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The Science and Ethics of Life Extension

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The Science and Ethics of Life Extension

  1. 1. The Science and Ethics of Life Extension Third Meeting, Winter Quarter Stanford Transhumanism Association January 28, 2005 Michael Jin
  2. 2. Senescence: a fatal disease <ul><li>52,000,000 lives per year </li></ul><ul><li>142,000 lives per day </li></ul><ul><li>6000 lives per hour </li></ul><ul><li>100 lives per minute </li></ul><ul><li>1.64 lives per second and rising </li></ul><ul><li>“ A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” – Joseph Stalin </li></ul>
  3. 3. Part I – Should we seek life extension? Part I S HOULD W E S EEK L IFE E XTENSION ? “ If we are to be destroyed, I am now convinced that it will not be a neutral or malevolent force that will do us in, but one that is benevolent in the extreme, one whose only motivation is to improve us and better our civilization” – Sherwin Nylund
  4. 4. Aubrey de Grey, Cambridge bio-gerontologist, addressing his critics <ul><li>“ Put yourself in the position of the prime minister of France in 1870, when Pasteur was going around saying that hygiene could almost entirely prevent infant deaths from infections and death in childbirth…You realize that the sooner people start adhering to these principles, the sooner the population will start exploding on account of all those children not dying. What would you do?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The first priority is to end the slaughter. Everything else is detail.” </li></ul>
  5. 5. Defeating aging is a matter of morality, not practicality <ul><li>“ Society has always had problems and doubtless always will, and it works to minimise and solve them, just like technological problems. Pretending that we will be so unable to cope with future problems that it's better to condemn indefinite billions to the puny lifespan of their ancestors is a sick joke anyway, but even sicker when we consider how implausible it is that such problems would be any worse or harder to tackle than those that we've tackled in the past.” </li></ul>
  6. 6. De Grey addresses practical arguments anyway <ul><li>Overpopulation already a threat, gradual, recourse to massive urbanization </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The proportion of women who are voluntarily childless in the USA rose 2.75-fold in just 13 years between 1982 and 1995 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Only the rich benefit? No, not in a democracy. </li></ul><ul><li>Overburdened retirement system? No, retirement will now be temporary. </li></ul><ul><li>Tyrants that live forever? No, most tyrants do not die naturally even today. </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Human Dignity Argument <ul><li>&quot;It is most worthwhile to re-examine the assumption that everything should be done to preserve health and prolong life as much as possible…This is a question in which our very humanity is at stake, not only in the consequences but also in the very meaning of the choice. For to argue that human life would be better without death is, I submit, to argue that human life would be better being something other than human .&quot; (May 2000) - Leon Kass, Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics </li></ul>
  8. 8. Rebutting Kass’ Human Dignity <ul><li>The humanness argument. What do you consider human? Transhumanists regard Promethean striving for progress as the true human characteristic. What defines humanity is a dream, not a state of being. </li></ul><ul><li>This idea of God-granted body in His image does not imply no change allowed. Otherwise surgery would be evil. </li></ul>
  9. 9. The Human Virtue Argument <ul><li>“ To be human is to inhabit a world of vulnerability and limits. The weakness of the flesh, and its end in death, frame all human endeavour. Human virtue, certainly as most moral thinkers have understood them, are responses to the fraught nature of our existence.” (Oct. 12, 2004) - Michael Gove, Columnist, UK Times (On the death of Christopher Reeves) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Rebutting the virtue argument <ul><li>No drive to excel, no ability to take risks, ennui—such conditions are avoidable </li></ul><ul><li>You do not transcend all limits </li></ul><ul><li>The Holocaust was a factory of human virtue. But that does not mean we should endure it. Death is the Human Holocaust </li></ul><ul><li>You can always kill yourself—though after living a great deal longer than normal </li></ul>
  11. 11. The Laundry List Argument <ul><li>“ I should declare here that I have no desire to live beyond the life span that nature has granted to our species. For reasons that are pragmatic, scientific, demographic, economic, political, social, emotional, and secularly spiritual , I am committed to the notion that both individual fulfillment and the ecological balance of life on this planet are best served by dying when our inherent biology decrees that we do.” (Feb. 2005) – Sherwin Nylund, Technology Review </li></ul>
