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Nanotechnology and life extension: challenge & response

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The Mark, “Canada’s daily online forum for news, commentary, and debate,” has published a commentary that primarily takes a negative view of the use of nanotech (or any tech) for life extension:

Extreme life extension raises other interesting, yet troubling questions. Significant life extension could have serious implications for individual identity; what if we change too much over the course of a highly extended life? Will we eventually lose psychological continuity with our earlier lives, thereby becoming different people and in turn defeating the purpose of life extension? Will identity and narrative have coherence? Or perhaps we humans are sufficiently adaptive to deal with a greatly extended life. At this point, there’s really no way of knowing…

What we’d do with extended life and who it would be available to begs the question, “Would it be a good thing?” There may well be merit in life extension if it helps us maximize our potential as humans and make a greater social contribution.

There is a simple answer to this debating.  Boomers should stick around, keep working, and help pay off the national debt(s).  And while we’re at it, we can help clean up the environment.  It’s not fair to leave these tasks as burdens on the next generation.  —Chris Peterson

19 Responses to “Nanotechnology and life extension: challenge & response”

  1. the Foresight Institute » Nanotechnology and life extension … | Nano Broadcast Says:

    [...] the Foresight Institute » Nanotechnology and life extension … [...]

  2. DC Says:

    I, for one, am willing to risk it.

  3. George Says:

    “Boomers should stick around, keep working, and help pay off the national debt(s). ”

    Pretty impossible to do when you have a debt-based monetary system. No national debt implies no money. Might want to look at changing how money works, first :)

  4. David Kahn Says:

    Maybe with a sufficiently long life extension, one would even have time to learn the meaning of the phrase “to beg the question.” (See, http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/begs.html .)

  5. Christine Peterson Says:

    @George: Maybe we shouldn’t have a debt-based monetary system. @David: Not sure this question can be properly debated; seems to be a religious issue in terms of people’s level of emotion and reasoning ability. –Chris Peterson

  6. PacRim Jim Says:

    No problem. Have one’s memory wiped periodically, back to a certain point. Who needs to accumulate experience?

  7. Tim Kyger Says:

    As Glenn Reynolds has it, “Faster, please.”

    I, for one, would like to live a *very* long time — a few centuries, say.

    And I’m not very picky about the mode, either; silicon works for me as well as carbon.

    I take it that this attitude of mine probably isn’t one reflected by those writing at The Mark.

  8. William Blight Says:

    Let’s see, “Boomers should stick around, keep working, and help pay off the national debt(s)…How does this thought have any connection with life extension? Now if life extension technology was a reality, this thought would still seem to come out of left field. What does it have to do with life extension and personal continuity? On the other hand, if more boomers retire – partly because they have been working their asses off for the last 30 years, that would make some sense. More boomers retiring would reduce unemployment and open more jobs to young people. I’m a boomer and I’ve done my bit to lower the deficit and improve the environment; it’s the job of young people to make their own future. They will have to work for it; it won’t be handed to them.

  9. M. Report Says:

    Truly Senior Citizens:
    Angels or Demons ?

    Lots of speculation on this question in SF; Some worry that neotony will wear off, and result in Seniors as mean as adult chimps, others think age will amplify altruism.

  10. James Gentile Says:

    For real? Lose my identity? And I suppose I keep my identity when I turn to dust and get ate by worms…

  11. Life extension as human enhancement « FrogHeart Says:

    [...] unrelated to nanotechnology. Christine Peterson offers a different perspective in her May 10, 2010 response, There is a simple answer to this debating. Boomers should stick around, keep working, and help pay [...]

  12. Titus Quinn Says:

    “It seems highly unlikely that life extension will improve any of these. In fact, its contribution may be negative.”

    Then it stands to reason that life truncation (of those who live in wealthy nations) should be a positive contribution, thereby reducing social injustice, naturally.

  13. michael Says:

    Yes. we are sufficiently adapted. We have reading and writing for a reason.

  14. Ron Perkins Says:

    The problem I see with “Boomers sticking around longer” is that many will turn their extra few hundred years on Earth into a string of new marriages, divorces, remarriages, etc., This, combined with advances in fertility science, will only accelerate over-population as serial monogamists have new kids with each new marriage.

  15. Christine Peterson Says:

    @Ron — I believe the plan is to establish space settlements. –Chris Peterson

  16. John Gerbing Says:

    Life extension presents opportunity but to enjoy this opportunity we need not only extend life but return youth to those that are extending their life. If I could keep a healthy 21 year old body for a few centuries I wouldn’t mind doing so as long as the people I love do the same.

    This would not only let us start to explore this vast universe in ways we never imagined but the technology needed for this would come with other benifits, we could spend more time doing the things we want to do instead of things we don’t. We could explore so much more then ever before that I think it would be a grand age of exploration.

    As for any new advancement though this one needs some safe guards put into place so that if a terrorist group ever got ahold of it they could be nuetralized before ruining everything.

  17. Warren Says:

    I have always wanted to live forever….Unfortunately , among other things, this involves watching those you love deeply die before you. I am 67. My father died at 91, my mother at 89, my sister at 36, my x-wife at 38, my great anuts (3) and great uncles (6) and grandparents all died before I was 12. My friends Larry, Garth, Tom, Joe, Victor, Harry, all died from HIV at 30-45 years old. I would have died 4 years ago from inherited liver cancer by thanks to medical advances and the death of a poor unknown soul, I was given a new liver and am living cancer free maybe for another 25 years or so.
    However, if the tolomeres are replaced with healthy ones and return to the normal lenght they are in cells in the new cells your body turns over every 5 years, then you look and feel great and can continue contributing the human race. Your brain has the capacity to store infinitely more information than it does in our puny lifetimes. Think of the poems I could write. Think of the paintings I could paint. Think of the exciting new things I could learn. Think how as a scientist working for the environment how I could help rewturn this garden earth into the virtal nurishing entity it should be! Think what I could contribute to the good of mankind! Imagine Placido Domingo, Renee Flemming, Tan Dun, etc all singing for
    me, alive and vtal. Think of the exciting new ethics and legal issues… Think.
    And we could stay as long as we wanted! Count me in!

    More snow, more rainbows, more birds singing, more pure fresh air, more boat trips, more adventures. If Mathusala lived 900 years and was as vital as he was when he was 30, why not I?

  18. Solarhaphaeriom Says:

    Isn’t becoming different people what we do all the time? I doubt the author worries much about his parents telling him to go to bed, or what the cool kids are wearing. And I doubt he’s much bothered by this either.

  19. Gavin Revitt Says:

    Without doubt one of the most relevant side effects to consider regarding the application of life extension would be the opportunity for increasing the quality of individual understanding, appreciation and respect for both the environment and the social bonds we form. It would doubtless force us to consider the social systems under which we work. In fact there’s probably several books worth of philosophical material behind even these simple points alone!

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