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"It is not guilty pride but the ceaselessly reawakened instinct of the game which calls forth new worlds." (Heraclitus Reloaded)
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    For quite a while, I have the idea to invite Space Collective members to reflect, discuss and perhaps open a continuous exchange of thoughts and emotions regarding the prospect of extreme life extension. It seems to me there is no subject today of a more profound potential impact on the future of human civilization, and human life in all its aspects.
    As such, I would like to see it becoming one of the 'backbone' issues on the agenda of the Space Collective community.

    I had in mind to write a keynote post to present the issue to some depth. I have found today, to my delight, an excellent and highly interesting introduction to the discussion I have in mind. It is an edited extract from a book called: 'How to Live Forever or Die Trying', written by Bryan Appleyard, and published in Cosmos Online Magazine. Bryan Appleyard is a features writer for London's Sunday Times newspaper and also writes for the New York Times and Vanity Fair.

    Here is an excerpt:

    Developments in a number of scientific disciplines suggest that we may soon be able to increase life expectancies from the 70- to 80-year range already seen in the richest countries to well over 100 and, perhaps, to over 1,000. We shall, in one sense, have made ourselves immortal.

    We shall not be immortal in the sense that we cannot die; plainly we could still be killed in a car accident or by a cosmic event such as an asteroid striking the Earth. But we could not be killed by disease or age, our bodies would be immune to infection, dysfunction or the ravages of time. We would be medically immortal.

    Some say this will happen quickly within, perhaps, 30 years with the first clear signs that we are on the right track appearing within the next decade. Others think we are at least a century or two away from attaining medical immortality. Some consider it completely unattainable. But the majority of scientists and thinkers in this area now consider life extension and even medical immortality possible and likely.

    Not long ago, most would have said it was out of the question, that death at or well before the absolute maximum age of something like 122 was inevitable.

    canceling the debt

    The basis of this shift from unattainable to feasible is not generally understood. It involves a transformation in our conception of human biology and an expansion of our capacity to intervene in its workings that may yet prove to be at least as momentous as the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin or Einstein.

    But Copernicus to Einstein is not the only tradition that is at issue here. There are also the traditions that run from Buddha to Mohammed and from Plato to Wittgenstein, the traditions of religion and philosophy.

    Our relatively brief lives and our routine proximity to the deaths of ourselves and others are the foundations of everything we have ever thought or believed. Neither religion nor philosophy necessarily promises immortality, but each offers ways of coming to terms with or giving meaning to death and, therefore, life. If death is to be postponed indefinitely, then both religion and philosophy face fundamental crises.

    Of course, many other traditions of politics, art, commerce and culture are also at stake. In truth, it is difficult to think of any aspect of human life that would not face similar crises.

    What, for example, would be the meaning of the greatest works of the human imagination to a medical immortal? Shakespeare's sonnets may be said to be about the brevity of life and the painful transience of human love and beauty.

    But if we lived for 1,000 years or more in a condition of youthful health and vitality the postulated life extension technologies promise to hold us permanently in our late twenties then would we come to see these poems as the curious remnants of an antique world rather than urgent expressions of the deepest truths of our predicament? Would any art of the past survive this revolution with its dignity intact? Would there be any art of the future?

    Many may think that, as they suffer from no illusions, fantasies or sensitivities, new life extension technologies are nothing but good news, simple additions to the portfolio of benefits delivered by modern technology. But their worlds are also threatened.

    For example, the language of relationships is the vernacular of our contemporary, secular life. What would our precious relationships look like to medical immortals? Love itself would have to be redefined. Romantic love depends for its very meaning on the promise that it will last forever. But 'forever' now means no more than, say, 50 years, the average span, in other words, of the human life from falling in love to death. If falling in love actually meant a commitment for 1,000 or more years, then 'forever' starts to take on a new meaning. Love is suddenly relativised, its significance thrown into doubt.

    There remains, of course, love of self and surely in that context life extension must be an unalloyed good. Life extension must mean extension of the self and the cultivation of the self is, alongside relationships, the supreme contemporary preoccupation. But even here there are problems.

