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Who Wants to Live Forever?

 
 
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 12:43 pm
I wouldn't mind, actually. Although this thread has to do with health and medicine, I sort of thought it belonged here. Do you believe that it is reasonably possible for science to significantly increase the human life span? Would you personally like to be able to live longer? What are the implications, if the life span were increased? Over the past few decades, science has begun to understand what causes aging. I'm not a doctor or a biologist, but from what I have read, it is now believed that aging is caused by a collection of different sources of damage and error. Here are descriptions of a couple of the major components:

The Free Radical Theory of Aging
The term free radical describes any molecule that has a free electron, and this property makes it react with electrically balanced molecules in a destructive way. The simple process of eating, drinking and breathing forms free-radicals from the energy production cycles, and particularly from the mitochondria. Oxygen is a potent free-radical producer. Free radicals are highly reactive and relatively indiscriminate in their destruction of protein, fat and DNA molecules, all of the molecules upon which our bodies' functions depend. Free radicals are known to attack the structure of cell membranes, which then create metabolic waste products. Such toxic accumulations interfere with cell communication, disturb DNA, RNA and protein synthesis, lower energy levels and generally impede vital chemical processes. Anti-oxidants in the blood sacrifice themselves to neutralize the free radicals. Ingesting more antioxidants increases their level in the blood and, therefore, slows down the damage.

Cross-Linking
As people age, chemical bonds built using glucose molecules connect proteins to each other in ways that are harmful. The resulting compounds are called Advanced Glycosylation End-products or AGEs. This is a bit confusing since AGE the chemical bond sounds like the word age. As we age we get more AGEs. This is actually the same process which causes a steak left out in the air to turn brown. A company called Alteon has been developing an AGE-breaker drug called ALT-711 for several years. They've had trouble getting funded in part because some in the pharmaceutical industry fear that if ALT-711 gets approved for market it will be very easy for competitors to see that it works and then to rapidly to develop other drugs from the same class of chemicals to compete with it. A lot of anti-aging enthusiasts have wanted to take ALT-711 for years in hopes that it would generally break AGE bonds throughout the body and by doing so reverse one aspect of aging. While Alteon's low level of funding has slowed its development of ALT-711, it has recently been able to complete a phase IIa human testing trial of ALT-711 with promising results.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 12:54 pm
The idea of living forever (or a lot longer) strikes me as preposterous--even if it could be achieved. The world is barely able to care for all the people who live in the wealthiest nations right now, and people are dying all the time in the poorer nations. Health care in the US is a joke.

What would be the point in extending life under these circumstances? We already expend a disproportionate share of our health resources caring for old folks. Or would the immortals all be healthy 25-year-olds?
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Brandon9000
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 01:12 pm
D'artagnan wrote:
....Or would the immortals all be healthy 25-year-olds?

I think that the idea is that physical aging would occur more slowly, so that people would not become physically old until a greater age than at present.
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ebrown p
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 01:23 pm
I would jump at the chance to live much longer.

I think it is incredibly unfair that I am limited to a mere 80 or 100 years. The Universe has been around 15 billion years. The Earth some 5-10 billion. I am supposed to be happy with a mere 80.

D'Art, let's say we could live a more reasonable 800,0000 years. You would have a problem with that? I would be willing to raise the ritirement age.
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Heeven
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 01:25 pm
I would like to be youthful until about age 50 (able to physically do well and look healthy). After 50 the wrinkles and grey hairs and stiff joints can start to come about. However I don't fancy living to an age over 80 since that seems long enough to be around for me. I don't think I could afford or would want to be hanging around if I am not active and alert and relatively able to afford to keep myself going. So yes, I would like to be youthful for longer but I don't want to live past 80 years since I don't think I could afford to financially.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 01:47 pm
I was actually discussing this with friends the other day. One suggested that, as Brandon says, aging would occur more gradually. Great, I said. Does that mean I could be in high school for hundreds of years and live with my parents until I was about 1,000? I'm still not convinced I want to sign up for this...
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Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 01:56 pm
D'artagnan wrote:
I'm still not convinced I want to sign up for this...

Well, supose the option were available, and you did not take it. Do you think that when you became very old, and death was near, that you might not wish that you had previously chosen to slow down your aging? You may well say no to this, but it's the logical question for me to ask.
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Heeven
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 01:59 pm
Let's face it I could be hit by a bus before I get to 50 so if I can be youthful all that time, yeah I'll go for it.
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ebrown p
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 02:03 pm
No D'art. This is science so we could start the process after the teen years.

How's this. Normal gestation and 18 real years of youth. (I was trying to figure out a way to skip the teen years as part of this plan - but alas...)

After the kids move out, I would suggest 699,982 years of productive work. This would be followed by 100,000 years or so of retirement.

Now about college -- well the beauty of my plan is that no one wants to do the same job for almost 700,000 years. So your working life will be divided in "careers".

