Re: Why are we allowed to age?

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 11 Jun 1997 15:06:11 -0700

There are two different human species in this conversation. One of
them is an ape gene pool. The other one is six billion people,
acculturated in a variety of ways, who are participating in a
culture and an economy that has global ramifications, many of which
support and enrich my life.

I don't really care much about the first human species in the
abstract. I care rather intensely about the second one. Of course,
they are one and the same, since this is a strictly conceptual
dichotomy, not a material dichotomy. But bear with me.

The fact that senescence might just possibly be in the best interests
of the first human species impresses me not much. The fact that
senescence kills people off mere decades after they begin to get
the knack of enjoyably participating in the second human species
bugs me. To put it mildly.

The subject line for this thread is something of a joke. Last I
checked, there was no pilot for the cosmos, no architect who designed
us. No one to allow or disallow anything, save for us wildlife. If
I anthropomorphized genes, it was to emphasize that no one *else*
has been in charge of bringing about our current situation, in
which we find our bodies riddled with junk genes that unleash
cancers after several decades, genes which were the result of random
cosmic ray strikes and then, according to the Medawar theory of
senescence (which I favor) simply never got selected out of the
gene pool because they had no effect on reproductive success. So
we age and die.

At least until we do something to change that.

Until we have ruled out the possibility of molecular nanotechnology
(and we haven't even gotten close to ruling out that possibility
yet), it seems to me developing this technology would offer the
shortest path to being able to do the extremely gnarly gene therapy
we're going to need to remove or suppress the junk in our genomes
that kills us. This year it looks like software development is one
route toward molecular nanotechnology that might help, so I'm
working on acquiring skills in that area, and I'm also trying to
bone up on some of the chemistry I've already studied and some of
the engineering I've never studied before.

If molecular nanotech doesn't pan out, perhaps I'll return to my
original undergrad field, biochemistry, and see what I can do with

(It could be that I am distracted from molecular biology proper
toward molecular nanotechnology because the latter is also a possible
shortcut toward the development of the resources of outer space,
which is another of my interests. Chess players and go players
alike find forking attacks seductive.)

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd