• Google
    This Blog Web

October 2011

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
            1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          

RSS Feed

Bookmark and Share

Email Feed



  • Powered by FeedBlitz

« Build Small, Think Big | Main | Goings and Comings »

September 16, 2004

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451db8a69e200d83456e74469e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Aging and Nanotechnology:

» Aging and Nanotechnology at SAGE Crossroads, September 27th from Fight Aging!
Mike Treder of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) has posted a report after recording a webcast for SAGE Crossroads on aging science and nanotechnology. Joining me as a guest on the program (which will be shown as a webcast on September 27... [Read More]

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Brett Bellmore

To give an example of one way nanotechnology could further the cause of life extension, we already have in hand some minor genetic alterations which would probably substantially extend human lifespans, and certainly improve the quality of life of the aged. We lack a good way to make those changes in living individuals, as opposed to cell cultures.

A comparatively simple nanodevice could function as a smart virus, delivering genetic payloads to targeted cell types with something approaching 100% efficiency. This could even be done with "wet" nanotechnology, diamondoid wouldn't be required.

Just replicating the mitochondrial DNA in the nucleus, out of the reach of free radical damage, would make an immense difference. Another genetic alteration that's been tested in lab animals, altering expression of growth factors in muscle tissue, could probably be implemented effectively today, if the regulators weren't such weenies when it comes to "doping" concerns.

A more advanced approach would station "smart chromosomes" in each cell, capable of responding to some form of broadcast data by updating your genetic code.

Brett Bellmore

By the way, a highly relavant essay:

http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/WEBONLY/publicfeature/sep04/0904age.html

Tom Craver

Brett: I've heard the idea of moving mitochondrial DNA to the nucleus before, but I was puzzled by it.

I thought that the mitochondria reproduced themselves (all stemming from maternal mitochondrial DNA in the egg). If the cell doesn't produce mitochondria, how would the DNA get into them - and if it DOES produce them, why is the DNA separate?

Also, if it would be advantageous, I'd think by now a mutation would have happened that merged the mito-dna into the nuclear dna. Most likely it would not be beneficial in the long term of evolution: A population explosion of the mutated organism would result, leading to a balancing increase in predators. The young being weaker and less experienced would tend to be wiped out in greater numbers than the healthy ancients - eventually leaving no fertile females (assuming a finite supply of eggs, so that older females become infertile).

Immortality as an evolutionary disadvantage... I suspect life started out immortal, and evolved mortality as a way to evolve (and so adapt) faster.

Janessa Ravenwood

Tom: None of that matters to me. All I care about is not dying and thus ceasing to exist. Haven't you heard? Evolution's passé. Very soon, we'll create our own genetic destiny and to hell with what evolution "wants."

Brett Bellmore

Tom, mitochodria have their own internal DNA; The best explaination I've heard for this is that they originated as bacterial symbionts, which gradually lost their ability to live outside the cell, and became part of it. Now, some of the mitochondrial proteins are based on nuclear DNA, so it can be said that evolution IS gradually moving it over. But the process is nowhere near finished yet. It has been tried in cell culture, though, and successfully.

Immortality isn't really an evolutionary disadvantage. Rather, since in nature disease and predation will kill you in a few decades anyway, even if you aren't aging, there's simply no percentage in building things good enough to last forever. A gene that kills you off in your 80s will have no evolutionary significance at all, unless you otherwise already had a significant chance of making it to that age.

Tom Craver

Janessa - I somewhat agree. Humans have been working on divorcing themselves from nature and evolution for some time now. With nanotech, maybe the divorce will be finalized.

Or, the other hand, evolution may take off on a whole new level with nanotech. Much faster, maybe incorporating intelligent self-design in place of mutations. DNA replaced by vastly richer information media. In that case, mortality might evolve back into existence, if it provides an advantage (as it appears to have done in biology).

All it would take to restart evolution would be one group of sentients who decide that it'd be smart to convert all easily available mass into copies of themselves. Seeing where that leads, everyone else either follows suit or is eventually consumed by those who follow that strategy. Soon there would be analogues to predator and prey, herbivore and plant and carnivore. (Is it better to be the top predator - but dependent on the lives of others being sacrificed to you - or a self-sufficient tree that the predator sleeps in, thereby keeping herbivores away? Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

Flee to the stars to maintain your immortality? But wherever you can go, the new hyper-evolutes can and will follow. By getting out of the evolutionary rat race, you won't benefit from the massively parallel exploration of solution spaces. If they catch up, you'll be over-run and consumed, or forced to engage in changes that evolve you (your mental state, not just the physical you) out of existence.

