Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Medicine Science

The Fight To End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding 569

Posted by timothy
from the gentleman-scientist dept.
oddwick11 writes "Aubrey de Grey and other leading scientists and thinkers in stem cell research and regenerative medicine will gather in Los Angeles at UCLA for Aging 2008 to explain how their work can combat human aging, and the sociological implications of developing rejuvenation therapies. From an article today in WIRED Magazine 'Now, though, some scientists are beginning to view his approach — looking at aging as a disease and bringing in more disciplines into gerontology — as worthwhile, even if they still look askance at his claims of permanent reversible aging within a lifespan. The Methuselah Foundation now has an annual research funding budget of several million dollars, de Grey says, and it's beginning to show lab results that he thinks will turn scientists' heads.'" The conference is free, though registration is required; L.A. area readers who can attend are encouraged to post their thoughts. Update: 06/27 05:18 GMT by T : Dr. de Grey notes that you can also simply show up and register on-site. Look forward to a Slashdot interview with de Grey in the near future.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Fight To End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding

Comments Filter:
  • Hope (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:01AM (#23962377)

    So there is hope for John McCain after all!

    • Re:Hope (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:09AM (#23962465) Homepage Journal
      As an aging human myself...may I say I support this effort whole heartedly.

      It doesn't appear as if vampirism is going to save me at this point, so, time to support medical science!!

      Yes...I DO want to live for ever.

      Now...which politician will speak out in favor of wiping out aging?

      • Re:Hope (Score:5, Funny)

        by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:25AM (#23962571) Homepage Journal

        As an aging human myself...may I say I support this effort whole heartedly....

        Thank you. I'm going to need a spare sometime.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        The conference is in L.A. They'd be glad to help you live forever using a disfiguring cocktail of fad diets, plastic surgery, Botox(tm), hair transplants, bathing in feces(works wonders for your pores!); and to top it off, they'll hold up your chihuahua in a 4-star hotel.

        Oh, and the whole anti-aging idea is so god-complex outlandish that it couldn't possibly be hosted in any other place 'cept L.A.
        • Re:Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Aphoxema (1088507) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:53AM (#23962809) Homepage Journal

          There's nothing ridiculous about trying to fight off the same thing we fight our whole lives.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by somersault (912633)

            There is when it's only an external thing. To use an obvious car analogy, you can sand and paste a rusty chassis every few weeks so that it looks okay, but if the rust is eating away at the inside then it's all just for appearance's sake, and the thing will fall apart eventually. I think that aiming to indefinitely prolong life is a good goal, but things like face lifts and botox are just sad..

        • Re:Hope (Score:4, Funny)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:24AM (#23963399)

          bathing in feces(works wonders for your pores!)

          If that were true, nobody would get pimples on their ass.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by thesandtiger (819476)

          No more god-complex than:

          - trying to create artificial life
          - trying to create artificial intelligence
          - trying to create artificial suns
          - trying to cure/prevent any and all diseases by modifying our own genome/the genomes of other creatures

          And, for that matter, what's wrong with wanting to do things that are typically (in the mind of those who believe in such things) reserved for god? It wasn't so long ago that just using fire would have been thought to be something only a god could do...

          Trying to fight the

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Now...which politician will speak out in favor of wiping out the aging?

        there.. fixed that for you :)

      • by corbettw (214229)

        Now...which politician will speak out in favor of wiping out aging?

        Dunno, same one who'll speak out in favor of PANCAKES?

      • Re:Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

        by blahplusplus (757119) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:05AM (#23962891)

        "Yes...I DO want to live for ever."

        I wonder if this means at some point politics and religion will have to go obsolete, I can't see immortals who are idealogically charged getting along with each other, will this lead to immortal wars, or will age and maturity see idealogy as nonsense?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Just because we don't age doesn't mean we can't die.

