SOCIOLOGY: On Betting on Aging

From: Chris Rasch (
Date: Thu Mar 15 2001 - 23:55:33 MST

Extropian ideas continue to advance into the mainstream...

   The Scientist 15[6]:6, Mar.
   19, 2001


   On Betting on Aging

   By Douglas J. Wagenaar Ph.D.

   Aging and limited life spans1 are nature's way of ensuring steady
rates of mutation and varied DNA
   combinations in order for life forms to advance through evolution. If
life forms did not die, there
   would be less of an opportunity for favorable mutations to
promulgate. This has worked pretty well up
   until now. A few decades ago there was concern that advances in
medical science to extend the life
   spans of people with weaknesses or disease susceptibility was
"anti-evolutionary," that survival of
   the weak is not natural. This is now an invalid concern, and what has
changed in recent years is that
   the entire evolutionary, natural model is now obsolete, given our
ongoing understanding of the
   genome. Breaking the genetic code allows us to perform genetic
engineering, computer modeling of
   DNA combinations, create new life codes such as peptide nucleic acids
(PNAs), and other "unnatural"
   but rational, directed kinds of advances to new life forms that do
not have to abide by the
   established rules of natural selection through eons of slow mutative

   On the limit of human life spans, my opinion is that within the next
150 years someone will unravel
   what constitutes human consciousnesses and memory--the real essence
of what it means to have
   human life. If we can store consciousness and memory on a computer
disk (or its equivalent), the life
   spans of humans will be immediately extended beyond centuries, and
human life will become equivalent
   to the machines (computers) we have used to model DNA and to decode
the essence of
   consciousness and thought. (These comments are my personal opinion
and are not intended to
   represent the views of Siemens Medical Systems.)

Douglas J. Wagenaar Ph.D.
Senior Principal Research Scientist
Advanced Research Siemens Medical Systems Inc.
Nuclear Medicine Group
2501 North Barrington Road
Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60195

1. J. McCann, "Wanna bet?" The Scientist, 15[3]:8, Feb. 5, 2001.

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