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Biotech Science

Do You Want to Live Forever? 1334

Posted by timothy
from the depends-with-whom dept.
Jamie McCarthy writes "In 1918, Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Daly inspired his weary men to attack by yelling, 'come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?' But how would the world change if we could? This month's Technology Review introduces us to the computer scientist, and self-taught biologist, Aubrey de Grey, who thinks immortality could be within our grasp by 2030. Thinking like an engineer, he's broken aging down into seven specific problems, like cell atrophy and mitochondrial mutation, which he believes can all, in principle, be solved. And he has good reason to think those seven are the only 'bugs' standing in the way of a thousand-year lifespan. De Grey is clearly both a genius and a little nuts, but I'm not sure in what proportion..."
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Do You Want to Live Forever?

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  • by slashnutt (807047) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:03PM (#11410110) Journal
    The Social Security System will fail Shortly after 2031. Could you imagine getting paid to not work for 935 years? You would have to have a population growth 935 times what it is today to sustain that growth! This is one reason that SS is fundamentally flawed.

    • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:04PM (#11410134) Homepage
      Look, kid, the world doesn't owe you a living. Nobody said eternal life was fair.

    • This is one reason that SS is fundamentally flawed.

      Failing to take into account that people live forever and could collect SS in perpetuity is hardly "fundamentally flawed"
    • Worse than that (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SuperKendall (25149) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:08PM (#11410195)
      If much of these projected technologies come to be, then Social Security will fail long before 2031. That projection relies on an increase in lifespan of only seven years in the next seven decades!! Image what happens when the baby boomers come to use Social security in 2018, and then suddenly people stop dying nearly so fast as they do now...

      Yet in the recent Social Security article, many Slashdot readers would seemingly choose to ignore advances like those outlined in the article, quite odd for a supposedly technological nerd oriented forum. I guess we can expect them all to post and tell us why this article is complete bunk and we'll be dying in 100 years at about the same age as now.

      I think I shall label them with the new term "politically-motivated luddite".
      • Re:Worse than that (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:50PM (#11410810) Homepage
        Just like the much hyped social security collapse of the early 1980s?

        The level of "fix" needed to make social security solvent past 2031 is tiny. Besides, the reason we had (past tense, unfortunately) a social security "surplus" was due to the fact that lifespans *weren't* increasing as expected (among other things). Should they start to change, social security will clearly change to adapt - most likely with a later retirement age. A mere 2 year age boost in the retirement age made most of the difference in the 1980s - if you're living 50, or even 500 years longer, a longer work period should be a given.

        Much of the SS calculations, by the way, is rather pessimistic. They assume pretty poor economic growth and population figures.
        • Re:Worse than that (Score:3, Informative)

          by nero4wolfe (671100)
          Among the things done in the early 1980's "rescue" of Social Security was to increase tax rates approximately 20% more than was needed to meet ongoing obligations. The goal was to build up a surplus to meet the demands of the 'baby boomer' generation when it retired. This was done because they didn't think that the working population of 2020, 2030, etc. would support the otherwise necessary large Social Security tax increases to fund Social Security payments to retiring "baby boomers".

          That surplus is te

    • by bogie (31020) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:09PM (#11410218) Journal
      Actually that's 2042 not 2031.

      http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/TRSUM/trsummary.html

      "This is one reason that SS is fundamentally flawed."

      Your take, not fact.

      Btw I'd like to point out that the reason most people need social security is because the most productive years of their lives are behind them and they need it because they have no more earning power. If you were "immortal" you could just keep working and wouldn't need SS.
    • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:40PM (#11410681) Homepage
      " The Social Security System will fail Shortly after 2031."

      No. An utter lie.

      The New York Times [nytimes.com]:

      A Question of Numbers
      By ROGER LOWENSTEIN

      Published: January 16, 2005

      THE CONSERVATIVE NEW DEAL

      In 1938, the Social Security Act was only three years old, but its future was already very much in doubt. Conservatives claimed it would bankrupt the nation, and independent critics argued that the way it was financed amounted to ''financial hocus-pocus,'' as one editorial in The New York Times put it. President Franklin D. Roosevelt defended the program, said by a cabinet member to be his favorite, with some of his trademark oratory. ''Because it has become increasingly difficult for individuals to build their own security,'' the president told a national radio audience, ''government must now step in and help them lay the foundation stones.''