          Bullets will still kill us.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            That's exactly right. Unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, and smoking could kill us. I'm sure that cancer, and brain problems could too.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by MBGMorden (803437)

              My guess is that this type of thing along with stem cell research would likely wipe up the slow killers that you mentioned. Unhealthy eating or lack of exercise won't come up and bite nearly as many people if they could afford to have a new/spare heart grown every now and then.

              In think essentially, this type of thing would end most deaths except for deaths caused by violent trauma, or for very odd coincidence deaths. IE, murders, car accidents, drownings, etc, but death from "natural causes" would become

      • by symbolset (646467)

        >Now...which politician will speak out in favor of wiping out aging?

        Presumably it will be one who can't do the math: A mammal that takes 16 years to mature and then spends 500 years breeding. You think gas is expensive now? Does retirement look far away? I assume it will look further away when retirement age rises to 450, with annual increases.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Opportunist (166417)

          You do offer a very valid point, and a difficult one at that. What if we don't die?

          Now, it could be assumed that the average woman won't be fertile longer, so those extra years maybe won't be used for breeding, but the problem remains: Imagine everyone from 1800 was still alive. Now subtract about a third of those people for accidents, suicides and the like. How many people would there be in your family alone? For me that would include 5-6 generations, in other words (just the direct relatives) it would inc

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sckeener (137243)

            The part that scares me is the lack of change.

            I've known several high level managers that stepped down only because they were getting age related health problems.

            Toss in, from your example, mindsets of earlier generations and you could get cultural stagnation in addition to age related caste systems.

            The supreme court in the US would have to change...currently appointing a young judge to the supreme court would mean stabilizing the cultural fluxes for the next couple of generations. Now if they lived near f

      • Re:Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Merusdraconis (730732) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:32AM (#23963067) Homepage

        I'm not sure I'm up for supporting research that would make Rupert Murdoch or Fred Phelps live forever.

        In all seriousness, if humanity lived forever we'd be screwed. We're not built, physically or mentally, to be able to survive more than a hundred years of changes, and we're terribly poor at letting go of things that don't match the facts unless they physically hurt us. Bad ideas would never die. Bigotry would never fade. Bad people would never go away unless they crossed the line and had an 'accident'. How many people who undergo this procedure would end up trying to change the world to reflect the way it was when they were kids, being too unwilling to accept the world changing underfoot?

        • Re:Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

          by oldhack (1037484) on Friday June 27, 2008 @05:17AM (#23964387)

          ...In all seriousness, if humanity lived forever we'd be screwed. We're not built, physically or mentally, to be able to survive more than a hundred years of changes...

          We were not "built" to live till 70 and go senile, but we managed to do that by adaptation. Things change, we change things, and we adapt - none of us are "built" according to particular specs. I fail to see why people insist on dragging in their moral/religious belief onto everything.

        • Re:Hope (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Genda (560240) <mariet&got,net> on Friday June 27, 2008 @05:33AM (#23964471) Journal

          Please forgive me my friend, but memes 2, 3, and 4 thousand years old are still impacting our world today... A "Man being worth his salt", comes from the Roman legions before the birth of christ. So I don't think a man's lifetime has anything to do with the human tenacity to stick our collective heads in a dark place and allow them to do little more than ferment. We've done a great job of perpetuating ignorance, bigotry, superstition, and xenophobia with lifespans just the way they are. In fact the shorter the lifespan the greater the ignorance (I'm not claiming causation, but the correlation is impossible to ignore.)

          If humanity, and the vast majority of life's current diversity are to make it to the next century, we best be getting ourselves a wee bit more enlightened. One should never consider functional immortality simply for fear of dying. That's a really lousy reason. One should embrace what would be possible if a person could actually approach projects that might take two or three traditional lifetimes. The universe happens on a scale that we are sadly too short lived to really appreciate. I for one, would love to see how some very interesting things are going to turn out. What will it look like when Eta Carinae suddenly goes hypernova?!!! What will happen when our technology becomes sentient? Will we be around (humanity) when the Andromeda Galaxy crashes into the Milky Way in several billion years?

