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Biotech Science

Engineering An End to Aging 986

Posted by timothy
from the bullets-stop-aging dept.
Reason writes "Biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey has put forward a biological engineering plan to end human aging and co-founded the Methuselah Mouse Prize in recent years. Now he is finally getting some of the public recognition he deserves in an excellent David Stipp article at Fortune Magazine. If you ever wondered exactly how to go about engineering away the 50 million deaths due to aging that occur each and every year - and how to bring about a sea change in the scientific establishment - then this is the place to start. As an added bonus, I don't think you'll find a more succinct (and utterly British) answer to overpopulation objections to life extension than the one at the end of this article!"
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Engineering An End to Aging

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  • by mpost4 (115369) * on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:20PM (#9315703) Homepage Journal
    If i lived forever I would get board, I probably join Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged in insulting the universe, we could insult everybody in it. Individually, personally, one by one, and in Alphabetical Order. I don't care if it is imposable I can dream can't I?

    http://hhgproject.org/entries/wowbagger.html
  • by stankulp (69949) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:20PM (#9315709) Homepage
    ...that we are all going to die some day.
    • Just not on the same day.
    • by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:02PM (#9316312) Journal
      Look to the wisdom of Carl:

      "Whatever, you do your thing, I'll do mine. Y'know. Whatever. You're the stupid one. Think you're gonna live forever? Nope. Someone'll kill ya. Someone'll kill ya with a knife. Sorry, that's just the way it is."

      -Carl, ATHF
    • by cosmo7 (325616) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:15PM (#9316487) Homepage
      Tyrell: What-- What seems to be the problem?

      Roy: Death.

      Tyrell: Death. Well, I'm afraid that's a little out of my jurisdiction, you--

      Roy: I want more life, fucker.

      Tyrell: The facts of life. To make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life system is fatal. A coding sequence cannot be revised once it's been established.

      Roy: Why not?

      Tyrell: Because by the second day of incubation, any cells that have undergone reversion mutations give rise to revertant colonies like rats leaving a sinking ship. Then the ship sinks.

      Roy: What about EMS recombination.

      Tyrell: We've already tried it. Ethyl methane sulfonate as an alkylating agent and potent mutagen. It created a virus so lethal the subject was dead before he left the table.

      Roy: Then a repressive protein that blocks the operating cells.

      Tyrell: Wouldn't obstruct replication, but it does give rise to an error in replication so that the newly formed DNA strand carries the mutation and you've got a virus again. But, uh, this-- all of this is academic. You were made as well as we could make you.

      Roy: But not to last.

      Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very very brightly, Roy. Look at you. You're the prodigal son. You're quite a prize!
  • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:21PM (#9315728)
    If people are going to stop dying they had best stop reproducing as well. There's already too many of you people breathing my air and eating my corn chips.
  • by Pi_0's don't shower (741216) <ethan@isp.northwester n . edu> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:22PM (#9315729) Homepage Journal
    As far as I know, from the Methuselah Mouse Prize, the current record holder (by a lot, mind you) has been people who have kept their mice alive the longest by keeping their mice healthy.

    It's nice to think science will hold all the answers to everything, as (at least the USA) is obsessed with looking/staying young, but does anyone else see this as not realistic? Anyone else think that just staying as healthy and active as you can is the best way to go, rather than literally hoping for a miracle?
    • Actually I got the record by replacing my mouse every 2 years with a younger one. I have had 6 incarnations of Fifi so far and amazingly she looks as young as ever.
    • But the whole purpose of wanting to live as long as I can is so I can eat more yummy MacDonalds!
    • by Gudlyf (544445) <gudlyf.realistek@com> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:52PM (#9316167) Homepage Journal
      "Anyone else think that just staying as healthy and active as you can is the best way to go, rather than literally hoping for a miracle?

      I may get flamed for this, but I'll say it anyway...This is why obesety is a problem in the U.S. People look for that miracle drug or easy-out diet that they can just "do" and see results that will last them a lifetime. The results from such things may last their lifetime, albeit perhaps shorter that it may have been if they made a lifestyle change. Keeping healthy and fit is not something meant to be done for short spurts throughout your life where you lose weight, gain it back, lose it again, etc. like a yo-yo. The key to successfully keeping your weight under control is to make a change that you'll keep for life and not tire of in a few months/years.

      Want to follow the Atkins Diet? Fine, but can you see yourself doing it for the rest of your life? If so, and it works for you, great! Stick with it! The key is sticking with something. Personally I may see people chomping on a T-Bone steak for breakfast and it makes me want to hurl, and I have a really hard time believing they'll stick with that for more than a couple years. Then again, some people with overeating issues may find the thought of never drinking sugary sodas ever again in their lives be impossible to imagine.

