Hayflick and others deny major life expectancy improvements

From: Damien Broderick (d.broderick@english.unimelb.edu.au)
Date: Sun Feb 18 2001 - 18:22:42 MST

A post on another list that I cite and then respond to:

>Hayflick said that even if the most common causes of death -
>cancer, heart disease and stroke - were eliminated, "the increase
>in life expectancy would be no more than 15 years."
>With those death causes gone, he said, the true cause of death
>would be revealed: the aging process.
>Aging, he said, is a decline on a molecular level that makes
>people "increasingly vulnerable to disease" and that this process
>is not receiving much research attention.

True in a way. But this entire argument is wrong-headed. It's like the case
that could have been made during most of human history against the
possibility of skyscrapers. You just can't build that tall - the mud will
crumble under compressive forces, no matter how much straw you mix with it.
And even if you could find a miracle building material, all the upper
floors would be taken up by staircases, and anyway nobody is fit enough to
climb to the 80th floor and down again every day. Then along comes steel
and electricity and the elevator.

So obviously superlongevity will not emerge from brushing your teeth and
eating right. It will come from a blend of the genome program data, fast
computational protein folding, and nanotechnology. Neither of the latter
are receiving as much funding right now as routine cardiac surgery, say,
but once they get past the bootstrap stage they'll be soaring up Moore's
Law's exponential curve and rebuilding human expectations. I just hope it
comes together before I fall apart.

As for the social problems of indefinite longevity in a closed (but
efficiently nano-recycling) world: that's an issue I'll be glad to devote a
couple of centuries to help sort out.

Damien Broderick

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