          Wouldn't you just love to have front row seats for that firework display!!!

          We need to do a lot of evolving and damn fast. Maybe calling an end to death by aging is a great start at forcing us to address our immaturity as a species.

          By the way, I recently spent a Saturday afternoon speaking with Aubrey DeGrey, I found him incredibly brilliant and a truly fine person to share a pint with.

      • Re:Hope (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Arethan (223197) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:30AM (#23963433) Journal

        "Yes...I DO want to live for ever."

        As do I. The 'natural' order of things, the 'circle of life', whatever bullshit label you want to stick on it, is lofty, naive, short-sighted, and obsolete. To those that claim the existence of a higher power, perhaps you're right. But did you ever stop and think that one of the major steps your deity intended for humanity to take was the leap to immortality? Suddenly all of the problems that we've been handing off to other generations, shady business practices and volatile economies, dependence on fossil fuels, deforestation, global warming, destruction of ecosystems, they all suddenly fall right back into our own lap. Having to live with your decisions forever certainly changes your perspective on matters.

        Not to mention the scientific gains to be had if we stopped losing the top researchers. Hell, given enough time, we'd all be a hell of a lot wiser. A few hundred years of slacking off and you'll find yourself ready to start doing something more useful. Learn to play the piano, write some dissertations on quantum physics, learn a new language, get a structural engineering degree, explore the world, finally finish that piece of software you started writing 50 years ago...

        With the right perspective, this world would suck a lot less. As for the religious fanatics that want the opportunity to meet their maker, no one said you would be forced into the program. Go ahead and die. The rest of us will probably be happier without hearing you spouting off in public about how we're all sinners for cheating death.

      • by mcrbids (148650) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:35AM (#23963459) Journal

        Given a free market economy, having a society that doesn't age will have some interesting effects. One of the more nasty is dealing with the rapidly diverging economic classes.

        See, some people manage their money and assets well, others just don't. In today's world, those that do manage well (the Warren Buffetts of the world, large and small) have only so long to accumulate wealth before they die, leaving their assets to kin who rarely do as well. Within a few generations, that wealth will be gone, and new powerheads raise up.

        It's a system of creation and destruction that has no end, and is largely self-stabilizing. But if people can live forever, those who can't manage their wealth will forever live just above their poverty line while those who can manage their wealth become wealthier and wealthier... forever. People of the likes of Trump, Gates, and Ellison will always be rich, and usually will be getting richer.

        Further, consider that those most able to AFFORD life extension technology will be the savers and asset managers, and you see very quickly that this is a problem that makes the problems of today's middle-class erosion look like a walk in the park.

        Me, I bridge these two categories. I'm pretty good at making substantial amounts of money, but I'm also pretty good at spending it. I'm working on saving a significant amount of my income. It's not easy for me, as I naturally view money as something to spend, not something to save, so I use lots of charts and monthly meetings with my wife to discuss our financial situation and I'm pretty damned insistent that we improve our financial picture significantly every month and every quarter.

        But if life extension technology becomes available, I want to be where I need to be to get it!

        Of course, there are other problems to be solved. What about overpopulation? Today's death rate in the United States is just shy of 0.9% [photius.com]. But if people "lived forever" the death rate would drop through the floor, so the birth rate would have to similarly drop to avoid a severe population bomb. We can't just tell people to wait until they are 200 years old to reproduce, since a woman ovulates every month, and there are a finite amount of eggs available in a female to give. Therefore, we have to allow for child birth by lottery, by tying births to existing deaths, or some other mechanism to equalize the birth/death rates to fit the resources available.

        Otherwise, we'll just crash Mother Earth, something we're on the verge of doing anyway!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hidannik (1085061)

          Accidents, murder and disease will kill off those who don't age. Even if we solve aging, there are plenty of other diseases that can get you and other ways to die.

