[ 12/April/21 Facebook – Lifeboat – post by B J Murphy linking to an article on bio-inks]
Indefinite life with expanding capabilities is a very complex suite of issues.
One of the issues is that gradual changes can happen in the DNA of individual cells over time, leading to cell lines of reduced capability. One response to that is to periodically create new stem cell lines with new sets of DNA containing something much closer to the original DNA we started with, with such “enhancements” as we have chosen. We then put those widely throughout our bodies, and then over time induce apoptosis in the cells around them, causing those “rejuvenated” cells to replace the variously “senescent” cells around them.
That approach deals to one class of loss of function, that associated with DNA damage.
But that is not the only class of issue. There are many other classes of issues present, some of which are deeply entangled with systems that give us memory and are part of what makes us “us”. So there are no simple answers, and it does seem to me likely that continued developments in the realms of both deep strategy and nanotechnology will give us tools that will allow us to address these issues over time. Such has seemed obvious to me since completing undergraduate biochemistry in 1974.
The much more complex issue is around creating sufficient depth of understanding of evolution and complexity and uncertainty that we can develop social (political, legal, economic, technological, pedagogical) systems that actually deliver social and ecological and technological conditions in which potentially very long lived sapient entities actually have a reasonable probability of living a very long time with reasonable degrees of freedom. Finding workable solutions to that class of questions has occupied most of my intellectual capacity (such as it is) over the last 46 years. The problem space is deeply more complex and abstract than the problems of life extension at the physical level (and they are complex enough for most people).
Fundamental to understanding such solutions as do seem to be possible is understanding the logic and strategy of the evolution of complexity at sufficient depth that one can clearly see the overriding role of cooperation in the emergence and survival of all levels of complexity (and the risk profiles to complexity posed by any level of competition that is not fundamentally based in a cooperative framework – all levels – asymptotically approaching unity).
Unfortunately evolution has encoded multiple levels of bias into the human brain to simplify complexity, which tends in most cases to lead to simplification beyond what is survivable long term. We need to be able to accept multiple levels of fundamental uncertainty (in a sense the idea of an ineffable god is a reasonable approximation to such fundamental uncertainty, even as in many other dimensions such a concept is extremely improbable).
So while I am all in favour of continued development of practical life extension technologies, particularly as I am now of an age that the risk factors are increasing exponentially for me personally, the dimensions of the political, legal, ethical, strategic, and social issues present still dominate my threat assessment. (And communicating anything I find interesting is difficult – I am an autistic spectrum geek, who when I joined mensa was tested as 160+ IQ – so I am aware that very few people (if any) share my understanding, and there is not sufficient time to share it in detail with anyone unless indefinite life extension and fundamental social change become real in the relatively near future – couple of decades).