      Social Security did become the cornerstone -- not only the biggest government entitlement plan but also the most universal, the most popular and the most enduring. But the debate over Social Security never ended. Barry Goldwater wanted to repeal it; Milton Friedman wrote in 1962 that it was an unjustifiable incursion on personal liberty; and David Stockman, the budget director who personified Ronald Reagan's efforts to shrink the federal government, tried to take a hatchet to Social Security, which he called a ''monster.''

      But in this 70-year struggle, no other conservative has ever come as close to transforming the program as George W. Bush. He is making Social Security reform, including a partial privatization, a centerpiece of his second term. If the most ardent ideologues have their way, such a reform would be a first step toward a wholly new approach to retirement security -- one that would set aside the notion of collective insurance and guaranteed minimums for that of personal investing and responsibility.

      This could do more to reverse the New Deal, and even the Great Society, than Goldwater, Stockman and Reagan ever dreamed of. ''We call it a conservative New Deal,'' says Stephen Moore, author of ''Bullish on Bush: How George W. Bush's Ownership Society Will Make America Stronger.'' In Moore's words, it will be a fundamental shift ''from an entitlement society to an ownership society.'' The key to this transformation, according to a generation of conservative thinkers and crusaders, is reducing the size and changing the nature of Social Security, which now pays benefits of half a trillion a year, and which will only grow bigger as America grows older.

      The campaign to privatize has not only been about ideology; it has also focused on Social Security's supposed insolvency. Moore's book calls Social Security a ''Titanic . . . headed toward the iceberg'' and a program ''on the verge of collapse.'' A stream of other conservatives have bombarded the public, over years and decades, with prophecies of trillion-dollar liabilities and with metaphors intended to frighten -- ''train wreck,'' ''bankruptcy,'' ''cancer'' and so forth. Recently, a White House political deputy wrote a strategy note in which he said that Social Security is ''on an unsustainable course. That reality needs to be seared into the public consciousness.''

      The campaign is potentially self-fulfilling: persuade enough people that Social Security is going bankrupt, and it will lose public support. Then Congress will be forced to act. And thanks to such unceasing alarums, many, and perhaps most, people today think the program is in serious financial trouble.

      But is it? After Bush's re-election, I carefully read the 225-page annual report of the Social Security trustees. I also talked to actuaries and economists, inside and outside the agency, who are expert in the peculiar science of long-term Social Security forecasting. The actuarial view is that the system is probably i
  • by daniil (775990) *
    But it'd be nice if someone remembered me a thousand years from now...
    • by armb (5151)
      I'm with Woddy Allen: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying."
    • Re:No (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nizo (81281) *
      Yeah, but would you get nailed to a cross to do it?
  • by filmmaker (850359) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:03PM (#11410115) Homepage
    As he reviewed the possible reasons why so little progress had been made in spite of the remarkable molecular and cellular discoveries of recent decades, he came to the conclusion that the problem might be far less difficult to solve than some thought; it seemed to him related to a factor too often brushed under the table when the motivations of scientists are discussed, namely the small likelihood of achieving promising results within the period required for academic advancement--careerism, in a word. As he puts it, "High-risk fields are not the most conducive to getting promoted quickly."

    The world needs more thinkers like him, even if he's a little nuts. Anyone willing to start his own international symposium after teaching himself micro biology is. Too many professional scholars are pinned into doing research that has immediate market viability and too many researchers are more interested in their own career advancement than the science they're supposed to be advancing. So they play it safe.

    Daly dreams of being on the cover of Time magazine I'm sure, ego is almost certainly a factor for him as well, and no doubt a huge payday would follow and major advancement on any of his 7 problems. But it's the all-or-nothing mentality, the fact that he's willing to go for it even if it never pans out, that separates him.
    • by Holi (250190) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:15PM (#11410316)
      Daly dreams of being on the cover of Time magazine

      No,
      Daniel Daly is dead and buried in Cypress Hills Cemetary. Daly was arguably the greatest marine of all time and the man behind the famous quote. Aubrey de Grey is the self taught micro-biologist who may or may not "dream of being on the cover of Time magazine".

      • by TheWizardOfCheese (256968) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:21PM (#11411226)
        Daly was arguably the greatest marine of all time and the man behind the famous quote.