          Hans

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by symbolset (646467)

      But will he have Time Enough for Love?

      Where's your Ezra Howard now?

    • (Abandon All)Hope (Score:3, Insightful)

      by plasmacutter (901737)

      Some disturbing issues with this:

      1 - the current generation which is in power will never pass on. they will continue to subsist, cling to their power, impede progress, and, freed from the inevitable struggle against disease, will be able to dedicate more energy toward bringing about a police state.. (MAFIAA, ACTA, "we dont need no stinking new business model, we have a RIGHT to profit how we always have")

      2 - the propensity for "turds to float" will mean legions of GW's maintaining the capacity to have yet m

  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:01AM (#23962379)
    500 years from now, just think how out of touch the elderly will be! I can't wait to shake a cane and tell the youth that in my day we had Atari 2600s, not AI-merged universal consciousness!
    • Get offa my lawn (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:45AM (#23963517)

      It sounds funny, but imagine the implications.

      Politics in a democracy is hanging on the sentiments of the majority. Now realize that this majority would be well over 100 years old when you can reach 500 years. Now imagine how slowly any political change can happen when the average voter is so fully entrenched in his stance that you need a major earthquake to move him.

      Think back 200 years and ponder what people deemed "good values" and beneficial. Do you think we'd have female suffrage? End of slavery?

      If you think politics move slowly today, just imagine what it would be like if not only politicians are old, but also the majority of their voters.

  • No no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rascargil (1313175)
    Aging is not a disease. Imagine contesting with our own offspring if everybody decides to live forever.
    • Re:No no (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pushing-robot (1037830) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:36AM (#23962681)

      Thanks to the magic of calculus, as long as you have less than two children (on average) per couple, the population will stabilize eventually. Many first-world nations have already reached that point (and are experiencing negative population growth as a result).

      A one-child policy seems a reasonable price to pay for immortality - hell, even if sterilization was mandatory a lot of people would still jump at the chance. And why shouldn't they? There's plenty of interesting people in the world to get to know. If we didn't spend our entire lives concerned only with our immediate relatives we might become a better species.

      Besides, even without old age plenty of people will still die from yet-uncured diseases, accidents, wars, murders, suicides, etc. Death isn't going away any time soon.

      The big question is how it would affect us psychologically: If death was no longer inevitable, would we give life more value? Would men still march to war? Would terrorism become a far more compelling tool? Would we spend eternity cowering inside private fortresses, fearing the slightest risks to our fragile immortality?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Acapulco (1289274)
        Did you read Bicentennial Man by Asimov?

        You should if you are curious about a very interesting point of view orbiting around those issues.

        I won't spoil it, but it's worth it and it should take no more than one or two days to read.
      • Re:No no (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Virtual_Raider (52165) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:40AM (#23963135) Homepage

        The big question is how it would affect us psychologically: If death was no longer inevitable, would we give life more value? Would men still march to war? Would terrorism become a far more compelling tool? Would we spend eternity cowering inside private fortresses, fearing the slightest risks to our fragile immortality?

        We already do —and don't do— this, in industrialized countries life expectancy is already twice as much as 200 years ago and 20+ years more than 30 years ago [No citation, Google is your friend] and because of this we are already cowering in our living rooms afraid of the dark, of the darks, of the unknown, of the different...

        Terrorism is already a very effective tool. It's used by those on power to scare those outside the elites into submission. We're already sue and lock up parents because they fail to protect their children from stuff that we did when we were kids. There are already booming industries that feed on our fear of getting sick to sell us everything from pills, to methods to simple comforters (such as food, toys, drugs).

        So, while we're not immortal, life is much more valuable now so on the one hand we value it more and are more afraid of losing it to the point of being afraid of living; and on the other humanity continues to kill, maim and destroy as it always has. I would like the opportunity to live longer while in use of my mental capacity and physical might (?) but I don't think it's a great idea just now. I'd personally rather die "young" if that meant that more people on the current undeveloped countries got a better shot at enjoying some of the stuff that I do.

