Six Radical Life-Extension Technologies for Transhumanist Consideration
This week Paul Graham-Raven published his take on Transhumanism and challenged the notion that Transhumanist life extension technologies will become cheap and ubiquitous, pointing out that there are already many life extension technologies that are not widely available outside the “developed” world.
Tim Maly picks up on that thread:
We’ve developed tech guaranteed to extend the human lifespan, but market failures and regulatory bodies stand in the way of universal access.
CLEAN WATER This is a basic innovation. However, the marketing upside is huge. There is massive, seemingly endless demand for this tech. While on the low end it is highly at risk of being commodified, there is much profit to be made from premium versions of the product for all market segments.
URBAN SANITATION As a greater proportion of humans live in urban environments, upgrades can greatly impact many people. Good ROI.
SMOKELESS COOKING FACILITIES A niche tech, but stunningly effective in some markets. Positively impacts both quality and quantity of life. This last point is an important consideration in life-extension. It’s not enough to blindly build tech that keeps people technically alive for longer. We want tech that enables a good life.
FREE ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE Critics say this isn’t one technology but an ideological mess of blurry promises. I say, look at the graphs.
GUARANTEED MINIMUM INCOME Despite longstanding research in the arena, this remains a highly controversial procedure. Many concerns have been raised about its social side-effects and regulatory bodies continue to stand in its way. Still, we mustn’t impede progress.
GOOD FREE EDUCATION Sure to be popular with DIY arm of transhumanist crowd. Likely to encourage a faster run up the exponential curve as more minds become more capable of reaching their full creative potential.
See also: Left Behind: the Singularity and the Developing World
The Curious Case of Human Hibernation
A couple years ago Inhuman Experiment did a run down of cases of humans hibernation, from Russian peasants to trapped skiers:
During the same TED Talk, he mentions experiments showing that if you reduce the oxygen content in the air slightly, roundworms die, and if you reduce it a lot – down to 10 ppm – they stop moving and appear dead but are in fact alive in a state of suspended animation. Unlike their animated and lively friends, these suspended roundworms can be put into cold temperatures without harm.
Exposing an organism to hydrogen sulfide is another way to achieve the same effect as reducing the oxygen content of a container or a room. By binding at the same cell site as oxygen, hydrogen sulfide reduces the need for oxygen, depressing metabolism. Roth theorizes that perhaps hydrogen sulfide production was increased in Bågenholm’s own body when she fell under the ice, thus preventing her from dying from the cold.
The first practical application of this technique is surgery, which requires mild hypothermia to prevent harming patients. Even with a small amount of injectable hydrogen sulfide, which Roth’s company has developed, the results are apparently better than with a traditional approach. Safety studies are already done, and human trials are underway.
While this is undoubtedly a great medical breakthrough, I can’t help but think of other possible applications. What Roth has done is deanimate a mouse by reducing its metabolism and then bring it back to life unharmed. If the human trials are succesful, could this mean hydrogen sulfide might be used even outside surgery? Are we talking about a potential lightweight version of cryonics?
Full Story: Inhuman Experiment: The Curious Case of Human Hibernation
Pentagon: Zombie Pigs First, Then Hibernating Soldiers
Darpa: Freeze Soldiers to Save Injured Brains
Doctors claim suspended animation success
Study: Moderate Jogging Increases Longevity
From a press release regarding an as of yet unpublished study conducted over the past 36 years:
Undertaking regular jogging increases the life expectancy of men by 6.2 years and women by 5.6 years, reveals the latest data from the Copenhagen City Heart study presented at the EuroPRevent2012 meeting.
Reviewing the evidence of whether jogging is healthy or hazardous, Peter Schnohr told delegates that the study’s most recent analysis (unpublished) shows that between one and two-and-a-half hours of jogging per week at a “slow or average” pace delivers optimum benefits for longevity. [...]
The debate over jogging first kicked off in the 1970s when middle aged men took an interest in the past-time. “After a few men died while out on a run, various newspapers suggested that jogging might be too strenuous for ordinary middle aged people,” recalled Schnohr.