        I have no argument with that, provided you mean the greatest US marine. The greatest marine of all time was the guy who licked the Carthaginians at Ecnomus.

        The quote is famous but not original. I don't know when this exhortation was first made; no doubt the Romans were saying this in their day and for all I know the ancient Sumerians were too.

        However, I do know how Frederick Hohenzollern ("The Great") addressed his men after the breakdown of his attack at Kolin: "You rogues! Would you live forever?" According to tradition, the reply called out from the ranks was "we thought for thirteen pennies a day we had done enough."
    • by Phillip2 (203612) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:52PM (#11410843)
      "Too many professional scholars are pinned into doing research that has immediate market viability and too many researchers are more interested in their own career advancement than the science they're supposed to be advancing. So they play it safe. "

      Research is expensive and sadly this is what the funding bodies want nowadays. If you are not interested in your own career advancement, then you will not remain in a job long.

      The only other alternatives to this is to either have lots of your own cash to live off. This is, by and large, the way that most early scientists worked. Or you can become a rampant self-publicist . Having a strange physical appearance is a classic sign of this, usually in the facial hair department.

      It's a pity. It would be nice if science were the fearless exploration of the unknown, rather than the fearful exporation of the nearly known. But to criticise us for playing safe is not fair. We have families to support. We have to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, just the same as everyone else.

      Phil
  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@ex[ ].us ['it0' in gap]> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:04PM (#11410122) Homepage
    I really would like to, just to see what happens.
    • Personally i'd love to live forever but i'd be content if I knew for certain there was an afterlife as to which I could be an observer... One of my biggest fears/disappointments is not knowing how human life will be in 200, 500 or 10 thousand years.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:04PM (#11410126) Homepage Journal
    Things To Look Forward To In Immortality:

    3D High Def THX Surround Sound home entertainment (some brain surgery required)

    The 100th season of the Simpsons

    200 more years of Dick Clark in Times Square

    Windows Cthulhu (C'mon, you know it was coming some day...)

    Baseball players finally agree to seriously address the steroid issue after a homerun ball is driven through the skull of a guy two miles away from the stadium.

    No matter how well you cared for your teeth, you'll eventually lose them.

    Watching every public retirement system go into the stock market and then watch it really tank! (Alpo! Yum!)

    Liver Spot removal pill spam

    Survivor Krakatoa

    Final Fantasy LXXVI: The ploy that isn't beaten to death, yet.

    After about 20 presidents claiming to reduce spending you realize they're full of shit as the world runs out of money to finance the US debt. And those guys who said, "The debt doesn't matter", they died, so it didn't matter to them.

  • More Spam (Score:5, Funny)

    by Deinhard (644412) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:04PM (#11410131)
    Oh great, in addition to the bigger penis spams, we'll start getting "Live Forever" messages.

    AND...we'll be getting them much longer. Jeez!
  • by NeoSkandranon (515696) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:04PM (#11410137)
    I believe the proper question at this point isn't "can we" it's "Should we"
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:15PM (#11410312) Homepage Journal
      Okay, why shouldn't we?

      The same overtone of moral disapproval you express has greeted every major medical advance. And it may take a while for people to hash out, but the overwhelming response in the end is always, "Hell yes, we should!"
      • by NeoSkandranon (515696) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:34PM (#11410605)
        Actually morals don't really come into what I was considering.

        I'm thinking more about population growth rate, living space and use of resources. Not to mention the disparity between rich and poor. If you think that's bad now, think about if being rich automatically means you get several generations to amass a fortune
        • by samantha (68231) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:10PM (#11411883) Homepage
          What makes you think many would be interested in parenting in their 100+ years? Why is it better for resources to be used by new people with less experience and accumulated knowledge than people already alive? Why is it remotely moral to require existing people to die if it is avoidable? What matter of riches will we not be able to create (it is not static you know) with that many additional productive creative years?

          And no, the advances will not be just for the rich.
        • It'll be fine (Score:3, Interesting)

          by delmoi (26744)
          There are more people alive then dead. Think about that for a moment. There are more people living, today, then have ever lived and died in total in all the generations of human beings.

