December 01, 2012

A radically improved future is possible

Annalee Newitz makes several points in an article at io9 that the "future is not accelerating".

1. The future is not coming at us any faster than it ever has.
2. We will not become immortal cyborgs with superintelligent computer friends in the next twenty years.
3. We can't expect all the efforts we make in our short lifetimes to pay off in our lifetimes, too. You will not live to be 200 years old. I repeat: You will not live to be 200 years old. Life extension like that is not going to happen in our lifetimes because quite simply it takes time to analyze our genomes, then it takes more time to test them, then it takes more time to develop therapies to keep us young, and then there is a lot of government red tape and cultural backlash to deal with too. Maybe our grandchildren will have a chance to take a life-extension pill. But not us

Historial Economics - there have been accelerations

Robin Hanson has a theory related to shifts in economic growth rates.

Mode      Doubling   Date Began   Doubles  Doubles  Transition
  Grows     Time (DT)  To Dominate  of DT    of WP    CES Power
----------  ---------  -----------  ------   -------  ----------
Brain size   34M yrs    550M B.C.     ?       "16"      ?
Hunters     224K yrs   2000K B.C.    7.3      8.9       ?
Farmers      909 yrs    4856 B.C.    7.9      7.6      2.4
Industry     6.3 yrs    2020 A.D.    7.2     >9.2      0.094   

The Medieval England (1500-1730) doubling period was 100 years.
From 1730-1910 doubling period was 58 years.
From 1910-2010 there has been a doubling period of about 15 years.

The 15 year doubling time is 4.7-4.8% GDP growth. An improvement of doubling time by 3-5 times would indicate another level of progress that is line with the long term historic trend.

A pre-singularity phase with two doublings at a more modest improvement level would be to the 9-12% per year growth level that China is experiencing. Technology could enable that level for the entire world. Then 15% for 3-4 doublings and then 20-25% for the singularity level.

I have laid out the case where Sky City Skyscrapers (200-600 stories) and robotic cars (4 times the density of road traffic) will make certain megacities (future New York, Shanghai, Tokyo etc...) one third to one half of the overall world population and they would have 75% more GDP per capita than they do today. There would be rural, regular urban then super-urban. Research shows that doubling population and increased urban density boosts productivity by about 15%.

Life Expectancy had big increases over the last 140 years

Life expectancy is a lagging indicator, which is based upon the age of deaths of those dieing in the year born. Life expectancy was already almost 50 in 1880. Another 28 years of life expectancy was achieved, which was more than the 15 year improvement from 1900 to 2000.

Life Expectancy at Birth in the United States
1880     39.4
1900     47.8   (gain to 50 year life expectancy by those born in 1905)
1910     53.1   
1920     54.1
1930     59.7
1940     62.9
1950     68.2
1960     69.7
1970     70.8
1980     73.7
1990     75.4
1998     76.7

The highest life expectancy now is 89.7 for people born in Monaco. The highest for country with a population over 100 million is Japan with 82.2 years. If you are in the fraction of the population that exercise regularly and does not smoke and does drink to excess and maintains a good blood pressure and cholesterol level then your life expectancy is about 7 years better than the average. Life expectancy is improving at about 0.16 to 0.25 years each year. This is reflecting the actual improvement in health and technology.

No major futurist has predicted we will be immortal cyborgs in 2032

Ray Kurzweil optimistic predictions are for a singularity to start in the decade 2045. When reviewing his predictions Ray indicates that he is talking plus or minus 10 years. He did indicate that reverse engineering the brain should happen by 2029 (again plus or minus ten years.) But reverse engineering the brain does not mean it gets deployed the next day to everyone. Ray's definition of the singularity is when artificial general intelligence becomes more intelligent than the sum of humanity, which is about ten billion times greater. But again that does not equate to immortal cyborg bodies for everyone. Annalee skews the optimistic statement and then moves up the dates.

Robin Hanson writes lot about robotic bodies that have whole brain emulations inside, but he does not give hard dates for this. Hanson thinks it could happen by 2100. Also, the whole brain emulations might not be the consciousness of people who were biological to start.

Living to 200 years or more - we need to fund the projects that have a chance

We have to fund the development of technology and plans with the potential to deliver radical life extension.

Donate to SENS, an antiaging project that has the goal of repairing the seven identified damages of aging. I have donated a few times. Vitamins will not material alter your lifespan unless your diet is such that you are at risk for scurvy or some other disease. It would be better to divert some of your personal money to SENS like research.

There is a project that is trying to increase the supply of a persons own stem cells by a million times and then rejuvenate the stem cells. They are trying to fund raiser for a kickstarter style project. I think it is worth a shot to get the project funded for another $69000, to give this approach a try

Centagen is a biotechnology company that is developing medical therapies that utilize a patient's own adult stem cells. The company has a new technology to expand adult stem cells in vitro (in the lab) up to 1 million times, then rejuvenate them and inject the stem cells back into the person from which they came. This will help repair and rejuvenate organs and tissues damaged by aging, disease and injury. The process may even help healthy people stay young.

They can multiply the rare adult stem cells in cell culture without aging them or degrading their function. One innovation involves lengthening the telomeres while amplifying the stem cells.

I have reviewed some recent stem cell and gene therapy treatments and research which suggest that continuous stem cell rejuvenation could significantly increase lifespan.

Stem cells were taken from a third party and used to repair heart scar tissue.

One treatment of rejuvanted stem cells lengthened lifespan of mice by up to 24%

This suggests that even longer lifespan increases would be possible with a continuous supply of rejuvated stem cells.

Telomerase prevents shortening of telomeres and it has been used to immortalize stem cells outside of the body.

First stage SENS and advanced stem cell and gene therapy treatments could get us to 120-160 year lifespans. Advanced Synthetic biology has a chance to do better, as would advanced molecular nanotechnology.

George Church outlined his synthetic biology pathway to indeterminant lifespans for humans.

George's idea is to bring in sections of DNA from exotic organisms or genes that are rare for humans to enable all people to have desired genetic capabilities. He describes capabilities such as immunity to all viruses and cellular immunity to radiation and creating immunity to diseases.

They are working to sequence and determine the genetic basis for long lived animals and humans and determine how to engineer longer lived people.

They are working on approaches to rejuvenate different kinds of cells including the neurons of the brain.

George Church is involved in several synthetic biology companies and has no funding problems.

Adaptive Clinical Trials

We also have to alter regulation so that the improvements that are made can be deployed faster.

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