  12. 12. Rebutting the Laundry List Argument: What is man? <ul><li>“ The man of flesh and bone; the man who is born, suffers, and dies—above all, who dies; the man who eats and drinks and plays and sleeps and thinks and wills; the man who is seen and heard; the brother, the real brother.” - Miguel Unamuno, Tragic Sense of Life </li></ul>
  13. 13. Unamuno: What man is not <ul><li>“ For there is another thing which is also called man, and he is the subject of not a few lucubrations, more or less scientific. He is the legendary featherless biped, the ζωον πολιτικον of Aristotle, the social contractor of Rousseau, the homo economicus of the Manchester school, the homo sapiens of Linnæus, or, if you like, the vertical mammal. A man neither of here nor there, neither of this age nor of another, who has neither sex nor country, who is, in brief, merely an idea. That is to say, a no-man.” </li></ul>
  14. 14. Unamuno: What man wants (In three words: To live forever) <ul><li>“ We live in memory and by memory, and our spiritual life is at bottom simply the effort of our memory to persist, to transform itself into hope, the effort of our past to transform itself into our future.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Self-compassion leads to self-love, and this self-love, founded as it is on a universal conflict, widens into love of all that lives and therefore wants to survive. So, by an act of love, springing from our own hunger for immortality, we are lead to give a conscience to the Universe—that is, to create God.” </li></ul>
  15. 15. Part II – Can we seek life extension? Part II C AN W E S EEK L IFE E XTENSION ? “ Those who hope for no other life are dead even for this” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
  16. 16. Evidence from Calorie Restriction <ul><li>As seen in Fig. 1, mice whose caloric intake was restricted by 25-65% had mean and maximum lifespans 35-65% longer than those of ad libitum-fed controls (Weindruch, 1986). Other early studies showed 75% and 47% reductions in mammary and colonic cancer with 40% restriction (Kritchevsky and Klurfeld, 1986). </li></ul>
  17. 17. CR Mechanism?
  18. 18. CR Theory, “ Caloric Restriction: Explaining the Enigma of Aging ” <ul><li>CR may be the natural state of animals. An excessive appetite during times of abundance may have evolved to prepare the animal for periodic famines that lowered average caloric intake to laboratory CR levels. Since the food supply of lab mice does not fluctuate, they are thus constantly overfeeding. Under this interpretation, lab mice—and most humans, for that matter—have lower life expectancies than those they would possess in nature, if factors like predation and malnutrition were absent. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Another Idea (Note: Speculation here, not science.) <ul><li>CR puts the body into a sort of stasis state, decreasing maximum fertility but upregulating repair enzymes that make it more likely the body will survive to reproduce in less lean times </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If we are reproducing, we are expendable . Thus we can trick the body into preserving us by starving. This theory also explains the loss of libido that is a major side effect of CR </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. CR in Humans? (Fontana et al., 4/19/04, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.) Abstract Excerpt: “The CR group were markedly leaner than the comparison group (BMI, 19.6 � 1.9 vs. 25.9 � 3.2; % body fat, 8.7 � 7% vs. 24 � 8%). Total serum cholesterol (Tchol), LDL-cholesterol, Tchol/HDLChol ratio, triglycerides, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, hsCRP, PDFG-AB, systolic and diastolic BP were all markedly lower, while HDL-Chol was higher, in the CR, than in the American diet group… Based on measurements of a range of risk factors, it appears that long-term CR has a powerful protective effect against atherosclerosis.” 30 months on CR, 123lbs, BMI 18.5
  21. 21. The Search for a CR Mimetic: “Have Your Cake…” <ul><li>Calorie restriction is impossible for most Americans. Only really feasible for the disciplined and educated. CR requires very extensive knowledge of nutrition, frequent blood tests, medical supervision. It also predisposes one to eating disorders </li></ul><ul><li>2-deoxy-D-glucose (2DG) a “proof-of-concept” CR mimetic , but toxic at high doses </li></ul>
  22. 22. Aubrey de Grey’s 7 Point Plan <ul><li>Loss and atrophy or degeneration of cells </li></ul><ul><li>Accumulation of cells that are not wanted </li></ul><ul><li>Mutations in chromosomes </li></ul><ul><li>Mutations in mitochondria </li></ul><ul><li>The accumulation of “junk” within the cell </li></ul><ul><li>The accumulation of “junk” outside the cell </li></ul><ul><li>Cross-links in proteins outside the cell </li></ul>