          Woman, after they reach menopause won't be able to have any more children, so people probably won't have much longer child-bearing ages then they do now. (although culture might adapt to have children raised by their 'young' and healthy grandparents or something, rather then young and inexperianced 30somethings).

          But as stu
      • by greg_barton (5551) * <greg_barton@NOSpaM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:38PM (#11410655) Homepage Journal
        The same overtone of moral disapproval you express has greeted every major medical advance.

        And, especially when it comes to immortality, cause and effect dovetail nicely. The same people who can't see the possibilities in immortality are the same people who wouldn't be able to handle it well themselves.

        For instance, one common objection I hear to a 1000+ year lifespan is, "I'd get really bored. What would you do with all that time?" My response is always, "What would you NOT do?" More time opens up more possibilities. So, the people who can't (or won't) see the experiential possibilities a longer lifespan creates also can't (or won't) see the ways out of the social problems it creates.
        • Imagine after 1000 years of breeding your children and their children , you would have enough relatives to make a whole city, I can imagine the xmas shopping list, what a nightmare. Then again it would also mean a higher chance of a 12th generation grandchild to intermarry someone from the same family tree without knowing it, which isnt a bad thing, since at least you know the relos.
      • by Zachary Kessin (1372) <zkessin@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:43PM (#11410711) Homepage Journal

        I love my (step) children, and the last thing my generation will do for them is to die and get out of the way so they can fill our shoes.

        If my generation stays as productive adults forever (or close to it) they my kids must remain teen-agers for ever. The greats of any given generation only become great when those before them have exited the stage.

        Elizabeth Moon touches on this in some of her books.
        • The greats of any given generation only become great when those before them have exited the stage.

          That's simply not true. Look at the lives of the greats in the sciences, the arts, politics, etc. and you'll see that at the point when their greatness was recognized, their mentors of the previous generation were usually alive and kicking.
          • I think what he meant was the time taken for the old mode of thinking to fade away and be replaced by the new thing, whatever that may be. That is largely true - some people simply refuse to change their belief / philosophy because "I've thought this all my life and now I'm too old to change". Eg: Arthur Eddington attacking [usd.edu] the concept of white dwarfs and black holes steadfastly until his death, and slowing down the public support for the new ideas of stellar life. (Read the end of the second paragraph)

            I'
        • Do you call disintegrate and dying in front of their eyes an act of love? Really? Why are you "in their way"? Elders are generally only "in the way" because of ill health due to aging. How does your continuing vigor have anything at all to do with your kids becoming vigorous active full adults also?

          The world is changing so rapidly that there is plenty of advantage that the younger generations have in way of not having to unlearn a bunch of obsolete assumptions and concerns. The older generations wi
      • by geg81 (816215)
        The same overtone of moral disapproval you express has greeted every major medical advance.

        As it should: there have been very few medical advances that have actually increased human lifespan or health. Many medical advances feed on fear of the inevitable, have increased suffering needlessly, and are a bottomless financial pit.

        And, in case you were wondering why we live longer on average, it's not due to medicine, it's almost entirely due to public health measures, a reliable food supply, and prevention.
        • Remember that you said that the next time you're in the ER. I'm sure you'll righteously refuse medical care because you wouldn't want to do anything that might "feed on fear of the inevitable, ... increase suffering needlessly, [or be] a bottomless financial pit." Right? Of course you will.
    • by Saige (53303) <evil...angela@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:21PM (#11410396) Journal
      You phrased that slightly wrong.

      When you ask that question, to make it honest, you should ask "Should YOU live forever?" After all, people who are against such things aren't against it for themselves, they're against it for OTHER PEOPLE.

      After all, a person can choose not to get the treatment to live indefinitely, or even commit suicide if they've had enough. They don't need restrictions to keep themselves from the long lifespans. They want them to keep other people from getting them.
    • by bigpat (158134) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @03:15PM (#11411162)
      I believe the proper question at this point isn't "can we" it's "Should we"

      What's with this "we" shit? Speak for yourself.
  • I guess it would mean that the U.S. government would have to take another look at the Social Security (i.e. government pension plan) system.
  • Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hsmith (818216) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:06PM (#11410158)
    By the time you are in your 70's so much stuff pisses you off that you can barely deal with it. Things change so much from what it was even when you were growning up.
    • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by koreth (409849) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:44PM (#11410727)
      Only for some 70-year-olds. Even today, there are plenty of them who are happy and engaged in the world. My parents are getting close to 70 and my mom is learning to use a computer, Dad loves his TiVo, and thanks to the big retirement nest egg they saved up over the years and the part-time business they run, they're both enjoying traveling all over the world.