        Redistributing/spreading wealth and health is not as sexy or popular because is harder to care about Petey J. Random dying of malnutrition or dysentery in Africa/Asia/the Sprawl than it is to care about ourselves. Not criticizing, just my opinion.

    • prolonged life does not mean, IMHO, contesting with our offspring, but contesting with each's own.

      Aging, Death, Life, are part of us more so than we are part of them in retrospect, and should youth become a "pill" away, I'd feel more incline "not" to reproduce as early in life as I do now.

    • Re:No no (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lobiusmoop (305328) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:09AM (#23962923) Homepage

      "Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. " - Susan Ertz

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I have no problem filling a rainy sunday afternoon. Now can I have my immortality pill? I promise I'll learn to spell better.
    • Re:No no (Score:5, Funny)

      by gregbot9000 (1293772) <mckinleg@csusb.edu> on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:32AM (#23963075) Journal
      The solution: make old people grow asparagus on mars.
  • NOOOOO! (Score:5, Funny)

    by NerveGas (168686) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:02AM (#23962405)

    Please, please, no.

    The hope that my mother-in-law will someday die is one of the few things that allows me to be around her. PLEASE, don't take that away from me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Great, now I can't stop imagining a Monty Python skit:

      ...

      Reporter: You've all lost loved ones in recent years, while your research has had many near-triumphs and terrible setbacks. I'm sure it must have been difficult seeing those around you die while you were so close to a breakthough?
      Scientist #1: Difficult, yes, difficult...
      Scientist #3: Indeed, terrible...
      Scientist #2: Horrible, horrible...
      Reporter: And Dr. Zweinhart - Pardon me for bringing the subject up, but your aunt passed away only days be

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:03AM (#23962407) Journal

    The life-extension movement has been asking for this approach for at LEAST a half-century.

    By the way: Watch for the government to try to restrict this research, or use of its results, to "save social security".

    Which shouldn't really be an issue: A good set of treatments for aging would lead to people of larger calendar age not just hanging in there in a sickly state consuming large amounts of medical treatment - but retaining (or being restored to) good health and able to return to work and create the resources needed to support them (and in style).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by duckInferno (1275100)
      A good point - assume say 30 years of one's life is spent in an unproductive or counterproductive state (childhood/frailty/etc). Someone who lives for 500 years will have a lot less overhead than five generations of 100 yearers.
      • Someone who lives for 500 years will have a lot less overhead than five generations of 100 years

        And you think it's the old fossils that still program in COBOL? Just wait... The arguments on Slashdot ... my head asplode.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by xstonedogx (814876)

          The arguments on Slashdot ... my head asplode.

          Our six digit UIDs are looking pretty good right about now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:05AM (#23962425)

    I've been in attendance at the last 134 annual conferences and found it to be very rewarding.

  • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:08AM (#23962451) Journal
    Heinlein wrote extensively in his novels on the subject of aging, treating it as a syndrome that was inherently cureable, including the anhedonia (loss of the joy of life) that came from that multitude of minor pains that take up so much of your attention as you get older. Pain is terribly distracting, from minor itching all the way up to opiate-resistant terminal conditions. It's a lot of nerve noise. Anything that can solve the complex of symptoms that lead to age-related death will also have to deal with pain and anhedonia as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Saying you can stop aging soon could be an easy line on old rich men beginning to fear death.

    No difficult questions on progress or specifics; investors that came to you. There's your millions.

    (No, not saying anything at all about whether or not this whole thing is a good or bad idea)

    • by eln (21727)

      This whole thing is a big waste of money. We already have the perfect cure for aging, and with the Supreme Court's recent decision that Washington D.C. isn't allowed to ban it, we should be able to keep fighting aging for the foreseeable future.

