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« How Many and How Fast? | Main | Yummy Technical Essays »

July 24, 2004


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The CRN needs to specifically endorse the right of people and researchers to pursue the development of radical life extension (a.k.a. a cure for aging). The reason is that CRN seems to be advocating some form of centralized authoritarian system for the development of nanotech. Many of the current forms of authority (i.e. governments) are infested with people who have expressed hostility to the goal of radical life-extension. If we are not careful, these people may end up having influence over the development and commercialization of nanotechnology. This is utterly unacceptable and the CRN needs to take a leadership role ensuring that our right to an indefinitely long youthfull lifespan is not compromised and any way, what so ever, by the authoritarian entity it backs for the development and control of nanotechnology.

I want to make it clear to anyone reading this that if any centralized structure for nanotech develop that CRN advocates contains any people who are hostile to the development of immortality, whatsoever, I will do everything I can to work for the destruction of that centralized structure.

Persons against the development of radical life-extension have absolutely no business being involved in government or any other authoritarian institutions.


What the linked article calls the choice between selecting the familiar over that of the unfamiliar (in the case of the survey of the young and old people) can much better be described as "outward" orientation vs. "inward" orientation. I have always been and will always be, an "outward" oriented person. This is in my nature and is the reason why I have traveled and lived around the world and despise the concept of "settling down". This is the primary reason why I despise the aging process and social/psychological changes that are associated with it.

I resent the article's implication that being "outward" oriented is a form of selfishness. Degrees of outward/inward orientation expressed by an individual is complete morally neutral, as far as I'm concerned.

If society places a negative value judgement on my "outward" oriented nature, then that society deserves irradication, as far as I'm concerned.

Mike Deering

I think those who are worried about the problems caused by extending life span and having too many old people are expecting them to be a huge burden on society due to medical needs and living expenses. If nanotechnology can alleviate these problems opposition to life extension may evaporate.

Brett Bellmore

Some of the opposition to life extension is based on fear of huge burdens from accumulating decrepit bodies, but there's also a philosophical vein of deathism. While I doubt it could win very many converts against actual working longevity treatments, they'll fight like mad to make sure that those treatments never get offered.


Brett, that is why the advocates of deathism should never be allowed to have any influence in deciding how nanotechnology gets developed and why CRN needs to take a strong stance NOW against the involvement of any of these people.

If the deathists believe so strongly in death, they ought to set the example of living by their beliefs by commiting mass suicide.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Pro-death people *will* have *some* influence; they'd publish articles, be married to administrators, etc., even if they were successfully excluded by policy from direct decision-making. I think that taking an extreme and symbolic stance is less important than how to working to maximize personal medical freedom.

At the moment, it seems to me that pro-death vs. pro-health will be only peripherally connected to molecular manufacturing. Biotech and medicine are more directly relevant, and that's probably where the main battles will be fought.

Pro-death people may attempting to prevent the use of nanotech in extending healthspan, but equally they may attempt to prevent the use of genetic engineering, government funds, etc. Is it good to take an early stand, making nanotech a lightning rod to attract extra attention from control freaks (which could also make other freedom-promoting things like space flight harder)?

Since molecular manufacturing is only an enabling technology (though a very important one), I think it's better to treat it as a potential skirmish, not a battle: be ready for attempts to block its use, but recognize that the longer it goes unnoticed, the more unopposed good it can do.


John B

Let me ask those here who're strongly pro-immortality a question I've had for quite a while: Where do you expect the extra food, power, and elbow room to come from?

If the current death rate slows or (in the abstract, wonderfully) stops, world population skyrockets. The projection that world population may stabilize in the mid-to-late 2000's is now being challenged, as I understand it, with newer figures indicating a lull in population growth as the "Baby Boomer" generation dies off followed by a return to growth after.

To be somewhat morbid about it - what if they don't? Where's the food going to come? The energy? The room to live?

Note- I don't want to die any sooner than I have to. But I see a MASSIVE problem with generally-available longevity treatments, and would greatly appreciate some indication of how such problems could be solvable.




Will now discuss the use of medical robots this technology is also likely to come from the molecular assembler wants completed the assembler will be able to produce the number of robots needed to adequately alter the interior of the body said human body and is one envisions a situation where robots are introduced to the body through an injection or a pill form or inhalant these robots and travel throughout the body on a continuing basis maintaining interior blood flow oxygen flow and otherwise manage the existence of life several minor yet critical first up elements that a robot internally might contribute our won the cleaning of arteries and passageways of plaque throughout the entire body and the disposal of heavy elements present in the body through contamination such as smoking or work and hazardous environment balls led Mercury tar and other contaminants could be removed by the robots and simply dropped off in the colon further exploring the limits of the technology one could envision every cell in the body being assigned a group of robots to group would be substantially smaller than the size of the cell the robots would exist both inside and outside of the cell and robots would deliver any energy or chemical and aid in the day-to-day affairs of the cell dealing with waste products and most importantly cell replication insuring a complete DNA replication of the cell from one generation to another should extend the life of the individual is extension may continue perhaps indefinitely.


john b,
"Where do you expect the extra food, power, and elbow room to come from?"