      Even leaving that aside, though, people are changing too. In my opinion, people growing up in first-world countries today (in the last 20 years, really) will be less susceptible to that particular symptom of aging than their ancestors because they're used to things changing all the time. The rate of change will continue to increase if you believe Vernor Vinge [caltech.edu], but "things are changing faster than they did when I was young" is a different kettle of fish than "things were about the same when I was 15 and when I was 5, so why can't they stay that way forever?"

      You can choose to greet change by cowering in fear and retreating into a hole or meeting it head-on and treating it as an opportunity. I believe today's kids are more likely to do the latter than previous generations were.

      And even leaving that aside, you can bet that the perspective of a 70-year-old who hasn't even reached the average age of the population yet will be a bit different than one who's reaching the tail end of the actuarial tables.

      • Re:Not really... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kethinov (636034)
        I wish I could agree with you, I really do. But far too often I see this kind of mental hypocrisy run amuck in older people. In their youth they're vibrant and easily accepting of new ideas. But as they age they become set in their ways, intolerant, and bigoted. This has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with the psychology of an aging human mind.

        For example, the mother of one of my friends is extremely uptight. Most people I know who've been in contact with her were either swiftly banned
  • This would raise interesting ethical problems. Such as, what if you could have 1000 year life span, but the brain only lasted 100 years? That makes euthanisia a more important topic.

    Plus, where will we fit everyone?
  • by nizo (81281) *
    Only if my brain keeps working and doesn't turn into pudding. Plus I don't want to have to drink blood or anything. If I could live forever in a 25 year old body that would be nice too. But if I have to live forever in a 120 year old body wetting my diapers forget it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:07PM (#11410172)
    er em ... better post this AC
  • a lot of moments (good and bad) that make "life" worthwhile would become less so if we could live forever.

    also, in practical terms, i'd rather not know that my death will most likely be by a sudden accident and that i can't ever "retire" because i won't know how long i'll live (hence how much i need.)

  • by doublem (118724) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:07PM (#11410177) Homepage Journal
    Who wants to live forever, when love must die?

    Arch Obler addressed some of the realities of such a life span in one of the episodes of the old radio show "Lights Out".

    There was a revolution. The younger generation was tired of being held down by the generation that was in power when immortality became possible. Bereft of political power for hundreds of years, there was a violent and bloody revolt, resulting in the massacre of the older generation.

    Can you imagine the state of civil rights if the people running the country in the 1950s were still alive and well?

    To an extent, society just doesn't change unless the older generation dies off.
    • by Neil Watson (60859) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:24PM (#11410442) Homepage
      You make a good point. One could also argue that, if we lived a very long time people may stop looking at things so short term. Creating project X may take 80 years but we would all get to see it. Pollution and energy concerns would be taken seriously as they would indeed happen in our lifetime.
  • Granted I didn't RTWFA (Read the whole f*ck*ng article), but no I don't want to live forever. Why take as a case in point my grandparents. One of which just recently died at 94, and the other one is still alive at 95. Both of them, since about age 85 onward have been depressed to the point of which the only thing apparently running/ran through their minds was "kill me...kill me...". No amount of family contact/therapy/meds seemed to help this. So rather than spend about 910 years thinking "Kill me...Ki
  • We might see the day when Duke Nukem Forever is published.

    All kidding aside, it would remove the current obstacle of slow-speed space exploration.

    A 60-year mission to Pluto? No problemo.
  • by jolshefsky (560014) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:07PM (#11410182) Homepage
    Is it because 2038 going to be just like 1970 all over again?
  • I read the article, and was surprised to discover what are basically the conventional explanations of aging. Neither are the possible solutions particularly revolutionary, although I have some doubts as to whether de Grey's proposed approaches are the most likely to yield results. None are easy or likely to come about in the next few years.
  • Fox Interactive would need to change the name of their spy-parody first person shooter series.
  • i certainly wouldn't mind going on as long as i want, without growing old and feeble, and being able to choose at what point i was finished.

    there's no fundamental reason (that we know of) that a sentient biological entity shouldn't be able to sustain itself indefinitely. the only reason we're not effectively immortal is that we're not designed to be. there's no evolutionary advantage to being so.