      The thing is, if they find some miracle drug that staves off aging, it'll just make it much easier for something else to kill people off, as it'll just be another excuse for people not to want/have to keep fit and healthy. And can you imagine the costs of healthcare and food with an overpopulated world of unhealthy, overweight people?

      • by u-238 (515248) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @02:02PM (#9317130) Homepage
        I can't believe such an intelligent audience is categorizing these things in the same group.

        Here is a rebuttle from one (myself) who ardently supports what Aubrey de Grey is trying to accomplish, in reference to the likes of you "(insert label here) is waiting for a miricle drug" people:

        I will simply quote George Carlin (one of his Self-Help book ideas)- "Eat right, stay fit, die anyway"
      • by Mr. Neutron (3115) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @04:19PM (#9318545) Homepage Journal
        Want to follow the Atkins Diet? Fine, but can you see yourself doing it for the rest of your life?

        Staying on Atkins for any length of time longer than months is a Very Bad Idea. IANA nutritional scientist, but I know that when you get most of your energy form metabolizing protien, ketones build up in your bloodstream. These are very bad chemicals that do damage to organs. You want to get the bulk of your energy from complex carbohydrates. Here's the Mr. Neutron Plan for Pysical Fitness:

        1. Get rid of refined simple sugars and starches. Eat reasonable amounts of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables instead.
        2. Get rid of saturated fats - especially artificially hydrogenated oils, which are mucho bad for you.
        3. Eat three reasonable meals a day. Find out what is reasonable for you. Eat meat, fish, and eggs (or soy if you're vegan) in decent amounts. You need these to keep muscle tissue.
        4. Quit snacks. Period. Learn to live on your three meals a day, with the *occasional* treat.
        5. Exercise. At least 30 minutes of strenuous exercise, three times a week. By strenuous, I mean you should have enough breath to carry on a conversation, but not enough to sing. If you know how, strength train three times a week. This is especially helpful for guys, as we tend to put on muscle mass easily. More muscle mass means a higher metobolic rate (even when sitting at a desk reading /.), meaning you'll burn fat faster.

        Try this for several months to a year, and see if you can reach your desired shape. If you do this for a year, and can't get where you want to be, resign yourself to the shape you have. Remember that you have done some great things for your health, and that is more important than a number on a scale. At this point, you can add the snacks back in - even the occasional sugary or fatty treat - but keep this routine going as a lifestyle. It would be very hard not to be healthy if you are eating right and exercising.

    • no (Score:3, Interesting)

      Sociological consequences aside, there's no reason to think that we won't find a cure for aging eventually. A thirty-five year old couple can conceive a perfectly healthy, perfectly youthful baby... how is that? The genes they used to create this new life were copied from 35 year old cells--cells that have been damaged by oxidation, cells that have probably lost a significant amount of their protective end-sections (IANAG--I forget what the ends of the DNA molecules are called, but they basically act as a
      • Re:no (Score:5, Informative)

        by DjMd (541962) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:20PM (#9316563) Journal
        cells that have probably lost a significant amount of their protective end-sections (IANAG--I forget what the ends of the DNA molecules are called, but they basically act as a buffer to prevent harmful mutation. Over time, though, they get shorter and disappear.)

        IANAG, but I am a MD.
        Those things are called telomeres, they shorten in most cells with each copying of the DNA. Except that in germ (reproductive) cells there are telomerases, which re-lenghten the telomeres.
        Problem solved right, just turn on your telomerases? wrong, cancer does that....
        Read more at Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
        • Re:no (Score:5, Informative)

          by penguinland (632330) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @03:53PM (#9318307)
          Problem solved right, just turn on your telomerases? wrong, cancer does that....

          Actually, "turning on the telomerases" is closer to a possible solution than you claim. I wish I could find the article again (if anyone else can, please post), but I can't, so here's the summary: A group of scientists took a worm and messed with its genes so that it constantly made telomerase. The worm was supposed to have a life span of 2 weeks (this was not a garden worm, but some kind of funny roundworm or something). After 1 year, it still appeared normal and healthy. It is quite possible that telomerase will do this sort of thing to other organisms too, but there are ethical questions that need to be resolved before we do testing on humans.
          In response to your quip about cancer, yes, cancer cells constantly produce telomerase. This is why cancer can continue to grow and not die off (indeed, you can even get certain decades-old cancer strains in biological catalogues). However, this only keeps cancer cells from growing frail and losing important genes. The part that makes them grow and divide at a malicious rate is unrelated. This has to do with a protein called p53. p53 usually just sits around, but when a cell exhibits certain cancerous behaviors, p53 lyses (kills) it. In cancer cells, the gene that makes p53 no longer works (either it has been disabled, or it has a mutation in it that causes it to no longer make p53). This is why cancer cells are harmful - they do not stop replicating. This has almost nothing to do with telomerase. The telomerase just keeps the genes in the cancer cells (and in regular cells too) healthy. Indeed, all cells have a little telomerase in them, but not enough to completely repair the telomeres after the DNA has been copied.

