If you're alive in 30 years, chances are good you may also be alive in 1000 years.
Adam Rifkin stashed this in CRISPR
Stashed in: Awesome, The Future, Longevity!, Medicine, Turing, Singularity!, 3D Printers, AI, Aging, The Singularity, 3D Printing, Ray Kurzweil!, Longevity, Ray Kurzweil, Accelerating Returns, Anti Aging, IBM, Artificial Intelligence
Computers aren't just getting faster, they are also becoming smarter and can do more and more of the things we previously thought only humans could do.
In 1997, the world's best chess player, Garry Kasparov was defeated in chess by a computer. In 2011, two of the world's best Jeopardy players were defeated in Jeopardy by Watson, a supercomputer developed by IBM. So with increased computing power and better algorithms computers have become smarter and smarter. The progress has been very rapid, and if it continues, machine intelligence will at some point not only be faster, but also become smarter than human/biological intelligence. Machine intelligence will then be able to make improvements to itself without input from humans. Ray Kurzweil, whom Bill Gates has called the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence, and who works as director of engineering at Google, is perhaps the best-known futurologist, and he has said that this will happen by the year 2045. 2045 is less than 30 years away.
Sure, computers are getting better, but how's that relevant for making people younger?
We take advantage of computers in ever more areas of our lives. According to Ray Kurzweil, as soon as something becomes an information technology, it starts progressing according to Moore's Law. The technology thus begins to progress exponentially, with regular doublings in performance. An information technology is a technology that uses computers extensively. In recent decades, biology and medicine has to an increasing extent started to become an information technology. With computers we can now, among other things:
- Read human genes.
- Edit genes with CRISPR/Cas9, a revolutionary technology that has been adopted by laboratories worldwide. Still better technologies for gene editing are under development.
- 3D print some human organs.
- Create a physical chromosome designed on a computer. Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute did this in 2010, before putting the chromosome into a cell where it caused the cell to start dividing.
- Diagnose diseases better than human doctors, based on image files, description of symptoms and information about the patient. (The Watson supercomputer has, among other things, been used for this purpose after its Jeopardy victory.)
- Measure the body's health condition using small sensors. Do you remember that relatively small device the Star Trek doctors scanned their patients with to diagnose them? In Star Trek, they called it a Tricorder. The X Prize Foundation has an ongoing competition where the goal of the participating teams is to create a Tricorder-like device that can be used to diagnose a few diseases, 16 of them to begin with. The aim is to give people, even in poor parts of the world, easy access to their own health information. Patients must therefore be able to use the Tricorder to diagnose themselves with ease.
So medicine is about to become an information technology, and that's the main reason why we can expect medical technology to advance exponentially in the future.
The more advanced our technology becomes, the smaller sized computers we're able to make, and in the long term we can envisage mini computers the size of red blood cells. We can have billions of these in our blood, and they can act as an artificial immune system that continuously helps our natural immune system to fix things that have gone wrong. In the long term this may be the way we will be controlling the aging process, but fortunately it's not necessary with technology that advanced in order to repair aging damage 'well enough' in the short term.
Most aging researchers agree that there's only about seven fundamental reasons why we age. Aubrey de Grey, the best-known advocate for defeating aging and Chief Science Officer of SENS Research Foundation, a charitable organization working to fight aging, stated already more than ten years ago that even without revolutionary new technologies there was about a 50% chance that we would be able, within 25 years, to repair the seven types of aging damage well enough to increase people's life expectancy by 25-30 years.
For this to be achievable in just 25 years, the level of funding would have to be very good, according to the Grey. Thus far, the funding has been far from as good as one might hope for, but important progress has been made, nonetheless, and 2015 was a good year for aging research. Private firms are now trying to develop treatments for four (perhaps soon to be five) of the seven categories of aging damage. By simply removing old "zombie cells" (senescent cells - cells that have stopped dividing, but that aren't being recycled by the immune system) has led to a 25% increase in longevity in mice. Actually, two different companies are now working to develop treatments to remove this type of harmful cells in humans, Unity Biotechnology and Oisin Biotechnology. The more firms competing to develop treatments, the greater the likelihood that someone succeeds, so this is very promising!
So considering how far we've come already and how fast technology is improving and can be expected to improve in the future, I don't think there's any doubt that we'll have the aging process under control in less than 30 years. Maybe 30 years is too cautious an estimate, even. Ray Kurzweil has said that already by 2030, life expectancy will increase by one year per year, and I actually won't be very surprised if he's right. But everyone in the world won't get access to the technology as early as Kurzweil estimates, which is why nearly 30 years might still be closer to the truth for most people?
Top Reddit comment is skeptical:
His reasoning basically amounts to "computer tech advances really fast so aging research will inevitably do so too". Which is seriously bad logic. I want to live hundreds of years too, but we've got to come up with better arguments than that. He's expressing certainty that we'll stop aging without explaining the scientific steps we'll take to get there. This is the same sort of reasoning that led people to believe we'd be in flying cars by now. They saw how much progress we were making with spaceships and nuclear energy, and they assumed that that same progress would be made in cars.
250 Reddit comments: