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Immortality?

By on Jul 3, 2008 in Food For Thought, Tech Takes | 0 comments

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For the past few days. I read and heard Jobs’ Stanford commencement address again and again, there’s one thing in it that struck me like a ton of bricks;

…No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true…

First take a look at this;

Look at how that graph has changed in a span of 55 years, it’s amazing. This graph tells an amazing story .

See, death itself is the failure of a system to cope up with constant degradation over a long period of time, in the stone age it used to below 30 years. You were born and if you lived to 40 you were considered to be lucky then as science progressed we started to live longer and longer due to the fact that we are now able to maintain that system with external help. This has happened in the last 100 or so years, this is amazing we went from living for 30-40 years in the early 1900s to 80 and above in a century. It’s amazing our life span on average is double that of our previous ancestors. It’s an exponential change with science getting better and better this trend will continue, there’s no doubt about it.

Right now I am going to predict something; 30 years from now people will have the average life expectancy of more than 125 years, there will be monumental changes in birth control leading to a healthier and more nourished life for all. Then there will be the gigantic advances in cryonics, this will be so stirring that people will start opting for it as a mainstream medical option. Lastly we will see the research in cybernetics invade everyone’s homes we will see man and machine become one, leading to something wonderful. All the building blocks will be in place for a true immortal.

Now, how can I say this? How can I possibly be sure about this? I’ll tell you how, it’s about connecting the dots. What we are seeing today is exponential growth of 2 very, very interesting fields; Robotics and Biotechnology.

Robotics: Thanks to moore’s law as computational power is exponentially increasing at the same time so is our knowledge of nature and implementation of the lessons learnt to create systems that are able to interact and learn from the environment, we have been able to create artificial neural networks to some degree, which behave on the fundamental principles that we think the biological ones follow. This is leading to the point where machines will become smarter and smarter they will be able to develop complex world models that allow for interactions on the basis of something to the tune of emotions, at the same time they will become ubiquitous. Robots or some form of artificial intelligence will be everywhere; they will be in all consumer portables in order to maximize efficiency and allow for functions and features which makes interacting with them more intuitive. Of course you will have all the science fiction dreams of wearable computers etc. but they have been covered in great deal so I don’t think that it’s necessary to go into great deal about them, maybe later. They will be you ever since Project Cyborg 1.0 we have opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities, the act of merging machine and humankind as one will be probably the greatest achievement of man, ever. If computers are like a bicycle for the mind then this is a Ferrari.

What am I talking about? I am talking about Brain-Computer Interfaces, today we plant a couple of electrodes into the brain of the subject and we monitor which neurons fire and at what time, thus we try to build a patter which we can detect and then give an output to it. Something to the lines of, if monkey’s neural group a fires when it moves its left hand, this means that they’re responsible for sending signals to move left so then move the robot left. This is primitive, if we will ever succeed in combining human and machine then this won’t do. The thing is that there is a breakthrough around the corner; the Blue Brain project, which seeks to model the neocortex of an adult human, will give us invaluable information about how the brain works. We are beginning to decode how this fantastic computer works, it’s like taking a sledgehammer on an iPhone and trying to break it apart in order to understand how that gorgeous thing works, we will get better at it and soon enough we will see that its processor sends x routine to y input signal which corresponds to pressure on the a,b co-ordinates of the multi-touch screen. We will figure it out, that’s a certainty, no matter how long it takes there are people who are willing to do anything in order to understand it, just for the pleasure of finding things out. They will be everywhere, mental retardation due to errors of nature will be a thing of the past, intelligence will be there up for grabs for those who want it and can use it. However, we’re just starting and this will take a while, 10 to 200 years. Have no doubt about it, it will happen.

Now what does this mean? This means that soon enough, an eye blink in geological time we will have the ability to decode minds. What does this mean? See, the thing is that we are nothing but a pattern, a very dynamic pattern which constantly changes to adapt to the world outside, our brain isn’t static like a silicon micro-processor rather it changes over time, new connections are formed and old ones are strengthened or replaces. Somehow out of this chaos due to something we haven’t been able to figure out till now intelligence emerges, it’s not the matter that is intelligent merely the pattern that’s forced upon them. If we can read that patter then can’t we preserve that pattern from all possible degradation by storing it somewhere for future use? Yes we can, uploading of a mind may seem to be crazy but hey at one point of time so was using something called a computer, a fantastical machine that can perform billions of calculations per second. Once this milestone will be reached something wonderful will happen, the prophecy of 2001 will be completed, humanity will discard it’s useless physical bodies and become something to the lines of incorporeal entities, able to accomplish anything with the help of technology, the mind finally empowered to do anything it wishes. Our science, technology, art everything that’s created from the mind will see a galactic leap, everything will change, machines will change us, there’s no doubt about it they have in the past but this change will be irreversible for the better or for the worse we will be one with our tools.

Biotechnology: Until that point of time we will have to survive in our fragile shells, biotechnology will enhance the chance of precisely that. After the human genome project was completed it dawned on some people that this is the future, biology will be the next insanely great thing. Gene therapy, stem cell treatment to engineering humans will prolong lifetimes. At the same time it will increase our production capacities, we will have more food, we will be able to control nature to suit our will. We will become the true master of the earth, we will be able to engineer a world where lifetimes will be measured in hundreds of years not decades.