Anyhow - just some idle speculation - things don't always work out as ideally as we dream.

Tom Craver

Brett: Well, I think we can at best say that immortality doesn't provide any major evolutionary advantages - and as I tried to describe, there could be evolutionary disadvantages.

I've thought for quite a long time that as the self-oriented boomer generation aged, they'd start to get worried about their mortality, and we'd be likely to see a big up-swing of interest/research/acceptance of anti-aging.

This appears to be working out about as I expected. Naturally the first results are rather superficial - hair restoration, sexual function restoration, skin appearance restoration, wrinkle elimination, eyesight correction, interest in HGH and calorie restriction and stem cells, etc.

This is stimulating research for more effective anti-aging products. Anti-aging research is no longer taboo or "wacky" - going into it is no longer a career killer for a scientist.

People are still leery about the morality of not dying (how odd!) but I expect they'll go through various stages of acceptance. I think most people are in the stage of accepting "live with better health through natural life span", while more advanced elements are at the stage of accepting "live well to a maximum natural human life span". Acceptance of the idea of an open-ended lifespan is still fringe, but a rapidly growing fringe. I expect we'll see some major anti-aging progress within the next decade, with accompanying major controversy.

Janessa Ravenwood

Tom: Or none of that rather bizarre scenario could come to pass and instead I do my best to advance my body to the greatest posthuman design I can get my hands on to armor myself and then arm myself to the teeth against any such lunatic nutjubs; this is, in fact, the plan. Yet another reason I’m not real keen on a restricted nanofac. I figure at least SOME nuts are out there and I want the ability to manufacture the best weapons I can design or get designs for; I’m a real firm believer in the right to self-defense.

But feel free to just give up and die if you want. Evolution in action, indeed. If *I* go down, it’ll be fighting, with doomsday WMD’s if comes to that.

Janessa Ravenwood

Actually, I just have to comment further – the more I read your post, the more I see how ridiculous it was. Let’s go over it:


“All it would take to restart evolution would be one group of sentients who decide that it'd be smart to convert all easily available mass into copies of themselves. Seeing where that leads, everyone else either follows suit or is eventually consumed by those who follow that strategy.”
-----
Beyond ridiculous. I’ve seen better plots on Dexter’s Laboratory. “Well, gee! A group of wackos want to kill us all by absorbing us in their ‘Borg Collective’ thingie. We couldn’t…well…FIGHT BACK could we? Guess not. Oh, well, we’ll all just have to sit here and get assimilated I suppose. All hail the Borg Queen, or whoever.” Yes, I’m sure lots of people would just be jumping at the chance to “follow suit” in that scenario – if they’ve all been smoking a whole lot of crack. And of course we know that in any scenario where a group of people are attacked that the defenders always lose and the attackers always win – NOT.


“Soon there would be analogues to predator and prey, herbivore and plant and carnivore. (Is it better to be the top predator - but dependent on the lives of others being sacrificed to you - or a self-sufficient tree that the predator sleeps in, thereby keeping herbivores away? Metaphorically speaking, of course.)”
-----
What this has to do with the above, I have no idea since you said that “all easily available mass” would be converted into these super-predators and thus there shouldn’t be any herbivores or plants left.


“Flee to the stars to maintain your immortality? But wherever you can go, the new hyper-evolutes can and will follow. By getting out of the evolutionary rat race, you won't benefit from the massively parallel exploration of solution spaces. If they catch up, you'll be over-run and consumed, or forced to engage in changes that evolve you (your mental state, not just the physical you) out of existence.”
-----
See Brett’s previous posts on space living and defense. And allow me to assure you that I would pick nuclear weapons as my FIRST line of defense in that scenario, to be used liberally and frequently, not sparingly. They’d learn quickly and the hard way that my atoms were not “easily available mass.” As for being “out-paced” evolution-wise, I’ll try to refrain from laughing too hard. Aside from the fact that I could use lots of AI’s to explore those same possibilities myself, I could always spy on the “Borg Collective” and pilfer their designs as well (good idea in any case, accurate intelligence is the cornerstone of any successful strategy). I could also turn the tables on THEM and try to assimilate them instead with my own “nano-assimilator.”


Anyhow - just some idle speculation - things don't always work out as ideally as we dream.
------
No kidding.

