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Taking the long view

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Apr. 17th, 2003 | 11:17 pm

A few days ago I was at a friends house and saw a few minutes of the SciFi channels pilot for a show based on Phillip Jose Farmer's riverworld works. In the story, all of humanity that has ever lived gets resurrected on a large planet in some indeterminate point of time in the future.

Which led me to think about death, dying, and what you can do about it.

One thing I realized about myself is when in a less pessimistic mood, I think the intensity of my motivation for trying to clean up our environment stems from an analysis I don't think many people have made. (Well except for the transhumanists)

Basically, given current predictions of life span, I should be able to live somewhere between 2050 and 2091 (79 to 120 years old). The current IPCC climate change scenarios are only predict up to 2100. There are plenty of people (in industrialized countries) who will live to see 2100. (assuming civilization doesn't collapse)

50 years ago humanity discovered DNA now we can move genes at will between different organisms, use retroviruses to add new genes to adult cells, have a reasonable map of the coding regions of our own genome, and are making progress at determining the biochemical pathways controlling cells.

So in another 50 years, since we already have ideas what controls cells aging and can immortalize cells for research, I suspect we could develop drugs to break past the currently accepted upper limit for human life span of 120 years.

I suspect by 2100, we should understand how neurons work and how they store information. With that it may be possible to copy that information into some software and then start running a simulation of the digitized brain. If you're a reductionist, the simulation should be nearly indistinguishable from the organic person.

And once you can make backup copies of yourself, pretty much the only way to cease existing is suicide or for all the copies to be in the same star system when the star dies. (or for the universe to end)

I think the biggest question is whether or not it would actually be possible to capture all of the state of a brain.

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Comments {5}

Freya

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from: moonglade
date: Apr. 18th, 2003 05:10 am (UTC)
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How do you know you aren't already a brain in a jar somewhere and this is all just some kind of nightmare! ;)

120 years! I think thats just for people who live in obscure russian towns.

In a lot of ways I'm quite glad my life won't be anywhere near that long. I'm hoping it will be just long enough to get things done! :)

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Diane Trout

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from: alienghic
date: Apr. 18th, 2003 09:20 am (UTC)
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I think there was some french woman who also made it to somewhere near 120.

Yes, it's actually ironic that I'm arguing that extended life spans are possible since up until about 2 years ago I was still subject to bouts of suicidal depression. But after years and years of therapy, I don't get anywhere near as depressed.

I was also recently thinking about how life is just too short for me to become good at everything I'd know how to do. (So the only solution is to live longer)

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Robin

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from: solri
date: Apr. 18th, 2003 12:41 pm (UTC)
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I think the biggest question is whether or not it would actually be possible to capture all of the state of a brain.

That reminds me of an SF film I saw a while back. It was made less than a decade ago, but they were still talking about recording someones brain-state in terms of terrabytes.

I'm dubious about the idea of mind backups in any case. We need to know a lot more about consciousness before we can even approach the idea.

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Diane Trout

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from: alienghic
date: Apr. 18th, 2003 02:24 pm (UTC)
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I'm dubious about the idea of mind backups in any case. We need to know a lot more about consciousness before we can even approach the idea.

I'd agree, that's why my prediction puts that 100 years in the future. And I suspect it'd be a lot like fusion research today, with small steps and not really a clear idea of how long until such a thing might work.

Some of the starting research is already being done, like the neurochip, or perhaps Neural prosethetics.

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Usqueba

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from: usqueba
date: Apr. 19th, 2003 08:24 pm (UTC)
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... the SciFi channels pilot for a show based on Phillip Jose Farmer's riverworld works.

Oh how cool! I read that series a long time ago. I think I donated it when I moved out of my parent's house tho. I don't own it any more... I don't think.

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