      • Re:no (Score:3, Informative)

        by bucky0 (229117)
        (IANAG--I forget what the ends of the DNA molecules are called, but they basically act as a buffer to prevent harmful mutation. Over time, though, they get shorter and disappear.)

        I believe theyre called telomeres(sp?)
      • Re:no (Score:5, Informative)

        by afidel (530433) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:40PM (#9316838)
        Telomers. Here [sciencemag.org] is a good article on the application of removing telomerase to extend the life of humans. Mice studies have shown that by capping the Telomers to keep them from unwinding that mice can be made which seemingly cease to age and which are almost immune to carcinogens. There have been mice that live several years whereas their untreated brethern die in weeks or months.
    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:21PM (#9316584)
      Suppose you have a car you want to keep in good shape for the next 30 years. Obviously, you'll want to avoid driving it into ditches, keep it washed so it doesn't rust, give it the correct fuel, drive it in the correct RPM range, etc. However, you also need to do other preventative maintenance, such as changing the oil, changing the timing belt, maybe replacing the piston rings after 400,000 miles or so, etc. Basically, there are some parts of cars that eventually will wear out, like belts, hoses, and friction materials, and these need to be replaced. Just keeping the car clean and vacuumed isn't going to help when the brake pads wear out.

      This guy's theory is that regular biological processes in our bodies leave behind various contaminants or whatever, and need to be cleaned out occassionally. This seems perfectly reasonable to me, but it doesn't mean you can neglect taking regular care of your body (eating right, etc.), just like replacing an engine's piston rings isn't going to help much when you tried running it without oil.
    • Wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

      by malakai (136531) * on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:40PM (#9316839) Journal
      The current record holder for the Mouse prize won by placing his mouse on a very strict diet. This isn't the South Beach Diet. The mouse was fed the minimum amount of calories to sustain it's life, and other systems that would normally fail were artifically supplemented in a way least likely to cause celluar damage.

      The mouse winner played the Free Radical game. This is _NOT_ Healthy living. If you did this, you wouldn't be strong enough to walk, and barely enough to bring air into your lungs.

      There are people out there that count their calories so closely they can perdict a 5yr added life bonus by decreasing the amount of waste products metabolism produces. Many are now suffering from delbitating illness like Osteoporosis.

      So yes, Science does hold the answers to everything. It's not a miracle, it's _science_. We're a machine, we can be maintained like one.
    • by prell (584580) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @04:03PM (#9318403) Homepage
      I'd almost go as far as to posit that this article is an elaborate joke.

      Why, exactly, is death a problem? Just pause a moment and really think about why death is a problem, for you.

      Life doesn't work without death. In the end, that fact should be very life-affirming and comforting to you. Look around outside and realize that even horrible deaths contribute inifnitely to the natural world.

      People weren't meant to live in fear of death.
      • by spincycle1953 (721087) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @04:56PM (#9319081)
        "Why, exactly, is death a problem? Just pause a moment and really think about why death is a problem, for you. Life doesn't work without death. In the end, that fact should be very life-affirming and comforting to you."

        Maybe to you. Death is a problem for me because I enjoy life so very much. Death will put a very definite and wholly unwelcomed end to the fun. So far, my life is working just great without death, and I'd like to keep it that way. Do I fear death? NO. I resent it.

        I know full well that immortality is impossible, given entropy. That pisses me off. But if longevity is the best the universe has to offer, give me the maximum. I take first rate care of the equipment (at 51, I can still run a mile under 6 minutes, bench my body weight for reps, and cycle all day at 18 mph avg in rolling country), so I think it's perfectly reasonable for me to hold biomedical scientists responsible for doing their part to keep me alive and healthy at least long enough to get tired of it. "Accepting death" is a defeatist attitude that I just cannot abide.

        (uh-oh...I seem to have gotten a little worked up)
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:23PM (#9315742) Homepage Journal
    As to the question of life becoming so long that it loses its meaning, De Grey has a response that's truly guaranteed to silence critics: If you don't want to try it, you can simply reject rejuvenation therapy and fade away.