Sounds like science fiction? No, it isn’t we’re heading there, by decoding the language of nature we are doing some pretty amazing things today. Take a look at G.M. food, it’s too good to be true, we have been able to imbibe desired characteristics into the plants so that they become more nutritious, more easier to grow and plentiful. Who would have thought about it? That recombinant DNA technology would lead to this, we were there before we knew it. This has the potential to change the world, it is changing the world but it can radically alter it, if the research in embryonic stem cells can go ahead uninterrupted by any idiotic hindrance we will be able to cure almost everything. WE will be able to artificially grow organs and then transplant them into the person, this will give a new lease of life to many people. No longer will we have organ rackets, there won’t be any need for an immunosuppressant at all, it will be the bodies own tissue.

Lastly, we will be able to see how peoples genes are related to chances of getting diseases if we start connecting the dots then we could see what risks a person has to say develop lung cancer and then we could plan things around that change that persons lifestyle to reduce the statistical chance and if it occurs, have new lungs for him ready before hand. A $10,000 and eventually a $100 complete gene sequencing test for a human will change medicine. It will usher in an age of personalized medicine, everything will change. The effect this will have on prolonging life will be so dramatic that we will be left scratching our heads for a long, long time.

This is what I think that the future holds for my descendants, controlled abundance and glimpses of immortality, but then what about me? I want to live long enough to see it, to create it. Here are the options that I am pursuing to solve that;

Project John Galt: Yes, I named this after a fictional character, I named it after him because in the book there’s one interesting portion that says that he had found the fountain of youth, to come to think about it he really did become immortal in a way by the end of it. Anyway the details of the project is essentially that I am kicking out any possible junk going into my system; I don’t drink the water from my home supply anymore, despite the fact that it’s meticulously boiled and then filtered, I feel that it doesn’t remove the heavy metal contamination I suspect it has, so until the time we get a reverse osmosis unit I don’t drink that water. I can’t afford to take that risk. I have stopped my intake of junk food, making it effectively nil, I did that because a lot of research suggests that there is something in that diet that makes people sick, and I don’t want that to happen to me. At the same time I have intitiated an effort to eat a fiber diet with lots of exercise; this means that from tomorrow I am cutting down my computer time and I will go outside and start jogging or something, I need to do this, I will do this.

The primary goal of this project is to see over a test span of a year how it works out. Has the frequency of illness been reduced? Am I getting any healthier? If not why? What effect does this have on my long term health? In short, this is a stop gap measure until I transition to a fully planned care plan, with the help of a very, very qualified but expensive doctor. This is what I am going to do with my money, I won’t buy lots of fancy cars or other frivolous things but I am going to prolong my life, I am going to work. Why am I doing this? I am doing this because the best way to predict the future is to create it.

What if I die?

Cryonics: I am going to invest in cryonics, this is the safest bet I have. If all else fails this back up will be there, but I need my money to do this, which is non existent at this point of time. Anyway the point of cryonics is to preserve the pattern of a person by using the crudest method possible, by freezing the human. Thus your pattern will be preserved in liquid nitrogen, this is the thing that makes it so insanely great, as we start to advance into the future as technology to prolong and give life gets better and better, sooner or later without doubt we will be able to repair the tissues of the cryonically preserved humans. If we fail to do that then their pattern is preserved isn’t it? So it would be easy to read it and then form another model on the basis of it, this is all idle speculation right now because we don’t know how to do this but I am hoping that advances in those 2 fields will open up the door leading to this.

I will tell you why this is a relatively safe bet than the normal procedures followed after a human loses functioning. There is a common myth that water inside the cell freezes causing the cells to be destroyed, no however there is chance of injury by ice crystals forming in the blood stream but that’s taken care of by a process called vitrification. What they essentially do is that they replace that water with a sort of anti-freeze allowing for radical cooling (-196°C) without freezing. This is preserves the human down to the last cell before it’s death, for all intents and purposes it can be reanimated but we don’t know how to do that right now. This is a fact about us not the problem. Here’s something I would like to quote from wikipedia:

It has often been written that cryonics revival will be a last-in-first-out (LIFO) process. In this view, preservation methods will get progressively better until eventually they are demonstrably reversible, after which medicine will begin to reach back and revive people cryopreserved by more primitive methods. Revival of people cryopreserved by the current combination of neurovitrification and deep-cooling (technically not “freezing”, as cryoprotectant inhibits ice crystallization) may require centuries, if it is possible at all.

That fact remains that the pessimism for cryonics is baseless, at least it’s an attempt until we can come up with something better, I am going to put my bets on this thing.

If you have read this far then you must have realized something, I am reaching for immortality with only one thing, technology. Technology is the key to my deliverance, it’s my second coming, now I am going to leave this idle banter and I am going to go out and enjoy my life, the feeling of being alive. I will solve this problem later, someday when I know enough about this and I can afford to do something about it. Moreover, if I fail this will happen it’s about connecting the dots, we are going there. If I become immortal then it’s wonderful if I don’t then at least I tried.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. At least, he got that right.



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