To be or not to be.
This will be a second Life event which will take place
1 May, 12:00 No it will be sunday 8 May… pacific timezone (or SLT) and it will be here.
Death is an engineering challenge. For the first time in human history we are the first people with a fair expectation regarding extending lives and creating conditions for unnatural longevity. This is quite an idea, and you can of course bet your ass that the typical person in the street has no clue, or denies this, or doesn’t want to know.
I’d like everyone here to collect opinions of people you know in the real world. Try and ask a typical slice of the people you know and ask this question as neutral as possible. Try to find out – the following things.
* Do these people realize that most of human history average lifespans were under 30, and a century ago average human lifespans were still under 50?
* Do they regard the idea of medical treatments to make people live appreciably longer (i.e. decades) as impossible, unlikely, “only for the rich” or pretty probably in their lifetime?
* Do their by default assume they will not benefit from these treatments?
* Do their acknowledge the difference between worst case scenario life extension (horrid and extremely expensive treatments that make recipients live for decades in a frail old state)
* Do most of your sample of people welcome these possibilities, or do they blankly refuse them (“I prefer to die after a natural life”) ?
* Do they wish to disallow other people to extend their life for whatever reason (such as overpopulation) ?
I think a nice sample would be 20 people. Send your interview results to firstname.lastname@example.org, or notecard them and send them to my avi in SL. You don’t have to, but I’d love adding the conclusions to this article or some future set of articles.
Damn Stupid Defectors
Right now I am working from the assumption that right now I’d live at least to my average life expectancy, which would be about 75-80 in my country. I assume that life expectancy would go up at least a few years, even if things are stupidly managed by politicians and managers with little or no imagination. So I’d expect that to benefit from any life extension, these technologies would have to be somewhat affordable (and fairly gentle) for my income bracket between 2025 and 2040. I’ll be getting older and I assume at a certain stage of aging some earlier treatments will be rather rough – I am not going to survive (or have access to) something equivalent to six months of heavy chemotherapy and massive surgery when I am over 65.
So the reality is is that those people out there that accept death as a part of reality, are doing something so monumentally stupid and shortsighted, they will be dearly sorry. In a few decades we will all realize that rejuvenation wasn’t all that hard. By then we’ll all have lost billions of familiar faces, loved ones, friends and great minds and artists to oblivion. By then we’ll know we’ll probably die ourselves because there simply won’t be enough time. And then these imbecile stupid monkeys will all realize “what was I thinking??” and they will wonder why someone didn’t take any action earlier.
If you look at medical, scientific, nanotechnological, genetic advances some kind of affordable, easy, safe life extension is by and large unavoidable somewhere near the end of this century. Even if we muddle on, we’ll discover a treatment that will allow people to age far moire slowly, or not age at all. Likewise, a series of treatments that actually rejuvenate the aged affordably, easily and safely is a somewhat tricker challenge, but even if we just maintain the current slow course before 2075 we should be able to provide that product or service to any human on this planet that wants it. The annoyance however is that if we start right now, and we would have the imagination and clarity of vision to invest sufficient societal resources, we could have the one no later than 2030 and the other no later than 2040. That’s right – aside from bad luck and accident and crime and poverty beyond 2040 nobody would have to die of old age. If we gave a damn.
October last year I met Aubrey de Grey. I had a dinner with him, and I got to know the man, the human, the person, the mind, the soul. I was surprised in a few ways and not so in others. It took me a long time to digest my experiences, since they were emotionally somewhat taxing (and I arrived in Milan overworked, stressed and exhausted) but I think I somewhat understand Aubrey. I am prone to creating my own mental narratives and pet theories and sometimes they are wrong – but I don’t think they are wrong this time.
When I saw Aubrey I saw a pissed off guy who know the above and who realizes that the indescribable moronic intransigence of the masses, just how intensely stupid most people are, will cost billions of lives. Aubrey knows (he is my age) he probably will die. I looked him in the eye, I asked him the questions, I saw this hurt sparkle in his eyes when I asked the precisely wrong questions, and I knew pretty much for sure Aubrey is fed up, pissed off, looking for new angles and he isn’t finding any. He feels what I feels, and he realizes that we may all fuck mis the opportunity to live a lot longer and bigger lives than the pathetic human wretches that subsisted before us. Aubrey doesn’t give a flying hoot about Transhumanism – I think he holds most of them in contempt as a SciFi masterdebating club. I have seen the actions of Aubrey too, and they spoke louder than words. These were the actions of someone who wants to live now. He likes his beer 🙂
And I think Aubrey is right. This is largely a world driven by enlightened self-interest tempered with dignity and decency, right? I am not all that interested in a few billion total strangers living centuries. I’d settle for people I know living several times as long. I’d prefer people I like being effectively immortal – but the ideal scenario is me and everyone else making it far beyond the 2nd millennium, right?