    How much cultivation of the self can we take? There will only ever be so many gadgets to buy, so many days we can spend at the gym or beauty parlour though these may well be unnecessary activities in the new world order so much sex we can have, so many cars we can drive. Perhaps medically immortal selves will seek alternative spiritual or intellectual diversions as the wealthier mortal selves, disillusioned with getting and spending, already do in increasing numbers.

    Maybe these will see us through the long centuries of life. Or maybe none of these things will matter as we shall not be just one self in the future but many.


    The rest of the article can be found here and is highly recommended.

    Let us talk about the vision and prospects of immortality, This is definitely a subject I would like to see as an independent project of the Collective.

    Sun, Jun 15, 2008  Permanent link
    Categories: Aging, Death, Immortality
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    Xarene     Sat, Jun 21, 2008  Permanent link
    Great article. I am torn with immortality. Quite honestly I actually like that we have shorter life spans—we don't have to deal with some people for too long. Some of the questions he raises raced through my mind, specifically in terms of economy and our materiality. I started thinking what would come of our in-debt society and loan/pay-back terms. Slaves forever I guess? The other night CNN had a "What if..." question taking polls about drilling in Alaska's wildlife refuge. 57% were in favour of drilling. How would we sustain our immortal living with this kind of attitude? It's great that we can ponder on these questions and know it is possible medically, but is it possible with our current biological and mental states? He mentions a paradigm shift some where in the article, and that is what needs to happen first... sadly the CNN poll shows the opposite. I'll come back to this in a few days when I refresh my memory on Gins and Arakawa. They propose something in the lines that if life is something to be protected, then dying should be illegal. They respond with death-defying architecture.
    Spaceweaver     Thu, Jun 26, 2008  Permanent link
    Xarene: First, thank you for the reference. I was not familiar with the book you mention here, and am looking forward to reading it.

    In response to your thoughts, I do agree that many aspects of our present life, do not encourage the idea of life extension. However, it is possible for us to envision a future which is healed from the maladies of the past and the present. Otherwise, what are dreaming and imagination good for in the first place? :-) It might sound a bit naive, perhaps too idealistic, but then I believe in the possibility of human beings and human societies to transform.

    As to the subject at hand, we can clearly relate to life extension on two different planes. The first is the individual plane, the second reflects on the social, cultural and economical aspects of life extension. Not that these two planes are entirely separable, yet I find they represent clearly distinct perspectives on the issue and thus should be related to distinctively.
    In your comment, I read only about the second plane, the one that deals with the social and cultural web one is connected to. But given that we find a miraculous solution to all the practical economical and legal issues connected to life extension. Given that we even become better humans in the ethical and spiritual sense. Given all that, would you like to live a thousand years? or forever?

    It seems to me that extreme life extension is a very complex package of many profound changes and paradigm shifts. Thinking about them holistically is daunting, and this is why the whole issue is often dismissed or trivialized as too complicated or too 'impossible'. Of course the foundations of our society, our economical system, and our legal system are based on the assumption that everybody dies within a few decades. The same goes for our culture, myths, religion, tradition and more. These are the consequences of the condition that we are mortal, not the cause of our mortality, and definitely there is nothing in all these that justify the fact of mortality. Our mortality is a biological condition. If it is eliminated, partly or entirely, all systems of human existence will adapt accordingly. This has happened more than once in the past, especially recently during the 19th and 20th centuries with changes that were not less traumatic and profound. Think for example about the introduction of vaccines and antibiotics. One could worry that if we eliminate all infectious diseases, we might end up with a population explosion, with unsustainable economy etc.

    On the individual level, it seems to me that our culture in general and philosophy, psychology mythology , and spiritual traditions in particular do not offer to the individual any hints regarding how to think or how to feel about such a question. No wonder that we generally meet it unprepared, surprised and perhaps even embarrassed to the point of dismissing the issue altogether.

    But it is not incredible. Extreme life extension is a plausible outcome of current and future medical research. The many riddles it opens, the choices it necessitates, I see first and foremost as an opportunity like which we, as a civilization, as a species, haven't got for millennia if ever. The opportunity of addressing the most profound issues of our existence with a fresh new and unbound perspective because we do not have a ready made perspective. We can invent ourselves anew in almost any conceivable dimension of human existence. This is a formidable challenge, and certainly one worth living for (a lot longer) individually and collectively.
    Xarene     Mon, Jun 30, 2008  Permanent link
    I prefer to look at it this way: Stretching and stopping time instead of actually adding to the numbers of years we are alive. That way, "your" time is affected, not the time of "others".

