Volume 10 no 55. First published June 1996. ISSN 0964-5659.
e-mail: Internet email@example.com
Who Should I Believe? Chrissie Loveday
The Revival of Longevity Genetics Leonid A.Gavrilov et al
The Quality of Life After Cryonics Mark Muhlestein
Cryonics and Population Peter Merel
Bad Law vs Cryonics Robert C.W. Ettinger
A Tasty Vegetarian Health Shake Dr Steven B. Harris, M.D.
A recipe for intelligence John K. Clark
Quantum Computers John K. Clark
Correspondence on The Purpose of Life Michael R. Davis
Ribavirin, Antibiotics, Colds and Influenza (various)
Lifespan and Survival Time Mike Darwin
Why be immortal? Deck Hazen
Population Growth and Declining Death Rates Gregory Bloom
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) Doug McKee
Resistance To Immortality Concepts Don Ashley
Fostering Public Understanding of Cryonics Brian Wowk
Paris IPSEN Conference Samuel Cronin
Exercise, Calories and genes Doug Skrecky
The Big Health Fraud Brian W. Haines
Single copy rate 3.50. Subscription rates four issues of 32 pages:- 20 (15 by Banker's Order UK only). Cheques in British Pounds should be drawn on a UK bank and should be made payable to "Reeves Telecommunications Laboratories" Alternatively, dollar checks for $34 can be accepted if drawn on a U.S. bank and made payable to "J. de Rivaz". Contents are provided for information only, under the right to free speech. Opinions are the authors' own. No professional advice is intended. If you wish others to be legally responsible for your health, life or finances, then please consult a professional regulated according to the laws of your country.
Who Should I Believe?
by Chrissie Loveday
Standing at the top of our beautiful cliffs, looking at the blue sea, glorious clouds of pink Thrift surrounding our feet, we often think we are seeing a view that could have been unchanged for thousands of years. Turning back to the land, there are signs of all the things we have changed over the past few hundred years and less. Long strides of telegraph and electricity poles; houses with large TV aerials and satellite dishes; cars and lorries grinding up the steep hills, along metalled roads. We return home, still in sight of the wonderful sea view, switch on computers and begin to visit the rest of the world through the Internet, or maybe watch the world's news on TV.
A true product of the latter half of the twentieth century, I love the facilities at my disposal. I love the facility of instant information. Just by pressing a few buttons I can be a part of everything important that is going on. I like being able to chat with friends in New Zealand, sharing the trivialities of everyday life; a quick message to the States to check if another friend's baby has arrived; the quick message to the publisher to check on some minor point for a book. Yes, communication has become so easy and I don't even have to understand the technology that made all this possible!
Inevitably, there is a down-side. In my more cynical moments, I complain bitterly about the enormous piles of information we are expected to digest. I complain that I am receiving too many points of view, which cloud my own ability to judge the true situation. How do we ever truly know what is fact or fiction, or merely a news hound desperate for a story? After several days of everyone's constant repetition of their version of the true facts, I switch off and begin to believe in anything that opposes what is being shouted. (The typical child who always does the reverse to what they are told!) If I hear much more about B.S.E. and the possibility it can pass to humans, killing us all off with a dread disease, I shall go on an exclusive diet of beef and its products. The sun is harmful; eggs still contain salmonella; fish contains mercury (so do some dental fillings); processed foods contain too much sugar ... I could go on! Even the politicians are all doing their utmost to persuade me that I should never again vote for any of them.
Perhaps the one of the most harmful features of today's world is the need for news to be fed to us by television, radio and the press, available on a twenty-four hour basis. The race to be first to bring the news is ever present. The more sensational you can make it, the better. "News is just coming in about ....." usually heralds the week's latest horror. Recently, we have heard of the Dunblane massacre, the Hobart massacre, atrocities in more countries than I can spell. Every reporter has the true facts, latest update or on the spot interviews. Would there be so many atrocities if they all went unreported? A moot point. We all feel we should be given information and facts about everything that is going on. I sense it almost becomes compulsive to switch on every time a news broadcast is due. But how do we know who is giving the true facts? Everything is coloured by the opinion of those reporting the so-called facts. Ask two people to describe a scene they have both witnessed and immediately, one sees a difference in what was witnessed. Read the same story in two newspapers and see the variations. As time passes, the information gains additions and the truth becomes bent just a little, coloured to make the story that bit more interesting.
