Are life extensionists mainly driven by a desire to actually live a long time?

How do you interpret the following situation: we have a life extension technologist whose all endeavors is about pushing this issue to its very limits and making things possible but on the other hand this very life extensionist himself is not driven by actually living as long as he can.

It seems that SENS theorist Aubrey de Grey, who is chronologically 45, (BioBarCamp photo by Ricardo) is taking roughly the above position in a recent interview. Aubrey is a good and witty interviewee and of course the interpretation of what he is saying is strongly context dependent so here is the full question and answer:

Question: One hundred years of life can wear you down physically, but it can also wear you down emotionally… perhaps even existentially. For you, is a desire to live long accompanied by a desire to live long in a much-improved human civilization, or is this one satisfactory?

Aubrey de Grey: I’m actually not mainly driven by a desire to live a long time. I accept that when I’m even a hundred years old, let alone older, I may have less enthusiasm for life than I have today. Therefore, what drives me is to put myself (with luck) and others (lots and lots of others) in a position to make that choice, rather than having the choice progressively ripped away from me or them by declining health. Whether the choice to live longer is actually made is not the point for me.

Let’s see 2 possible and extreme interpretations of this answer (neither of them is my own interpretation) and I hope my readers can find fine-tuned arguments in between while thinking a bit about this still rather philosophical topic:

1., Saying that we want the process (a robust healthy lifespan technology) but not necessarily the product (a robust healthy lifespan) of our own business is a disaster Continue reading

“What is the meaning of life?” for a life extensionist

In No kidding, I am a cum laude philosopher, and so can you! it turned out that finally I got a philosophy diploma. That said, from now on I am officially qualified to think on the big questions of life. For instance, I can find out new arguments and concepts and I can answer (or at least fine-tune) questions like: ‘what is the meaning of life?’. (The best analysis of this question for me was Robert Nozick‘s Philosophy and the Meaning of Life in the last chapter of his book Philosophical Explanations, for an official intro see Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

So here is a short analysis and an answer of mine to this most important philosophical question from the point of view of a life extension supporter:

1. premise: this question could be answered only if it not about the general meaning of all life, but the particular meaning of individual human lives.

2. analysis: let’s fill the question up to show the variables in it: ‘what is the meaning of an individual human life (x) for somebody individual (y)?’ Continue reading

The domesticated biotech future according to Freeman Dyson

nyrbdysonFreeman Dyson, old school physics hero conceptualized his rather philosophical thoughts on future biotechnology in a visionary essay in The New York Review of Books, Volume 54, Number 12 · July 19, 2007.

What is surprising to me that according to Dyson “our biotech future” is centered around genetic engineering only, and there is not even a hint to stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, which is a bit strange concept for me concerning state of the art biology.

Anyhow, I ask the readers to form an autonomic opinion about it. Here are some cites: Biology is now bigger than physics, as measured by the size of budgets, by the size of the workforce, or by the output of major discoveries; and biology is likely to remain the biggest part of science through the twenty-first century. Biology is also more important than physics, as measured by its economic consequences, by its ethical implications, or by its effects on human welfare….

I see a bright future for the biotechnology industry when it follows the path of the computer industry, the path that von Neumann failed to foresee, becoming small and domesticated rather than big and centralized. For biotechnology to become domesticated, the next step is to become user-friendly. Continue reading

Life extension: body hack and/or life hack?

memento life hackIn recent culture, technological life extension is considered to be a form of hacking, as 2Dolphins says a “hacker is someone who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations — someone who makes things work beyond perceived limits through unconventional means or skills.” In hacking there is also a DIY element too.
There are now 2 broader hacking terms applied for physical life extension technologies: body hacking and life hacking. For first, see my previous post about Bodies in the Making book which handles a diverse range of practices that aren’t usually linked: tattooing, cosmetic surgery, body-building, life extension technologies, self-cutting as exemplars of the body hacking concept. Body hack in that context is something extreme, something very experimental. How extreme form it will take, that depends on the chosen technology. In the old school permalink-free blog Notes from Classy’s Kitchen it is said for instance in the November 26, 2005 post: “What Aubrey de Grey was proposing was the ultimate bodyhack, engineered immortality (or 1000 year life span at least).” Body hack also includes a form a DIY, for instance Nikolaj Nyholm of O’Reilly Radar blogged on the “protocol for “isolat[ing] stem cells from your baby’s placenta in a rent lab or at home” for the upcoming EuroOSCON Make Fest, which also plays well with one emerging theme at this year’s FOO Camp, body hacking — engineers and copper wire paired with doctors, psychologists and neurologists.”