  • Boon for the news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrami (664567) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:13AM (#23962507) Homepage
    Imagine a world where all deaths are either by tragic accident or homicide...
    • or in suspended animation.

      I don't understand why death must mean something horribly gone wrong?

      Circle of life or Circle of death, I guess, all depend on point of view...

  • Overpopulation... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by duckInferno (1275100) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:19AM (#23962531) Journal
    ... won't be an issue as long as anyone who opts in for clinical immortality is also stripped of their fertility. In fact, i'd imagine underpopulation would be a significant risk if enough people take it.

    I for one would love to live to see the day where we roam freely amongst the stars. With all the advancements in almost every area of existence that we are experiencing today, I don't forsee myself getting bored any time soon.
  • by Aphoxema (1088507) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:20AM (#23962533) Homepage Journal

    'living forever' really seems like it should be possible. Our bodies have a process, and that process can get altered by diseases and malnourishment and improving how we keep clean and what we eat has given us much more time to live.

    Why should aging be any different? Nobody really dies of 'natural causes', it's always something specific that breaks homeostasis in the end (sometimes starting from the beginning), natural causes is another name for 'there's no worth in investigating exactly why this person died because they're too damned old, but it's probably heart failure, even though that's a symptom of a mode of death'.

    Our bodies aren't designed on a basis of 'right' and 'wrong', it's designed on what worked best to getting the next generation across. Unfortunately, renewing certain kinds of cell tissue was never vital to that goal.

    We already know electronics and stuff are prone to getting old and eventually failing themselves, but there's no reason to use our artifice as an analogy, we have yet to create something that is constantly replacing itself on the cellular level, essentially becoming a whole new thing over and over.

    I hope this research makes some serious progress, even if it will be only our descendants that enjoy the results.

  • by edwebdev (1304531) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:20AM (#23962535)
    If human lifespans are ever extended to a significant degree, there will be significant repercussions as governments attempt to deal with what would inevitably become a very serious overpopulation crisis. Death and suicide are currently viewed as horrible things by the majority of western cultures. Would a practical illustration (catastrophic overpopulation) of why death is a natural and necessary component in the "lifespans" of living things, including human populations, change popular and governmental dispositions towards death and dying?

    What kind of effects might this have on policies towards euthanasia? More provocatively, might governments starting offering tax credits or other kinds of awards to families whose eldest members opted to end their lives? Might governments impose penalties on individuals who were older than a certain age?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Aphoxema (1088507)

      If we could increase the health of everyone, we could help maintain resources and shelter and everything for everyone.

      I've been back and forth across the US quite a bit and I've been to a few other countries, there's a lot of empty space between here and there and the only overpopulation I've seen are in the big cities that people incessantly cling to or migrate to for reasons beyond my understanding, probably because I was raised in a big city and hated it.

      The dirty truth of it is that overall, humans are

    • What is it about human nature that makes some of us enjoy doom and horror? Why is the dystopia far more prevalent than the utopia? Even when people (read: men and woman) are able to choose their job, live forty years longer than normal, eat themselves to death with plentiful food and enjoy more leisure time than any other period in human history; we still find dark futures lurking in everyone's minds.

      Now a group of scientists is saying we can live forever, and what is the immediate reaction? That will nev
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by osu-neko (2604)

      If human lifespans are ever extended to a significant degree, there will be significant repercussions as governments attempt to deal with what would inevitably become a very serious overpopulation crisis. ...

      Ignoring everything you wrote past that point, since it seems to proceed from a highly doubtful premise.

      Anyone who's looked seriously at population trends around the world as education and standard of living rises would know that one of the most serious long-term consequences of our present course is the eventual extinction of the human race, simply because as we become education and affluent, our population growth rate trends into the negative.

      Given this, it's far from "inevitable" that an end to aging wou

  • When my car gets old, it will get rusty. If you happen to have a car with a fiberglass or stainless steel body, the parts under the hood will still fail.

