Re: Can You Live Forever? Esquire article

Robert J. Bradbury (
Wed, 16 Jun 1999 11:38:29 -0700

I read this article and found it quite accurate in terms of proposed technology
developments, though it got the timelines and costs wrong.

I sent the author a note discussing telomerase (and the over-hyping thereof),
nanotechnology, the impossibility of "immortality" for generic humans, and "The First Immortal". His response was quite polite and explained that the piece had been done "on assignment" as "infotainment".

I will simply throw out some reasons for my perspectives:
- The medical technologies are moving at ever increasing rates. The

human genetic program will be 90% complete by March 2000 and ~100% complete by 2002. The ability to *cheaply* genotype individuals for known genetic diseases will be commonplace by 2005. Biotech engineered of transplant organs and gene therapies will be

commonplace by 2010. Nanotech & nanomedicine simply accelerate these trends.
- The long term directions in biotechnology with medical applications

will be inexpensive "universal" gene therapies. Think of how much it costs you to catch a cold, that is how much it should cost to receive a therapy. [An interesting but scary thought, is what happens if the "longevity virus" is engineered to be "infectious"?!?]. Generally speaking, if people understand that government funding of tools or therapies can result in vaccine-like methodologies (and costs), then one would expect them to push the governments into these areas rather than continuing the expensive route of patent-protected drugs promoted by the pharmaceutical industries.
- As was pointed out in the companion article to Dooling's article,

if you live long enough, everybody gets "wealthy". Even without the decline in costs (10-100x) one would expect for generic capital goods which nanotechnology will enable. Most probably you spend your extra resources on those "enhancements" governments choose not to fund (or trying to convince your friends to create an "open source" initiative to build them...).

Though biotechnological & nanomedical engineering should allow you to live "forever" (limited by your hazard function), you will be inherently inferior (as pointed out in Moravec's books & Beyound Humanity) unless you go the cyborg and eventual uploading route.

The limits of our environmental resources (with or without nanotech) mean that you have to sacrifice one of the two fundamental drives built into our genome:
(a) personal survival
(b) reproduction

I'm afraid that Natasha's quote (hope?), that we not "surrender our genetic nature" will be unsuccessful. If there is a real "Great Filter", it comes down to how a species resolves the conflict between these two drives which would seem to be inherent in any species subject to natural selection and evolution.