[ 29/Jan/21 – on Tom’s Facebook page]
I am not 100% certain of anything.
I deal in sets of evidence and balance of probabilities between competing explanatory sets.
And I have actually examined vast sets of evidence, and applied very large sets of explanatory frameworks to some of those sets of observations.
When a framework consistently fails to explain a set of observations, I assign a very low probability to that framework, and once that has happened it takes very strong evidence sets to make me revisit the evaluation.
I have very strong evidence sets that Venus has a very dense atmosphere that is mostly CO2, and is thus inhospitable to any form of life like us. So the idea of a human being surviving or evolving on Venus has a very low probability <0.00000000000001, and is thus, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt – utter nonsense (actually the idea of a human being evolving anywhere else in the galaxy has a probability near to zero – intelligent life certainly, but not human).
I don’t know what reality in total is.
All I have is sets of explanations that seem to have proved reliable in sets of contexts. Some of those sets of contexts are quite broad.
Being an autistic spectrum geek, I have a brain that forgets very little, and allows me to explore sets of conjectures in seconds that would take me years to explain to any other human being. I have been doing that for most of my waking hours for over 50 years. I am a very long way from “normal”.
Since October 1974, when I completed undergraduate biochemistry at Waikato university and became convinced by the evidence sets then available to me that indefinite life extension was possible (not precisely how to do it, but just that it was possible and would be done provided technological society and freedom survived), the primary question on my mind has been: Given that we will some day develop the ability to extend biological life indefinitely, what sort of social, political and technical institutions are actually required to give potentially very long lived individuals a reasonable probability of actually living a very long time with reasonable degrees of freedom and resources?
I have far more open questions than closed ones; but not about humans on other planets.
The evidence to me seems entirely clear that Tesla was just a human being, very like me, able to clearly model things that very few others can, and capable of making significant errors in the process due to necessary ignorance in the face of infinities. I think I would have enjoyed talking to him had I the opportunity to meet him.
The evidence for me is clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt the viruses are real, and that vaccines work – which is not to say that any particular vaccine or vaccine producing technology is without issues. Multiple levels of issues are possible, and we need to be alert to them; but that is true of every form of technology, from cars to aircraft, electricity to pharmaceuticals – any and all tools can be used for any purpose, and can have unintended consequences.
And on balance, vaccines are a very useful tool for our survival as a species, and as with all tools, they need to be used with care and responsibility.
I do not currently have confidence that the sets of markets incentives currently present do in fact tend to produce sufficiently responsible behaviour at all levels – but that is not an issue with vaccines as a concept – it is something very much deeper and goes to the heart of the games-theoretic structures that underpin most of modern economics – they are founded upon assumptions that are no longer a reasonable approximation to our situation.
We met via ZAADZ – which was Brian’s intentional attempt to create the seeds of a long term future for humanity. I have had a lot of disagreements with Brian over the ensuing years, but I remain committed to the long term future of humanity in general, and me in particular. I thought you had it too, but you seem to be going down some very destructive pathways over recent years.
[followed by Tom replied that life extension was impossible due to changingness]
You have electronic storage devices.
The operating systems on those do not change.
They have multiple mechanisms to check, detect and repair errors that might happen in the code.
Indefinite life extension in humans will be like that.
We will need to periodically reset the DNA. Fortunately the fact that our systems have “stem cells” that can take on any function, means that we only need to periodically replace all the stem cells, and then progressively remove cells from tissues leading to stem cells with refreshed DNA taking over and conforming to the needs of the context they find themselves in (due to chemical signaling from neighbours).
It gets a bit more complex when dealing with brain tissue, where the subtleties of the neuronal connections have significant impact on who we are, and even there we will be able to use nanotechnology that does not yet exist, but it clearly on the current development trajectories, to be able to repair and replace any damaged systems.
It is not a trivial issue, but it is certainly achievable.
Keeping multiple sets of backups of our individual DNA, and periodically comparing them, and fixing any errors discovered, should ensure that we are able to keep the DNA sequence we want indefinitely. And I am not opposed in principle to periodic “updates” to fix identified issues, or to add interesting capabilities. So in that sense there will always be change.
I am not exactly the same as I was yesterday (no-one ever is).
Keeping similar backup copies of the details of neuronal connections is not yet something we can do, but should certainly be achievable this century, possibly by the end of next decade.
Most bacteria do not have limited life spans. They can be killed, but they can also live on indefinitely. Once I realised that (in 1974) then I knew that the fundamental programming of cellular life is indefinite, and with a little digital assistance, we will be able to extend that to life at our level of complexity.
So certainly, there are technical issues to overcome, but no theoretical limit that prevents indefinite life extension. We have solved most of the major issues that I identified in 1974.
I strongly suspect that a small set of people already know how to extend life indefinitely, but they have not yet developed technology to be able to deploy it to everyone who wants it (which will. I strongly suspect, be most people), and without that capability it is dangerous to all. When actually given the option of having their young capable pain free bodies back, and sufficient resources and freedom to do whatever they responsibly choose, I suspect most people will want it.
[followed by 30 Jan 21]
I see no evidence of “energies that constitute and maintain life”. That sort of Elan Vital explanatory framework has been invalidated and replaced by evolutionary systems – the evidence for that is overwhelming to me. I have looked deeply and see no evidence at all for a “constituting field of life” on Earth.
And I can see how, if someone has not spent enough years engaged in biochemistry and systems, that such an explanation has a certain level of utility, and is close enough to be useful in many contexts, but not in the way you used it above.
Sure, life is deeply complex, far more complex than most people have ever considered the possibility of.
Sure, most of the attempts to date to impact it have been based on overly simplistic understandings, and many have caused many more problems than they have solved.
Sure, there have been some vaccines that have fallen into that category, and for the most part I am happy that vaccines do in fact work and are in fact of benefit, and I have clear evidence of that from my personal life.
Prior to the measles vaccine I spent about 4 months of my life in bed, in pain, as a result of repeated measles infections (and mumps as a result of measles eliminating my resistance to the infections I had previously experienced). Since getting the measles vaccine I would not have had 2 weeks in total bedridden because of any form of illness. I grew up the child of a poor rural family.
There is certainly evidence at multiple levels for selection of short lifespans in complex organisms.
At one level, the organisms with long lifespans are still simple (bacteria). The generation times need to be short enough that complexity can actually emerge and populations can actually change over time, and not be dominated by particularly strong individuals that live a very long time. In another sense, it is idea of antagonistic pleiotropy (as per Williams and Medawar) operating at the level of telomere length that determines a balance between age limit and cancer susceptibility. So developing alternative anti-cancer strategies is a necessary part of any real life extension treatment. It is a very complex suite of issues present – I am very clear about that. And yes – 120 is about the telomere limit for most at present, and it does produce the “creeping senescence” and progressive loss of function across systems that we observe. The mechanism is well understood amongst those with a serious interest in such things. And that is the major target of the strategy I outlined earlier.
What you describe as “a macro-environmental limitation on their attempts to extend their lives” is, in the sense you describe it, purely illusion, that is in fact produced by an entirely different set of factors, and the evidence for that is beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt for those who have taken the time to seriously develop the tools to do such explorations (and I get that is a very small subset of humanity).