And at this rate it is not happening.
So lets look at three of the rosiest scenario’s we have ahead, which can be regarded as plausible, or which are regarded as some as plausible.
The Median Life Extension scenario – with plausible consequences
I’ll describe this scenario calling it “scenario one”. This scenario is close to the ideal but somewhat slow scenario Aubrey would like hastened a little. It assumes some progress in research in life extension and slow progress in research for rejuvenation. This hinges on several stages of life extension and several stages of rejuvenation. These stages would be (A), (B) and (C), where
(A) stands for expensive, extremely uncomfortable (barely worth the pain), very risky, severe side effects, inapplicable to many recipients
(B) stands for expensive, a fairly invasive treatment, has risks and some side effects, may fail in a range of recipients
(C) is cheap, a casual treatment, is safe, has interesting and fun side effects and synergies, and works on everyone.
LE stands for Life extension and Re stands for Rejuvenation. In both cases the goal would be to end up with healthy humans. Lower I will be adding Cy and Up as well.
My guesstimate is that in a perfect world (where everyone magically came to their senses we could have) LE(A) by 2025, LE(B) by 2030 and LE(C) by 2035. If we are all idiots and let things just happen we’ll stumble ourselves in LE(A) no later than 2060, LE(B) no later than 2075 and LE(C) no later than 2100, but these are extremely crude projections clearly. If we’d have the influence of Aubrey (The erudite eloquent lobbyist factor) succeed to some degree we can have a median result, sort of half-way-ish. In essence, Aubrey’s media insistence is literally catalyzing research into this, and pushing back A B C for (L) to about 2040, 2055 and 2080. So basically I leave it up to you to calculate how much people won’t die because of what Aubrey is doing. Now assume that Aubrey has access to A, he will be old, decrepit and frail by 2040 and chances he will benefit from these treatments are slim.
The outlook for Re(A) is a a bit later if we try our best, say 2035, Re(B) would be about 2045 and Re(C) would be a pretty safe bet around 2050. Me and Aubrey would be our 80s by then. This is the scenario that would occur if some billionaire donate Aubrey’s initiative about a billion euro this week. Note that not everoyne has faith in Aubrey’s approach by the way, and we may need several alternatives, but I am sure that Aubrey is SENSible enough to throw part of that magical billion around to some “competitors” – if they win, he wins to, right? I do not even want to reprint less pessimistic scenario ranges for Re(A), Re(B) and Re(C) – I’d need a cryonics plan for all of them.
Now the consequences of this range of scenarios will be considerable. If the capital markets realize somewhere in the 2020s or 2030s that medical treatments might affect the plausible duration of life of a demographic of relatively well-to-do voters in affluent nations, then pension funds will crash like the Hindenburg, and will do so overnight. Logically, it would be prudent to use these funds proactively, before they crash, as investment pool for these same treatments, but that’s just me being sensible. Also, there will be desperation. While right now many people say they will never want life extension treatments I totally agree with Aubrey that as soon as this becomes somewhat credible, many people will freak out. These people will want it now, and they will exhibit modes of denial, hysteria, insistence, violence, superstition, calm acceptance and worse facing the stark reality that they would actually miss the golden opportunity just a few years ahead of them. Old rich men will think of themselves being young virile rich men and they will barter with the devil to get access. They will do whatever it takes.
It could get ugly.
The Kurzweilian Optimistic Life Extension scenario – with plausible consequences
I’ll describe this scenario calling it “scenario two”. A different rage of scenario’s would be a totally different ballgame, i.e. variables Cy for Cyborgization, Na for Nanomedical/Genemodification/3D iorgan printing therapies (of the kind my friend Valkyri Ice has much confidence in) and finally Up for Uplpading or mind emulation. Ray Kurzweil has great confidence in these influences. Great news is is that they won’t adversely affect any of Aubrey’s more ‘medically coherent’ approaches. The downside is that all three speculate on technologies that
1 – completely do not exist in 2011…
2 – if they emerge they might emerge not in time to have a tangible effect in time for people alive and aging now…
3 – speculate on applications that they simply will not have in practice …
4 – if they emerge they might be dangerous, have massive other global side effects, be very expensive or … (?)
