Monday, March 15, 2010

These People Want to Stop Human Aging by 2029

Oh, telomeres!
From the Greek telos, meaning end and meros, meaning part.  Why are these endparts important to oncology, cancer research, and aging?  The human machine must be constantly renewed at the cellular level to keep the body working.  However, over time, our body loses functionality, lubrication, and elasticity, due in great part to cells that have reached the end of their ability to replicate, thanks to the caps on their chromosomal DNA.  These telomere caps determine the number of times our cells can divide and replicate.  Scientists often compare them to the protective tips (aglets) on the end of shoe laces because they prevent the strands of DNA from unraveling, degrading, and binding with other chromosomes.  So, when you die you're literally reaching the end of your rope - your DNA ropes.  On the other hand, when telomeres are suspended or lengthened they allow cells to proliferate to the point of being cancerous.  Oncologists would like to put short, functioning telomeres on cancer cells as soon as they're discovered, while a few mad scientists want to extend or remove telomeres as a pseudo fountain of youth.  It would be somewhat analagous to making our whole body a controlled cancer.  Yummy!

When telomeres get down to about 5,000 repeats they die of old age, according to William Andrews, one of the longevity obsessed scientists at Sierra Sciences who is cooperating with the Manhattan Beach Project to end aging by 2029.  He says, that by looking at telomere length in a blood sample "I can tell how old you are and how long you have before you die of old age."

Here is the alarming article from h+ magazine that details this misguided project.  My mental red flags were a-waving, and nausea quickly overcame me as I began asking the 6 important questions about important new technologies and society (Neil Postmann) as so wisely taught by my professor Stephen Butler.

Here are six questions Postman says we must ask when someone tells us about a new technology -

1. What is the problem to which this technology is a solution?
2. Whose problem is it?
3. What new problems might be created by solving the original problem?
4. Which people and what institutions will be most seriously harmed by this new technology?
5. What changes in language are being forced by these new technologies?
6. What sort of people and institutions gain special economic and political power from this new technology?

    • Because often, it's poor people that are the last to see the technology and the first to get the shaft.  They usually endure the worst fallout of the technology, aren't informed or warned of impending dangers, have the least say in the matter, and the least access to discussion about it.  Below I've posted some excerpts of a really great discussion about the impact of "immortal technology" in response to the article from _h+_Magazine_.  Some of them believe that capitalism and the captains of industry will crumble as we see affordable robots being available in the average home.  These foreseen robots would be able to replicate products.  Those of you who pay attention to the pace of technology have to admit that that is not just a pipe dream.  Others in the debate feel like we are entering a new phase in feudalism at a level that calls the movie _Stargate_ to mind, a future defined by a new "transhuman elite" and indentured slave labor.  One of the civilized world's worst nightmares.  And still others feel that the majority of the disenfranchised will revolt, and open-source internet and technology will save the day.   I'd rather allow time to take its course, as few things are certain in our unstable, wild-card world.

Submitted by Oracle (not verified) on Fri, 12/11/2009 - 11:48.
If advances in robotics and software algorithms eliminate the majority of jobs instead of eliminating the idea of work altogether. If artificial scarcity is forced upon the public through DRM locked nanofactories instead of open source MNT that can make anything for pennies... eliminating the need for money and credit

If human genetic enhancement and radical life extension are only available to the wealthy in said artificial scarcity model economy  If the nation state model begins to move to a centalized bureaucracy (EU, NAU, ASEAN) staffed by unelected officials controlled by special interests (read: fractional reserve bankers), instead of more transparent governments that are directly accountable to their constituents

The above situations, if they play out, will cause tremendous social, poltical and economic strain the likes of which we've never seen. No amount of media spin will be able to cloud the argument. These inequalities can't be ignored, denied or made light of. You're either a slave or you're not. Will we see an empowered humanity freed from disease and wage slavery or will we have a neo-feudalist global plantation dominated by a transhuman elite? Conflict will explode using lethal nanotech weapons. Hugo De Garis may not have to worry about an Artilect War. Humanity may have gigadeath war not over species dominance, but over issues concerning control and dominance over the population.

         reply    Submitted by Valkyrie Ice (not verified) on Fri, 12/11/2009 - 22:34.
yep. quite true.    However, I don't foresee that happening for one very simple reason. The internet.
All of those things require control of information.

The internet allows the universal dissemination of information.
DRM has been being tried for how many years now? It's still useless. Anyone who is seriously interested can find a way around DRM.
The feudal system ended when the printing press arrived. Information was suddenly available and accessible to the masses. The Social order was over turned when the knowledge previously controlled by the Church was suddenly uncontrolled. Knowledge previously hard to obtain in very rare tomes owned by only a few suddenly was being passed around by many. The Reformation occurred because the common man could now access the knowledge once only the priests could read.
All forms of Tyranny depend on suppression of knowledge. Our history has proved this time and again. Suppression doesn't work forever though. Sometimes it doesn't work at all. Our modern "war on drugs" certainly hasn't, and as climategate is proving, all it takes is one leak on the internet to open a huge can of worms.
A DRM controlled nanofactory might be tried. But as sure as a black market for drugs appeared as soon as they were made illegal, and a million DRM free mp3 sites sprung up following the attempts to ban music sharing, a black market for non-DRM nanofactories will occur.
And as Drexler pointed out, all it takes is one single self-replicating nanofactory to create a world filled with them.
We've been slaves to the Corporatacracy. But we're moving out of that phase now. They are trying like hell to restore their power through lobbying to kill reform in health and finance and eliminate net neutrality, but all they are truly doing is spending millions on efforts that will fail. They may buy a few more years of life, but that is all.
The only ones who will survive are those who adapt to the new realities. Google seems like it might do well, but those who continue to cling to the past won't.
We're at the start of the elbow curve for the internet. It's been growing in power slowly, but the next decade it is going to skyrocket in influence, especially once VR becomes commonplace.
In 20 years... there may not be a tyrant left standing.

         Submitted by Stephen Crowley (not verified) on Fri, 02/26/2010 - 09:25.
Google is becoming cozy with the NSA.. no one is safe as long as the Patriot Act is in effect. We need pervasive cryptography.. the freenet project has come a long way.. need more like it.
Eventually one company will figure out that it's too expensive to maintain manufacturing facilities when they can put desktop units in every home and simply concentrate on design and R&D sold online to customers who can "print" it out at home. Due to the fact that a home unit could easily build all the parts for another home unit, there's very little profit to be made "selling" them, but lots of money to be made in "branded" designs.
But as individuals begin building a database of "open source" designs, even professional designs will begin to have to be charged less and less for.
And this applies not only to manufacturing, but almost every business you can think of.
Cheap robot labor is inevitable. And once it is available, it WILL dominate the business world, because it'll be the only way to continue to profit... and that very fact will drive the final nails in capitalism.
Groups can fight, try to supress, and ban and outlaw, and all that will occur is the one company which embraces the new technology will begin looking at the rest as lunch.
It's a dog eat dog world after all.
As for how soon... well if you are a roboticist, you might find this interesting:

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