  23. 23. Aubrey’s Predictions: Milestones <ul><li>R obust M ice R ejuvenation: “To take a cohort of mice of a strain whose normal life expectancy is three years, do nothing to them until they are two years old, and get them to live an average of three more years.” (Seven to 20 years.) </li></ul><ul><li>R obust H uman R ejuvenation: “My estimate for the time until this milestone is reached, starting from the time that the mouse target is achieved, is 15 years; almost certainly not as soon as five years, and could be as much as 100 years. “ </li></ul>
  24. 24. Mainstream Response to de Grey <ul><li>“ I’m a big fan of Aubrey; I love debating him. We need him. He challenges us and makes us expand our way of thinking. I disagree with his conclusions, but in science that’s okay. That’s what advances the field.” – S. Jay Olshansky, epidemologist and biostatician, University of Chicago </li></ul><ul><li>But Aubrey de Grey certainly represents the most optimistic point of view </li></ul>
  25. 25. Living after 2100 graphic
  26. 26. Part III – What can I do today? Part III W HAT CAN W E DO TODAY? First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. – Mohandas Gandhi
  27. 27. How much, how fast <ul><li>The bootstrapping principle: if you live long enough, you will achieve life extension escape velocity as medical advances rejuvenate you faster than you age </li></ul>
  28. 28. Kick-starting the War on Aging <ul><li>Donate to the Methuselah Mouse Foundation – Their version of the XPrize, the MPrize , proposes to achieve Robust Mice Rejuvenation. It has collected about $125,000 in donations thus far (Feb. 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Join the Life Extension Foundation , a nonprofit which sponsors anti-aging research from proceeds of supplements </li></ul>
  29. 29. Diet, Exercise, Supplementation <ul><li>Mostly diet: Eat the veggies (esp. brocolli, spinach, kale, cauliflower, onions, yellow/red/green peppers) and fruits (esp. strawberries, blueberries). And EV olive oil. </li></ul><ul><li>Exercise semi-regularly—endurance and strength </li></ul><ul><li>Research supplementation. Most people benefit from taking a basic multivitamin and fish oil. Brand quality matters. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not let your mind atrophy (More STA.) </li></ul>
  30. 30. Cryonics: Extreme Life Extension <ul><li>Popular attention recently due to Ted Williams, movies like Abre Los Ojos and Vanilla Sky </li></ul><ul><li>Alcor in Arizona (650 members, 59 cryopreserved) </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Although no one can quantify the probability of cryonics working, I estimate it is at least 90% -- and certainly nobody can say it is zero.&quot; — Sir Arthur C. Clarke </li></ul><ul><li>“ Cryonics is an experiment. So far the control group isn’t doing too well” – Ralph Merkle </li></ul>
  31. 31. Michael Shermer on Cryonics: A Secular Pascal’s Wager? <ul><li>“ My credulity module is glad that at least a few scientists are devoting their careers to solving the problem of mortality; my skeptical module, however, indicates that transhumanistic-extropian nano-cryonics borders uncomfortably close to religion, and as such I worry, as Matthew Arnold did in his 1852 poem &quot;Empedocles on Etna,&quot; that we will &quot;feign a bliss of doubtful future date, And while we dream on this, Lose all our present state, And relegate to worlds--yet distant our repose?&quot; </li></ul>
  32. 32. Why the critics may be wrong <ul><li>&quot;There is no hope for the fanciful idea of reaching the Moon because of insurmountable barriers to escaping the Earth's gravity.“ — Dr. Forest Ray Moulton, University of Chicago astronomer, 1932 </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;All this writing about space travel is utter bilge.&quot; — Sir Richard Woolley, Astronomer Royal of Britain, 1956 </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon.... I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.“ — Dr. Lee De Forest, famous engineer, 1957 </li></ul>
  33. 33. The Coming Future <ul><li>“ There will be a lead-time of at least a decade, which I call the War On Aging , starting with the achievement of results in mice impressive enough to shake society out of its current fatalism and make people really want to cure aging as soon as possible. At that point, mayhem will ensue -- society will be turned upside-down in a million ways, by (e.g.) no one wanting to do risky jobs like the fire service any more” – Aubrey de Grey </li></ul>
  34. 34. My Personal Predictions <ul><li>Society will become extremely risk-averse: normal vehicular traffic may be banned, replaced by safer public transportation options </li></ul><ul><li>The medical profession will blossom, as more and more people become cognizant of health and seek antiaging therapies </li></ul><ul><li>Actuarial science will shrivel away </li></ul><ul><li>Five “lifetimes” jail-time will make more sense </li></ul><ul><li>No more capital punishments, wars, manned space missions, littering, carpe diem attitudes </li></ul>

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