Power. I think everyone here can pretty much agree that by the time medicine can allow us to live long enough to quickly effect world population, and raise the need for power too much, solar power should be quite impressive, hydro-power will remain and grow, geothermal power should be much more cost effective, and fusion power may have a significant role.

Elbow room. Could be easy to solve. Space should open up a bit more, whether it be orbital structures or other worlds, also simple space exploration will demand large amounts of people (given we can live forever, or for a really long time). Other options could include oceanic cities. Or simply growing cities higher and higher, which seems very possible given much stronger materials.

Food. personally I see this as the problem. However I think by the time we have 2nd or 3rd generation MM factories, we will be able to synthisize organic materials. If not, well we'll have to figure something out, perhaps underground farms.

James Buchanan

I agree that no Death Apologist should ever get the chance to control the development of Life Enhancement technologies. This would be as insane as giving members of the Flat Earth Society the right to control the content of our geology books.

I invented two Transhuman Signs & Slogans that you can use to support our rights. Do not forget to write down your own and post them here!

Keep YOUR Laws and YOUR God off my soon to be upgraded to 2.0 mind and bod.

Real Freedom will be your Transhuman upgrade to Humanity 2.0!

P.S.: Here is my something about myself: I suppose I have always been a Transhumanist and will always be one. Even as a child, when I would hear about limitations of the human body and mind, or about our current economy of scarcity, I would nearly always ask myself why no one bothers to overcome these problems.

I never believed that us humans should live with our contemporary limitations without questioning if we can overcome these or not. Likewise, I have never believed in socialism to manage an economy. Instead, we need to use advanced technology, like nanotechnology, to create an economy of abundance, for the good of humanity and the natural world.

Tom Craver

Worth noting: population growth due to increased lifespan is not the same as normal population growth.

In normal population growth, the reproduction rate stays about the same, while number of people added increases each generation.

With life extension, the absolute number of births may stay about the same, while the percentage population growth rate gets smaller and smaller, until at some point accidental deaths - no matter how rare - would start to balance the birth rate.

A counter trend to this might be that as the number of children decreases, adults will miss them, and want to have more children at later ages. One result might be longer childhood. Kids today want to grow up fast - but mainly because we restrict them to protect them. If we simply shift to a model of protecting them from the harm of mistakes (let them drive cars but if they get in an accident, protect them and anyone else involved) they may be less eager to move on into adulthood.

Perhaps some adults will decide to voluntarily regress to childhood - even restricting their memories of adulthood and slowly recovering them as they re-age. I'd love the chance to live in a 6 year old body for a while again - gravity was so much weaker back then! :)

Chris Phoenix, CRN

1) Humans require about 200 watts of food enrgy to live. With efficient technology, 1000 watts would be more than enough for daily life. Freitas's hypsithermal limit is about 10^15 watts, though if we build on the ocean as Jim Moore suggested, we can maybe increase that by an order of magnitude. But even 10^15 watts is a trillion people! With a 5% per year population increase, that's ... about 100 years away.

2) With advanced nanotech, it'll cost about as much energy to send someone into space as to feed them for a year. Escape velocity is 11 km/s. Kinetic energy of a 200-kg person plus 200 kg of supplies (more than enough) is... 48 GJ, or about 1.5 kilowatt-year.

3) The earth has plenty of elbow room, if we live on top of each other--especially if we spread out over the oceans. A trillion people with advanced technology might do less damage to the oceans than ten billion people with intensive agriculture do to the land.

4) There's no way we can possibly imagine what things will be like 100 years post-nanotech. If we manage to retain and increase our population for 100 years post-nanotech, then to borrow a phrase, I'm happy to let future generations worry about that problem.


Tom Craver

Deathism's proponents will call their position something like "A full and natural human life" and they'll call themselves "full-lifers" or "naturalists". You can be sure they'll make themselves sound as rational and caring as possible.

Right now they can point to the suffering that old age brings and the "kindness" of death. As those excuses fall away with improved health in the aged, they may shift to the "moral responsibility to die as God ordained" position, and start encouraging a religious-fervored age-ism among the young.


Chris: As I mentioned in a previous post, the population numbers don't work the same when population is accumulating due to longevity rather than simple compound growth.