    Bingo. It seems like there are always people who whine every time the subject of immortality comes up -- overpopulation, interfering with the divine plan, or just, "I wouldn't want to live forever. I'd get bored." To which the proper answer is: you can always die. If you feel that you're selfishly using up too much of the planet's resources, or that God doesn't want you to live past a certain age, or the ennui of your endless existence is too much to bear (oh, the angst!), fine -- please kill yourself now.

    But of course people don't do this, because it is inherent in the nature of life to want to live. People who think a 200- or 1000- or 50000-year lifespan is nightmarish will still struggle, at the end of their lives, to hold on to whatever years or months or even days of life they have left. We rage against the dying of the light because the urge to live is part of our every cell.

    So, for those of you who think this kind of research is a terrible thing, an affront to God and man -- please go off somewhere to die quietly. And those of us who choose to live will drink a toast on your graves.
    • by Unnngh! (731758) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:32PM (#9315883)
      Here, here! I see a lot of universe out there to explore and colonize. Just because a few naysayers are convinced that immortality is not worthwhile, won't stop me from trying to extend my life. There's always a beneficial solution somewhere, if you are creative enough to think of it.
    • by otisg (92803)
      I sure hope Aubrey de Grey took the time to also engineer a new planet, or some other place for me to move to when I'm in my Yoda-years. I hate crowded planets.
      • by jc42 (318812) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @03:26PM (#9318001) Homepage Journal
        I hate crowded planets.

        Heh. But the threat of immortality might not make it all that crowded.

        Some years back, I read of an interesting study. The question was phrased as: Assuming that people's bodies could be kept at the 20-year-old state indefinitely. All diseases, accidents, violence, etc would happen to you with the probability of a 20-year-old. Consulting medical and actuarial databases, how many years would this add to the mean lifespan?

        The answer turned out to be about 15 years.

        The primary observation was that, while older people are on the average more susceptible to such things than younger people, the difference isn't all that great. Making your body "immortal" wouldn't make you immune to death from the things that kill you now. It would just increase somewhat your chances of surviving. An auto accident, gunshot, or HIV virus would still end a life, but maybe just a bit later than now.

        To get a real change and a population problem from immortality, we'd also need many social changes that blocked all the things that are now quite effective at killing young people.

        • by mec (14700) <mec@shout.net> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @12:20AM (#9322379) Journal
          Assuming that people's bodies could be kept at the 20-year-old state indefinitely. All diseases, accidents, violence, etc would happen to you with the probability of a 20-year-old. Consulting medical and acturial databases, how many years would this add to the mean lifespan?

          I don't believe that "15 year" answer, so I looked at a mortality table and did the math myself. I came up with an estimate of 800 years.

          The acturial tables that you want are called mortality tables. Here is a collection of them from the American National Center for Health Statistics.

          NCHS Data Warehouse [cdc.gov]

          Going to the first table, death rates by age, the death rate for 15-24 year olds is 80.7 per 100,000 (all states, 2001).

          This means that in the year 2001, in this population group, for each 100,000 people, 99,919.3 of people of these ages lived, and 80.7 of them died.

          Or, to scale it down: start with 1000 people. In a year, 1 person dies, and 999 live. What's the average life span of that population? It's a hell of a lot longer than "15 more than normal 60 or so"!

          A quick calculation, log(0.5)/log(0.999193)), shows that the median life expectancy of a "perpetual 20 year old", would be 858 more years. That is, if you had 100,000 of these perpetual 20 year olds, after 858 years, 50,000 of them would still be alive.

          Calculating average is a bit trickier and I'll leave it alone.

          The primary observation was that, while older people are on the average more susceptible to such things than younger people, the difference isn't all that great.

          Oh yes it is.

          ALL AGES: 848.5
          0-1 year: 683.4
          1-4 years: 33.3
          5-14 years: 17.3
          15-24 years: 80.7
          25-34 years: 105.2
          35-44 years: 203.6
          45-54 years: 428.9
          55-64 years: 964.6
          65-74 years: 2,353.3
          75-84 years: 5,582.4
          85+ years: 15,112.8

          A 50 year old has 5 times the chance of dying as a 20 year old. A 60 year old has 12 times the chance of dying as a 20 year old.

          NCHS has lots of interesting tables like these; or you can google for "mortality table" and get tables from other sources, too.
    • "So, for those of you who think this kind of research is a terrible thing, an affront to God and man -- please go off somewhere to die quietly."

      I agree, but I don't think theists see it that way. Catholics and many other mainstream religions would probably consider refusing this type of medical care as suicide. The theory seems to be that God gave you this life and it would be ungrateful of you to throw away that gift. When God wants you to die, he will see to it.