On the other hand there is the emerging life hack movement popularized by blogs as Lifehacker or 43 Folders or Lifehack.org. According to Wikipedia “the term life hack refers to productivity tricks that programmers devise and employ to cut through information overload and organize their data.” And it is also Nikolaj Nyholm, who calls Aubrey de Grey an extraordinary life-hacker concerning his SENS-esque plan to defeat aging. Why life extension counts as a life hack? Long story short: it’s all about hacking time. The narrowest bottleneck of productivity is time, and indefinite life extension’s main ambition is to abandon this final limiting factor, to make time pressure out of time. But can indefinite or maximum life extension (and especially the here supported continuous regeneration treatment through systemic regenerative medicine called Pimm) really be interpreted as a life hack? I think yes. Indefinite life extension is the biggest scale life hack as it amplifies human capacities indefinitely, because it is the only possibility for a human and mortal individual to fully explore his/her own individuality, to develop his/her own abilities let it be mental, physical, or moral.

There is also the term biohacking, which refers mostly to synthetic biology or creating public awareness of human genetic information and in this context biohacker is a synonym for biopunk, and the term is not applied recently to life extension, although in the future it could considering the broad semantic field of the bio prefix.

To sum up: life extension is a form of extreme body hack which is the most extended life hack, although a body hack is rarely a life hack and vice versa. (In the movie Memento Guy Pearce (picture), who lacks short-term memory, uses tattoos on his body as fact memos, which is also a body and life hack, although most tattoos are just ornamental.)

Extension of life in green

go greenUpon a discussion with Anna 1 month ago, the question arised whether life extension might be interpreted as a green idea. She offered, that if people have the opportunity to extend their life significantly, paralell with this situation they find themselves in a more or less environmentalist position. Now back 2 steps: the question of environmentalism concerning life extension emerges 3fold:

1. the very technology of life extension is green enough,

2. the consequences of grand scale life extension are pro or antigreen (the overemphasized overpopulation topic), and

3. attitudes, mentality, psyhce of would be life extended people

I guess Anna thought of the latter, mentality tpye environmentalism: if we are extended, we take care of our environment more since its value will multiply with the bigger scale.

What do you think?

The philosophical problems of life extension in post partitions

With this paragraph on blogging Merlin Mann of 43 Folders hit the nail on my head: “Remember that your blog is only incidentally a publishing system or a public website. At its heart, your blog represents the evolving expression of your most passionately held ideas. It’s a conversation you’re holding up with the world and with yourself — a place where you can watch your own thoughts take different shapes and occasionally surprise you with where they end up…”
Well, I started Pimm at May, 2006, mainly with excerpts from my philosophy MA thesis, called The philosophical problems of human biotechnology and regenerative medicine. This is in no way a system (I don’t believe in the utility of any philosophical system), or intended to be, but a series of problem centered arguments via thought experiments. Additionally, I don’t think and seriously doubt, that there is a One & Only philosophical viewpoint, position or ideology, which best fits the problems & prospects of indefinite life extension.
In the meantime as I got more and more immersed into stem cell research through my PhD years (what a Bildungsroman blog!), the profile of Pimm has changed in consonance with the applied strategy, which suggests the following: in order to make the idea of radical life extension acceptable, the scientific-technological basis of it must be disclosed, which is regenerative medicine in my opinion. It’s good to change the approaches here, one is a top-down, from philosophy (why?) to science (how?) and the other is the bottom-up from science to philosophy and ethics. And there is the constant problem and reality level of life extension in the middle with paths to the middle, bottom and top, i.e. the realities of the uprising biotechnology industry (when?). Here I collected the philosophical posts in one place:
What is (and is not) partial immortalization?
Why is partial immortalization theoretically and technologically possible?
The parameters of a partially immortalized individual
Why do we have the right to partially immortalize ourselves, if it is possible?
3 hypothetic cost stages of continuous regeneration treatment
Why it is not a Grenzsituation to participate in a continuous regeneration treatment?
Why is the moral problem of extending human lifespan is inevitable?
Are you immortalized? Never mind, you are still a moral person!
Moral, instrumental, human rights: framework for pimm philosophy
How to protect the right for pimm when the costs are extremely high?
Can partial immortalization be permissible to those who can buy it?