Never Say Die


Samarami's picture

Megan Scudellari:

    " expectancy soared in the United States over the last 50 years, thanks to better health care and expanded use of vaccines. Medicine today provides my generation with a carefully curated set of healthy-living guidelines: if I don’t smoke, and if I run two miles a day, eat more vegetables and less meat, get regular health screenings and drink a glass of red wine every night, I’ll have a real shot at dancing at the weddings of my great-grandchildren..."

Can't resist playing my normal anarchist "devil's advocate". The late Delmar England phrased it this way, which is much better than I can come up with:

    Truth + truth = truth.
    Fallacy + fallacy = fallacy.
    Truth + fallacy = fallacy.
    There is no compromise.

The author did not -- could not, must not -- appeared duty-bound to avoid saying this:

    "Stay away from doctors and hospitals"

So, like most popular fallacies, Megan contributed her share by attributing "healthy-living guidelines" to "Medicine" (the almighty g-d) -- and implied that "...expanded use of vaccines..." were a part of the puzzle leading to longevity.

"Science" (much -- most -- tax-funded) craves that I believe in "genetics" as my magic elixir to staying healthy to 100+. Think about it:

    "...But what if there was a way to distill the essence of this genetic lottery ticket? What if you could pop a pill that would give you the same protective benefits?..."

The enormity of the truth is incredible. Sam

Log from Blammo's picture

We cannot make ourselves live forever. All we can do is discover additional ways to die and avoid them.

The specifics of how to avoid them change subtly when you look at different people. The great thing about encoding those specific methods into DNA is that those methods can then be carried out without conscious thought, and without additional economic activity. It becomes free and automatic.

The tremendous advantage can be seen by analogy. Imagine two people. One breathes normally. The other must constantly expend conscious effort to inhale and exhale, and must also remember to breathe faster when doing something strenuous, and more slowly when relaxing. The second person has to remember to use an artificial respirator every time they go to sleep. Their friends and co-workers have to be aware that if they ever fall unconscious, to begin pulmonary rescuscitation immediately and unconditionally until the person regains consciousness or until help arrives to take over.

A dearth of oxygen exchange in the lungs is just one way to die. Now multiply that difference in effort by thousands of folded proteins and enzymatic pathways. And now try to remember to do something to avoid dying that you didn't even know you had to do in the first place.

It really is a great advantage for your body to take care of all that stuff automatically. Unfortunately, it is not a profitable business to identify and transplant those genes that automatically mitigate some cause of death. Pharmaceutical companies derive more revenues from treatments than permanent cures.

Open source biology is the only way the genetic advantages of centenarians will ever filter out to the general human population.

What if instead of taking an ever-changing list of pills to survive just one more year, you could get an injection of re-engineered cells that would last for decades? The only path to that future is spending the research money now, as an investor, rather than later, as a drug-dependent customer.

Samarami's picture


    "...We cannot make ourselves live forever..."

What you don't understand, Blammo, is that the world revolves around MY belly-button, not yours.

My world.

Thus, if I die (note I did not say when I die) I'll take the world with me -- including "forever" (well, time as I know it).

The advantage of this outlook is in the knowledge that YOUR world revolves around your belly-button, whether you acknowledge it or not. That helps me to understand that you didn't get out of bed this morning looking for ways to denigrate or find fault with me.

Is this a joke? Not.

It is, as I see it, the root of libertarian philosophy. Everything else is muck-raking.


Log from Blammo's picture

You will die, eventually. At some point the energy gradient of the universe will no longer be sufficient to support the computational demands of human consciousness. When the whole sky is dark, and you are floating in an unending expanse of cold iron dust, and you haven't yet worked out how to get yourself to a younger universe, you just might not make it another trillion years.

My point was that the only way to achieve extreme longevity is make it so that we don't need to check off a thousand items on our survival checklist every day. It has to be automatic, divorced from conscious intent. It doesn't have to be genetic. We could have tiny programmable machines in our bodies doing all the work instead of natural cellular activity, but at the moment, that solution is more difficult than genetics.

But even then, we have no idea what causes of death might crop up in people who live to be 200, or 1000, or 100000 years old. You don't know it can kill you until someone dies from it. It may well be that 1000-year old humans can die unexpectedly because they simply remember too much, and a millennium of memory entangles itself to the point where any common, everyday stimulus biochemically cascades into catatonic episodes of drowning in your own memories. You might have to selectively forget things in order to live normally. And if you have to forget the first 500 years of your life 1000 years from now, isn't that almost like the you that you are now is dying in the future, even though the body goes on? Your past self is killing your future self, so your future self has to murder the past self to survive.

You can twist your brain up in knots on that one.

Samarami's picture


    "...You can twist your brain up in knots on that one..."

I'll start with makin' it to 1,000 (I'm near octogenarian now and counting up fast) -- will I still suffer the perplexity of racking my brain to remember why it was I came into this room???



Glock27's picture

I thought that waas a science fiction piece, B grade movie. You are always in my thoughts Sam.