      I think many would feel that they had an
    • by awol (98751) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:50PM (#9316136) Journal
      Does this longevity include a increased period of fertility? If not then I wonder if the biological imperative to reproduce will produce a conflict that is not so easy to "cure" and I don't mean the incresing population, I mean the deep seated drive to make offspring being tempered by teh reality that 1100 years is a lot of offspring that one almost certainly cannot actually afford to raise. It might lead to some very complex problems. Even more weird if you live for 1100 years but can only produce offspring for the first 5% of them. Might make you go made. Might be very different for men and women. Might be _very_ scary.
    • by sacrilicious (316896) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:15PM (#9316489) Homepage
      Bingo. It seems like there are always people who whine every time the subject of immortality comes up -- ...interfering with the divine plan

      Whenever the subject of interfering with nature / the divine plan comes up, I refer to this response which I heard one day in an interview: the single development in recorded history which has most vastly extended lifespans was the invention of the toilet... yet you don't hear people going around debating the morality of having toilets.

    • by telbij (465356) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:53PM (#9317017)
      Though people may cite overpopulation and religious reasons why we shouldn't do this, those are just straw men.

      The real reason is because this totally turns the natural order of things upside-fucking-down which will likely be to our detriment. If you only care about yourself as is human nature (and particularly reinforced by individualistic American values) then fine, try to live forever. But as far as our species is concerned, living forever is not necessarily the most advantageous. Of course no one can see all ends, but consider:

      People living forever means less need for kids, which slows down evolution. Do we want to be strictly responsible for our own genetics? How do we identify practical genetic defects if we never die? Our existence as a species will then be dependent on the survival of a highly technological civilization which is far from guaranteed.

      Take away the motivation of a limited lifespan and suddenly everything seems a lot less urgent. Motivation to learn, motivation to find the meaning of life, motivation to accomplish something. After all, you can always do it later.

      How does the human brain develop at such extreme ages? We all know that people are shaped by childhood experience, and that many old people are set in their ways. With a huge population who 'have it all figured out' how will we continue to make progress? Periodic lobotomies?

      I'm all for extending life through healthier living, but the quest for the fountain of youth is an egotistical obsession stemming from the fear of death. Personally I refuse to let the fear of death drive me to radical genetic techniques to extend the inevitable. I don't want to be some kind of artifically-preserved shell of a human, and I don't think anybody should want to (though I wouldn't stop them). What people need nowadays (in America anyway) is acceptance of the fact that we can't control everything. The best you can do is live your life well, make good decisions, and hopefully fate will be kind.
      • People living forever means less need for kids, which slows down evolution

        Evolution holds little relevance to humans today. Those with genetic disorders are fixed through medicine. Those with "undesireable" traits are given enough beneficial environment to counter them (eyeglasses, dyslexia, autism; yes I know these may/may not have genetic components). There is little to no natural selection any more. I won't even get into the whole "stupid people breed more" argument, but it's been said on /. before.

        Take away the motivation of a limited lifespan and suddenly everything seems a lot less urgent.

        You may have a point there. It's been argued before, and it may or may not have merit. Is Niven's vision correct, or is Asimov's? Will octagenarians become more flexible when they realize that 80 is not really old? That 800 is not even all that old? How much of that inflexibility is the result of the knowledge that death is near? How much is from biological/biochemical processes associated with aging? How much is associated with the accumulation of years on the mind? We really don't know, and can't know until it is tried and observed.

        What people need nowadays (in America anyway) is acceptance of the fact that we can't control everything.

        Says who? God? Fate? The Universe? Sure, there are things we can't comtrol right now, and there *may* be some things we can *never* control. However, there is no way of knowing that until you try to control them. Otherwise, it's just an assumption with no basis.

        I have no fear of death, but I will be dead for billions of years. I'm in no hurry. Life is short. Even a thousand years is short compared to eternity. Fear of becoming an "artifically-preserved shell of a human" is based on assumption as well. We have absolutely no idea what the mental makeup of a 200 year old person would be, much less an 800 year old.

  • by mccalli (323026) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:23PM (#9315750) Homepage
    Java/Swing developer required. Must have a minimum of 800 years of experience, with at least 600 of those having been gained in a financial environment.

    Cheers,
    Ian

    • by Saige (53303) <(evil.angela) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:41PM (#9316013) Journal
      Amusing, but think about the effects of people not just working for 30-40 years, but hundreds. A person could become experienced and knowledgable in a subject to levels which we can't imagine, and who knows what they could come up with.