    If you're treating aging like a disease, might as well find a cure for death too.

    • by corbettw (214229)

      At the end of the day, that's exactly what a treatment for aging is: a cure for death. And if you view death as simply the cessation of the body's systems, there's no conceptual reason why you shouldn't be able to restart those systems or prevent them from crashing in the first place, given the right tools and technology.

      The question is, should we be doing this? My take on it is, yes, yes we should. We should be doing everything we can to extend, as long as possible, every human life currently in existence.

  • When I read articles like this about scientists coming up with ways which can result in the dramatic increase in population, I can't help but think about Thomas Malthus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malthus#The_Principle_of_Population [wikipedia.org]. He theorizes that while our capacity to provide food increases arithmetically (1,2,3,4...) our population grows at a geometric rate (1,2,4,8...)

    "The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world."

    In the first edition of the Essay, Malthus suggested that only natural causes (such as accidents and old age), misery (war, pestilence, plague, and above all famine) [Book I, Ch. 2], and vice (which for Malthus included infanticide, murder, contraception and homosexuality) [Book I, Ch. 5.] could check excessive population-growth. In the second and subsequent editions, Malthus raised the possibility of moral restraint (marrying late or not at all, coupled with sexual abstinence prior to, and outside of, marriage) as a check on the growth of population.

    We've seen all of these from China's "One child" law, African warlords using food to control the population and pollution causing re

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by corbettw (214229)

      Malthus published his famous two centuries ago. If he had been even close to being right, Western civilization would not currently exist. The fact that you and are here, having this discussion, shows that he wrong in nearly all his assumptions.

    • Or...

      what if prolonged life means, longer reproductive cycle? Comparison to every other species, humans (not so much physiologically but socioeconomically) have very short window to reproduce. If we increase that window substantially, say, for 100 years, what are the chances, we might "actually" have better chance of being a better parent, a better human being, and a better neighbor?

      Quoting from my college professor, "if you give a monkey enough time, it can build a computer." If we give ourselves enough

  • by maiki (857449) on Friday June 27, 2008 @12:39AM (#23962697)
    Assume they stop or reverse aging and take it to the next step: never dying. Also assuming that we don't kill ourselves by overpopulation, what does that mean for the humans as an evolving species? We would stay the same while the rest of earth's species continue to develop? Death may be disastrous for the individual, but it allows the species to continue to adapt to changing conditions, no?
  • If they develop boosterspice, birthright lottery won't be far behind.
  • While de Grey and colleagues are very excited about their findings, they warn that repeated exposure to the Lazarus Pits may drive some people quite mad.
  • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Friday June 27, 2008 @01:33AM (#23963085)
    Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Kurt Vonnegut is a good story to read about the effects of immortality on life on this planet. I guess if we have some form of anti-gerasone, combined with the admonition of the Georgia Guidestones, we should wipe out a little over 6 billion people and let 500 million people live forever, thus halting human evolution completely so all of us can be wiped out eventually.
  • I'll take it, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:03AM (#23963299)
    and you can take my fertility with it; no interest in children, thank you. On the other hand, I'll take 20 years (or more!) of my life back, thank you very much! It's grossly unfair that you spend half of your life learning to live it properly, then you start to (potentially) decline so that you can't enjoy it as much. I want to train for the Tour de France!
  • by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Friday June 27, 2008 @02:15AM (#23963351)

    Consider for a moment that we do somehow manage to eliminate (or significantly limit) the aging process in humans. Based on trends in our current culture, it's very likely this would lead to sharp declines in child birth for a huge number of personal, social and legal reasons. This poses a serious problem when you start looking at things occurring on the microbiological level.

    First off, this leaves us wide open for a plague-like epidemic the further into the future we go. As child birth declines, our genetic diversity will begin to stagnate. This means the human race could face extinction at the hands of a super-virus or antibiotic-resistant infection. (Not unlike what we're already seeing in certain types of food crops, such as bananas.)

