Friday, May 20, 2005

Do You Want to Live Forever?

Do You Want to Live Forever? is a very disturbing article I read in Technology Review online. I had been putting off reading it for months because it was too long (of course now I have a bit of free time at my job). Aubrey de Grey is some wacko that thinks that aging can be solved by "fixing" 7 areas of biology. He believes that everyone wants to live forever and that once that happens, there would be no need to have children. My friend Jim, a fellow alum, who had read the article on his own, put it perfectly, "You can think whatever you want, but don't tell me not to have kids."

Just recently, I finally happened upon the tiny forums link in the corner of the page, which is a posting area for this (or any) particular article. Apparently there are a lot of flames for the author of the article (and some condescending defense from Aubrey himself on p. 7), but I happened to agree with the author completely. It is natural to die. It just goes to show how scary some of these MIT brainiacs are.

Here is the official Aubrey de Grey Responds that he gave in response to the original article. The guy is still lost. Another related editorial by Jason Pontin is on the money as well, but unjustly flamed in the forums. They even asked for his resignation!! I'm not about to put my 2 cents into these fires, but at least I can here!!

Update 10/5/07 - I revisited this post and updated the links after listening to the WNYC Radio Lab's podcast about Mortality. The links in this post were out of date as Technology Review revamped its archives. The forums I mentioned have been integrated as blog comments, although the "unjust flaming" of Jason Pontin have been completely removed (I suppose he is editor after all).

4 comments :

Dave Gobel said...

I never had to worry about polio, smallpox, diptheria, pneumonia or yellow fever. I'm absolutely delighted that my children do not need to worry about them, and I'd love to see cures for alzheimers, cancer, ms, parkinsons, heart disease, blindness, osteoporosis etc. I'm not picky - I'd like to see them all be gone.

Like you, I'm not interested in in engineering immortality either. I'm interested in my children and my aged friends being and staying as healthy as they'd like to be. The problem is that at some point you can't seem to have one without at least a bit of the other.

moonfever0 said...

OK, I agree there, there is a fine distinction between life extension for the sake of better quality of life and immortality. I whole-heartedly approve of the first.

There has yet to be a been a living creature that has not died. Breaking that rule of nature would be a feat.

And then you get into how long is long enough? 200 years? 1000 years? And then as soon as (or if) the so-called technology becomes available, it will probably be at a high cost at first, creating another social divide between the have's and have-not's. This is all so fascinating in the sci-fi realm, as in the book Cyteen.

-Quentin said...

My first comment is: Wow was that a long article....and for me, sort of boring. I had to dig to the 4th page to get to the "seven horseman of death" (and if those in fact do summarize the contributors to death, I may have at least learned something....helpful or not, I am not sure)

Second, I think that this paper, and the Jason Pontin article you reference are strange in that for some reason that delight in bashing deGray for his physical appearance and dress. I find that a strange approach...and one that always makes me wonder (about whether the author has anything real to say) when I see it. (I hope the fact that I have not shaved yet today doesn't reflect on the relevance my post....I am fully dressed however....)

I guess I just look at it a different way....we all acknowledge that many of us are interested in life extension to some degree or another. Oh, not to live forever perhaps....but to make sure we see out children's marriage, or grand children grow, or the next Red Sox World Series win....you know, life's important stuff.

This guy is just taking his vision out to infinity....which certainly seems impractical and impossible, and even undesired to me. I predict right now that if he continues this search for immortality, he will die trying.

So I have two other perspectives on this...one from my religious beliefs (oh no...not that) and other other from the Engineer person that I have grown up to be. (oh crap...even worst!)

As the Engineer, I believe that humans are curious, and will continue to search for things they desire....and the fountain of youth is something people have always looked for. I also believe that once the Genie is out of the bottle it can not be put back...so once we used our brains to invent the nuclear weapon, we have to make sure we use our brains to use it with the respect it (and the world) deserves. It just isn't going to go away. (but you can't decide to NOT find it....it WILL be found...and probably better found by someone with knowledge to use it wisely)

My spiritual/religion side says there is an natural order and rule set for existence. I like to think it is a God creator....but call it Karma, or just the Natural order (My God is ever-powerful and doesn't worry exactly why we do good, only that we do) So if there are a set of rules defined...it might be true that we can find new ways to "use" the rules to say extend life....but if life wasn't meant to be extended to infinity....the rules will be enforced. (which might mean mass overcrowding and starvation.)

So the way I figure it, if we were meant to live forever, and we manage to figure out how to do it....it will be fine....otherwise, it ain't going to happen. (don't worry, be happy)

Anonymous said...

I know this particular blog post is old, but I'll answer anyway. Let's talk about "natural." Is it natural to have someone on life support? Not really. Is it natural to want to cure cancer, take modern medicine, etc., or going further, even to live in civilized society? Not at all, and yet when we come to the subject of curing aging, it is for some reason taboo or "unnatural." We don't seem to cry out that modern medicine has rid us of many of nature's population checks already, right? I simply advise you all to think about this the next time you go into the hospital because you have an ailment. Let's see what you believe then. By the way, there is a type of jellyfish that can revert completely back to the adolescent stage, and there is also a cancer that is immortal, so I'd wager that Mr. De Grey's idea is not so far-fetched. Imagine explaining today's advances to someone in ancient Rome. You would be crucified for madness.

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