Assume the birth rate levels out in 2050 at 5%/yr of about 10B population, assume no change in # offspring per person, and assume no deaths from 2050 onward. The total population would be 10B + (10B * 0.05/yr * 100yr) = 60B in 2150. Not tiny, but not 1T. Getting to 1T would take about 2000 years, and at that point the growth rate would be only 500M/1T = 0.05%. If the true-death rate due to accidents and suicides and murders was 1 in 2000, population would level off. Of course, things may change a bit by 4050 AD - or 2050AD for that matter.

The most effective and humane way to move people to space might be to encourage couples to move off Earth before they have kids. Young couples may not be able to afford the space and energy to have kids on Earth, finally creating the outward push from Earth to the final frontier.


I don't see manufacturing food as a problem. We don't have to be able to produce the same level of detail as living organisms to create convincing and healthful food. Food "cells" can just be bags of mixed molecules.

The biggest issue is how to balance convenience against variety. Building all food up from the base atoms might take hours, so it'll make sense to store some commonly used complex materials, and have some very common foods almost completely pre-made.

jim moore

Compound interest, 5% is a doubling time of ~12 years or 8 doubling in 96 years.
after 12 years we would have 12 billion,
24 years 24 billion people,
36 years- 48 billion people,
48 years - 96 billion people.
60 years- 192 billion people.
72 years - 384 billion people,
84 years - 768 billion people,
96 years - 1.5 trillion people.

OH the power of compound growth.

jim moore

sorry 5% is a ~ 14 year doubling time, total of 7 doublings or a factor of 128 times starting number.

(thats what i get for doing math in my head)

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Tom--you seem to be assuming that the offspring of long-lived people would not themselves want kids, or at least not until much later in life. But life/health extension may not matter much to 20 year olds--they all think they're immortal anyway.

On the other hand, people are having kids later and fewer already, even without life extension. So we shouldn't assume that the growth rate will stay constant.


jim moore

Even if you assume very long life spans (+than 1,000 years) population will not be a problem as long as each woman has on average less than 2 children each. This is because you will get a finite number of total people. Each generation you have fewer and fewer children. (That is assuming in the future only women can give birth. Maybe it would be better to say: if on average each person has less than one child you have a finite total number of people.) If we assume that each person has only 1/2 child on average ( 1 per couple) there will be only about 30 more generations.

If on the other hand each person has more than one child each you will run into the limits of any local system given enough time. Because each generation will be larger than the last. If we assume each person has on average two children, after 30 generations there will be a billion times more children in each generation.

Maybe limits to your fecundity need to be part of the cost of greatly extended life spans.

Tom Craver

Chris: Um, no, I stated my assumptions. Specifically, that each person would have about the same number of children as we currently do. I.e. each pair of persons would produce about 2 new persons and only those 2.

In order to have the compound growth you suggest, ALL members of the population would have to be (*ahem*) involved in reproducing themselves at an average pace of once every 20 years. Old married couples would be pumping out a new baby every 10 years - or getting divorced every 10 years and having a child with their new partner.

Feel free to do so! Myself, I think I'll just concentrate on spoiling my great-great-great-grandkids. Maybe when I'm 200 I'll be ready to have another kid. Since most of humanity's 60B won't be out on Mars with me, I don't think it'll be too great a burden on my world's resources.
If the apparent violation of compound interest is still throwing you, think of two immortal rabbits - call them Adam and Eve. They have two infants, Cain and Alma, and (unusually for rabbits, but not so unusual for humans) Adam and Eve quit having additional offspring. Their offspring grow up and have two more rabbits, and also quit. The latter two have two and quit. Etc.

Assuming each pair has two offspring at about age 20 and never die or reproduce again (well, these are very long-lived rabbits with access to birth control), after 100 years there are 12 of them - 6x as many. The 5%/year birth rate only applied to the initial population, and declined each generation as a percentage of total population - because the number of breeding pairs never increased. And if there had been 10B of them to start, after 100 years, there would be 60B.

OK? :-)

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Tom, it wasn't clear that you were assuming only two-per-couple birth rate. You initially said 5% per year to start, and the number of kids per couple doesn't subsequently change. But 5% increase per year does not specify the number of offspring per couple, so your later statement of mere replacement was an additional assumption.

A birth rate of 5% of the population per year could be caused by twins at twenty, or by triplets at thirty. In the latter case, each couple would have three kids. Start with four people. In 30 years, you have those plus six offspring: 10 total. At 60 years, you have those plus nine more offspring of the six: 19 total. At 90 years, the 9 have 13.5 kids... bringing the total to 32.5... where you would have predicted a population of 24 at 100 years.

Actually, twins at 20 is a 3.53% per year increase. And that also corresponds to 2.83 kids at 30, or 4.00 kids at 40. If people reproduce at 30, then in 3,000 years you'll have 3.36E15 breeders having 4.76E15 kids, with 8.11E15 adults setting the overall birthrate at 0.415 kids per 30 years.