    The foundations of our societies have mischievously shifted to be based on our mortality. Many of the early ancient spiritual and philosophical teachings stress on an immortal life—whether elsewhere; here but in a different form; or here as a continuation of our ancestors and through our offspring. Actually, the foundations have not shifted, but rather it is some form of our immortality that is being capitalized on... "Things" you inherit or leave as inheritance, be it a family heirloom or debt. We become immortal through those "Things".

    But attaching immortality to breathing on this Earth and trying hard to stay alive and stay here comes from a nihilistic attitude that death is the end of life. I don't personally believe we will pop up in a "heaven", but assume that death is a passage to another life: If there were a choice to take an immortal life, or die, I would take death. By taking an immortal life here, we close the door to other lives and experiences that come after death.
    alborz     Mon, Jun 30, 2008  Permanent link
    When Xarene puts it as simply as "if there were a choice to take an immortal life, or die," I find it hard not to take pause.

    What would I do? I must say, I'd probably take death. But why? As soon as I type it, I regret my decision. And yet I'm afraid I can't jump whole-heartedly behind the other option either.

    The thing is, the option doesn't exist and indeed is far from it. We are a long way from "death or immortality." There are several decades, centuries or even millennia of 150, 200, 500 and 1000 year olds before that question can be posed and by then, it will be in an entirely different context - as the Appleyard article and Spaceweaver suggest.

    In short, I am personally not ready to make decisions on immortality, since I am a product of our current cultural norms. However the trick is to stay open to changes in those norms. So, if you were to ask me whether we should continue to research how to live healthier and longer, my answer would be yes. As we achieve longer and longer lives, and approach immortality, our culture will sort itself out and keep up with our medical capabilities. Until then, I'm all for working so 100 year-olds have more fulfilling, active and enjoyable lives.

    (That being said, I found the article extremely interesting and thought provoking. Thanks for the post.)
    Spaceweaver     Sat, Jul 5, 2008  Permanent link
    Xrene:
    Actually, the foundations have not shifted, but rather it is some form of our immortality that is being capitalized on... "Things" you inherit or leave as inheritance, be it a family heirloom or debt. We become immortal through those "Things".

    ...
    By taking an immortal life here, we close the door to other lives and experiences that come after death.


    I think you would agree with me, that the things through which we are 'immortalized', are not mere material things, but rather experiences, memories, and emotional relations one has.
    These are the things one considers inseparable from 'me' and 'mine', the constants of one's existence. Yet, as much as we see these things as permanent, I believe that all of them, our possessions, our relations, our ideas and tastes are in continuous flux. As much as we see ourselves as unchanging, we do change. I would even say that the only constant of our existence is the fact that we change. This change takes place within the continuum of consciousness. Or rather it is the continuum of consciousness that changes through its own reflections. What ends in death is this continuum, and with it the opportunity of a mind, a whole universe in some sense, to evolve indefinitely.

    What we have to leave behind, what we have to let die (again and again) is any fixed idea of who we are. Yet the continuum of consciousness, an evolving mind, is worth being free of arbitrary discontinuation. Our deepest intuition as conscious beings, is that of life continuing and evolving infinitely, as you hinted in your comment. The wish to die is, I believe, a metaphysical blunder. It is a deep wish to become free of whatever is permanent in us, thus bounding the evolution of our mind. But instead it brings the ultimate permanence not an opportunity of change.
    Spaceweaver     Sat, Jul 5, 2008  Permanent link
    Al:
    What would I do? I must say, I'd probably take death. But why? As soon as I type it, I regret my decision. And yet I'm afraid I can't jump whole-heartedly behind the other option either.


    I share with you some very similar reflections. Sometimes ago, it occurred to me that my whole concept of death and dying, the very emotional relations I have with it, are entirely a product of cultural and probably genetic conditioning, rather than being a product of an independent reflective process.

    In fact what made me so interested in the prospect of extreme life extension in the first place was not so much the prospect of years to be gained, but rather the intellectual and emotional challenge in sorting out this profound issue.

