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"Do You Risk Growing Young Alone?"

Via an article on KurzweilAI.net, a story in the Washington Post on life extension efforts at the edge of current science and beyond:

For ["visions of godlike immortality"] you want the revolution described by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Commerce in a July report. It points to the four rapidly evolving and intertwining "GRIN" technologies -- genomics, robotics, information and nano-engineering. Together they hold the potential of "a tremendous improvement in human abilities, societal outcomes and quality of life," the report says.

"The human body will be more durable, healthy, energetic, easier to repair, and resistant to many kinds of stress, biological threat, and [the] aging process," the report states.

That's why the inventor and author Ray Kurzweil, 54, is personally eating very few carbohydrates and fats, taking more than a hundred supplements and trying not to be too big of a nag to others his age. But he almost can't help himself.

"If I look at my kids -- kids in their teens, twenties or even thirties -- unless they have unusual problems, a decade or two from now they will be young and the revolutions will be in full force. They don't have to do a lot to benefit from really radical life extensions," Kurzweil says. "The oblivious generation is my own. The vast majority are going to get sick and die in the old-fashioned way. They don't have to do that. They're right on the cusp."...

But to get there, you've got to take care of yourself now, he insists.

The story concludes by asking useful questions:

Will the new young people who are only in their twenties ever be able to compete with the old young? Especially if the old young have seen their compound-interest money grow startlingly?

In ancient lore, Gilgamesh built the walls around the city of Uruk as a monument that would make him immortal. If we did not fear death, would we lose our will to achieve? Would you put all of life forever before you? "What's the rush? I'll get to that when I'm 100." If you did not have to seek your immortality in children, would you have them?

If life stretches out for a very long time, do you avoid risks? Or do you court them? Is there a growth market in recreational life-risking? Will more people emulate George Bush, the elder, by parachuting out of airplanes at the age of 72?

If immortality is at hand, do we need religion?

If death is never imminent, is love as intense? Do Romeo and Juliet inhabit the world only of the very biologically young?

What happens if you seek youth and your partner does not?

Do you risk growing young alone?

Are we, as Kurzweil says, truly on the cusp of a revolution in which people no longer need routinely die from disease and old age? The death of death would be the most fundamental sociological revolution imaginable. Everything would change -- everything. It's easy to imagine a scenario in which a wealthy few are immortal while elsewhere, people continue to starve. That would be a mean world in which to live. Having said that, when useful anti-aging therapies become available, I want them as much as the next person.

We have to start thinking about the implications of this line of research and prepare accordingly.

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