If they reproduce once at 40 with quadruplets, then in each generation the number of breeders equals the number of adults, and the population doubles every 40 years. In 3,000 years... 1.5E23 people.

If they reproduce at 50 (still early in an immortal life) they'd have to have 5.66 kids to correspond to a 3.53% per year increase at the start. You'd have slightly *more* breeders than steriles in each generation. In 3,000 years... 2.8E27 people.


Tom Craver

Chris: Not sure where you're going with that.

I just used your 5% and an assumption that since population is supposed to level out around 2050, it must approach 1 person born for 1 person dying, and assumed that over a mere 100 years that'd be pretty close.

By 2050, world population growth is actually projected to fall to about 0.45%/yr net. Figuring they're assuming the death rate stays around 0.85%, that's a 1.3% birthrate. Assume 9B world population in 2050, then births would be 117M.

If by 2050 and beyond, each person only reproduces him/herself - not an unreasonable goal for immortals since the US and Europe are already pretty close to that now - then over 100 years, about 11.7B people would be added to the world, for a net population of about 21B. Without longevity, population would probably only hit about 14B by 2150, assuming no change in net birth rates.

True, we won't reach 1:1 reproduction rates by 2050, but that would be more than balanced by continuing deaths and delayed child-bearing. So "around 20B immortals" is probably not a bad estimate for 2150, barring global disaster.

Mike Deering

I wouldn't get too carried away with projections more than fifty years into the future. Conditions are going to be different. People are going to be health, physically young at any age, and reproduction will be easy. Many will decide not to reproduce, some will decide to reproduce, and some will reproduce prodigously. Earth's population will only be limited by law. As the Solar system's off Earth population increases a point will be reached where people moving to Earth will equal people leaving earth.

Brett Bellmore

"As the Solar system's off Earth population increases a point will be reached where people moving to Earth will equal people leaving earth."

Not necessarilly; While the off Earth population should eventually exceed that of the Earth, depending on future developments, it's possible that Earth could end up either a net population source or sink. I could see a scenario where a cap is put on the planet's population of quasi-imortals, and anyone who wants to reproduce has to leave. You've then got a source.

Alternatively, Earth could wind up the planetary equivalent of an Amish community/wildlife refuge, left by transhumans for those who didn't want importality. Even a "Cemetary world", where people who've finally had it with life go to let things end on the birthplace of humanity. Then you've got a sink.

There's even the possibility that Earth could be a population sink without people dying. If uploading became popular, you could get huge numbers of people "condensing" into physically small computational systems, allowing for a continuous influx of people without overcrowding for a very long time indeed.

I do agree about the folly of attempting long term projections, though. Too much of history is contingent.


I will leave the space colony and other stuff to others. I will say this about immortality and over population. I honestly don't think it will be much of a problem because I believe relatively few "immortals" will have kids. I won't. The reason why I am into immortality is because I like living the outward oriented "young adult" lifestyle. I like the idea of starting, say, a software company in Singapore, hanging out on the beaches of Thailand, and partying it up in Tokyo. I like to live like I am going to be "25 years old" forever. This is my chosen life and it makes me happy. I would never choose anything else. Why should I?

Most other people who are "immortalist" that I know share these same sentiments. I honestly believe that immortality is going to lead to this kind of a party world society. Kids will become a rarity. Hense, overpopulation will not be a problem (even if most of us do not go into space).


Those worried about the problems of radical life-extension might like to check out one of my articles on the topic:

'Towards a Philosophy of Immorality':


Brett Bellmore

At this point it might be worth introducing the concept of "risk homeostasis"; It's been found that, when you introduce safety features such as seat belts, or anti-lock brakes, you don't get remotely the savings in lives that you'd expect, because people start behaving in a more risky manner, using up the added safety! It's thought that people have a sort of risk "setpoint", an acceptable probability of dying, which they work to maintain against deviations on BOTH sides.

This does make sense from an evolutionary standpoint, as risky behavior does have it's rewards, and with finite lifespans, excess caution has no payoff.

So, assume that you eliminate aging, and disease, leaving only death from murder, suicide, and immediately fatal accidents. If there's anything to the risk homeostasis model, the result will be that people simply take lots of chances. And you'll get some people living very long indeed, while others die right off the bat from bad luck.

What would really change all this, and make risk homeostasis a non-factor, would be some kind of personality backup system, where even instantly fatal injuries would just result in you being restored from you latest backup. That, and it IS possible that the homeostasis mechanism might saturate out at some point, where most people aren't interested in skydiving without parachutes, or hiking on erupting volcanos.

Regarding the energy costs of exporting excess population... A skyhook consumes power on the trip to geosynch, but generates it beyond that point. Exporting population, if you're lauching them to the outer planets, can be a net source of power...

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