    I find the every relation to mortality quite strange. Generally, our acceptance of the so called 'fact' of mortality is in inverse proportion to how far we believe we are from the moment of our own death. Besides that, vast intellectual resources were invested through the history of civilization to devise elaborate ways by which we can both deny (as in life after death) and explain (as in death is part of life) mortality. For me, as of today, all these is replaced by a big question mark. I am ready to contemplate a profound metaphysical paradigm shift regarding the whole issue. The promising technologies that might bring extreme life extension even in our life time, are just a trigger, but they might initiate a cultural and psychological chain reaction the like of which we haven't experienced as yet.





    LED     Sat, Jul 5, 2008  Permanent link
    I think we still continuous “dying” for the next 150 years minimum, even with the long age increasing. Technically it’s not only the case to reorder concepts about religion, politics, love and so but for first there’s a material issue. Before we don’t die anymore, we have to solve the question about preserve our bodies in the way to don’t get slow.

    And think… Maybe after all medical conquerors reaching immortality, we will see that’s not such a good idea… I think a lot of vampires’ stories prove us that are not a good idea at all!

    But I do believe in reincarnation, which is another point of no ending. For me a better and refreshing way to come and go - changing skin, sex, nationality, skills, … much better!

    To immortality became a good business; we must have to be melted (blended?) to other animals (such as chameleons) and lots of plants as well.
    Sect     Sun, Jul 6, 2008  Permanent link
    Much of a cultures attributes are conditioned by ideologies spread over a range of experiences through life, and art for example would take on new, previously unrealised meanings.

    This to me is exciting (as an art student), as new mediums would have to be explored to last the test of time for example, as well as the emergence of new philosphies and personal values.

    I believe that love can be boiled down to whatever you want it to be, and that the healthy individual is quite capable of satisfying multiple loving partners. As we grow we get better and better at relationships, so over the course of a few hundred years we'd quite possibly know ourselves well enough to trust in our judgments of potentially lasting partners.

    Religon is different for everyone, and one decision for all is not applicable. Like lasting species, religon might have to adapt and evolve (long overdue in some cultures) to remain applicable to a scoiety that has rightfully learnt to allude death.

    Another interesting topic here could be fate.
    LED     Mon, Jul 14, 2008  Permanent link
    'Oldest' blogger dies, aged 108
    An Australian woman - reputed to be the world's oldest internet blogger - has died at the age of 108, officials say. Olive Riley had posted more than 70 entries about her life since she began her blog in February 2007.
    Via BBC
    (kevin)     Mon, Jul 14, 2008  Permanent link
    who would be so attached to their current place of residence? it is only out of fear of death that we prolong the inevitable. I choose to upgrade my vessel (or even transcend it) in the spirit of love for life. We all know that death is an illusion of the mind, consciousness never dies. But I guess I could stick around if we can get the human race together and stop making war.

    P45C4L     Wed, Jul 16, 2008  Permanent link
    I have always considered myself infinite, which means my death will only change my experience with my environment, and my perception of my identity. I find it hard to push away the time I will move on to the next phase of my life cycles. Death isn't a disease we have to cure. It's like imagining souls living in the pre-earth incarnation state trying to extend that precise time/phase in order to not born. We live in such materialistic societies that we have a material concept of the self. I think the major difference between humans now and in the past is that we used to be souls which had bodies, now we are bodies having souls.

    I was before this life so will I be after, therefore my birth was amost the proof of my immortality. As I must come from somewhere as much as i go somewhere (else) after

    We have two radically different approaches on this earth on how to consider death.

    The first one is mostly know as the way of the sacrifice. By living a righteous life of sacrifice, ultimately offering our physical bodies to our Gods, we are promised to receive eternal life in heaven as a reward. It is a way that seeks for immortality in God, in Heaven, in the Above.

    The second way is the way of the matter. With their intelligent and creative minds, humans try to acquire a total control upon their physical shells in order to maintain and extend their existence on earth almost for ever. It is the way to eternal life in the matter, in earth through our own creations, our technology.

    However, these visions are mainly practised in monotheists religions. As most shamanic and animists cults and other philosophies and religions consider time as a cycle.

