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Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

Enter here to explore ethical issues and discuss the meaning and source of morality.
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Compassionist
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Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#1 Postby Compassionist » May 10th, 2012, 3:42 pm

I was just reading up on Transhumanism and Biological Immortality and wondered if the people on this forum were transhumanists and whether anyone would have their dead body cryogenically preserved in the hope that future technology can resurrect us. I wouldn't have my body cryogenically preserved. In fact, I am on the organ donor register for transplants and brain donor register for medical research.

If it were possible to extend human life forever and ever, should we do it? Wouldn't that be a drain on resources? If you had the option, would you pay to live forever?

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Dave B
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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#2 Postby Dave B » May 10th, 2012, 5:13 pm

The increasing world population is enough going to be enough of a problem without attempting to extend life artificially. I can only think that extending one's life in that manner (if it were possible) is the most selfish act a human could make.
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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#3 Postby Alan C. » May 10th, 2012, 6:31 pm

We already get around double the years our ancestors got, that's enough for me.
I could maybe see a case for cryogenics on say a five year old who died from leukemia or some such, I don't see any sense in it for old folk, how much more time would they gain once defrosted and cured of what killed them?
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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#4 Postby Compassionist » May 10th, 2012, 6:53 pm

Human life expectancy has increased from the 20s to the 80s which is a 4 fold increase. There is great variation of life expectancy depending on where one lives. Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence is an attempt to reduce the problems that come with ageing. If these strategies are successful then the quality of life need not decrease due to ageing. In that case, wouldn't people want to live forever? Wouldn't the rich pay to enjoy their affluent lifestyle forever? I think they would. Many people already do many things (e.g. balanced diet, exercise) to live healthy and long lives. Isn't living forever a natural extension? Biological immortality is a reality for other species. Why not for humans, too?

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#5 Postby Dave B » May 10th, 2012, 6:57 pm

I have no problem with being more comfortable - less aches and pains - in old age (got enough already thanks!) but the artificial extension of life is another matter IMO. Resources are finite and to extend life must mean to reduce the resources available to new members of the race.
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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#6 Postby Compassionist » May 10th, 2012, 7:22 pm

Dave B wrote:I have no problem with being more comfortable - less aches and pains - in old age (got enough already thanks!) but the artificial extension of life is another matter IMO. Resources are finite and to extend life must mean to reduce the resources available to new members of the race.

Some resources are finite (e.g. land, water, food, etc.) but other resources are less finite (e.g. sunlight, wind, waves, etc.). What if people could harness solar energy much more effectively? What if we could emigrate to other planets or live on generation starships? Evidence indicates that the universe is ever-expanding. Wouldn't such a universe allow eternal living for all members? What if we could generate universes using quantum mechanics? I know there are lots of 'what ifs' but I am just wondering about all the possibilities opened up by living forever.

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#7 Postby Dave B » May 10th, 2012, 8:07 pm

Going into the realm of (at the moment) fantasy here are you not Compo? :D

I am an avid science fiction fan but also have some engineering experience and can see the anomalies that many authors put into their stories (doesn't reduce my enjoyment though!)

Yes, it is possible to generate more energy from renewable sources. But please consider: a) the total cost of manufacture, b) the total cost of installation, c) the total cost of maintenance, and, d) the cost of replacement when, inevitably, the original equipment becomes uneconomic to maintain. If you add all the carbon produced to mine, process and transport all the required materials, install and maintain a single wind turbine I often wonder how much it actually saves in its useful working life.

But we cannot eat energy - we need a whole range of complex chemicals, usually supplied by naturally (?) produced systems. We could possibly produce enough of these artificially to maintain a large population, but it might be boring fare! Get hold of a copy of the movie "Soylent Green" ** from the story by Harry Harrison. The overcrowded and polluted world is reduced to eating foods produced from soya and lentil. I think even that is ambitious, a wider range and larger amount of foodstuffs could be produced from genetically modified bacteria, fungi* and yeasts. And probably will in the not too distant future . . .

Space arks are probably not possible without the discovery of anti-gravity. The energy consumption required to construct an ark able to maintain life for even 1000 people in orbit would be horrendous, not to mention the further depletion of the Earth's mineral resources - once you export it into the void you cannot recycle it. Oh, hang on, we could build a super plasma rocket motor (possible) on the Moon and drive it off into space using the material mined out for the habitat. Might need several hundred H-bomb boosters to break it out of orbit though. No Moon would rid of of all those inconvenient tide things - but lovers and poets might not be happy :laughter:

I could possibly go one along this line for some time, Compo, your idea is an interesting mind game IMO but not a serious discussion.

