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Human Potential in the Age of Exponential Tech

TED Tuesday : Aubrey De Grey on how we can live to be 1000

I find it so fascinating that despite all the advances science has made in learning about our minds and bodies, there are still vast amounts of information that remains unknown. Things that seemed impossible to our ancestors like flying through the sky or curing (now) common diseases are normal for us. I can only imagine what seemingly out of this world things will be commonplace to future generations. I think you’ll enjoy this talk by renown age scientist Aubrey De Grey, who hypothesizes that within the next thirty years, gene therapies will be introduced that will allow us to halt the aging process and life long and extended lives, spanning hundreds of years.

Why You Should Watch:

Cambridge researcher Aubrey de Grey argues that aging is merely a disease — and a curable one at that. Humans age in seven basic ways, he says, all of which can be averted. He provocatively proposes that the first human beings who will live to 1,000 years old. 

My Favorite Part:

I just love his sense of humor during this whole talk. He’s got a long pony tail and large bushy beard and he looks a bit more mad than scientist, but you just know after listening to him speak for a few minutes that he would be one of most interesting people to talk to.

My Take

I find myself having mixed reactions to this talk. I mean it’s pretty exciting to think about living for 200 years or more, but what if we achieve immortality, which is something he also hypothesizes. That opens up a whole realm of philosophical, theological and moral questions. The points below are pure speculation on my part, and are just some of the ideas that were bouncing around in my mind during this presentation.

Isn’t death natural? – Someone pointed out to me that it’s a little bizarre to pursue this line of research since everything in nature dies. What are some of the implications of circumventing a natural cycle like this?

Can we handle it? – There are already too many people on the planet, what will living forever mean people who want to have children? What will it mean for sustainable business and the resources of our planet? Population control will have to be seriously considered.

What about the afterlife? Now I’m not a religious person by nature, by I know many of my friends are, and they believe that what happens after you die is just a natural progression of human development. So, hypothetically speaking, what if there WAS something really great after death and now we’d never know?

Who will get access to this treatment? At the onset I can guarantee you it will probably be rich people, and I wonder how the world will react if they know there is a treatment available to the elite?

Will we want to live so long? You think working until 65 is a long time, can you imagine your career spanning hundreds of years? And what about opportunity within organizations? 250 years old and still a junior manager? Sucky for you!

What do you think? Where do you stand on the immortality continuum?

Comments: 7

  • Brandon Bouwhuis

    November 19, 2008

    In short, I found myself asking the same questions you list, which are all very important. I also thought of a few more, including Were we meant to halt the evolutionary process? and Is this a form of hubris? I find it amusing that, given our two milli-seconds of fame relative to the age of the earth, many humans seem to believe we are the image and pinnacle of biological evolutionary perfection. And then there’s the matter of complexity: there are so many genetic variables, and interactions between them in the body, extending life may not mean extending quality life. Death is natural, and so is birth. If we circumvent death, the same must be done for birth to negate a population increase. I also cringe at the thought of elitists who believe they are destined to live forever, or that it is somehow their birthright.

  • Cherrie

    November 20, 2008

    All said points are valid.
    But maybe…
    if we lived longer and could remember our mistakes, we (the human race) would stop repeating them?

    also, I don’t think birth and death are “natural” per se, but survival is “natural”. Birth and death are means to survival for a species. I quote “natural” because people seem to think that “natural” is good. My meaning of natural is that it occurs in nature/wilderness. There is no JUDGEMENT on whether it is good or not. Perhaps survival can be deemed “good” because only those who survive can make that judgement in hindsight.

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to live forever, but that is only in the climate that nobody else (I care about) lives forever. If your cared ones did live forever, would you want to as well, for them and for yourself?

  • Jacqueline Gamble

    December 2, 2008

    I read Ray Kurzweil’s ‘The Age of Spiritual Machines’ many years ago, and have been very interested in this topic ever since. Based on this book and subsequent readings of this topic, I think people that live to be 1000 will be very different beings than the people of today. Many of the questions you’ve raised here are based on our current state of being but do not necessarily reflect what we will be like a hundred years from now. One commenter asked ‘were we meant to halt the evolutionary process?’ …I believe that we are evolving more rapidly than ever before. What if our tools and technology is our legacy? What if we manage to merge the biological and the digital? The so-called ‘natural’ and the mechanical? What if, through our technology and our science, we are able to see past our limited view of the natural world and the universe and come to a deeper understanding of what it means to exist? Right now we see only one layer of existence but I believe there are many more layers that remain hidden because of our limited ability to perceive these things. With improvements in technology and science we have the chance to realize that the world is not flat and it is also not round…it is whatever we collectively perceive it to be.

  • Jake Jakob

    December 2, 2008

    It would be a difficult and exhausting prospect for many. Imagine the crushing boredom and ennui of everyday living multiplied by a thousand. I think voluntary check-out would eventually become normal and accidents would still thin the herd.

  • matthew james luck

    February 13, 2009

    i personally would like to live for at lease a thousand years because with our lifespan now we don’t have much time and theres so much i want to do in so little time. i want to be a vet and get my doctor of veterinary medicine degree, theres five years and first i am going to take two years for animal science and then i will have to have experience before i start up my own animal clinic and have the finances and also i want to own my own animal sanctuary. i also want to have a wife and children at a young age because im afraid of being to old and seventy to eighty years is not enough time and i’ll participate in this change because theres not enough time for everything i am interested in and want to do in life and i’ll never be bored or run out of things to do between all my ideas, experiments, experiences, hobbies, career, education, family, place to see, and things to do. i won’t have to rush to see everything and can enjoy and save up, get educated more, start a family, and see the world while building my own wealth and family empire. i think of my self as a good person and want a career or two so i can change world for the better. maybe one day i could possibly run for president and do more than i can possibly dream of doing in my life time as is now. i will stay on track and focus and the right thing to do and i want to live as long as possible and accomplish more and can love life. think of the possibilties and hope. i dont know if everyone is right for this but i’ll take any test to show i am stable to live that long or i’ll do anything with in reason for that cure or prolonged life. i started eating healthier and more raw, organic natural human foods and stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy, not just for myself but for the animals, i don’t life eating other living beings and unhealthy unnatural foods in the human diet like eggs, and the pussy, fatty milk of dairy. so im living a little more healthy and am being kind and more rational to other being and people i am for peace and want to live life to defend that with less violence.

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