    Mostly Judaic, Christian and Muslim religions consider time as linear.
    Spaceweaver     Thu, Jul 17, 2008  Permanent link
    P45C4L:
    We have two radically different approaches on this earth on how to consider death.

    The first one is mostly know as the way of the sacrifice. By living a righteous life of sacrifice, ultimately offering our physical bodies to our Gods, we are promised to receive eternal life in heaven as a reward. It is a way that seeks for immortality in God, in Heaven, in the Above.

    The second way is the way of the matter. With their intelligent and creative minds, humans try to acquire a total control upon their physical shells in order to maintain and extend their existence on earth almost for ever. It is the way to eternal life in the matter, in earth through our own creations, our technology.


    I find your comment interesting in the sense that it describes two entirely different perhaps even polar perceptions of death. In distinction to seeing death as a fact pertaining to us being biological creatures/systems, you relate to death as first and foremost a subjective experience. Admittedly, this goes straight into a very profound metaphysical debate. The way the different worldviews are generally organized today, it is very difficult indeed even to have a debate, since there is no unified plane where the different perceptions about death can meet and constructively reflect each other. They simply exclude each other from being a fundamental reality.

    I think we need a grand synthesis here before we can go on with the evolution of mind. I do not think that death is entirely materialistic concept, yet I do not think that viewing and dealing with death only on subjective grounds suffices either. Ditto for the general perception of time and change, which are intimately connected to our perception of death.

    One very important point here is the question of the so called 'self'. What is basically referred to as self, is what one believes to be the constant aspect(s) of one's identity. In this sense, and considering that both materialistic and spiritual views of existence are fundamental beliefs, I do agree that materialistic societies have a materialistic concept of self, while spiritual societies have a spiritual concept of self. As far as selves are considered however, I do not see a fundamental difference here, since both death and immortality are dealing with the cessation or continuation of the self, be it a materialistic or a spiritual one. This might be a key to the whole issue because it seems that the self is the very basis of our other conceptions. Perhaps what we should first do, is to clarify our understanding of the concept self.

    Perhaps the very conception of self is nothing but a childish phase in the evolution of mind. Just entertaining this radical idea, brings to mind a possibility where neither physical bodies nor souls are conceptual barriers in our mind anymore.



    hunter     Thu, Jul 17, 2008  Permanent link
    Clearly, any significant expansion of life would have to be preceded by a redefinition of life. When I was a kid there was a song I enjoyed a lot, so I took an empty tape and recorded the song over and over again as many times as I could. When I hit play, how quickly did it get boring!

    The attention span of an average modern man is so diminished that people can hardly sit through a regular 90 minute movie. The books are far too long to read, nowadays even a blog gets long - so we switch to Twitter. Letters were replaced by emails, then by texting...

    What on Earth will we do with 1000 years?!

    Longer life will have to be a radically different life.
    LED     Wed, Jul 23, 2008  Permanent link
    Yeah... I agree with Hunter's comment! Such a good point!
    Reminds me Zygmunt Bauman (Liquid Modernity | Liquid Love | Wasted Lives | Liquid Life | Liquid Times...)

    Anyway, I came here to link Immortality Institute which I just read following hundred links superficially tonight.
    LED     Sun, Aug 10, 2008  Permanent link
    BBC News
    Sunday, 10 August 2008 18:05 UK

    Cell change 'keeps organs young'

    Researchers may have found a way to halt the biological clock which slows down our bodies over the decades.
    A US team thinks it may have found the genetic levers to help boost a system vital to cleaning up faulty proteins within our cells.
    The journal Nature Medicine reported that the livers of genetically-altered older mice worked as well as those in younger animals.
    LED     Wed, Aug 13, 2008  Permanent link
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story.
    He is born an old man and ages in reverse until he becomes a baby and then finally vanishes from the earth.
    A better way to live? I am curious to watch this movie.
    Spaceweaver     Sat, Aug 16, 2008  Permanent link
    LED: Indeed this seems to be an interesting Button to push. :-) Actually, for me dealing with the question of life extension and immortality is but the tip of a huge philosophical iceberg: the relation of consciousness and time. It seems the movie you mention goes there. I can warmly recommend the great science fiction novel Hyperion by Dan Simmons dealing with a few aspects of the subject. There you will find lovers who exist on the same time axis but moving in opposite directions... And of course the poetry and prose of Jorge Borges with deep insights on consciousness story and time. You might also be interested in reading Julian Barbour's book The End of Time, theorizing that all of our physics can be described without the time dimension. He claims that time as we know it is a cognitive illusion.