  • Fixing aging (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amstrad (60839) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:08PM (#11410199)
    If we "fix" this whole aging thing, won't we also need to put a stop to this giving birth thing?

    I don't think the Catholics are gonna like this very much.
    • Re:Fixing aging (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Scorchio (177053)
      I'd rather they'd fix the aging thing, so I can live in a twenty-something body until I die at a relatively normal age. 2030 puts me at about 60 when I go for my immortality jab. I'm not sure I want to spend eternity as a 60-year-old. Or will it make me younger, too?
  • Unless we ended reproduction, or severely limited it (perhaps, by removing reproductive capabilities of newborns), the world would soon be extraordinarily overpopulated. Economies would crumble, society would be in shambles, etc.

    Of course, we could always legalize murder to balance it out a little, but I think having everyone not live 1,000 years is a better idea.
  • If we could stop aging, imagine the population boom. Especially imagine the families that like to have lots of children, when women never go past childbearing age (whether preference or religious belief, they would have huge families).

    So any cure for aging would need to also include a limit on reproduction. Perhaps the treatment would, by law, include sterilization. And perhaps the treatment would be denied to anyone with more than a certain number of children.
  • If you could solve these problems, most of our money would probably go to medical. Dealing with all the aches and pains we'd pick up along the way.

    And who would we, as a tax-paying society, be obliged save from an early death via old age? Prisoners? Poor? Past Presidents?
  • Nearly every week there is some "new study" published that contradicts a previous one. Theories of aging 10-20 years ago are pretty different than those of today. So I'd venture at least half of his seven claims would be either wrong or insignificant 20 years from now.

    I am optimistic that someday medicine will have a better understanding, but not today.
  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kryzx (178628) * on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:12PM (#11410258) Homepage Journal
    Duh! Of course!
    Just think how well my meager investments will be doing after they've had the chance to grow for 100 years! I'll be loaded!

    Seriously, I think the money and class issues are the interesting side of this. If it happened there would be a clear class division between those that could afford it and those that couldn't. And for those that could, their wealth could grow without bounds. Our (in the US and most other western countries) society depends on inheritance and the associated taxes, dividing of estates, etc, to redistribute wealth, and this would immediately negate that effect. Anyone with an estate worth much could afford the technology to extend their life, and therefore not pass on the estate.

    While it raises all kinds of social issues, on a personal level it means each of us has to try to accumulate enough wealth to get into the category of people that can afford it before the end of our natural lifespan. It's a race against time.
  • that this article is from the all too near future?
    Do You Want to Live Forever?
    By Sherwin Nuland
    Febuary 2005

    (emphasis mine)
  • by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:12PM (#11410262)
    acquire enough wisdom. But the question is, are you someone who believes in reincarnation, the afterlife, etc.?
  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:21PM (#11410397) Journal
    All us middle-aged geeks want to be well retired by 2038 so we don't have to deal with the *nix/Linux 32-bit date problem [deepsky.com] - or at least semi-retired so we can be called back on consultancy basis and hefty fee.
  • by coyote-san (38515) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:27PM (#11410493)
    The problem isn't that life expectancy could be raised to 1000 years or more.

    The problem is that it would only be available to relatively few people. People who could afford multimillion dollar fees (which might exist solely to keep out the riffraff) or people with key political connections.

    Working slaves can forget about it. Banks can always repossess a multimillion dollar house, but what do you do here when somebody declares bankruptcy after treatment?

    The bottom line is that assets and power will quickly become (even more) concentrated in the top 1% or so of the population. Imagine what the average working person could do with a second lifetime where they own their own home from the beginning -- but they would start with much more real world experience and street smarts. Now imagine the same thing with people will millions of dollars in assets and dozens of lifetimes of experience.

