Scientific Sense Podcast

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Live forever?

Recent findings that appear to indicate that aging can be stopped in mammals by starvation and possible introduction of simple chemicals is encouraging for those who may want to live longer. Humans, a plumbing system designed by bacteria to consume and dispel nutrients favorable to them, have found it difficult to sustain life beyond thresholds established at their inception. Anti-bacterial agents did extend life tactically by a decade or so but it appears that they are hitting against some hard constraints. Engineering systems, specializing in plumbing tasks, have limited life and humans appear to fall into this category.

Although humans carry a specialized quantum computer on their shoulders, the action has largely been in their gut, thus far. A crude tubular structure, able to break down a variety of materials to feed its occupants, has been the main design feature. But just as any other such mechanical designs, the scaffolding deteriorates over time and the structure itself loses flexibility and crumbles after certain number of cycles. So, it is not surprising to imagine that life can be extended by starvation as that will reduce the number of cycles imparted on the most important aspect of a human - her gut.

The more important question for humans is what they are likely to do with a possible extension of life. Would they use the extra time to seek knowledge or fight with those who do not look or think like themselves? Would they use the extra time to advance society or segregate themselves into neatly fractured boxes? Would they look forward or be encumbered by their past, driven by simple objective functions? Would they attempt to create and leave a legacy or understand that legacy is meaningless in an advanced society? Would they attempt to understand themselves or be misunderstood forever?

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