What are your thoughts on life extension? What about Transhumanism?

I used to always consider myself an atheist, having no responsible reason to believe that a divine being could ever exist, it did, and still does sound like wishful, and therefore mystical thinking!

However, what always bothered me about many atheists I'd met was that they seemed to accept death as an inevitability, and well, i never fully accepted death.

What I'm getting at is the now fairly known concept of healthy or even radical life extension through slowing down, halting, or even reversing the aging process in humans.

Dr. Aubrey De Grey is becoming increasingly a well known name after being on such shows like 20/20 with Barbra Walters "How to Live to 150," a spot on "The Colbert Report," and just recently a History channel documentary, that I haven't seen, but covers this kind of life extension in humans as well as other futurist technologies including, Cryonics, Artificial Intelligence, The Singularity, and more...I plan on seeing this one. And just recently in very late November Aubrey was featured on a CNN interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta who is now a celebrity himself being televisions most sought after doctor.

The segment was phenomenal, and Aubrey went on to discuss, his overall plan to defeat aging, how it could be done with bio-engineering and stem cell rejuvenation therapies, how it will drastically change socio-economic and general political structures, and why defeating aging and along with it age related diseases that strike us mostly in the last two decades of our lives happen; diseases such as most cancers, Alzheimer's and other dementia's, heart disease, and obviously many others.

So I remember talking to a few atheists, (by the way I consider myself now to be agnostic as I cannot conclusively prove or disprove God, but I seriously doubt such a fantastical notion could be real,) and so many of them seem to be content with the natural way of things, much like some fundamentalists are simply ok with leaving a terminal illness in the hands of God!

As a young boy, age 5, I remember asking my dad if we could do something to stop us from growing old and dying. It seemed so natural to me to question this and want and need a solution!

Since then I've been a project leader and overall volunteer at the fast growing non-profit Immortality Institute for Research into Unlimited Lifespans. Now I know immortality is an age old chased dream, and most likely is impossible for so many reason, and imminst plans on changing the name to something more realistic! But so many of our members, in one thread, asked the same question to their families and friends growing up...and well, it just seems as "natural" or "unnatural" to me to want to beat aging as it was for medical researchers to want to beat cancer. I hope you see my point!

So how come life extension and other Transhumanist technologies, (some now call bio-progressive technologies,) aren't discussed more in most atheist circles? Surely most of you are familiar with Ray Kurweil inventor of Kurzweil synthesizers, reading machines for the blind and now a famous author and Transhumanist himself? His books include "The Age of Spiritual Machines," and "The Singularity is Near," plus many others. He's met with big name philanthropists such as Bill Gates, (him twice,) sharing his ideas of a potentially amazing future of technological wonders!

So do most Atheists want or feel the need to at least live longer, seeing as life is so fundamentally short subjectively and objectively I'd argue, right now? Or do you have good reason not to at least slow down the deterioration process that leaves us frail, hopeless, and ultimately suffering the last years of our lives?

Sorry for the length of this post!


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ok I need to not come across as if I assume things. I should be much more careful with my wording...I didn't get any sleep and I'm reading into certain things.

I'm sure you do value your life, again I apologize. You were just so fast to say you'd kill yourself if it got bad, that maybe I thought you were one of those people who could take it or leave it, obviously I shouldn't have assumed that.

As for your explanation of vanity meaning thinking we are so special, I choose to look at it as if I'm not hurting any other being, human or other animal, and if I'm not hurting the environment, then who really cares if I choose to live longer? (Yes we know there are serious environmental and other problems that could occur if we are not careful,) but assuming we can work around those problems, then I'm not choosing to live longer because I think I'm special, it's more a combination of wanting to see, do more, and not dying, at least so soon.

So, that's basically the argument.
the whole point of anti-aging is just that, in theory if some of these ideas are as sound as some hope they are, people WOULD NOT AGE, thus not getting age related diseases like dementia.

Aubrey's whole spheel is that too many people suffer horribly with dementia, cancer, diabetes, you name it because many of these are diseases that come with the aging process.
Hey Sweetie,

I honestly think that you are absolutely *brilliant*, and I greatly enjoy reading your posts. I was wondering if you could send me a copy of the segment of Aubrey de Grey being interviewed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. I would *love* to hear his viewpoints on how negligible senescence will change socioeconomic and political structures. Please do send it to me if you can. I love you *hugs*
Lauren I'm not brilliant, i'm interested in this stuff, and I merely wanted to engage some people and get their opinions. Don't sell yourself short either.
Finally, I've changed my attitude about anti-aging recently. I am not trying to beat the drum loudly at all anymore.

I think it's a fascinating hotbed of science right now, and yes still in it's infancy, and I'm now more about simply informing people about it, and let them decide if it's a horrible thing or a favorable thing.

Obviously I see it as potentially a favorable thing saving 100,000 people dying of age related diseases many of which probably don't want to die, or are just not ready.

I almost wish the indefinite part was left out, because THAT is what could cause so many problems.