    I might succeed bracing myself one day and write an extended post on the issue.
    Wildcat     Thu, Oct 23, 2008  Permanent link
    "Transhumanists believe in the technological transcendence of our biological limitations, most obviously the limitation of life span. The death of more than 100,000 people a day is, they say, a catastrophe that will, soon, be preventable. Thinkers like Leon Kass, Francis Fukuyama and Bill McKibben have attacked this idea, arguing, in essence, that death is an essential aspect of our humanity. For transhumanism's response to this see Joe Quirk's heavy irony on page 41 of H+. What I like about transhumanists is their naked, unapologetic radicalism. Like Mustapha Mond debating with the Savage in Brave New World, they simply ask, what's so great about human life as it now is? If, for example, human immortality makes all your art meaningless, so be it, Shakespeare was all predicated on suffering we no longer have to endure. What I don't like about transhumanists is the fact that they simply refuse to understand certain arguments of their opponents - like the idea, best advanced by Bernard Williams, about boredom not with the things of the world but with oneself, or, as Roger Scruton puts, the soul grows tired of inhabiting the body."

    This is an excerpt from a blog post that tries to undermine the very idea of transhumanist ideals concerning immortality.

    Of course, to my eyes that is sheer ignorance concerning what immortality actually implies, specifically the ideation of boredom as an inherent human trait, though I am not a self-described transhumanist, I appreciate the fact that the more intelligence prevails the very concept of time takes on a new dimension of existential interest+pleasure.
    The multidimensionality of the multiverse, allows an infinity of interest to be generated, transforming the mind in the process. such a mind is as far from boredom as can possibly be, moreover the very act of consciously designing the reality of our aware universal existence is in itself an ever unfolding process, thereby eliminating the fears and anxieties of the origination of our brains.
    In such circumstances I cannot possibly understand what is meant by "boredom with oneself".

    Wildcat     Thu, Oct 23, 2008  Permanent link
    Gouranga wrote: "what do we need immortality for actually? i don't want to leave a wrong impression that i'm against it or something... i still don't know enough"

    Wildcat :
    "there's no problem here Gouranga, I don't think that given the REAL opportunity, many humans will deny themselves the choice of immortality (you can always choose to terminate an infinite life, but until you have the possibility the whole argument is moot).

    as to why we need immortality: on the very basic level it is a philosophical position that is germane to the conceptual understanding of freedom and liberty, the foundation upon which we sit as humans is one in which limited amount of time is a 'given', all givens should be reconsidered once we have the scientific/technological possibility to overcome them. So fundamentally we do not speak of 'need' but of a direct extension of our 'natural' tendency to be free from constraints, be they lack of food, of energy, of time, of sensation or any other sort of lack you can imagine. It follows that immortality is not a need in and of itself but a natural consequence of our ability to overcome our inherent limitations. "

    note:
    This is a reposting from another thread, for the purpose of keeping the polylogue clear and coherent.
    dangor     Thu, Oct 23, 2008  Permanent link
    I don't have the time to fully read all of these posts right now, but I'm new to this site and love the content I am seeing.

    I thought I'd start by posting a link to a presentation given by Aubrey de Grey, a professor over at Cambridge. He gives a good argument for why medical immortality is possible, and that, with the right funding, it could happen within our lifetimes.
    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_can_avoid_aging.html

    The view that he puts forth is that we don't need to find the technologies to live to 5,000 years right now. What we need is to reach the life-extension singularity, where every one year of research leads to an increase in life expectancy of one year. He thinks this can happen within the next two or three decades, but only if we put about 0.9-1 billion dollars of money into researching this problem yearly. When you think of all the money wasted on the Iraq war, or the 850 billion being spent on this bailout, this amount of money really is not that significant.