European Society of Cardiology: Regular jogging shows dramatic increase in life expectancy
The press release doesn’t talk about how the study controlled for other health factors. Do joggers live longer than swimmers or cyclists? Did the joggers and non-joggers have otherwise similar health habits (diet, tobacco, etc.)?
See also: How and Why Exercise Boosts Your Brain. Plus: How Little Exercise Can You Get By With?
Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Tests May Wildly Overestimate Your Risk of Disease
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests give inaccurate predictions of disease risks and many European geneticists believe that some of them should be banned, the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics heard May 31.
Although the predictive ability of the DTC tests in the study was moderate for all diseases, both companies assigned an increased risk to a substantial part of the group. Yet the risk of disease in this group was often not substantially higher than the risk in the rest of the population studied. For AMD, the disease with the highest predictive ability, both companies assumed that the risk in the population was around 8%. Of all subjects designated as having an increased risk, 16% using the 23andMe risk estimations and 19% using deCODEme’s estimations would develop AMD, compared to the 4% found in the rest of the population studied. [...]
“deCODEme predicted risks higher than 100% for five out of the eight diseases,” Ms Kalf will say. “This in itself should be enough to raise considerable concern about the accuracy of these predictions — a risk can never be higher than 100%. In the case of AMD one in every 200 individuals in the group would have received a predicted risk of higher than 100%, suggesting that they would definitely develop the disease.”
Science Daily: Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Tests Neither Accurate in Their Predictions nor Beneficial to Individuals, Study Suggests
(via Edward Borasky)
Oh well, at least we’ll always have palm reading.
5 Reasons Why Having a High IQ Ain’t All It’s Cracked-Up to Be
Yes, it’s from Cracked, but it’s interesting:
#5.You’re Probably a Night Owl — And That’s a Bad Thing
#4.You’re Less Likely to Pass On Your Genes
#3. You’re More Likely to Lie
#2. You’re More Likely to Believe Bullshit
#1. You’re More Likely to Be Self-Destructive
Cracked: 5 Unexpected Downsides of High Intelligence
Why Smart People Do More Drugs
Smart kids more likely to be heavy drinkers
(via Dr. Benway)
Does Religion Make People Happier – Or Conformity?
A couple months ago I linked to a story about the happiest guy in the world. One of the ways this was calculated was based on religion – religious people are typically assumed to be the happier than non-religious people. And apparently religious Jews are expected to be happiest of all.
But are religious people actually happier? According to Nigel Barber, an evolutionary psychologist, that might not be the case. Barber writes:
Much of the research linking religiosity and happiness was conducted in the U.S. where more religious people are slightly happier. Researchers saw this as evidence for the universal benefits of religion (a perspective that interests evolutionary psychologists like myself because it helps explain why religion is so common around the globe). Yet, there is no association between religiousness and happiness in either Denmark or the Netherlands (3).
Why the difference? Religious people are in the majority in the U.S., but in a minority in Denmark and the Netherlands. Feeling part of the mainstream may be comforting whereas being in the minority is potentially stressful. Ethnic minorities around the world tend to have higher blood pressure, for example – this being a reliable index of stress.
If religion contributes to happiness, then the most religious countries should be happiest. Yet, the opposite is true.
Psychology Today: Does religion make people happier?
Could it be then that the level of happiness enjoyed by religious people in the U.S. is a result of conformity, rather than religion itself? If that were the case, we should expect religious people in more secular countries, controlled for income, to be less happy than non-religious people in those countries. Is this the case?
Here’s a recent ranking of the top 10 happiest countries in the world.
Top 5 Most Common Regrets of the Dying
Bonnie Ware spent many years working in palliative care, nursing patients in the final weeks of their lives. She shares what she says were the five most common regrets of the dying.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. (“This came from every male patient that I nursed,” Ware wrote).