    The result would not be unlike the Go'uld in Stargate. The "immortals" might even put on the cloak of divinity. A few hundred years ago monarchs claimed they ruled by divine right, but they died just like us. How hard would it be for people with a centuries-long lifetime to manipulate society so the emphemerals believe that the immortals are graced by god. How long would it take for the emphemerals to forget that these medical treatments even forget or that everyone naturally dies within a century or so.
  • Death Becomes Her (Score:3, Interesting)

    by buckeyeguy (525140) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:31PM (#11410567) Homepage Journal
    I am reminded of the movie Death Becomes Her [imdb.com], in which the vanity aspects of eternal life turn ugly real fast. Fall down the stairs, break your neck? No problem! But that humpback won't look so good in an evening dress.
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @02:40PM (#11410669) Homepage Journal
    I can't explain exactly why, but it boils down to something like this. We can keep a car running forever, or maintain a house indefinitely, but at some point someone decides the major overhauls aren't worth it.

    Even if you replace every damaged cell, there are still supercellular structures (tissues, organs) that have to be maintained. You are probably going to need a lot of wholesale organ replacement. Living things have elvolved to grow their organs from small or large by multiplying cells in a certain pattern. I'm not sure that cell replacement can adequately maintain that pattern. If you have an old house and you replace each piece of wood as it rots out, small inacuracies will build up over time, and the whole structure will become misshapen, and you will have to replace the whole wall.

    I guess the point is that living things were designed to grow, and by that I mean go from small to large, into adult form, and then die. Can maintenance really work? If you look at, say, the spiral pattern on a flower, I think it's fairly easy to get one cell to multiply into that pattern, but then to replace a single petal? A lot of our organs have that branching tree structure. I think it's easier to grow that than to maintain. I don't know if our DNA has a program to replace a section of artery, but it certainly has a program to grow it.

    I remember from a radio interview a museum curator said "It's easier to destroy than to create, and it's easier to create than to maintain". I think it will be cheaper to make new people and let the old ones die than it will be to maintain everyone.

    • by maynard (3337)
      Living things have elvolved to grow their organs from small or large by multiplying cells in a certain pattern. I'm not sure that cell replacement can adequately maintain that pattern.

      Interesting counterpoint:

      From Eurekalert [eurekalert.org]: University of Manchester makes made-to-measure skin and bones a reality using inkjet printers [eurekalert.org]

      Made-to-measure skin and bones, which could be used to treat burn victims or patients who have suffered severe disfigurements, may soon be a reality using inkjets which can print human ce

      • It is a cool technology, but it seems to be limited to things like skin and bone, where the detailed arrangement of different cell types in the organ is not important to the function of the overall organ. It might be very useful for growing a person a new liver, but it would take a lot of work to get this going for the heart, kidneys, or brain. And when it all comes down to it, the brain is the only organ that matters. Every other part of a person's body could be replaced.
  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @04:05PM (#11411804)
    I don't see it in the highest-rated comments and, with the volume of posts, this might be a dupe so I apologize in advance if that's the case, but...

    Immortals also die.

    Just because your body will never naturally die doesn't mean you'll live forever. There are diseases that act in means outside what we're discussing. There's suicide. There's murder. And (I don't remember where I read it; if someone has a cite, I'd be grateful) actuarial science shows that the rate at which people die in accidents is sufficiently high that even if we never got sick or old we'd still manage to off ourselves by doing something stupid sometime before our 500th birthdays. On average.

    People would still die. As individuals, we're just too stupid to live forever, no matter how sturdy our bodies are.
  • No No No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by carldot67 (678632) on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @08:19PM (#11414545)
    A third year molecular biology undergraduate could shoot down all seven theories without even breaking into a canter.

    De Grey has broken the golden, unwritten rule of life sciences:

    Have Humility in the Face of Nature

  • by thelizman (304517) <hammerattack AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @08:22PM (#11414572) Homepage
    One of my favorite authors, Wil McCarthy, writes a series of books which concentrate mainly on a few technologies, one of which is the 'fax gate', or just 'fax'. Similiar to today's fax machines, the point is to accept an item as input, and transmit data about it to another point for reproduction. Unlike today's faxes, the faxes of Wil McCarthy's world consist of a print plate filled with nano scale assemblers which 'dissolve' you on one end and store your substance in a buffer, then transmit a highly detailed pattern of you to another fax gate elsewhere where the assemblers use mass from the previous entrants to reconstruct you to every last detail, even preserving quantum states so you're still alive an conscience.

