40-80 range, we live in houses, and when we die we're dead (the odd resuscitation notwithstanding). But throw some really weird things into the mix, like living handily into 2-3 centuries or so, or heavens help us, humans awakening from cryonics, and you have a real psychological quandry on your hands. When people really do live "effectively" forever, how exactly do we deal with this?

The only good news from this is I suspect that worst case scenario, only one from cryonics or life extension will win. If people are living 1000 years, they won't bother much with freezing or unfreezing themselves.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:34 PM on November 1, 2007


What I mean when I say "the mind is the brain" is that there's no extra-physical component to it. That is, if you could map the fleshy bloody neurons and their electrochemical state, you could extract consciousness. IE, no 'soul' that would be destroyed in transfer. Maybe "the mind is the brain" doesn't clearly express that?

Try to think about what you just said. No extra physical component, except that you could destroy the physical part (you could "extract" consciousness and have no further need for the brain). So obviously there is an "extra physical component" - the pattern of the information. That is what most of those old theologians were yammering about back when they talked about "souls" (the greek for soul is "psyche" and it was a big argument whether it was separable from the matter or not - simplistically, plato thought the form of the mind could be separated and aristotle thought it was united with the matter itself. You are on plato's side the way you're talking here.)

An "extra physical component" is not another kind of physicality, like a ghost that floats around and acts like matter but not quite. It is actually distinct from matter. The most common argument is that it is the form or pattern or intelligibility. To say that the mind can be recreated or downloaded without the original matter suggests that that mind can be represented in any number of different ways but still be the same mind - it can be represented by this particular lump of carbon grey matter, but apparently it can also be represented by silicone chips, and not be marred in the process of going between those two states. If this is true, why is it impossible that nature passes on this pattern of information, either on this planet as reincarnation believers claim, or into some other dimension, as believers in an afterlife claim? Your claim is no less unlikely. You are speaking of an extra-material seat of consciousness.
posted by mdn at 2:51 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know, Deathalicious. All those people freaking out, a population boom, collapse of the current global order - I'd rather sleep through that and take my 900 extra years sometime in the 4th millennium.

mdn, ever heard of modal realism?
posted by topynate at 2:55 PM on November 1, 2007


Also, from the article itself:
"At issue is the conflict between the scientific process and the ambiguous status of ideas that have not yet been subjected to that process," Myhrvold wrote for the judges.

Well yes, that.
Well, DUH, yes, *that*.

I am now going to offer my own challenge: I will offer $50k to anyone who can prove, definitively, that unicorns never existed, and never can exist. Not a real challenge plus I don't have the cash

For one thing, I imagine it's relatively meaningless to talk scientifically about people lasting 1000 years since we wouldn't really have a way of measuring the effectiveness of longetivity treatments until that time had passed, right?

I remember people saying that CDs would last forever; turns out some of them are already starting to break down on a molecular level or something. Human bodies are not made of plastic, they are made of something that breaks down a whole lot faster than plastic.

Oh, and also I'm no biologist, but isn't there a serious problem with stem cells? They stay younger a whole lot longer than normal cells, but at the expense of splitting more slowly and not "dying out" like normal cells eventually do. But if we were living 200+ years, what would those cells start doing?
posted by Deathalicious at 2:58 PM on November 1, 2007


mdn, by that logic my chair's "seat of chairness" (see what I did there?) isn't in the molecules that make up the chair but in the pattern in which they're arranged. Which I'd agree with, I guess, but that doesn't seem to make it significantly more likely that this chair will be made immortal by God's holy reconstitution of it in another dimension after it's destroyed here on Earth.
posted by BaxterG4 at 2:59 PM on November 1, 2007


I look forward to it.
posted by Krrrlson at 3:22 PM on November 1, 2007


mdn, by that logic my chair's "seat of chairness" (see what I did there?) isn't in the molecules that make up the chair but in the pattern in which they're arranged. Which I'd agree with, I guess, but that doesn't seem to make it significantly more likely that this chair will be made immortal by God's holy reconstitution of it in another dimension after it's destroyed here on Earth.

You cannot discuss downloading the chairness of a chair onto a computer disk and have it be exactly the same, without the material component (you could have descriptions of one, like descriptions of a person, but a consciousness itself is a different thing). But the claim above was that consciousness could be consciousness without the material component (the brain) but just the downloaded information about the pattern of the material component. I am just pointing out that that is what ancient and medieval scholars were saying when they talked about souls - not something magical, but something purely rational, just the information or "form" itself.