Chris Phoenix, CRN


Tom, to expand on Brett's point: Almost all mitochondrial genes have moved to the nucleus, which produces the proteins they need. Mitochondria reproduce only by courtesy of a very specialized environment, rich in exactly the chemicals they used to be able to make.

A cartoon version of the anti-aging theory: moving the rest of the genes to the nucleus should allow mitochondria to self-assemble from drifting proteins rather than reproduce.

Chris

Brett Bellmore

I should note that the idea is scarcely original to me, I got it from Aubrey de Grey's "Strategies for engineered negligible senescence"

http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/sens/mtmut.htm

And if I recall correctly, it's already been done successfully in some cell lines; There are only a handful of genes left in the mitochondria, as evolution has been transfering them all along.

Tom Craver

Janessa - Sorry if you interpreted my post as an attack on your or your ideals - it certainly wasn't intended that way. From what I've read of yours here, I don't think we're that far apart ideologically.

A couple of points - I did not say that all easily available mass WOULD be converted to copies of one species of post-human - I said that one group might decide to attempt that. I fully expect that you would fight back against such a group, as would the many other splinters of post-humanity.

Remember, you've said that you will alter yourself radically - do you think that you'll still have a human outlook on things when you're immortal, able to pick your body shape (or shapes), and able to modify your memories and mental capabilities? Many others will be doing similar things (and have all the same basic starting technologies as you, including nanotech, AI, nukes, etc), but making very different choices than you, with the result that some of them may be dangerously insane by your standards - and perhaps vice versa.

That's exactly how evolution might regain a foothold - beings with radically different survival strategies in competition for resources. No, this probably won't happen overnight - but to stay immortal, we'd better take the long view.

Chris Phoenix, CRN


Tom--I agree with you, but I'd much rather see the main competition happen at a level above the physical. The thing is, whatever level the competition happens at, most of the things at that level die out. We're currently at least three levels above physical: there's biochemical, then societal, then symbolic. If we shake up the physical level, what happens to the levels that depend on it?

As I said in another thread, we celebrate the lungfish that crawled out on land, but ignore the billions that were forced to try and didn't survive. Your vision of the future probably involves gigadeaths. I wish I had some basis to argue that it won't happen that way.

Chris

todd

Something has been troubling me since I read it a few hours ago. I recall thinking the same thing a few years ago when I began considering the likelihood, indeed the eventual certainty of immortality. If all life started immortal. Then there should still be immortal life somewhere. So where would one look for immortal life ? And how would we know it when we found it ?

todd

Brett Bellmore

Simple bacteria, living off disolved minerals, deep under the earth's surface. The amount of energy available to them is so minute, that they go many thousands of years between cell divisions. Sometimes the pores in the rock they live in get closed off, and we know they've survived for geological time periods.

And they don't age, because aging is a feature of complex systems, with redundant aspects. They either endure in perfect condition, or die, no in between, because the lack of functional redundancy means that the first thing that breaks is fatal.

Janessa Ravenwood

Tom: Well, sorry if I seemed a bit cranky. It looked to me like the gist of your post was “well, somebody’s likely to try this eventually and when that happens we’re all dead no matter what,” which I thought was just completely ridiculous. Admittedly, that someone sometime WILL try something fairly nasty with nanotech I will accept as a given, but I’m not just going to roll over and die when it does. Hence I certainly agree in taking the long view. I’ve put too much into achieving immortality to even consider stopping now.

Steven Khalifeh

I was just wondering; even if we somehow found a way to grasp immortality. Would government legislation ever agree to pass laws regarding no restrictions on this process. In the concern of overpopulation in regards to China of course. Also what of the killme gene. I would like to know about some leads on turning it off after finding it 20 some years ago.

Janessa Ravenwood

Steven: Governments that do that will see their citizens running off on trips to other countries to take advantage of it there. Really, what are they going to do - kill them? They're facing death if they don't go and get it done so even the death penalty is not a deterrent there.

Steven Khalifehh

I would still like to know some basic informaton of the killme gene as well as the government's concern of overpopulation if we succeed in finding immortality. If we do; who would be qualified to obtain such a gift? I'm sure criminals or anyone suspected of crimes won't be given this sort of fountain of youth.

JON

Steven,

I don't know anything about "the killme gene" but you seem to be talking about programmed cell death. Try looking up apoptosis. Why are you so sure that immortality will be denied to criminals? Even people on death row get medical attention.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Perhaps the "killme gene" refers to telomeres, which limit the number of times a cell can divide?

Chris

The comments to this entry are closed.