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!

Devon

Tags: Transhumanism, extension, life

Views: 206

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sorry let me make a quick distinction...life extension is extending life by some amount, radical life extension is at least a few decades, and indefinite life extension would happen if we could halt or reverse aging, and ensure that we would stay at a certain age biologically.

If we could use rejuvenation therapies which is outlined in great detail by Aubrey 7 ways to combat the 7 causes of aging, we would stay alive as long as we kept up the therapies, and who knows one day we could permanently halt aging without continued therapies.

Anywho, we'd basically live until accident, murder, natural disaster, and some other disease kills us...so, we'd still die! We would NOT be immortal..I'm sorry I was unclear in that distinction.

There are some futurist like Ray Kurzweil who envison upoloading our brain information patterns into a computer, or a hybrid of human and cyborg as making us less resistant to accidents and disease, but I can guarantee immortality will never happen, despite a small subset that believes it will.

So those are the fine distinctions.
and there was an article recently, I forget some techie mag, where they talked about storing back up copies of our brain information in a computer, basically, like a very complex way of storing our personalities, memories, and presumably all the subtle things that make us cognitively, at least, human.

Now, I"m not saying this is where it's at, or not, but it is interesting! I'm guessing somehow we'd then have to design an artificial body and make it amazingly realistic. Again, I'm NOT saying we are even close to doing this, but ideas like this are talked about in these circles...futurist circles.

Some people believe one day when we live long enough into the future where we discover so much more than we know now about the universe, physics, and all science, we could somehow survive the heat death of the universe, which I find completely out there, but some people have crazy theories that are interesting to here.
I agree, and there was a very good rebuttal to his ideas, showing that he uses the term "exponential progress" as a magical type of word where things will just somehow take off where computers will magically become sentient, and this guy knew seemingly more about baysian reasoning and information theory than the man himself.

I think Kurzweil is totally wishful thinking his way to a happy land where all his techie dreams will come true.

Sometimes I let my enthusiasm of these wonderful ideas take control of what I should be pointing out all along...none of this will probably come to fruition anytime soon for any of us.

He did predict a computer would beat Kazpriov, the chess guru (spelling) in the time frame it did actually beat him. I believe his prediction was in the early 80's.

IMO, I think he has been good at predicting overall trends, where certain predictions are much easier than others...I don't think he is at all on target with AI, Singularity, uploading etc.
Yes...yes it will...
What worries me is if we are pushing toward living so much longer and even immortality, what happens to the value of time? I mean, if you have nothing but time, why would you be in a hurry to do anything? I mean, you have forever, right? How would that affect the relationships you have with people and loved ones? Would people want to or be able to maintain relationships for that long a period, when it's a struggle to maintain them now as short as our lives are? I mean granted it would be awesome if people like Stephen Hawkings could live longer lives, and have more time to make discoveries, but what are the hidden social consequences? I mean sometimes you just have to wait for bad people to die, so the bad stuff dies with them. What happens if THEY don't ever go away? What about generational customs and behavior? How do we evolve and learn from the mistakes of our ancestors?? Wouldn't living forever prevent evolution? Wouldn't that end us???
yeah, better life through LIVING! Looking good is for quitters like Palin n' god inc!

you mean metrosexuality?
like Lou Dobbs before his exit from CNN to the, eh ehm', run for senate?

nowdays looks are always deceiving
it's the way of the corrupt
I don't see how it can be eco-terrorism. Human population can double in a few decades, which means that if everyone lives forever, it just moves the disaster up by 50 years or so. Without population control, 100 years from now the people who are 200 years old will be just a small fraction of the total.

The economic and social implications are staggering, but as far as the environment is concerned, the difference between 4.5 billion years and 4.5 billion + 50 is irrelevant.

If this happens, society would have to pass a "1 slot" law - there's one slot on this Earth for you, and you can either have a child, or live forever, but not both. But that's just a logical extension of the zero-population growth philosophy.
So you differentiate the economy and the environment ? Not relating the one to the other is pretty much the cause of our present problems.
Craig: as far as the environment is concerned, the difference between 4.5 billion years and 4.5 billion + 50 is irrelevant.

That's not the problem at all. A human cell needs a massive input of extra energy to stop its natural senescence. Where would this extra energy come from?
here is a link to the web page for The Center For Responsible Nanotechnology. http://www.crnano.org/ And here is a link to Humanity + http://humanityplus.org/learn The latter site has a great FAQ section that answers so many perturbing questions, you may have to do some digging though to find it.

You'll find many of the answers that thinkers and scientists have come up with to answer the problems of the socio economic upheavals and population control amongst others.
One of the strongest arguments for life extension and other H + technologies is we need great thinkers alive longer to be able to solve the horrible problems of society that those thinkers are best qualified for. Inotherwords, if Albert Einstein or any other great thinker had the chance to live another 100 years just think of all the good that would come of it, potentially of course.

The problem is, up until present, it has taken a lifetime for greatness to come to fruition, or a large portion of it./ Basically in order to accumulate enough knowledge to be able to contribute to solving the world's problems that much better.

I would prefer a world filled with experienced thinkers who might even get help from other H+ technologies like AI, and the Singularity, to perhaps augment their intellect so they can accomplish goals and problems that much quicker.

Think of all of the problems, even within the human mind and thus genome itself that can cause all kinds of potential disasters such as war, racism, genocide, etc. If we could have more time alive we could basically create better humans, or more wiser humans minus the irrational impulses, including emotions of hate, jealousies, and tyrannical despots.

Oxford philosopher David Pearce envisions a world through what he calls Paradise Engineering where most human suffering, or so much of it can be looked at as a yet another dark ages in human history. Of course this is a rather utopian like Brave New World idealist dream, but I can only imagine the tremendous improvements to the human brain that will happen simply by buying more time.
That sounds like a logical point, and I see where you're coming from. I have also argued that immortallity, if that is the end goal, would be a dangerous thing, but are you saying that life extension is not worth the pursuit at all, if we are contained on this planet still?

Where does one draw the line? If curing cancer is thought to be a good thing, why not at least slowing down the process of aging related decline and all the diseases that come with it?

I'm sure you've heard that argument but as you say it's immoral and unethical to overtax the earths ecosystems, and your other aruguments prove true than we just have to accept the status quo?

I'm sure you're now used to these arguments, and yes I did come on here before and I remember having a similar or the same argument with you last time.

I guess, there are myriad problems with both life extension and keeping things the way they are now...we can't kill off everyone should they do live longer at say age 150...is there no right answer?


I try to stay open to all arguments and although the idea of death repulses and scares me, frankly, I respect your points...

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