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When Do You Know You're Old Enough To Die? Book


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Distinguished researcher and journalist (with a PhD in cellular immunology), Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book out: 




Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer


"Part polemic, part autobiographical, Ehrenreich – who holds a PhD in cellular immunology – casts a skeptical, sometimes witty, and scientifically rigorous eye over the beliefs we hold that we think will give us longevity.

She targets the medical examinations, screenings and tests we’re subjected to in older age as well as the multibillion-dollar “wellness” industry, the cult of mindfulness and food fads."


Basically her claim is that all those tests and screenings have illusory benefits, and the pursuit of "wellness" that's often defined by self-abnegation and deprivation in the name of longevity, has the paradoxical result of shrinking your time available to LIVE and do the things you want to do and accomplish, because you're spending excessive time trying to gain more life, a self-defeating strategy. 

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"the paradoxical result of shrinking your time available to LIVE and do the things you want to do and accomplish"


What if what you want to do and accomplish includes living as long as possible in good health with hopes that future tech will result in radical life extension? ;)


But seriously, how much time does eating well and getting some exercise really take up? OK - so maybe some of us spend lots of time reading books and articles on the subject, and yea maybe it wastes a lot of time, but what is the average person doing with their extra time anyway? Watching TV, using Facebook? Playing games? I've started several small businesses, work full time, teach part time, actively manage a large portfolio, travel several times a year (just got back from a road trip to Quebec and Ontario), started 2 YouTube channels producing misc original content, wrote and sell an e-book, invented and sell a gadget on Amazon, and I still have time to "do longevity", relax and spend time with my family daily, help my kids with homework, fix cars, do investment research, watch a couple shows and movies, and do hobby reading/research (for example last night I did a Ganzfeld Effect experiment which was really fun and interesting). I also grow lots of food, do bee keeping, camping, canoeing, and a million other things. I don’t know how anyone can be bored in this amazing world we live in.

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Well, it's all about priorities, isn't it? Some people actually enjoy reading life extension articles and find medical science interesting - is that any less valid than what Barbara Ehrenreich deems interesting? Same for "wasting time". I personally have zero interest in video games, but I know people who love 'em and have devoted countless hours to it. I wouldn't dream of telling them that playing games or watching TV is a "waste" of time - it's how they enjoy spending time, and isn't this the whole point? To do what you enjoy doing? Isn't the aim to spend maximum amount of enjoyable time on this earth?


But to be fair to her, I think what she might be getting at is the great number of people who engage in life extension practices which they do NOT enjoy. For example, eating a diet that's "healthy" but completely unenjoyable - and she makes a few points, that first of all, many of these fad diets are not actually "healthy", and the scientific consensus on what is healthy has changed radically and repeatedly and contradictorily over time, so what makes someone think that their diet is actually healthy? Second, what if the contribution of diet to life extension is marginal in the big scheme of things, and is it worth sacrificing taste for a few months (at best) of extra life? There's an interesting article along the lines of what people think it's worth sacrificing to gain in extension of life:




"For each treatment, participants were more likely to say they would adopt it if the benefit were greater:

  • 79 percent of respondents said they would be willing to take a pill for an extra month of life, 90 percent would for an extra year of life and 96 percent would for an extra five years of life;
  • 78 percent said they would drink a daily cup of tea for one extra month of life, 91 percent would for one extra year of life and 96 percent would drink it for an extra five years of life;
  • 63 percent would be willing to exercise for an extra month of life, 84 percent would for an extra year of life and 93 percent would exercise if it meant an extra five years of life;
  • A shot was the least preferred of the options -- 68 percent would take a shot every six months if it would give them an extra month of life, 85 percent would do it for an extra year of life and 93 percent would be willing if it gave them another five years, but only about half (51 percent) would take a monthly shot for an extra month of life, 74 percent would for an extra year and 88 percent would opt for an injection every month if it gave them five extra years of life.

In addition, at least 20 percent of respondents wanted to achieve gains in life expectancy beyond what any of the individual interventions could provide."

Now if we were to ask CRONies, what are you willing to do to gain an extra 1 month, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, what would the answers be? And would it be impacted by what you implied - the hope that if they live long enough, they might reach the singularity, with medical treatments available that would radically extend lives - so that in effect, you want to gain an extra 5 years so that you can beat the deadline whereupon you can get treatment for an additional f.ex. 50 years!

Speaking just for myself, I simply don't believe that anyone alive today (includes someone born today, 04/10/2018), will ever see actual medically induced life extension beyond our species limitations - I believe that would require some heavy duty genetic alterations and we won't have a grasp and capability to do so until perhaps another 150 years from now, at best. So from my point of view, if I live an extra 10 years on top of what I would've if I took no measures, it will not bring me to the singularity, in fact, no amount of effort on my part will be enough to allow me to see the year 2170 which is when the singularity might occur (my guess - and everyone has to guess, since breakthrough timeframes are inherently unpredicatable).

Therefore, for me, the question is really very pure - what am I willing to sacrifice to gain time? As happens I'm lucky in that I actually enjoy my diet - and am not afraid to go to an ad-lib feast once in a blue moon. The reward of my diet is not postponed, it is immediate - I like it, and it makes me feel physically good (unlike my previous diet decades ago). My only real sacrifice is exercise. I happen not to enjoy it (as Barbara Ehrenreich apparently does enjoy exercise) - but engage in it anyhow... it's tough, but I've stuck with it for many years, and I'll stick with it going forward. I'm willing to sacrifice that much - 160 - 200 cumulative minutes of jogging a week over 3-4 sessions (40-50 minutes per session). I guess her point would be - my sacrifice might not be worth it, ultimately. And she might be right. At least according to animal studies, I might be better off cutting the exercise calories in more severe CR minus exercise. But I am not 100% clear on the science as it applies to humans. So I'm compromising a bit - doing some exercise, but not being a fanatic about it.

But what if your whole "wellness" routine was an unenjoyable hell? Diet, exercise, medical tests, etc.? It's not just a matter of raw time spent on it, but quality of life - if you are say, on CR, and you're hungry all the time, then almost 100% of your time is unenjoyable - that's no way to live if the reward is that you'll have a longer life you can suffer through if there not enough offsetting rewards. It's an individual calculus. 

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I hear you. I think for most people just avoiding heart disease / stroke is the key way to gain 10 years of healthy living, and the best way to do that is basically a lifetime of avoiding an aetherogenic diet. The bonus that comes along with this is usually feeling good, sleeping well, and probably even cancer suppression. But especially for younger folks, the 10 year gain is really just buying time in hopes for technological gains that will do much more than we can today. But yea, if you are completely obsessive compulsive about this stuff I think it could drive you crazy, produce stress and anxiety and possibly even shorten your life.

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