Each career will start with 8 or 12 years of school (Enough to get you a doctorate if you want). Then you could spend the next couple of thousand years perfecting your trade. After you get board you can start another.

Can you imagine the benefits? Just think about a pastry chef who has 1500 years of experience --- mmmm. Just imagine an artist whose work spans 2,000 year (heck Da Vinci himself could still be painting now if we could make this retroactive somehow.)

The population growth will be a problem. But with 20,000 years to think about it, I sure I could come up with a solution -- actually with this kind of time, space exploration and colonization certainly seems feasible.,,

Are you sure you aren't with me D'art?

I like my plan much better than the alternative which, of course, is death.
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Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 02:17 pm
ebrown_p wrote:
The population growth will be a problem. But with 20,000 years to think about it, I sure I could come up with a solution -- actually with this kind of time, space exploration and colonization certainly seems feasible....

Like you, I would jump at the chance to live longer, but population growth would be a problem, and exporting people to outer space would not help, since there is no way to build space ships even remotely close to the rate at which babies are born. Even if you could build them that fast, and you can't, one would have to wonder at the effect that removing huge quantities of material from the Earth, both in the spaceships and in the bodies, would have after awhile. In fact, the only solution would be to limit the birth rate, and the only way to limit the birth rate would be to make it mandatory. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that limiting the birth rate and backing it up with enforcement is good or desirable, merely that there is no other way to avoid fatal overpopulation if you significantly increase the life span. And, of course, once you decrease the birth rate, you won't need nearly as many schools, so many of them will have to be taken out of commission. You wouldn't need as many teachers either. I still would like to see the aging process slowed down, but there would be consequences.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 03:13 pm
"699,982 years of productive work"? Sounds nightmarish to me. Are we all talking about the same planet?

[And, for the record, I'm over 50, so death is not some sort of meaningless notion to me...]
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Heeven
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 03:34 pm
I don't have the attention span or patience to hang around for 100,000 years or so and who the hell wants to go to school over and over again and do many many jobs? Yeesh!
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pieman
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 03:36 pm
A complaint for some who have become very old but are still relatively well and mind and body is that they are very bored.
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ebrown p
 
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Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 04:26 pm
First of all. In my altogether too short life so far I have been in science, technolgy and software engineering. I have also been back to school once in my early thirties and loved it.

But, It is easier to look backwards than forwards -- So imagine what it would have been like to have lived through the last 10,000 years of human history. I would not have been bored living through it.

After being part of the research team to develop the wheel, fire and early mathematics, I could have had a meaningful career with metal work (bronze and copper you know). Then I could have worked on astronomy and navigation.

I would like to have had a brief intermission making art and music during the renaissance. And perhaps writing political philosophy in the 17th and 18th centuries.

But then I could have worked building steam engines, designing the first airplains and setting the framework for the digital age.

My current life is writing software, and I would probably keep it that way.

Look at all of the things that I could have done in the past 10,000 years. Things keep changing in exciting ways. I don't imagine I would be bored.

I imagine the next couple hundred thousand years and beyond will be just as exciting. I would love the chance to experience it.
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Dartagnan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 04:31 pm
You might also have died of the plague or some other horrible disease or been killed in a war a long time ago. Or done drudge work as a slave or a serf...

I'm sorry to sound so cynical, but I tend to take a somewhat spiritual approach to this question--and I'm not a religious person. Part of what makes us different from the other animals is our sense of mortality.
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patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 04:56 pm
Anyway, you haven't got rid of cancer yet.
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 06:01 pm
Great! Then I think I have the solution.

Let's just make immortality treatment optional. If this thread is representative only a few people will take it and thus the population problem is solved.

The few of us who take the treatment can start a community on some mountain (I think I will choose Greece) where we can spend our free time sipping nectar and squabbling amongst ourselves.

Of course with the amount of time we have we will become experts in our field. One of us will certainly specialize in medicine and will be able to cure cancer for us.This person may want to bestow a miracle or two to the mortals if they warrant it.

And every now and then I will come down to mate with one of your great-granddaughters.
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kerver
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 06:15 pm
I wouldn't wanto to live forever unless I was 23 forever. Besides, why would anyone wanna live forever, the world would be soo over populated, and our resources would be soon gone.
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 06:49 pm
The length of life does not really impact the population growth. What is important to population is the birth rate.

Let's fix this by saying that with the immortality treatment, we raise the age that you become fertile to 699,750 years old. The childbearing period could last 50 years.

Of course I would want the other symptoms of puberty (sex drive etc.) to be active for most of my life.

In the long term this would reduce the population growth. Better yet it would ensure a zero population growth for the next 699,750 years.

And yes kerver, you can be 23 for 700,000 years or so if you choose.
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patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Nov, 2003 10:05 pm
Quote:
Of course with the amount of time we have we will become experts in our field. One of us will certainly specialize in medicine and will be able to cure cancer for us.


Unless, of course, they get cancer.
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