    I also wanted to comment on the prospect of choosing death over life-extension. I have thought about this for some time, and after asking many people what they would want, I have found people often say 'death' because they think extremely long lives would be utterly boring after awhile. Well, I have never been so bored that I wanted to die, so I can't see boredom as an impediment to long lives. That said, I could easily imagine slipping into an existential despair at the pointlessness of an everlasting life, and this isn't something I can imagine I can deal with until I experience it. However, that is no reason not to pursue immortality. Humans are adaptable, and although I think immortality would fundamentally change the human experience, I think it is foolish not explore this next step in our technological evolution.

    P.S. As for the overpopulation problem that inevitably comes up in a discussion of the mechanics of an immortal human species, I think an easy way around that problem would be that if you opt to take the path of medical immortality, you must be barred from having children. Once you have children, you should no longer be allowed to pursue medical immortality. Thus people will have a choice: children or immortality. I can't imagine choosing the former over the latter, but that is up to the individual.
    Spaceweaver     Sun, Oct 26, 2008  Permanent link
    Just when I thought this post is almost dead, it got some serious life extension :-)

    Wildcat writes:

    Of course, to my eyes that is sheer ignorance concerning what immortality actually implies, specifically the ideation of boredom as an inherent human trait, though I am not a self-described transhumanist, I appreciate the fact that the more intelligence prevails the very concept of time takes on a new dimension of existential interest+pleasure.


    I wish to expand on this a bit. First, about the choice of words; I think I do prefer to use life extension, or even radical life extension, upon the word immortality. The reason being that in our psychological conception, immortality connotes to permanence, constancy, ever-lastingness, and finality not unlike death itself, while life connotes with change, transformation, exploration and interest. Immortality attracts arguments that attack it on the grounds of its psychological connotations. The argument of boredom is of course a typical example. We can avoid most of these arguments by simply using the term life extension, though it will not immunize us against ignorance.

    As to life extension, I think one of the most common conceptual mistakes is to understand the word extension in the narrow sense of extension of time, the extension of the life span that is. This is understandable as long as we think about extending the current human life span by 20 to 50 percent, perhaps even by 100 percent. However when we think about radical life extension, we should start relating to the complexity and multidimensionality of life. Not only there are many dimensions to life, these dimensions are entangled in an intricate manner.

    Consider for example the relations between time, emotion, experience and memory. Each of these is an independent dimension, having its own dynamics, but only a unique entanglement of these dimensions brings forth what we know as life. As we come to think about 'stretching' the dimension of time, it is conceivable of course that to some extent we could prolong our life span independently of other dimensions. However, beyond a certain threshold, extending the time dimension of life without expanding our experiential and emotional dimensions, or without augmenting memory and intelligence, we will get something which may be many things but cannot be called life anymore because is will not be consistent with the unique entanglement of dimensions that makes life what it is. We should, if so, think about life extension as a multidimensional extension. There is no point to live a thousand years even if it is biologically or otherwise possible without expanding one's emotional depth, or experiential horizons, simply because what we might get is a kind of repetition that cannot be called life in the deeper meaning of the word. Life extension is a multidimensional extension where time is only one dimension out of many and perhaps even not the most important one.

    Some of the arguments against life extension, indeed argue the pointlessness of extending just one's life span beyond a certain threshold. I tend to agree with such arguments. When I argue in favor of life extension, I mean extension as applied to the multidimensional gestalt that we know life is.
    Wildcat     Tue, Dec 1, 2009  Permanent link
    This highly relevant study just out:


    Study reveals people’s thoughts on living longer
    November 30, 2009

    (PhysOrg.com)


    If people were given a pill to make them live longer what would they do with that extra time? According to a new study by University of Queensland researchers, they would spend it with their family.

    Co-authored by the UQ School of Population Health researchers Associate Professor Jayne Lucke and Professor Wayne Hall, the study interviewed 605 Australians aged 18 to 96 and identified their ethical, social and personal beliefs towards pharmaceutical life extension.

    The lead author Dr Brad Partridge, now at the Mayo Clinic in the US, conducted the interviews as part of his PhD.

    Dr Lucke said the research, published in the journal Rejuvenation Research recently, was inspired by studies showing the lifespan of animals can be greatly increased in the laboratory.