Edit: * It's not GM but just realised that we can already buy food, imitation meat, produced from fungal material in our supermarkets (Quorn).
** The book version, "Make room, make room!" is cheaper.
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Alan C.
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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#8 Postby Alan C. » May 10th, 2012, 8:12 pm

Compo, your genes will live on through your son, you should be content with that.
Not so for me, when I die my genes die with me, but that's not a problem for me.

As for living forever, no thanks 80 would suite me fine.
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Fia
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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#9 Postby Fia » May 10th, 2012, 8:26 pm

I'm far more concerned about the quality of my life in my dotage than how many years it might be...

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#10 Postby animist » May 10th, 2012, 8:33 pm

Dave B wrote:I could possibly go one along this line for some time, Compo, your idea is an interesting mind game IMO but not a serious discussion.

but obviously it is one that people are taking seriously in fact. I agree with the arguments from you and Alan, but the problem is that most of us would like to live a bit longer and a bit more comfortably than we are likely to do as things are at present. "Philosophy Now" has two opposing articles on the topic. One of them is against these New Immortalists and cites all the obvious sustainability/naturalness-of-death arguments, but the other one is just based on a fable about a dragon which consumes people; for centuries the humans adjusted to the dragon in various ways because they could not kill it, then eventually they do kill it and realised that they could have done so before. If you look at it this way, then the idea of actually aiming for immortality becomes less obviously absurd - all that is aimed for is longer and healthier life, so we may in fact head this way of taming the dragon if not killing it.

As far as cryonics goes, I think anyone would be an idiot to do arrange to get themselves preserved in this. Not only would they sacrifice, in fact, whatever years of active healthy life they may have left, they also assume that some future society would have the means and will to revive them, and beyond this, the means and will to let them attain their dream of immortality.

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#11 Postby Compassionist » May 10th, 2012, 8:43 pm

Alan C. wrote:Compo, your genes will live on through your son, you should be content with that.
Not so for me, when I die my genes die with me, but that's not a problem for me.

As for living forever, no thanks 80 would suite me fine.

People share 99% of their genes with other people, so, even if you don't have any children, billions of copies of almost all your genes will still be around. Children have 99.5% of the genes of a parent. So, we share only 0.5% more genes with our children than we do with total strangers. Given that genes pre-date us and succeeds us, it is the genes which own the temporary organic vessels living things really are.

80 years is certainly a long time, although that's trivial compared to living forever. The oldest humans are female given the physiological advantages human females have. I am currently writing a story on living forever, so, it's interesting to discuss some ideas here.

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#12 Postby Compassionist » May 10th, 2012, 9:04 pm

Dave B wrote:Going into the realm of (at the moment) fantasy here are you not Compo? :D

I am an avid science fiction fan but also have some engineering experience and can see the anomalies that many authors put into their stories (doesn't reduce my enjoyment though!)

Yes, it is possible to generate more energy from renewable sources. But please consider: a) the total cost of manufacture, b) the total cost of installation, c) the total cost of maintenance, and, d) the cost of replacement when, inevitably, the original equipment becomes uneconomic to maintain. If you add all the carbon produced to mine, process and transport all the required materials, install and maintain a single wind turbine I often wonder how much it actually saves in its useful working life.

But we cannot eat energy - we need a whole range of complex chemicals, usually supplied by naturally (?) produced systems. We could possibly produce enough of these artificially to maintain a large population, but it might be boring fare! Get hold of a copy of the movie "Soylent Green" ** from the story by Harry Harrison. The overcrowded and polluted world is reduced to eating foods produced from soya and lentil. I think even that is ambitious, a wider range and larger amount of foodstuffs could be produced from genetically modified bacteria, fungi* and yeasts. And probably will in the not too distant future . . .

Space arks are probably not possible without the discovery of anti-gravity. The energy consumption required to construct an ark able to maintain life for even 1000 people in orbit would be horrendous, not to mention the further depletion of the Earth's mineral resources - once you export it into the void you cannot recycle it. Oh, hang on, we could build a super plasma rocket motor (possible) on the Moon and drive it off into space using the material mined out for the habitat. Might need several hundred H-bomb boosters to break it out of orbit though. No Moon would rid of of all those inconvenient tide things - but lovers and poets might not be happy :laughter:

I could possibly go one along this line for some time, Compo, your idea is an interesting mind game IMO but not a serious discussion.

Edit: * It's not GM but just realised that we can already buy food, imitation meat, produced from fungal material in our supermarkets (Quorn).
** The book version, "Make room, make room!" is cheaper.

Thanks Dave for your interesting comments. I am writing a sci-fi story on living forever - that's why I started this thread. It started when I came across biological immortality which is true for several species. It may be possible to achieve immortality using technology. It may involve things like uploading one's consciousness into the cyberspace. It is not possible at the moment. I have watched "Soylent Green" and thought the recycling of dead bodies as food quite plausible. I haven't read the book though.

