Hotwired Destiny

life WITH NO FIXED expiry date    

 

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

From a universal perspective, life itself is merely an information set that happens to possesses a degree of agency. We are self-propelled gatherers and processors of data, flung forward by time's arrow and a trillion iterations. 

For eons this was the status quo; the gene was the most robust means of storing, processing, and propagating information. It was the development of the neo-cortex that enabled a shift to new forms of information, such as Dawkins' meme. Meme's are much less robust in geological terms, but vastly more rapid in their ability to shift and iterate, and influence entire populations - even the ecosystem itself.

We are machines with a form designed for evolution over countless millennia, and yet we have attained the ability to reinvent ourselves over decades. Arguably, our ability for language even gives us the power to alter genes with mere harsh words.

 

WHY WE AGE

Since the dawn of human culture we have experienced again as an unfortunate yet inescapable part of the human condition. Only in recent years has a disease model of aging become popular. Yet aging is not strictly a disease either, it is in fact a byproduct of the nature of our form. We experience it as a bug, yet it was intended as a feature.

Nature often creates situations whereby an individual organism may suffer, but the strength of the overall troop or species is improved over time. The outcome of one organism is meaningless, and even species come and go all the time. What is crucial is that the best genes remain - that the most functional, worthy and fit genes successfully self-propagate using biochemical means.

Once an organism has successfully propagated, there is no evolutionary use left for it. 

Higher primates may find niche roles for grandparents, as indeed a creature may bear multiple broods within one lifespan, but from the perspective of information, having achieved our evolutionary duty (like the trillion or so that came before us in the great chain), we are superfluous. 

This is why we are programmed to experience an early form of biodegradation within us, whilst still functional. The decay of aging allows the younger variants within a species to overtake their forebears, experience being tested against strength in a struggle for supremacy.

However, just as we gained the ability to evolve culture alongside genetics, and we weaved cultural factors into our genetic expression, we have an opportunity in the coming generation or so, to take command of our programmed propensity to overripen and rot.

 

MEMENTO MORI

For the first time, we are beginning to unlock new techniques of anti-aging therapy. Promising methods already achieved include extending telomeres in human cells in vitro at Stanford. Alphabet's California Life Company was established with a remit to discover actionable anti-aging techniques, and this new field is in the process of moving from science fiction to clinical practice.

Such a fountain of youth will seem like colossal hubris to many. None other than Craig Venter, who has done so much to advance genetic science, claims that to live to 120 may be socially irresponsible. The current rate of social and scientific progress may necessitate that those old codgers, set in their ways, shuffle off the mortal coil and make way for more malleable minds.

It's a fair point, but we might not have a choice except to embrace these technologies with the utmost pace. We need hold on to the citizens of today for a very long time, to ensure a carrying capacity for civilization for the children of tomorrow.

 

AGING: THE CRISIS OF OUR TIME

The post-war economic boom was concurrent with the development of antibiotics and the green revolution. This created a demographic burst that double the number of human minds in only half a century. The collapse of Soviet Russia and the opening up of China added another 1.5 Billion workers to the global labor pool. For a generation or so, humans were in abundance. Labor was cheap.

We are at a turnabout. There are now more people globally over the age of 65 than under the age of 5.

Via: The Economist

Via: The Economist

The coming decades will see a precipitous decline in the population of working age (20-60 years), as birth rates have decreased steadily in proportion to increased wealth. This arrives at the same time as unprecedented rates of automation occur, particularly in places such as China, now the world's greatest investor in automation. Automation due to outsourcing of tasks to intelligent machines is going to create new and better jobs in the future, but will create huge churn in the mid term.

Many traditional occupations will disappear, or radically alter. The youngest and most talented will have the best chance at surviving the shift. At the same time, a vast surge in needy elders will hit, most of them in low and middle income nations. Despite new innovations in robots for geriatric care, the human element cannot be negated. The needs of the elderly cannot be maintained by the decreasing working age population, and this demographic crisis threatens to bankrupt our global civilization.

Exponential Decline of physical performance versus age. Via: Vaswim.org

Exponential Decline of physical performance versus age. Via: Vaswim.org

THE SILVER BULLET

But there is another way. Consider that aging is an exponential process - we degrade progressively as the years pass. Our propensity for suffering (ever more difficult to manage) disease increases alongside. What if we could arrest this process, or at least make the gradient more sublime?

By embracing anti-aging technologies, we can make people productive and useful for decades longer. We can enjoy the benefits of experience and strength in one. Who knows what further wonders we might enjoy today hadDa Vinci or Tesla had a few decades extra.

By committing to fight our fated falling-apart, we can create a second renaissance. The past few years has seen an explosive growth in the number of labs studying aging, from perhaps 20 at the turn of the century to more than 400 today.

Conquering the inescapable disease that haunts us every one of us each day is very soon to be a big, big business.

Interested in learning more about experimental anti-aging treatments that you can try today? Check out longecity.org