    “The participants were given a scenario to consider, which involved taking an anti-ageing pill that increased the maximum human lifespan,” Dr Lucke said.

    “The pill would not be used to cure diseases, but to delay the onset of related health problems which led to an earlier death.”

    She said 63 percent of participants said there would be personal benefits to life extension including spending more time with family (36 percent); having more time in life to achieve ambitions (31 percent); and better health and quality of life (21 percent).

    “Eighty percent also envisioned at least one downside,” she said.

    “These included prolonging a state of poor health (34 percent); financial cost of living longer (16 percent); and outliving family and friends (12 percent)."

    She said some of the other results were half of the participants believed the benefits to society would include increased collective knowledge (26 percent); extended lifespan of ‘important' people (15 percent); and more time to contribute (12 percent).

    “More than half (52 percent) of participants thought that life extension would not be beneficial to society though, with seven percent of these participants identifying overpopulation (40 percent) and an increased burden on healthcare and welfare (23 percent) as problems,” she said.

    Dr Lucke said understanding public attitudes towards prolonging the human lifespan was important to consider.

    “It is a known fact that public attitudes toward new technologies, especially one such as the possibly of increasing the lifespan, may foster or impede research progress,” she said.
    “The study should encourage researchers, bioethicists and policy makers to engage with members of the public about the goals of research surrounding life extension, the expected outcomes of such research and the likely implications for individuals and society.”
    Spaceweaver     Wed, Dec 2, 2009  Permanent link
    Interesting research, thanks. As commented before, a moderate life extension, free of disease, will benefit most people and also society that will be less burdened with dysfunction caused by age related health conditions. Regarding radical life extension, I do not see the benefit unless it involves the opportunity (and actuation) of personal growth. If by extending one's life, one also gains the opportunity to become a more capable and emotionally mature person, both individuals and society will greatly benefit. Otherwise, if no personal growth is introduced into this equation, I do not see the point for most individuals of having much more of the same life. Society may decline into a decaying state of collective boredom and indifference which is not attractive or beneficial.
    amzamz     Sat, Feb 27, 2010  Permanent link
    I would favour to abandon (some) medical treatment and part of our ethical taboos about life and death... and get back to a lifetime which corresponds to our nature! According to heart beat frequency, we should get 40-45 years old on average. interestingly enough, most people I admire are younger than that! ... or they are really childish and haven't lost their ability to be creative or disruptive!

    My spontaneous reaction to immortaility is therefore demonstrated in the picture below. A "pre-school gathering".... these young ladies are now in the first tier of their lives, will continue living for another 100-150 years! Defining our democracies, not contributing to creative human culture, but playing cards and watching TV. Haha! fine! You have it!


    However, as you can see from my other post on Human Document, I absolutely favour to have the great human culture, creativity, knowledge etc immortalisied, but without the humans themselves, please...

    ... an interesting thought by Xarene was to extend your subjective feeling of time. Even if it reminds me of these 70s scenes with drugs at rock concerts or of "Easy Rider"!... there may be some more truth in it. At least for me. No, I will never go for immortality, at least not at this stage in my life... we could discuss to "time-travel" my mind & body back to when I felt very young, and expand my experiences of when I was 15-25 years old to 100 years! YES, that would be a much better idea...
    Spaceweaver     Wed, Mar 3, 2010  Permanent link
    @amzamz: Thank you for reviving this thread of discussion :-) Pictures indeed communicate a lot. Yours communicate the psychological impact of aging. But let me trade a picture for a picture:



    Well, this is my pre-school gathering. With a bit of imagination, the youngest person in this company is 150 years old the oldest (leftmost) approaches 300 years... With radically prolonging life span, aging and old age are radically slowed down perhaps eliminated. Staying young vigorous and creative for hundreds of years seems quite achievable in just a few decades.

    We are a young specie and a young civilization. It has become quite clear that it takes an awfully long time for a single human individual to reach emotional maturity and wisdom. For many of us 40 or even 80 years are too short to reach such maturity and explore to the fullest one's potential. A prolonged life span may offer an unimaginable richness to human civilization. Just imagine the fear of death, sickness and old age disappearing from our psychological makeup.

    Just imagine that there is time enough for love :-)


     
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