Brain Canvas

Reach inside your brain and pull out something Beautiful.

A cure for aging?

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Today’s post is an effort to develop my previous post on advanced robotic prostheses to a new level. Robotic prostheses and other advances in biomedical technology not only improve the quality of life for both disabled persons and the able bodied, but have the potential to extend life itself to the point where aging is a thing of the past. Two of the more interesting speculations on how life could eventually be extended, perhaps indefinitely, are mind uploading and the replacement of limbs and organs with cloned biological or artificial substitutes. The two concepts approach life extension from opposing angles. One the digitizing of human consciousness leading ultimately to a non-corporeal existence. The other the replacement or enhancement of vital human limbs and organs with cloned tissue or artificial mechanical parts as they wear out or contract diseases like cancer. The idea that advances in bio-technology could some day prolong human life indefinitely may be something of a pipe dream. Much of the research is pseudo-scientific at best. It is however undeniable that gradual advances in these fields will provide the technology to increasingly expand the length of human life. In the 20th century the average life span in the United States increased by about 2/3. While the rate of increase has been steadily declining, this would seem to be logical as the increases throughout most of the 20th century would have relied on social improvements (e.g. improved sanitation and nutrition) while the next stage would rely on technical advances taking a much longer period of time to develop and implement widely. Despite the questionable feasibility of indefinite life extension, it is none the less interesting to consider what our societies would look like in a world where natural aging and death from old age and disease has all but been eliminated. Would it be beneficial or detrimental to our society? I believe the positive outcomes outweigh the challenges that an ageless society presents. The burden on social services, the environment and natural resources management would increase dramatically. If you thought social security in the United States was already broken, imagine how it would look if the average person were living hundreds or thousands of years. Ultimately, and perhaps counterintuitively, a world in which aging has been cured could be one which places a much higher value on individual human life and the long term sustainability of our lifestyles. We would care more about needless poverty and death knowing that the victims could have lived thousands of years and contributed countless discoveries and innovations. We would be less inclined to destroy our ecosystems, knowing that the long term effects would not be things we could pass down to faceless nameless descendants, but real world consequences we would have to face in a short matter of a few hundred years. A truly ageless society may ultimately be nothing more than a science fiction fantasy, but increasing lifespans are already a reality. What better time than now to create solutions to the challenges it presents and means of maximizing its benefits?
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Written by Andrew

April 26th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

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