Basically, if you think the mind could be downloaded from the brain, then you do believe in a certain kind of "soul", a certain kind of mind that is separable from the body. If you think the mind and the brain are truly identical, then you cannot download the mind from the brain. This is the root of the ancient argument, and it's being misunderstood here so that so long as you recognize the correlation of the mind and the brain, you're scientific, and "on the right side". I'm just trying to point out that the argument was more complicated than that. Most thinkers weren't doubting correlation between mental consciousness and physical body. They're arguing over whether the identity between them is absolute, or whether the mental aspect is a form or pattern that could be separated.

True, they are thinking of this separation as a natural process rather than a human-driven one, so we can make a claim for it being less likely (ie, for their being no evidence of it having happened naturally, but that not meaning we couldn't create it in the future), but the supposedly "magical" component being decried as ridiculous when believed by the religious is exactly the same thing you are espousing by imagining we could download our minds. That's all I'm getting at here.
posted by mdn at 4:00 PM on November 1, 2007


mdn, ever heard of modal realism?

the David Lewis stuff? Is it relevant here? I'm not much into analytic beyond the crossovery types but have come across the basics I think. I'm not sure what you're getting at.
posted by mdn at 4:09 PM on November 1, 2007


he sees it as merely an engineering problem.
That's what I like about de Grey.
And Kurzweil too.
They are not paralyzed by fatality or human destiny.
Before de Grey appeared on the stage, Kurzweil wrote that something like extreme longevity would become possible when reverse engineering biology (what de Grey is talking about) will meet engineering biology (what Craig Venter is after).
So it's not really science fiction.
It's engineering and science.
Nobody jumps when scientists are talking about curing cancer, which is basically about controlling cell generation, which is not very far from the research de Grey is calling for.

It's also worth noting that de Grey doesn't talk about uploading the mind but about living a long time in a healthy body with healthy cells. I don't see what is wrong with such a goal.
posted by bru at 5:20 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


mdn, I don't know that it's a good idea to introduce modal realism, but it answers all questions of extra-materiality by stating that anything possible is actual in some world. A modal realist would respond to your contention that if brain structures are separable from their material substrate, reincarnation etc. is just as possible as any other form of instantiation, by saying that any reincarnation takes place in some of the worlds - not our own - where this is possible, as does any other logically possible, but unphysical event.

Such a view is orthogonal to that on what consciousness really is. It says nothing about whether internal experience is unitary, whether it can be transferred via a truncated simulation to a different possible world obeying different laws, or anything of that nature.

But de Grey doesn't care about all that. He's at a lower Shock Level.
posted by topynate at 5:38 PM on November 1, 2007


In other words, roughly 7/16 of the population would die by accident before reaching 1000.

I suspect as we uncover the secrets of disease and aging that we'll be able to do more about accidents and death. So chances would be if we can assume we're understanding these things so much to increase longevity more than 10fold, we'll probably be able to take a dent out of the accidental death odd too.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:55 PM on November 1, 2007


topynate, nice move bringing up SL.

Recently I was having a conversation with a dedicated SL2 advocate like de Grey. This is a person who has gone into biology specifically to study and cure aging, but who also has contracted with Alcor for cryonic storage. When I suggested his best bet for exiting cryonic storage was the microtome and simulation he was aghast; he wants cellular medical immortality, and doesn't want to come out of cryonic storage until they can fix the damage and rebuild his original body.

I guess that makes me SL3 since I genuinely believe that a suitably high resolution and accurately rendered copy of you is, well, you. I have no problem with that. Being software would introduce control problems and the problem of multiple instances, both of which I've written disturbing stories about. But that's part of the deal.

The thing is, I think we will have SL3 uploading long before we satisfy the SL2 purists who want their bio bodies immortal; that's going to take a much higher technology.

As for SL4, I've never gone there in fiction. But this reminds me that my plans for my next novel (been coming Real Soon Now since Katrina, but I'm workin on it) actually do go to SL4. So I guess I'm making progress.

Still no contract with Alcor, though. I'm not convinced enough that it will actually happen in time to lay down that kind of money I could be spending on booze and IMAX movies.
posted by localroger at 6:03 PM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


he's not nuts

Dude, when he was 26, he married a woman 19 years *older* than he was.

Unless she's richer than Daddy Warbucks, and doesn't mind him sleeping with other women, he's obviously barking mad.

