Re: "...Death is an evil" (Sappho 630 BC)

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Tue Oct 02 2001 - 08:40:31 MDT

On Tue, Oct 02, 2001 at 11:01:35PM +1000, Damien Broderick wrote:
> I was wondering, as a thought experiment (ie I don't expect it to be
> literally the case) how people generally would react if it were discovered
> that senescence and death are the indirect result of a nearly universal
> prion infection.

This sounds like the basis for a really good sf story. It would be
interesting to really explore how pervasive the meme that death is
natural and right is in human cultures by (in the story) showing it to
be wrong or something disease-like that can be fixed.
> In the absence of this malign form of a common structural protein, our
> maintenance systems would remain highly effective indefinitely, but in most
> higher organisms the prion builds up from childhood and after 20 years or
> so (like other `slow viruses') has progressively done enough damage to
> prevent us from fixing our damaged cells. Evolution worked around this
> contingent fact by selecting for other pleitropic characters promoting
> heightened early fitness/health even at the cost of later damage, since the
> damage will be done anyway by the damnable prion.

I wouldn't be the least surprised if this turned out to be true,
although I doubt we are so lucky that there is just one factor at work
here. But prions make good villain-objects these days :-)

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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