    An unintended consequence is that people who've stepped into a fax plate exist only as data, and data can be manipulated. Software can (and does, in his fiction), fix damage, remove disease, and undoes genetically programmed death. The upshot of all this is that everyone has the perfectly toned bodies of 20 year old athletes, and the worst that happens in death is that you lose a few hours of memories for ever. As long as a fax gate is nearby (and they're as common as telephones in McCarthy's future), the damage would have to be pretty extensive to cause actual death, otherwise your body can simpley be tossed into the nearest fax, and a repaired you will be spit out almost immediately. You're immorbid, incapable of natural death, and with backups made everytime you step through a gate, you're theoretically immortal.

    Of course, with the notion to tamper comes the required self improvement. Soldiers would elect to have carbon nanofibres woven into their skeleton, and protective diamond plates inserted around major organs. Slashdot weenies, tired of receiving wedgies, could order up a buff exterior and pump up their enemies. Women could go blonde for a day, or enlarge their boobs for that special date, then shrink them down when they become a nuisance. You can even, with enough mass in the buffers, make copies of yourself.

    Is this possible? Depends on who you ask. Some nanologists poo poo the notion of nanoassemblers citing electronic forces on the atomic level as inhibiting the movement of little claws. Others poo poo the poo pooers by pointing out that individual atoms have already been manipulated in the lab.

    The overall issue of immorbidity raises new questions. If we are incapable of death ourselves, do we lose our concept of it, and therefore our fear of it? Or how about, what if someone chooses to die. Their immorbid and highly improved bodies won't allow it. And what happens when you reach the physiologicallimit of your own memory capacity? Do you download it into a flash disk, or just dump them forever. And with people living for centuries, what do you do with all the bored, unemployable, and resource draining people who will overpopulate the planet in a society where production of basic goods is so efficient that there are absolutely no environmental pressures or population controls? Well...besides colonize space (which didn't work so well in McCarthy's books).
  • by Noco (620600) <zebracrest80&yahoo,com> on Wednesday January 19, 2005 @08:57PM (#11414933)

    I have a degree in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology. I used to work in a Genetics research lab as well. Now, I'm no Cambridge Scholar, but I'm not stupid. But unless I'm missing something, this guy has basic points wrong in most of his 7 points.

    Eliminating telomerase is not bad, and a way to reduce/eliminate cancer. Telomoerase is essential for Germ Cells, i.e. sperm and egg cells. It seems unlikely to be able to eliminate it in all cells but these.

    Cancer cells don't need telomerase. There are countless avenues to cancerous cell growth.

    Stimulation cell growth is good and necessary. Cell growth in the brain could be extremely problematic. The brain is a living, connected system. The connections are what make the brain what it is. Unlike computeres with fixed hardware and variable software, the brain is variable in both. The electrical patterns can change as well as the paths the patterns take. Essentially, they are insepearable. The addition of new cells, with no way to control their connectedness would not aleveate the problems of cellular degredation and loss.

    Extrecellular protein linkages are unique. Biology is extremely effecient at its use of chemical compounds, structurally. Our knowledge of protein strcuture is limited, due to the limitiations we have of computational modeling due to limited computational abilities. That he should think that extracellular proteins show unique linkages seems hubristic. It is possible we don't understand all protein interactions yet.

    Cell growth can be stimulated naturally. Here, even a passing comment has errors. Muscle cells are stimulated to divide by excercise. No! Excercise increases the size of muscles by stimulating an increase in production of muscle fiber proteins. More proteins cause a cell to be larger, and thus the overall muscle to be bigger. Thus excercise increases the size of muscles, not the number of cells. This is basic biology.

    Mitochondrial proteins will work in the nucleus.While most cells in the world use a universal genetic code, some vary specific cells do not fully share the code's universality. Some non-eukaryotic cells and mitochondria. (It is interesting to note that mitochondria are thought to be descendended from symbiotic [wikipedia.org] non-eukaryotics cells themselves.) I don't know off the top of my head if these proteins will work with both codes, but it seems likely that even if the nucleus can produce the raw protein, the proper folding, transport, and ultimate use of the proteins might not occurt since they are not where they need to be, namely inside the mitochondria. Only native proteins might be functional.

    Again, I might have too simple an outlook or be completely incorrect, but it seems that there are basic concepts of biology that conflict with de Grey's ideas.

2.4 statute miles of surgical tubing at Yale U. = 1 I.V.League

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