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The blog Fight Aging! (which I highly recommend), has a nice, comprehensive year-in-review article on the progress made in 2015 towards defeating aging. It focuses a lot on progress made by the SENS Research Foundation projects, but also discusses commercial efforts like Human Longevity Inc and Calico, and the government sponsored longevity trial of metformin, along with research progress on clearing amyloid plaques for Alzheimer's disease, CRISPR technology for gene editing, cryonics, printing new organs, and more!

 

Well worth a read for anyone interested in lifespan extension.

 

P.S. Happy New Year!

 

--Dean

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There's an interesting discussion on the social effects life extension technology - if it ever emerges - would have here:

 

http://edge.org/conversation/yuval_noah_harari-daniel_kahneman-death-is-optional

 

Stephen Pinker comments at the end.

Wow, great interview, thanks for sharing. Yikes: "...the biggest question maybe in economics and politics of the coming decades will be what to do with all these useless people..." I don't know about you, but all around me are over-educated people working in coffee shops.

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Martin,

 

Thanks, that is a great conversation between two of my favorite thinkers, psychogist/economist Daniel Kahneman and historian Yuval Noah Harari.

 

Here are a couple of my favorite passages for anyone who doesn't have the time / inclination to watch or read the whole thing:

 

HARARI: People never die because the Angel of Death comes, they die because their heart stops pumping, or because an artery is clogged, or because cancerous cells are spreading in the liver or somewhere. These are all technical problems, and in essence, they should have some technical solution. And this way of thinking is now becoming very dominant in scientific circles, and also among the ultra-rich who have come to understand that, wait a minute, something is happening here. For the first time in history, if I'm rich enough, maybe I don't have to die.
 
KAHNEMAN: Death is optional.
 
HARARI: Death is optional. And if you think about it from the viewpoint of the poor, it looks terrible, because throughout history, death was the great equalizer. The big consolation of the poor throughout history was that okay, these rich people, they have it good, but they're going to die just like me. But think about the world, say, in 50 years, 100 years, where the poor people continue to die, but the rich people, in addition to all the other things they get, also get an exemption from death. That's going to bring a lot of anger.
 
....
 
HARARI: My guess, which is only a guess, is that the people who live today, and who count on the ability to live forever, or to overcome death in 50 years, 60 years, are going to be hugely disappointed. It's one thing to accept that I'm going to die. It's another thing to think that you can cheat death and then die eventually. It's much harder.
 
While they are in for a very big disappointment, in their efforts to defeat death, they will achieve great things. They will make it easier for the next generation to do it, and somewhere along the line, it will turn from science fiction to science, and the wolf [per the adage "The boy who cried wolf"] will come.
 
...
 
KAHNEMAN: What is very interesting and frightening about this [technology-induced unemployment] scenario is that it is true, as you point out, that people have lived to work, or worked to live, and that what you are describing is a scenario in which work is unnecessary for most people.
 
There is a class of people who work because they enjoy it, and are able to do it, and then there is most of humanity, for which work no longer exists. That mass of people cannot work, but they can still kill people. How do you see the possibility of strife and conflict, between the superfluous people and those who are not?
 
HARARI: [Paraphase: The technology itself will render the unemployed relatively powerless to create problems, including military problem. They will just be ever more marginalized, and perhaps eliminated, if only through neglect and attrition.]
 
....
 
HARARI: What might happen in the next hundred years on that level of daily life, of intimate relationships? Anything is possible. You look at Japan today, and Japan is maybe 20 years ahead of the world in everything. And you see these new social phenomena of people having relationships with virtual spouses. And you have people who never leave the house and just live through computers. [Now he's hitting pretty close to home...  :)xyz]. And I don't know, maybe it's the future, maybe it isn't, but for me, the amazing thing is that you'd have thought, given the biological background of humankind, that this is impossible, yet we see that it is possible. Apparently, Homo Sapiens is even more malleable than we tend to think.
 
...
 
HARARI: Putting all this together, there is a good case to be said for the idea that for the individual, agriculture was perhaps the biggest mistake in history. ... We need to ask ourselves about the new technologies emerging at present, not only how are they going to impact the collective power of humankind, but also how are they going to impact the daily life of individuals.
 
...
 
HARARI: In terms of ideas, in terms of religions, the most interesting place today in the world is Silicon Valley, not the Middle East. This is where people like Ray Kurzweil, are creating new religions. These are the religions that will take over the world, not the ones coming out of Syria and Iraq and Nigeria.
 
PINKER [skeptical about rapid change]: I suspect that death will never be conquered (though our lifespans will continue to increase, at least for a while).Any cost-free longevity gene or easily tunable molecular pathway would have been low-hanging fruit for natural selection long ago. Senescence is baked into most of our genome because of the logic of evolution: since there’s a nonzero probability at any moment that an organism will die in an unpreventable accident, making genes for longevity moot, selection tends to sacrifice longevity for performance at every level of organization. This means we’d have to know how to tinker with thousands of genes or molecular pathways, each a tiny (and noisy) effect on longevity, to make the leap to immortality.
 
--Dean

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