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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, @08:22PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13 2015, @08:22PM (#134519)

    Why would it be a few more decades, and not 1,000 years? Once you have the technology to treat the body like a machine, targeting drugs based on the genome, replacing organs with new organs, and finally fighting damage inside cells with nanobots, aging is history.

    How do you suppose the 1% or 0.1% will hoard the benefits of life extension? The goal isn't to magically extend lifespans, it's to cure the diseases of aging, which are rooted in an accumulation of mutations and other damage [], as well as changes in gene expression. That means eliminating cancer, Alzheimer's, organ failure, and other diseases.

    What's more, the elimination of aging isn't complete until the treatments are so advanced that they can be produced cheaply. Stem-cell grown organ replacements (which may be able to grow inside the body []) are a neat trick that will start off as an expensive labor-intensive procedure but will become a cheaper, more effective and ethical option than waiting on the transplant list for years. The end game is nanobots that could check out every cell and repair damage from the inside. You will probably see trillions of nanobots made on a single wafer, with a "DNA origami" mimicking process to self-assemble them. If the nanobots can be directed to avoid excretion unless they have failed, they could stay in the body for weeks or more. I imagine some people would get a large course of nanobots to treat immediate issues, while everyone else would keep a billion or two around to constantly destroy cancer cells and repair transcription errors. The cost will be far less than tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the results will be more compelling (immortality and youth).