Technology in Perspective

Question: Are we confronting any fundamental limitations in how far science can progress?

Aubrey de Grey: I don’t think there are any inherent failings that are going to hold us back indefinitely. I think it’s purely a matter of progress breeds progress. Progress breeds the expectation of further progress. And it depends on the field. I often make the distinction between fundamental breakthroughs and incremental breakthroughs – incremental refinements of breakthrough if you like. So if you look at pilot in flight, for example, it took us an awful long time to work out how to get bits of … stuff off the ground. But once we’d done it, we were able to refine that rather rapidly. You know, it was only 24 years from the Wright brothers until Lindbergh got across the Atlantic, which the Wright brothers couldn’t have imagined. And of course subsequent progressions. And we can see this in computers. We can see it in the combating of infectious diseases. You name it. So it seems to me that that was because there was no credibility barrier. People tried because they knew that they could make a small advance, and they just did it. It’s big advances that are tricky. But then that also works across fields. If you’ve made big advances in one field, you can make … maybe make it in another field. That’s what I was saying about raising sights. So I feel it’s a psychological thing; but it’s not an intractable, innate, psychological thing. It’s a … a contingent psychological consequence of our … success hitherto.

 

Recorded on: 6/22/07

 

 

 

Aubrey de Grey believes that technological progress breeds progress but that one must distinguish between incremental and fundamental progress.

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

Keep reading Show less

Cornell scientists engineer artificial material that has three key traits of life

An innovation may lead to lifelike self-reproducing and evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less