      Or a person could spend 50 years in a career, then take 5-10 off and learn something entirely new, then start a career there. Think about all the benefits that could come from that sort of inter-disciplinary work? What might someone who's been a chef, a writer, a materials engineer, and a chemist bring to a new job?
      • by PoisonousPhat (673225) <`ten.epacsten' `ta' `hcilbof'> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:11PM (#9316439)
        If I had points right now, I'd mod you insightful. The prospect of great minds being able to study not only sciences but arts as well harkens back to the Da Vinci "renaissance man", who could draw from all his knowledge and inspiration to create a synergy of new and groundbreaking ideas. If and when people are able to invest such time in many disciplines, we may just see another intellectual spark, such as in ancient Greece, the Renaissance or the Age of Enlightenment. During such a time, perhaps people will begin to realize that all disciplines are interconnected, or as a Zen proverb says, "All ways are One in the end".
      • You fail to take into account how memory may work (or not) once the normal life span has been surpassed. Part of learning is knowing when you've made mistakes before and not making them again. If you can't remember what you did wrong, you're doomed to do it again and again. How ironic would it be if longer life spans were counteracted by longer periods of sleeping/dreaming in order to keep our memories straight?

        As with anything else, solving one issue (aging) raises even more (health care?!?!, memory, b
      • Memory limitations (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DrCode (95839) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:20PM (#9316575)
        But what is the capacity of the human brain? More than 25 years ago, I was writing HP/1000 assembly code; yet I certainly couldn't do that today without completely relearing it.
    • by period3 (94751) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:46PM (#9316076)
      If we're still using Java/Swing 800 years from now, then you can keep your immortality drugs!
  • for one thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:24PM (#9315759)
    that means we could send people on super-long space exploration voyages, provided we can also engineer an end to 0-gravity boneloss

  • Live longer now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by erick99 (743982) * <homerun@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:25PM (#9315778)
    A fair amount of what kills us can be ameliorated by diet, excercise, and reduced stress. It may sound overly simplistic but there is a fair amount of evidence that supports the notion that these are the reasons some folks in parts of the old Soviet Union as well as some places in China and a few other locales live, routinely, to age 100.

    Happy Trails!

    Erick

    • Um, not quite (Score:3, Informative)

      More than a few of those centennarians in Russia.. are not centennarians. Quite a few lied about their ages to avoid military conscription during Stalin's day.

      As for the Chinese, well, there may be a similar argument there, not sure.

      The Guinness Book is loathe to accept records for longevity for the larger reason. Lack of reliable evidence makes claims to longevity ripe for fraud. Think of how unreliable record-keeping must have been in various parts of the world over 100 years ago. Or how many record

  • by millahtime (710421) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:26PM (#9315798) Homepage Journal
    The murder rate will sky rocket because

    1) Wives will just get tired of thier husbands if they have to live together that long and vice versa.

    2)If people won't just die on their own then someone will end up killing them. Right now, we at least have the feeling that some peopel will just die someday.

    3)If you have my neighbors for that long of a time you might kill them too.
  • by js7a (579872) <james AT bovik DOT org> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:26PM (#9315800) Homepage Journal
    CMX-1152 a.k.a. ROHLEN [ceremedix.com] seems to be a credible way of relieving oxidative stress. More info here [sundayherald.com] and here [google.com].
    • CMX-1152 a.k.a. ROHLEN seems to be a credible way of relieving oxidative stress.

      ...With one major problem: Extreme variability in effective dosages among individuals, and a TI < 2 (meaning, less than twice the amount that will convey maximum benefit will begin to cause damage; almost all (non-cancer) drugs in common use have TI's greater than four, with most over ten).

      As a starting point for something better tolerated, however, I agree it looks very promising.
  • Ray Kurzweil... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dnahelix (598670) <slashdotispieceofshit@shithome.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:27PM (#9315822)
    I recently saw Ray Kurzweil give a talk. His new book, coming out in October, will be titled How to Live Long Enough to Live Forever. He touched on several topics that will advance longevity. Much was about nanotech and how it will become part of our bodies. He says in the past few years, he's gotten about 10 years younger in 'absolute age.' Neat Stuff.
  • Low Caloric Diets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by funkdid (780888) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:28PM (#9315841)
    Low Caloric diets have long been fabled to extend life (with mixed results). This so far has been the most promising way of extending life, although depending on how you look at it, it's not really extending human life but allowing us to reach our potential. Think of a wild animal with the eating/lifestyle habbits we humans have. Don't think turtles would live so long smoking and eating McDonald's. (Me not good at html linky stuff) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A255 64-2004Apr19.html http://webapp.abclocal.go.com/kabc/health/032304_h s_low_cal_diet.html http://www.youngagain2000.com/lowcalorie.html
  • spam (Score:3, Funny)