5 – they may trigger something like a singularity, with totally unexpected effects long before I am getting a day younger…
It’s hard to say what the above will do. I have some faith that the implementation of Cyborg parts, i.e. the emergence of an industry that intervenes in human aging by replacing parts of the human body with engineered and constructed in ever more casual modes of surgery, will shave a few years off the above ranges, but these will not be cheap and affordable treatments.
A BIG question here will be whether or not states will see merit in paying ever bigger medical expenses to rejuvenate an ever aging population. Is democracy that powerful that voters can vote rejuvenation into policies? Would your typical voters actually ever want this and if so, when does the average voter flip mentally to start wanting this? In other words – at what point do people in the street where you live decide that dying doesn’t look all that glamorous, life extension is a better option that apathy, and they start nagging their member of parliament?
Now here is the catch – you might make a difference in this. Look at the title of this talk. What do I mean with “Baselines”?
Baselines is a condescending slur I use to describe everyday people that don’t get or want (the implications of) Transhumanism yet. So when I say we lie to them, I suggest we engineer and concoct stories that make them realize or believe life extension is “just around the corner”.
We make the idea of this go viral.
The same with Na(A), Na(B), Na(C) and Up(A), Up(B), Up(C). These are technologies of which we do not understand much. These are speculative technologies, that might have unintended and uncontrollable side effects. I’d correct myself here – once we can upload human minds, all bets are off – we’ll have artillects very soon after.
Now lets look at that in the above perspective. Aubrey’s expectations, plausible or not, optimistic or not, all lie in the range of years when we will have the first attempts at nanotechnological treatments for medical issues (and for military or security debates as well). These technologies will be in full swing in the 2020s. Likewise I can see the first human brains be dissected, reconstructed and some attempts be made to retrieve meaningful information from the constituent neuron architectures before 2030.
The difference between Aubrey’s objectives (everyone of humanity young, pretty and sexy) and the objectives of people who are into mind-uploading is a bit different in nature. When someone like Martine Rothblatt suggests she wants to contribute to having “losless” Mind Uploading as soon as possible, she is saying she will find a volunteer somewhere in the 2020s, take apart a living human brain (of someone who might already be dying), do this research somewhere where it is allowed and doesn’t conflict with prevalent ethics, then start replacing parts of that brain with functional parts that were not there earlier (bits of nanoid material, bio-engineered neurons, cloned brain matter, bits of computer hardware, what-e-ver) and end up with something that more or less thinks in the same manner as it did before.
I am volunteering for this treatment by the way.
The point is that someone will do this, sooner or later, somewhere between 2020 and 2040, and they will succeed. In other words, somewhere between 2020 and 2040 someone, some agency, some investor, some university, will take a living (or very recently dead) human brain, break down the parts and functionality of that brain in such a manner than not longer after the brain will operate in appreciable facsimile as it was in its previous life.
Yes there will be failed attempts before. I do not volunteer for those failed attempts.
But whatever the point is – Aubrey has till 2040, 2045 latest to produce life extension and rejuvenation results. There are several ways to create something non-human that thinks, and when that is done such a think will be able to start thinking better quite soon after. There are three rough avenues to create these minds – (I) create a totally nonhuman artificial intelligence, literally inundate the project needs with massive hardware overflow (brute force) and then program it, or (II) let virtual or algorithmic or selection software systems evolve incremental steps towards an intelligent problem solving piece of software or (III) we figure out what a human neurology does in the real world and we replicate or recreate a human mind – preferably someone nice.
I, II and III will almost certainly yield results between 2030 and 2045. These results will almost certainly be be under control of small, unaccountable, very powerful, very self-centered entities and these entities (corporations, militaries, political groups, financial entities) will instill their creations with their value systems In other words, the created artificial intelligences will indeed be friendly, but only to their creators. And they are pretty much unavoidable to emerge as a result of current advances in technology later than 2045.
I know a lot of people, including, Ray Kurzweil, are optimistic about this. Hugo DeGaris is less so.
I could say “Fortunately” I have ring side seats. I’ll be old, dying or dead by the time these technologies unfold. The question I have is – will I count myself lucky or unlucky for respectively having or not having access to life extension and rejuvenation when they do?