    Next, it's possible that our collective intelligence could also become stagnant. Humans seem to have a strange knack for ignoring and overlooking new concepts that contradict stuff they've been conditioned into believing is true for significant portions of their lives. (Anyone who's ever gotten themselves wrapped up into an "intelligent design vs evolution" debate, or has tried to convince a senior citizen that they're "too old to drive" knows this all too well.)

    Finally, we face the possibility of society and government entering a static state. As the rich and powerful cease to age, the more likely they will retain their positions of power. This means anything about these people that impedes social progress (grudges, stereotypes, general stupidity, etc...) will never go away until something really major forces such a change to occur. (Imagine a world where the current president and his administration would never be replaced until it literally ended up killing everyone...)

  • Births, mutation, and death are all critical to a species survival. If people don't die & get replaced by offspring, the human-species will be endangering its ability to adapt.

    A species which has become static and forgoes any new genetic variation is somehow not going to get wiped out by a pandemic at some point? Yeah right.

    Even with good genetic variation, viruses have managed to kill significant portions of human populations. You're not going to exterminate these viruses, ever. Even if you did, nature would cook up more at some point.

    And I've seen concerns over the idea of overpopulation poo-poo'd by people saying "we'll take-away/limit their ability to reproduce". What happens if for some reason the whole immortality thing stops working? Maybe an oversight, but maybe some anti-immortality jerks genetically engineer a retrovirus that makes everyone mortal again (contagious disease that kills over a period of about 70 years). Without the baby-making option, guess who gets to determine what traits make the species?

    And all the talk here about how the body is just machine, and we can repair it to perfection seem to have forgotten that there are plenty of toxins out there, natural & anthropogenic, which don't leave the body once they get in. This is the entire basis behind biomagnification/bioaccumulation. How would "immortal" people avoid the accumulation of heavy-metals over long periods of time? How many years of trace-amounts of mercury do you think it takes to damage your brain?

    It's also worth noting that the human societies have evolved in a sense as well, and would likely be much slower without replacing people with those able to offer fresh ideas & let go of the old without resistance. I can tell you that ethnic/national/political grudges would probably endure for much longer in the event that everyone can recall the reasons for their conflicts in a very personal way. If you think the middle east is a mess now, just wait until they're all immortal.

    From my humble point of view, the desire for immortality comes off as an amazingly selfish quest which would certainly enhance the risks for the survival of the species. It can be argued that by the act of dying, humans behave as team players and increase the speed of progress (biological & intellectual).

  • by n3tcat (664243) on Friday June 27, 2008 @03:36AM (#23963875) Homepage
    Somehow I find this sort of research will lead to the founding of the biological weapons wing of the Umbrella Corporation.

    Live forever... as a zombie!
  • Mortality, fertility (Score:3, Interesting)

    by evilpenguin (18720) on Friday June 27, 2008 @05:18AM (#23964393)

    I'm all for this, as long as you drive down fertility at the same time. All of the really serious problems we face right now (peak oil, peak copper, peak phosphorous, unstable food supply, global warming, international terrorism, imperial foreign wars) are either directly caused or directly exacerbated by having ~6 billion people on this planet.

    If, right now, the human population fell to 1 billion many of the aforementioned problems would be eliminated and those that remain would become much more manageable. Even if the "window" of fertility remains the same (the age of menopause), a dramatic increase in lifespan still means a dramatic increase in population.

    Let's get the whole world on board with birth control before we go after longer life. I'd love to live in a world with a stable human population of about 1 billion people who live for 500 years.

  • by vorpal22 (114901) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:42AM (#23968237) Homepage Journal

    For those of us with severe chronic illnesses who do not wish to but feel obligated to stay alive for our loved ones since the current societal view is that quantity of life is more important than quality of life, this is very disheartening to read.

    Doubly so for those of us concerned with overpopulation.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman

Working...