His ideas have the benefit of being irressistable to old rich people.

So much so that they want to marry him.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:35 PM on November 1, 2007


I wanna live FOR-Ever...Light up the sky like a FLAME! FAME!!!

semi-seriously though...i had the craziest dream on the subject a few weeks ago...i was living in a future in which you could live youthfully just about as long as you wanted...except..you know how they say 'the HANDS always give it away'? ..it was like the hands of dorian grey. also you wouldn't grow any more teeth. so there was this whole industry of people called 'handteeth' who were pretty much like midwives for your hands and teeth, coming in weekly to take care of them, moisturizing your hands and massaging your gums and such. also, orangewood sticks were like a reeeally big deal, being listed on the commodities exchange right between gold and long pig pork bellies.

oh, and PaterMcdumbass...don't be a sexist shit. its not attractive. not ever.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:14 PM on November 1, 2007


Laugh if you must, but this discovery was announced today:

Scientists have been astounded by the creation of a genetically modified "supermouse"... it can run for hours at 20 metres per minute without getting tired, lives longer, has more sex, and eats more without gaining weight.
posted by the jam at 9:05 PM on November 1, 2007


I'm a De Gray fan and enthusiast. But of course I would be. I train kids to be astronauts living in space.

[BTW? Last week's International Symposium on Personal Spaceflight in Las Cruces, NM, was awesome!]
posted by humannaire at 11:28 PM on November 1, 2007


I guess that makes me SL3 since I genuinely believe that a suitably high resolution and accurately rendered copy of you is, well, you. I have no problem with that.

But suppose I were to (perfectly, painlessly) fork your entire neural process over to silicon, so that you had an exact mental "twin" entombed in a supercomputer.

Would you then be willing to shoot your biological self in the head, confident that you'd "awaken" as the twin in the same way we awaken from sleep, and from other lapses in the process of consciousness?
posted by kid ichorous at 12:38 AM on November 2, 2007


BTW, I have no idea how I'd answer that myself, but since arcane terminology ("SL?") is rearing its head, I'm curious as to whether this question has already been philosophically decided...
posted by kid ichorous at 12:42 AM on November 2, 2007


Interview
posted by Phanx at 1:53 AM on November 2, 2007


kid ichorous -- as I said, there are issues with duplication. The problem doesn't arise if the scan is destructive. If you could somehow do it non-destructively, then you'd have to look at the process as creating a new immortal twin of yourself while the old mortal self would grind on.

I wouldn't say any of this has been "philosophically decided." Heck, there are still people running around who don't believe mere matter could be all there is to consciousness.

SL refers to topynate's shock level link, which goes to Eliezer Yudkowsky's essay on the four levels of future shock.
posted by localroger at 6:39 AM on November 2, 2007


Thanks, localroger and topynate, I missed that essay.

It's always creeped me out when they use transporters in Sci Fi for the same reason - does Kirk get disintegrated, only to have a perfect "imposter" Kirk re-assembled somewhere else? And why don't they use transporters to bring back the dead, etc?
posted by kid ichorous at 11:26 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


mdn, I don't know that it's a good idea to introduce modal realism, but it answers all questions of extra-materiality by stating that anything possible is actual in some world

THat doesn't answer any of these questions, because the issue is what's possible. Can the form of something exist distinctly from the actual matter? If you think you can download a mind from a brain, you are saying yes - that there is something aside from the matter itself - that it is the organization or form of the matter that is really the important part. It is not the blood and flesh, the actual warm sticky 3 pounds in your skull, that is your mind; it's some information (or, idea) coded into that.

If you believe that, you are endorsing a new, more high-tech, but completely analogous notion of "soul". You are absolutely not a committed materialist at that point. That is a kind of idealism (no shame, just pointing it out).
posted by mdn at 2:02 PM on November 2, 2007


I suspect as we uncover the secrets of disease and aging that we'll be able to do more about accidents and death.

This may happen eventually, but it may be an even longer time frame than it'd be to achieve medical immortality.

Think about it. Our culture is built upon the assumption that a certain amount of lethal risk is acceptable. Otherwise we'd not have mass transportation, which carries with it a certain inherent risk even if you never board a car in your life.

A great portion of that accidental death is from transportation, and to do without it we'd have to greatly change how our modern society works. Historically, these are changes that don't usually occur if people with lots of money don't wish them to happen, and those are the ones who stand to gain the most from keeping it.
posted by JHarris at 9:26 AM on November 3, 2007


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