We already use a lot of technology e.g. artificial heart valves and limbs to preserve and extend human life. If quality of life is preserved, it makes sense for people to want to live longer. It is only when death is an escape from suffering that people view death as a good thing for an individual. Although, the death of the old certainly makes room for the young in any habitat, this would not be relevant if the habitat was ever-expanding. While the universe is ever-expanding, most of the universe is not suitable for life. As far as we know, Earth is the only planet with life. 99.99% of all the living things to have ever evolved on Earth are already extinct. Clearly, existence is difficult. Despite this, biological immortality exists and I wonder if genetic engineering could extend this to humans someday. What if we could genetically engineer us to be able to photosynthesise like plants? We would not need to eat then. We could just live like the plants!

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#13 Postby Dave B » May 10th, 2012, 9:16 pm

I have not read, "Make room, make room!" either, but I did read some of it on Amazon. Like any book there is always more small detail than the film can reproduce.

Aha, a budding sci-fi author! Self publishing ebooks has bought a very large number of new authors in all genres - good thing but the results are very variable.

Being part cyborg myself, relying on some complex and clever electronics to keep my ticker ticking, I have something of a special interest in the area of prosthetic science! That is a common theme in sci-fi but usually in terms of horrible fates for those dependant in artificial means to maintain life. Either that or they become more like computers than humans themselves. One theme is the brain (of a person who would be totally disabled, say) that is installed in a space ship station; Anne MaCaffrey's, "The Ship Who Sang," is one example of a series she wrote on that theme.
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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#14 Postby Alan C. » May 10th, 2012, 10:18 pm

Compo
What if we could genetically engineer us to be able to photosynthesise like plants? We would not need to eat then.
As a keen horticulturalist of 50+ years, I can assure you that plants cant live on sunshine alone, but need food and water.
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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#15 Postby Compassionist » May 10th, 2012, 11:42 pm

Dave B wrote:I have not read, "Make room, make room!" either, but I did read some of it on Amazon. Like any book there is always more small detail than the film can reproduce.

Aha, a budding sci-fi author! Self publishing ebooks has bought a very large number of new authors in all genres - good thing but the results are very variable.

Being part cyborg myself, relying on some complex and clever electronics to keep my ticker ticking, I have something of a special interest in the area of prosthetic science! That is a common theme in sci-fi but usually in terms of horrible fates for those dependant in artificial means to maintain life. Either that or they become more like computers than humans themselves. One theme is the brain (of a person who would be totally disabled, say) that is installed in a space ship station; Anne MaCaffrey's, "The Ship Who Sang," is one example of a series she wrote on that theme.

I agree that books have more subtle details than movies. I hadn't heard of "The Ship Who Sang" - sounds like a great story. I might self-publish my short stories as it is hard to find a publisher.

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#16 Postby Compassionist » May 10th, 2012, 11:45 pm

Alan C. wrote:
Compo
What if we could genetically engineer us to be able to photosynthesise like plants? We would not need to eat then.
As a keen horticulturalist of 50+ years, I can assure you that plants cant live on sunshine alone, but need food and water.

I know that plants need nutrients and water in addition to sunlight but plants don't usually eat other plants or animals. What do you mean by food?

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#17 Postby Alan H » May 10th, 2012, 11:56 pm

Compassionist wrote:I know that plants need nutrients and water in addition to sunlight but plants don't usually eat other plants or animals. What do you mean by food?
I assume Alan means the basic nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) and the other nutrients plants need. Plants get the carbon they need from CO2 in the air, but the rest must come from the soil/water.
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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#18 Postby Compassionist » May 11th, 2012, 12:54 pm

Alan H wrote:
Compassionist wrote:I know that plants need nutrients and water in addition to sunlight but plants don't usually eat other plants or animals. What do you mean by food?
I assume Alan means the basic nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) and the other nutrients plants need. Plants get the carbon they need from CO2 in the air, but the rest must come from the soil/water.

Those are what I meant by nutrients. Won't it be cool to be able to photosynthesise? I remember the mouse with a human ear growing from its back. What if we could get mice and humans to be able to photosynthesise like the plants?

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#19 Postby Alan H » May 11th, 2012, 6:41 pm

Compassionist wrote:I remember the mouse with a human ear growing from its back.
That wasn't a human ear in a mouse.
The "ear" was actually an ear-shaped cartilage structure grown by seeding human cartilage cells into a biodegradable ear-shaped mold.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacanti_mouse
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There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Transhumanism and Biological Immortality

#20 Postby Alan C. » May 11th, 2012, 7:08 pm

Compo
Those are what I meant by nutrients.
That is what I meant by food :)
Thanks Alan H.
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