The only middle ground is a Logan's Run type of society where at say 200 years people would have to suicide in order to control the population, if that is going to be such a huge problem.

I would rather live 150 years and be forced to kill myself, at least I'd live a fuller, presumably more relaxed and higher quality life.
Here is a link to an upcoming transhumanist conference in Milan Italy. Regardless of your views on these topics, you might at least find this brief synopsis interesting, as it's the latest in theories thrown around at the moment.

I think if you read Aubrey's theories on how to repair the failing mechanisms of aging, you might reconsider, in that, he is brilliant and backs his theories up with proposed ways of his engineering approach.

However, whether if he will get the tremendous amount of money needed to fund this lofty of all lofty projects is another story, and the obstacles he and the team of researchers, (which is growing, see website) will be bigger, imo, than any obstacles ever faced with disease pathology.

So the time frame, (he puts at 20 to 50 years), I think is just plain unrealistic.

If you read the Age of Spiritual Machines, Kurzweil goes into some detail of how he'd reverse engineer the human brain, focusing on the brains redundancy in neurons, synapses, etc. as a thing that could make the job easier, but I'm not a scientist, and Kurzweil is full of confidence, and writes well...the guy who rebutted him in some articles between them, pointed out that yes the brain may be redundant, but, there is still complexity in that redundancy that will make the challenge perhaps exponentially more challenging.

The Singularity seems like fantasy for me, but, there are people at Singularity Uni at Nasa Ames who are working on the problem. They use Baysian theory, a kind of logic for volitional actions, and other sciences to work on the problem. I have not read even close to what I should on what may or may not be happening with AI, but I agree alot of transhumanism is simply still in philosophical mode, like Pearc'es Paradise engineering.

However, we are making so many in roads with promsing medical treatments, and Centhya Kenyon, a biologist did prolong the life of a nematode 6 fold, and there is a 3 million prize out for longest lived mouse, so we'll wait and see if science is progressing at the rate we hope it will.
it's almost impossible to predict where these promising technologies will be in say 50 years...Nanotech is already a building market, and there are nano made materials, whether molecualr assemblers, nanofactories, nano solar power, and others will happen, I think it may be a matter of when, and who knows what other nano technologies may happen that we just can't think of yet?

There may be terrible existential threats if terrorists use future tech to make biological weapons etc., and there is an org called the Lifeboat foundation which discusses these risks, and how maybe to avoid them.

One interesting risk is the idea of an AI if it could become sentient, (which is what an AI is obviously,) but what if it could learn to become smart enough to change it's own source coding and make itself smarter, and then smarter, I don't want to use exponential again :) but you can imagine a runaway super brain might not have our best interest in mind, as small brained humans, much like Stephen Hawking warned not to try to make contact with alien life forms, as it might not have our best interest in mind and destory us all like bugs.

Anyway, there are lots of utopian ideas, but also more realistic ones, like biological monitors attached to our organs telling us in advance how healthy each organ is, this seems more feesible than say the Singularity. So, although some predictions prove disappointing, - like the time frame given for a cure for AIDS, which hasn't happened yet, - other predictions may be more on target, and who knows? Perhaps some will be ahead of schedule.
I remember reading some really great essays on the future of nanotech, Chris Pheonix, you should read his stuff, brilliant guy, I wish I could remember more of what he was talking about, but he emphasized quite a bit the use of responsible nanotech.

Kurzweil seems more mired in fantasy, but there are lots of great thinkers, working hard on these problems, maybe not lots, but quite a few.

we've come quite a ways from the early days of Eric Drexler's Engine's of Creation, who made nano predictions that were more out there like grey goo nano self replicators eating away the planet, to today's more well thought out, reasoned hard science approaches. If you do some reading on some of the sites I gave plus you can wikipedia nanotech and it will link to all the ideas I've briefly mentioned, and judge for yourself if it's rooted in fantasy or more well thought out sound, scientific ideas.

And I encourage you to got to SENS.org and Methuselah Foundation...you'll read first hand what is being worked on, what they think may be required for the specific project etc.

I remember watching a documentary on transhumanist ideas and in 2004 they were able to do brain computer interfacing with monkeys using their brains to move cursors around, and these monkeys learned how to do actuated tasks in order to get a reward as food. It was amazing to see a monkey learning to use their brain in such a way.

Today they have ways of doing this with parapalegics, and just recently in rats they were able to repair damaged spinal chords that left the rats unable to move prior, so science is catching up in some areas.
I don't know if a matter of living longer. What I wil say as an atheist its' about making the most out of the life we do have. As far as living longer you have to measure between quanity and quality. Depak Chopra has written books about defying the aging process and guess what? He continues to age just like the rest of us. As an theist I'm not expecting to go to heaven(or hell for that matter) so I have to come to terms with the idea that there is nothing beyond the grave. Not a comforting thought I know. But I ask you, what is the alternative? Belief in some fairy tale wonderland where my soul shoots hoops with Jesus? Being an ateist, means to live without fear and to accept the truth about my exisitence.



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