Which age would you stay at forever? Eternal youth may be possible.
Physicist Michio Kaku doesn't see immortality as impossible, especially of the digital kind.
Historically kings, queens and emperors have tried to find the fountain of youth; they failed.
Ponce de Leon instead founded Florida, emperor Qin of China, apparently he sent his princes to look for the fountain of youth with the order “if you don’t find the fountain of youth, don’t come back.” And apparently he founded Japan and he founded Korea as a consequence of that.
So we have a long history of people searching for the fountain of youth without success at all.
In fact, the tales of Gilgamesh, perhaps one of the oldest written tales predating parts of the Bible—the tale of Gilgamesh, well he had a mission and his mission was to find the secret of immortality.
So today we have two kinds of immortality: digital immortality and genetic/biologic immortality.
Digital immortality I think we will attain. It is an attainable goal. And that is to digitize our entire life. One day when you go to the library instead of getting a book about Winston Churchill you’ll talk to Winston Churchill, you’ll see a holographic image of him that has all the mannerisms, the speeches and maybe the memories of Winston Churchill.
In fact, one of these days your descendants could go to a library and talk to you, because you have been digitized.
I mean think of your credit card transactions, for example, if I know your credit card transactions I already know where you like to vacation, what kinds of wines you like to buy and drink, what you like to do in your spare time.
Think of what happens if I have the totality of your digital fingerprints, all the videos, all the vacations, everything—perhaps I can create a reasonable facsimile of you.
And then, of course, the question is: is that really you? Well, to paraphrase former President Bill Clinton, it all depends on how you define “you”.
If you define “you” as the biological entity with your memories then of course it is not you, but if you define your soul as entropy and information, that is, if you say that your soul is information that evolves with time via the laws of entropy, then you can be digitized—because your soul is digital.
The other immortality, of course, is biologic and genetic immortality. We have artificially intelligent systems that can scan tremendous amounts of data to look for patterns so in the future we will take the genomes of millions of old people and the genomes of millions of young people, run them through an AI system that look for patterns: where is error concentrated? Which genes control the aging process?
For example, take a car: where does aging take place in a car? Well, that’s obvious right? Most of the aging takes place in the engine, because that’s where you have moving parts, that’s where you have combustion, oxidation, that’s where all the action takes place.
Well, in a cell… where is the engine of a cell? It is the mitochondria. And where do we find error buildup, entropy building up in a cell?
And that is the mitochondria.
So, bingo, we now know more or less where to look when you look for the build up of error in a cell, because that’s what aging is.
Aging is the build up of error, cellular error, biological error, genetic error, error. Entropy, that’s what aging is.
Now, if you take a look at the Greenland shark, the Greenland shark has one of the world’s records for a vertebrate that lives so long you could barely measure it. By looking at the eye, the eye of the Greenland shark, you’re looking at the layers, they add layers once a year just like tree rings and you can actually date the life of a Greenland shark. The ones they’ve looked at so far are over 400 years old.
And so we already have examples of vertebrates that have life spans far beyond anything that we humans can muster.
Now, we also have other clues, we know that telomerase, for example, can “stop the clock”.
We have a clock in our cells called telomeres, they get shorter and shorter after every cell reproduction, after a certain point they simply unravel the chromosomes of the cell and the cell goes into senescence and eventually dies. That is the biological clock.
Skin cells, for example, reproduce about 60 times approximately, that’s the Hayflick limit for a skin cell.
But, in Menlo Park California they’ve immortalized these cells. We can now take ordinary human skin cells, apply telomerase on them, and they stop the clock; they simply reproduce forever.
Now what’s the catch? There’s always a catch someplace.
The catch is that cancer cells also use telomerase on the way to immortality.
You see, cancer cells are immortal; that’s why they kill you. Why are cancer cells so dangerous? Are they poisonous? Do they have toxins? Do they eat up ordinary cells?
No, they just live forever, and they populate until they form a tumor, and the tumor kills you. So in other words telomerase is one of the mechanisms used by cancer cells to immortalize themselves, and we’ve isolated it and perhaps one day we’ll be able to use things like telomerase in order to extend our lifespan.
In addition to that we found all sorts of enzymes that are involved in the oxidation process.
For example, the Greenland shark—why does it live so long? Well, the short answer is: we don’t know.
But there is a theory that says the Greenland shark lives near Greenland where it’s cold, very cold—where oxidation takes place at a much lower level than for us mammals living in North America, for example.
And so this means that perhaps by controlling the oxidation process we can duplicate what the Greenland shark has done, and the Greenland shark lives for over 400 years of age.
Now, the point I’m making is very simple: we do not have the fountain of youth.
However, I think it’s only a matter of time before perhaps our grandkids have the option of maybe reaching the age of 30 and stopping. We may be able to stop the clock. We may like to be around 30 because we still have our youthful vigor and we’re a little bit more mature, we may want to stop the clock at that point. That cannot be ruled out.
Unfortunately it’s not, perhaps, for my generation. My generation may be in fact the last generation to die. Generations after this generation may have the option of stopping the clock.
Physicist Michio Kaku doesn't see immortality as impossible. We should attain digital immortality and might be able to stop the clock on our aging. Advancements in our knowledge of telomeres and research into long-living creatures like the Greenland shark can provide valuable clues.
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How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
A popular and longstanding wave of thought in psychology and psychotherapy is that diagnosis is not relevant for practitioners in those fields.
Scientists regenerate damaged spinal cord nerve fibers with designer protein, helping paralyzed mice walk again.
- Researchers from Germany use a designer protein to treat spinal cord damage in mice.
- The procedure employs gene therapy to regenerate damaged nerve fibers that carry signals to and from the brain.
- The scientists aim to eventually apply the technique to humans.
What is a spinal cord injury?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="88b8d4e44e46b7d5fe49d1f3bca56078"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dKtBC2Sg_Bg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists use new methods to discover what's inside drug containers used by ancient Mayan people.
- Archaeologists used new methods to identify contents of Mayan drug containers.
- They were able to discover a non-tobacco plant that was mixed in by the smoking Mayans.
- The approach promises to open up new frontiers in the knowledge of substances ancient people consumed.
PARME staff archaeologists excavating a burial site at the Tamanache site, Mérida, Yucatan.
Cold hands and feet? Maybe it's your anxiety.
- When we feel anxious, the brain's fight or flight instinct kicks in, and the blood flow is redirected from your extremities towards the torso and vital organs.
- According to the CDC, 7.1% of children between the ages of 3-17 (approximately 4.4 million) have an anxiety diagnosis.
- Anxiety disorders will impact 31% of Americans at some point in their lives.