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posted by LaminatorX on Tuesday January 13 2015, @04:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the ought-to-be-enough-for-anybody dept.

The Guardian has an interesting article on the current quest sweeping Silicon Valley to disrupt death and the $1m prize challenging scientists to “hack the code of life” and push human lifespan past its apparent maximum of about 120 years. Hedge Fund Manager Joon Yun's Palo Alto Longevity Prize, which 15 scientific teams have so far entered, will be awarded in the first instance for restoring vitality and extending lifespan in mice by 50%:

Billionaires and companies are bullish about what they can achieve. In September 2013 Google announced the creation of Calico, short for the California Life Company. Its mission is to reverse engineer the biology that controls lifespan and “devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives”. Though much mystery surrounds the new biotech company, it seems to be looking in part to develop age-defying drugs. In April 2014 it recruited Cynthia Kenyon, a scientist acclaimed for work that included genetically engineering roundworms to live up to six times longer than normal, and who has spoken of dreaming of applying her discoveries to people. “Calico has the money to do almost anything it wants,” says Tom Johnson, an earlier pioneer of the field now at the University of Colorado who was the first to find a genetic effect on longevity in a worm.

Why might tech zillionaires choose to fund life extension research? Three reasons reckons Patrick McCray, a historian of modern technology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. First, if you had that much money wouldn’t you want to live longer to enjoy it? Then there is money to be made in them there hills. But last, and what he thinks is the heart of the matter, is ideology. If your business and social world is oriented around the premise of “disruptive technologies”, what could be more disruptive than slowing down or “defeating” ageing? “Coupled to this is the idea that if you have made your billions in an industrial sector that is based on precise careful control of 0s and 1s, why not imagine you could extend this to the control of atoms and molecules?,” he says.

 
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13 2015, @04:39PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13 2015, @04:39PM (#134420)

    Maybe they should start with getting most people live long enough to actually reach their natural maximal life span before they try to extend that. Because otherwise, it doesn't matter how long you could have lived if you had not died from an illness before.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by kaszz on Tuesday January 13 2015, @04:46PM

    by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday January 13 2015, @04:46PM (#134426) Journal

    With that attitude you can't make progress unless everyone does it in the same timespan. An impossibility. Some people will be first others later. The world is diverse and people have different priorities and capabilitites. One has to deal with that.

    Bad living conditions also has a lot to do with vested interests, in many cases in their own country, bad attitudes towards family planning and of course greed in different manners. Those problems will take time to solve. But holding back achievement of others is not the answer.

    • (Score: 2) by Jeremiah Cornelius on Tuesday January 13 2015, @07:49PM

      by Jeremiah Cornelius (2785) on Tuesday January 13 2015, @07:49PM (#134507) Journal

      The more rent they can squeeze from your exhausted husk.

      --
      You're betting on the pantomime horse...
      • (Score: 1) by fritsd on Tuesday January 13 2015, @08:29PM

        by fritsd (4586) on Tuesday January 13 2015, @08:29PM (#134522) Journal

        Nononono...

        You see: you, the scientist, get $ 1 million.

        The billionaire "struldbrug" (sp?) hedge fund manager gets to live to 120 and squeeze more rent from your comfortably retired husk, your children's exhausted husks, your grandchildren's exhausted husks, and gets his porridge spoon-fed by your great-grandchildren's exhausted husks (if they find a job in the booming geriatric business).

        I have to re-read "Gulliver's travels" one day ... still funny after almost 300 years.

  • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Tuesday January 13 2015, @04:53PM

    by ikanreed (3164) on Tuesday January 13 2015, @04:53PM (#134431) Journal

    The thing is though, most non-accidental, non-murder deaths are either very young or at least moderately old. Combating aging, (if cheap enough to do on a wide scale once discovered) should help extend lifespans for everyone who can afford it.

    • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Tuesday January 13 2015, @07:35PM

      by davester666 (155) on Tuesday January 13 2015, @07:35PM (#134501)

      most important part of your statement: "for everyone who can afford it"

      Worker bee's need not be concerned about this, as they will never be able to afford it.

      • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Tuesday January 13 2015, @07:45PM

        by ikanreed (3164) on Tuesday January 13 2015, @07:45PM (#134505) Journal

        A claim you make on no particular basis.

        The big cost here is going to be research. Once they develop a technology to treat aging, it really likely will be moderately cheap(no more than prescription drugs) to mass produce.

        • (Score: 1) by fritsd on Tuesday January 13 2015, @08:49PM

          by fritsd (4586) on Tuesday January 13 2015, @08:49PM (#134529) Journal

          I agree with you about the cost aspect.

          It's beside the point that it would be moderately cheap to mass produce. A billionaire would give his last billion for this cure, therefore the optimum price point is going to be 1 billion?

          Maybe they could get even more profit by dropping the price and selling it to more customers; but then it would seem less "exclusive" so the billionaires would think "meh.. screw it, I'll wait 20 years and then try if it has become even cheaper".

          And it doesn't even have to be real; think about what an expert like Bernie Madoff [wikipedia.org] could achieve with a project like this, immortality for the exclusive few .. if you keep your mouth shut.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13 2015, @08:39PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13 2015, @08:39PM (#134527)

        1 nanobot or 1 trillion nanobots is not going to be expensive. In fact, the health care industry will be seriously undercut by a preventative nanobot cure that eliminates aging, lifestyle diseases, and microbial infections. You just have to live until it hits the market.

  • (Score: 2) by morgauxo on Tuesday January 13 2015, @06:52PM

    by morgauxo (2082) on Tuesday January 13 2015, @06:52PM (#134483)

    All the scientists in the world could probably work for several lifetimes and still not eradicate every possible illness. But.. many of those illnesses primarily take those who are already suffering the effects of old age. Eliminate aging and the others will be much easier to take on.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13 2015, @07:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13 2015, @07:55PM (#134510)

    The same factors behind aging are responsible for Alzheimer's, cancer, forms of heart disease, etc. Treat them [wikipedia.org], and people will be reaching "natural maximal life spans" and living healthier than old people have lived in the past. Living 120+ or 1,000+ years is just a consequence of treating the diseases of aging.

    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Tuesday January 13 2015, @09:53PM

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Tuesday January 13 2015, @09:53PM (#134551) Journal

      Actually a cell must disable the limit on divisions (that is, programmed death) in order to become a cancer cell. So most likely the "cure" to ageing would not reduce, but rather advance cancer.

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13 2015, @10:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13 2015, @10:57PM (#134567)

        I have no problem with that. Statistically speaking, everyone will eventually get cancer, and everyone already has cancer or a cell that is partially on the path to becoming cancer. There are thousands of different kinds of cancer. So the final solution to cancer is something that can treat any kind of cancer at the level of individual faulty cells. Aka a nanobot that can destroy cells or fix DNA transcription errors. Which can also be used to target other causes of aging, like the accumulation of intracellular waste.

        A couple of stopgaps to the true nanobot cancer killer are gene therapy targeting the exact mutation that causes one kind of cancer, or nanoparticles that deliver chemotherapy directly to cancer cells, avoiding damage to healthy cells.