Re: AGING: perhaps we are over the hump.

From: Duane Hewitt (
Date: Sun Feb 17 2002 - 20:59:19 MST

I have read with great interest this provocative thread that was initiated by Robert Bradbury. Robert raises several excellent points about what I would term "practical immortality" or more modestly "practical life extension". These are issues that I have struggled to come to terms with and would like to share my not so humble opinion (If it was a humble opinion I would keep it to myself.)

The Cost.

I do not believe that life extension/immortality technologies will be widely dispersed at low or nominal costs. Take a look at the ballooning costs of health care in the present. The costs of life extension therapy will probably start out being expensive and they may or may not decrease in price with time. They may also be outlawed by governments and therefore become much more expensive than their cost of production as is the case for illegal drugs. Therefore the best way to ensure your access to such technologies if they become available is to possess sufficient wealth to purchase them and to provide for your other needs.

I agree with Roberts tendency to dismiss the NanoSanta and SysOp AI scenarios. These seem to be skyhook scenarios that depend on miraculous forces beyond our control rather than cranes that depend upon us bootstrapping ourselves into a position. (Daniel Dennet- Darwin's Dangerous Idea)

I disagree with Robert that there are "no-brainer" strategies to becoming wealthy. I believe that history demonstrates that passive investing is unlikely to create a substantial nest egg which runs counter to the conventional wisdom of "buy and hold".

As Hal and Max have pointed out it is easy to lose money to inflation and poor management of your assets by professionals. What is often overlooked is that there have been periods (1929-1954 and 1969-1982) when it has taken a long time for investors to break even with buy and hold much less make a decent return especially when inflation is factored into the returns. Current market conditions are more similar to an unprecedented bubble top than a bear market bottom. Earnings have deteriorated more rapidly than stock prices so price/earnings ratios are actually worse than they were before the Nasdaq crash from 5000. Therefore we could be waiting 10 years or more before we see new all time highs in the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P averages.

As an aside, the current financial environment from my perspective is teetering on a precipice. I realize that as extropians our bias is usually tilted towards the optimistic. However I am currently extremely pessimistic about the global economy and the prospects for growth for the next decade. We could be heading into what may be known in the future as the Greater Depression. That being the case does not necessarily mean that I am pessimistic about my prospects or the prospects for the advance of life extension technologies in this disruptive economic environment. This context just means that things may be more difficult than they otherwise may have been. Some useful references for the thinking behind this proposed economic scenario are

This may be obvious to most but I will write it anyways. Being optimistic does not mean always expecting a bull market in stocks. It is more personal than that. It means expecting and cultivating conditions for a bull market in yourself and your prospects. In the current environment positioning yourself to be sheltered from the implosion of fiat currencies appears to be prudent. (In other words buy gold.) I think that one can be an extropian and sell short or buy bear funds (BEARX or USPIX).

Along the same lines of this thinking comes my approach to the Singularity. Discontinuities may occur in either direction. I think that it is more likely that we are heading into a crisis point in history which will not be resolved positively than we are coming upon an inevitable Singularity of technotransendence. There is a substantial risk that we may falter into a new Dark Age rather than ascend into what is termed the Singularity. For some more information about the cycles of history that are drawing us into a crisis see

I personally have been of the "I-Will-One-Day-Be-A-Millionaire Foundation" by my actions for several years. I have invested in my 401k and when I changed jobs I rolled it over to an IRA which I have aggressively managed since 1997 making annual returns of 25-30% each and every year including last year. I credit these returns to extensive research and some luck but I believe that I have learned enough about markets and investing to be able to preserve my capital (often overlooked) and earn a decent return on my investments. Time is your friend when investing if you can consistently earn a reasonable return as proven by the rule of 72 (

In a nutshell the rule of 72 states that if you divide your expected rate of return on your investments into 72 you will get as an answer the number of years it takes for your principal to double at that rate of return. For example at a 12% annual rate of return it takes six years to double your money.

I believe that I will need all the capital that I can muster to be able to afford life extension technologies or if they are not yet available I will need the capital to create them myself as I need them. Another example of me walking the walk for bootstrapping life extension technologies is my web site at

This site currently serves to inform and educate about the possibility for life extension and to monitor our progress. A third instance of my choice to walk the walk about life extension is that I am a scientist in industry working to develop technologies that may lead to life extension and learning skills that I may apply even more directly to the problem in the future. Is that serious enough for you? J

How do you know that you are immortal?

There are only two ways to know whether you are immortal.

  1.. You die. Then you know the answer is that you are not immortal.
  2.. You live forever. In this case you are never sure that #1 will not manifest itself somehow.
Life extension/immortality will likely be a dynamic process requiring inputs of energy and therapies to stave off entropy. Therefore the battle to avoid #1 will require eternal vigilance.

I personally think that significant life extension is a real possibility within our lifetimes. Immortality will be something that may prove to be elusive. How long will an animal model such as a mouse have to live before it is declared immortal?

Duane Hewitt

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