comment by advancedatheist ·
2012-08-01T23:05:17.963Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Not this nonsense again. Setting aside the "immortality" confusion, the people who predict radical breakthroughs in mere "life expectancy" by such a such a date in this century don't understand what the term means. We determine life expectancy of populations retrospectively by gathering statistics on when individuals in the groups under observation die. In addition to that, humans already live longer than other mammals, so how can we learn in a time-efficient way that an alleged "life extension" therapy works to extend the maximum life span beyond 120 years, as opposed to squaring the survival curve, and with a quality of physical and cognitive health you would want to have?
We can't, obviously. Instead a feasible life extension experiment which won't make scientists and other rational people laugh at it would require institutions to conduct longitudinal studies of the experimental group, with the resources and commitments to gather data over many decades, rather like the Harvard Study of Adult Development or the Framingham Heart Study. Several generations of scientists and physicians would have to devote their careers to gathering the data, and then some time in the 22nd or 23rd Century the researchers active at that time would have enough information to draw conclusions about the experiment.
Of course, cryonics research has one huge advantage over chasing "anti-aging" mirages: We can conduct experiments in the here-and-now which can generate useful data about brain cryopreservation, or about other ways of brain preservation if you prefer those. Thomas Donaldson explains the difference in this article:
Why Cryonics Will Probably Help You More Than Antiaging
Notice Donaldson's comparison of aging research with the history of astronomy. It took the efforts of generations of astronomers, over a succession of civilizations, before some astronomers active in 17th Century Europe had enough data to formulate an adequate mathematical model of planetary motion. The real breakthroughs in understanding aging which would allow for effective interventions might not take thousands of years before the equivalent of Kepler, Galileo and Newton arrive on the scene, but they will probably take longer than our current life expectancies, despite the foolish transhumanist talk about "immortality by 2045." In the meantime, cryonics offers a way of making progress on a timescale which might do us some good.
Replies from: lsparrish
↑ comment by lsparrish ·
2012-08-02T01:37:00.285Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
While I agree that cryonics (in particular action taken towards its improvement) should be considered more credible than these competing approaches, I wish you would not exaggerate their weaknesses by labeling them complete nonsense. Cybernetic life support and uploading have a lot more experimental science going for them than they did a few decades ago, much as cryonics does. They also serve as helpful thought experiments to people who are still having a hard time grasping that they might survive and thrive as "frozen corpses".
There is room for respectful disagreement and dialogue between camps, and it's worth considering the possibility that this "2045" initiative has a better chance of reaching and changing minds than the visible literature on cryonics -- and will probably serve indirectly to recruit more new cryonics advocates over time.
Some caution and distancing are understandable and advisable. I don't expect this guy to actually succeed at uploading by 2045, and I don't think it would be good for the cryonics community to endorse this claim. However that doesn't mean it isn't a smart marketing strategy for the concept being conveyed (technological life extension) as long as the certainty for them isn't overstated to the point where fun can easily be poked at it.
Specific numbers, scenarios, etc. are well known marketing strategems designed to account for and exploit certain well established cognitive biases. A cursory review of your junk mail should demonstrate that the high pulling ad is the one that says "$1000/day" not "lots of money". Vague hand waving about the dates and scenarios is something that actually makes people more skeptical, at least when we're talking about the initial bid for their attention.
Replies from: Dr_Manhattan
↑ comment by Dr_Manhattan ·
2012-08-02T13:39:42.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
...I wish you would not exaggerate their weaknesses by labeling them complete nonsense. Cybernetic life support...
I agree with you and actually think that cybernetic life support it quite undervalued as possibly the best short-term solution to life extension (or at least the one with the least variance). If it works, the life expectancy would be the one of head/brain rather than being bottlenecked on heart/lungs/liver.
The reason I think it's the best is because head transplants have already been done and sustained head's life for few hours, in 1960s (that's 50-year old medicine, those crazy Russians again http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Demikhov). At that point all that was apparently needed is sufficient blood oxygenation. I wonder what kind of extension would be possible with modern medicine. There are obvious and huge life quality issues, but they are theoretically not different from those of neck-down paralysis cases, and might still score above "being dead forever". On the plus side BCIs are hitting pretty incredible strides and it seems quite conceivable that good amount of sensory input and "natural-feeling" (vs computer-mediated as in "walk 5 steps") body control can be recreated. I think this is a very serious strategy and people should be looking at it. You can always freeze yourself at the end anyways.