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Bonnie Ware: Regrets of the Dying
N-Back Training Exercise Still Holding Up in Tests
Above: the Soak Your Head Dual N-Back Application
I’ve covered research on how most brain training exercises don’t actually hold-up in tests. The good news is that dual n-back training, also covered here previously, is continuing to hold up in tests:
Jonides, who is the Daniel J. Weintraub Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, collaborated with colleagues at U-M, the University of Bern and the University of Tapei on a series of studies with more than 200 young adults and children, demonstrating the effects of various kinds of n-back mental training exercises. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and by the Office of Naval Research.
According to Jonides, the n-back task taps into a crucial brain function known as working memory—the ability to maintain information in an active, easily retrieved state, especially under conditions of distraction or interference. Working memory goes beyond mere storage to include processing information.
Medical Express: A Brain Training Exercise That Really Does Work
Soak Your Head offers a free Web-based n-back training program, but it requires Microsoft Silverlight. You can find a list of other applications here.
Another way to boost your mental capabilities? Play first person shooters. This NPR story provides an overview of the research. You can also find a research paper that looks at multiple studies here (PDF).
The best way to stave off cognitive decline, however, may be to spend time socializing with friends.
More Happiness and Longevity Research: Working During Retirement is Good for You?
Slate has some coverage of the Longevity Project, a decades long research project tracking the lives of geniuses. This could just be propaganda to make us happier about the fact that many of us will never be able to retire, but it makes sense. I don’t want to spend my golden years eating TV dinners and watching Jeopardy reruns.
Retirement is usually seen as the severing of oneself from the work of a lifetime. Friedman, who is 60, dislikes this notion, and from his research he’s come to believe such an attitude is bad both for society and individuals. Of course, for those in miserable work situations, a departure can mean liberation. But most of the Terman males (given the attitudes of the times, far fewer of the women Termites worked) had solid, sometimes even exceptional careers. Interviews done with successful Termites in their 70s, several of them lawyers, showed a striking number continued to work part time.
For those who contemplate retirement as decades filled with leisure and relaxation, The Longevity Project serves as a warning. As Friedman says, “fun can be overrated” and stress can be unfairly maligned. Many study participants who lived vigorously into old age had highly stressful jobs. Physicist Norris Bradbury, who died at age 88, succeeded J. Robert Oppenheimer as director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, overseeing the transition of the U.S. atomic weapons research lab from World War II into the Cold War.
Slate: Don’t Stop Working!
(via Alex Pang)
After Middle Age, People Get Happier As They Get Older
Via the MetaFilter discussion on the happiest man in America:
Ask a bunch of 30-year-olds and another of 70-year-olds as Peter Ubel, of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, did with two colleagues, Heather Lacey and Dylan Smith, in 2006 which group they think is likely to be happier, and both lots point to the 30-year-olds. Ask them to rate their own well-being, and the 70-year-olds are the happier bunch. The academics quoted lyrics written by Pete Townshend of The Who when he was 20: “Things they do look awful cold / Hope I die before I get old”. They pointed out that Mr Townshend, having passed his 60th birthday, was writing a blog that glowed with good humour.
Mr Townshend may have thought of himself as a youthful radical, but this view is ancient and conventional. The “seven ages of man”—the dominant image of the life-course in the 16th and 17th centuries—was almost invariably conceived as a rise in stature and contentedness to middle age, followed by a sharp decline towards the grave. Inverting the rise and fall is a recent idea. “A few of us noticed the U-bend in the early 1990s,” says Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at Warwick Business School. “We ran a conference about it, but nobody came.”
Since then, interest in the U-bend has been growing. Its effect on happiness is significant—about half as much, from the nadir of middle age to the elderly peak, as that of unemployment. It appears all over the world. David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College, and Mr Oswald looked at the figures for 72 countries. The nadir varies among countries—Ukrainians, at the top of the range, are at their most miserable at 62, and Swiss, at the bottom, at 35—but in the great majority of countries people are at their unhappiest in their 40s and early 50s. The global average is 46.
The Economist: Age and happiness: The U-bend of life