    by millahtime (710421) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:31PM (#9315863) Homepage Journal
    forget the penis enlargement spam. now, you can look 25 forever and get a penis enlargement. and of course it will come from my grandma who still looks 25.
  • Entropy will win (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:33PM (#9315897) Homepage Journal
    Aging is a response to mutations which naturally build up over time. Most aging is the slowing down of metabolism so as the reduce cell activity in order to reduce mutations. If you bypass this slowdown, then mutations will build up faster. Entropy will then win in the end anyhow and one will die of cancer.

    The only total solution I see is some kind of nanoprobes that cleans up DNA/RNA errors in potentially each and every cell. Only then we can turn up the metabolism to 20-year-old levels. But, that is a long way off.
  • Heinlein... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Short Circuit (52384) <mikemol@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:34PM (#9315913) Homepage Journal
    ...suggested breeding for longevity. His book Methuselah's Children talks about it some.

    Basically, you look for people who have all four original grandparents still living, and encourage them to breed with each other. Money was the incentive used.

    But then, his concept required that you start the project in the 1800s. Today, I imagine you'd probably look for people with all eight great-grandparents surviving.
  • by the_rajah (749499) * on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:38PM (#9315958) Homepage
    My mom is 81 and she's busier than she's ever been although physical constraints are starting to slow her down. My grandmother died very alert, aware and reasonable active at age 100 and said she was ready to go, but it had mostly to do with the fact that her friends had all been dead for a long time by then.

    Some people would look forward to a longer life because they find some meaning in their lives and others, I am sure, don't and probably would not partake of these treatments. I suggest that you folks who are not familiar with Robert A. Heinlein's novels several of which concern, among other things, longevity issues. Take a look at "Time Enough for Love"(1973).

    "Do the Right Thing. It will gratify some people and astound the rest." - Mark Twain
  • by suso (153703) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:40PM (#9315992) Homepage Journal
    ...then most likely the people who shouldn't be using it would be the ones to take it.

    The last thing we need are for the idiots to live forever.
  • by MythoBeast (54294) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:40PM (#9315993) Homepage Journal
    Well, ok, it could be a considerable problem if people stopped aging to death, but it wouldn't be the biggest problem.

    The biggest problem is that our society would collapse from corruption. It's a pretty simple formula. Powerful people maintain their power by maintaining the status quo. The more powerful a person is, the stronger their grip on the status quo. These people purposely manipulate the opinions of the less powerful people (via control of the media and other less well-publicised means) in order to do this, and we generally fall for it pretty readily.

    The only serious mechanism for social change is the death of the powerful. If death stopped being inevitable, then the rich and powerful would be the first ones to get that technology.

    At that point, the only means for social change would become bloody revolution. Finding and killing the methuselas would become an obscession for anyone who wanted to change things for the better (or even at all).

    I think that that world is inevitable, but I don't look forward to it.
    • You raise an interesting problem, but I think the issue you mentioned has existed for a long time in the form of nepotism. Powerful people tend to keep it in the family, in a tribal sort of way. One might as well be angry at the son/daughter as well as the initial person.

      Of course, what you mention also smacks of class warfare, which isn't nearly as prevalent as Marx thought so.
      • by MythoBeast (54294) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @04:58PM (#9319099) Homepage Journal
        This phenomena is well studied in the form of non-charismatic dictatorships. When power is inherited, it gets diffused via several mechanisms. For instance:

        1. The kid doesn't know how to weild the power and loses respect.
        2. The kid disagrees with the parent about how power should be weilded.
        3. Power is divided among several siblings (this is especially true about money), and some of it is lost due to lack of appreciation for it.

        Of course, none of that stopped the Plantagenets from ruling England for over two hundred and fifty years, but I suspect that immortality would have extended this reign, probably to the current day.
  • by The-Bus (138060) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:42PM (#9316021)
    In other news:

    World Death Rate Remains Steady at 100%

    World Death Rate, Annual
    ------------------------
    2004 (est) 100.00%
    2003 100.00%
    2002 100.00%
    2001 100.00%
    2000 100.00%
    Source: USA Today
  • by Linuxathome (242573) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:44PM (#9316047) Homepage Journal
    I haven't RTFA yet, but I'll comment anyway. From what I learned in med school so far, you're not allowed to state that the cause of death is "old age" on a death certificate [cdc.gov]. What I'm trying to get at is, most people don't "die of old age" as the slashdot blurb seems to imply above. Usually it's a problem such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, diabetes, etc. So the person submitting the story should have said "Engineering an end to problems/diseases that arise from old age." There is nothing wrong with aging per se, it's the health problems that are more probable to occur at old age that kills you. I realize it's a matter of semantics, but in such an age-phobic society (i.e. the US), I feel that things like this have to be voiced to stem other social problems such as "age-ism." Moreover, all the money spent to extend the last few years of life is overtaking needed health expenditures in other areas -- such as child healthcare and universal coverage. It seems that 90% of healthcare costs are being spent to extend life just another 10% or less. I'd rather support expenditures in areas such as hospice.
  • by Biotech9 (704202) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:46PM (#9316070) Homepage
    "The President's Council on Bioethics [bioethics.gov] met this month to discuss Age-Retardation: Scientific Possibilities and moral challenges [bioethics.gov]. The consensus was that "aging is a natural part of the life cycle, not a disease." Think Social Security was discussed?" Bruce Sterling's book Holy Fire is a good look at this issue if you find it interesting.

    Here's a link... [slashdot.org]

    And a link to the current site of bioethics.gov's views on aging retardation. [bioethics.gov]
  • by caerus (697709) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:47PM (#9316089)
    We get more willing to look past materialistic pursuits as we age because by the time we're older, we realize what is really important in life is the people and the relationships in it.

    By the time we realize it, life is over, and we need to hunker down to prepare for uncertain health in old age.

    I wonder what the world would be like if my grandparents were still around and healthy and vibrant as say.. 40 year olds? I wonder what the world would be like if the wisdom and compassion that accumulates with age was allowed to be expressed by vibrant and energetic elderly instead of being locked up in the shadows we become?

    Really what we are talking about here a child understands and we fatalistically complicate things with our hopelessness that anything can be done about aging..

    Life is good.

    Death is bad

    and anyone who suggests that the suffering and death of millions is desirable and that the "negative" changes to our world that would come about by extending life couldn't be dealt with should take a real hard look at what they are saying...From what I've been able to see so far.. our world could do with a few changes.
    br
  • Bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quill_28 (553921) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:58PM (#9316267) Journal
    If people lived longer would we see an end to hatred.

    I personally have no problem with people from Japan.
    My grandfather disliked them, he lost a borther in WW2
    My grandfather is dead.
    If he lived to be 2,000 years would he ever get over this?

    Would the Japanense who dislike Americas for the atmoic bomb ever get over it?

    Death solves many problem including this one.
    • Re:Bias (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CGP314 (672613)
      Would the Japanense who dislike Americas for the atmoic bomb ever get over it? Death solves many problem including this one.

      Perhaps if human life was eternal, we would be less inclined to drop atomic bombs. In a strange sort of way, I think the value of life becomes more important when people live forever. Kill someone now and you take away 60 years, kill someone in the future and you have stolen an eternity.


      -Colin [colingregorypalmer.net]
  • by gosand (234100) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:08PM (#9316395)
    As an added bonus, I don't think you'll find a more succinct (and utterly British) answer to overpopulation objections to life extension than the one at the end of this article!"

    FORTUNE is published biweekly and may also publish occasional extra issues. Cover price is $4.99. Rate good in U.S. only. In Canada, 6 issues/$6.95C, 14 issues/$13.90C, subject to GST, HST, and QST. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery of your first issue. Subscribers: If the Post Office alerts us that your magazine is undeliverable, we have no further obligation unless we receive a corrected address within two years.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! Those crazy Brits!

  • by cruachan (113813) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:26PM (#9316658)
    5000 years is won't happen without some major restructuring of society. As we currently have things set up you have a 50% chance of being involved in a fatal accident by the time you are 300.
  • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda@e t o y o c .com> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @02:56PM (#9317692) Homepage Journal
    Immortality requires a mindset that is completely counter to modern thinking. Today we live moment to moment, and more or less treat this world, and everyone in it, as if they were disposable.

    For an immortal, the consequences of any short-sighted decision WILL come to roost. Live your life exploiting other people? You WILL have to deal with those people, or their offspring later in life. (Or you WILL sooner or later make someone made enough to kill you.) Have a propensity for collecting junk? After a few hundred years, you are going to have a mountian of trash to clean up.

    To an immortal, what you are paying at the pump right now doesn't mean squat. It's will the CO2 your Taho is shooting in the air flood his beach house in 100 years. Taxes today don't matter as much as the economic chaos that decades of deficit spending will cause.

    To be an immortal requires a set of ethics that Jesus and Lao Tsu would be proud of. And it's not out of "goodness", it's out of self-preservation.

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