Who should I believe? Should I give up everything that is potentially harmful or take every new chemical that is discovered to cure, prevent or avoid any disease or condition? What is beneficial today, will probably be poisonous tomorrow. (According to someone!) Or is at as someone reported this week, no longer a matter of science but is purely political. I'd impose a personal news blackout, but I'm afraid of missing something!.
The Revival of Longevity Genetics
by Leonid A.Gavrilov, Natalia S.Gavrilova, Galina N.Evdokushkina, Yulia E.Kushnareva, Victoria G.Semyonova, Anna L.Gavrilova, Evgeniy V.Lapshin, Natalia N.Evdokushkina
Center for Longevity Research at A.N.Belozersky Institute, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia (electronic mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) and Institute for Systems Analysis, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
In order to understand the mechanisms of human longevity and the opportunities for extension of human life span, it is important to know the contribution of familial and genetic factors into human longevity.
Our previous debates in Science (1) on the mechanisms of mortality and longevity have encouraged us to re-examine the problem of heterogeneity in human populations with respect to familial longevity. It is well known that familial component of longevity is very small although it is statistically highly significant (see (2) for references). What is less known is that longevity data in all previous studies were not controlled for parental age at reproduction which proved to be important negative predictor for longevity (3, 4). Thus, previous estimates of familial component of human longevity might be highly biased (underestimated) because of positive correlation between parental longevity and their age at reproduction (dead parents do not reproduce!). We report here new, much higher estimates for familial component of human longevity controlled for parental age at reproduction.
___________________________________________________________________ TABLE 1 Daughter's Longevity as a Function of Father's Longevity and Paternal Age at Reproduction ___________________________________________________________________ Daughter's Longevity +- Standard Error (years) Paternal Longevity, Total Data Controlled for (years) Uncontrolled Paternal Age (20-29) at Data Reproduction (sample size) (sample size) ___________________________________________________________________ 30-49 64.7 +- 0.9 63.0 +- 1.6 (320) (119) 50-69 65.0 +- 0.4 65.3 +- 0.9 (1,418) (344) 70+ 67.2 +- 0.5 69.4 +- 1.1 (1,170) (220)
Thanks to the generous support from INTAS (grant #93-1617) we have collected and computerized genealogical data on longevity in European royal and nobility families
The results of our data analysis are presented in Table 1.
It is shown in the Table that longevity of daughters born by long-lived fathers (70 years and above) was 67.2 +- 0.5 years in our sample (number of cases, n=1170) while daughters born by short-lived fathers (30-49 years) lived 64.7 +- 0.9 years (n=320). Thus, the difference is 2.5 +- 1.1 years only and this small difference is consistent with previous observations (see (2) for references). After controlling for father's reproductive age (reproduction at young age of 20-29 years only) daughters longevity becomes equal to 69.4 +- 1.1 years (n=220) in the case of long-lived fathers and 63.0 +- 1.6 years (n=119) in the case of short-lived fathers (6). Thus, the difference is 6.4 +- 1.9 years and this is much higher estimate than any other estimate ever made before (when data were not controlled for parental age at reproduction).
The results presented here indicate that familial (and perhaps genetic) component of human longevity was underestimated and deserves re-examination in future studies. In particular, it might be interesting to reconsider this problem using animal models (drosophila, rats, mice, etc.) and larger genealogical database controlling for mother's age at reproduction and other confounding factors.
This research was made possible in part by INTAS grant #93-1617. We would like to acknowledge the support from Mr.Georges V.Ostachkov and Mrs. M.N.Apraxine from Brussels for their assistance in getting Russian genealogical data. We would also like to acknowledge very helpful comments on our results made by the participants of the scientific meeting "Longevity: To the Limits and Beyond" organized by IPSEN Foundation (Dr.Michel Allard) in Paris on April 19, 1996.
References and Notes
1. L.A.Gavrilov and N.S.Gavrilova, Science, 260, 1565 (1993).
2. L.A.Gavrilov and N.S.Gavrilova The Biology of Life Span: A Quantitative Approach, V.P.Skulachev, Ed. (Harwood Academic Publishers, Chur, London, 1991)
3. L.A.Gavrilov et al., in Ageing in a Changing Europe. III European Congress of Gerontology, Abstracts, D.L.Knook et al., Eds. (NIG, Utrecht, 1995), #020.0027.
4. L.A.Gavrilov et al., Longevity Report (ISSN 0964-5659), 10, No.54, 7-15 (1996)
5. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels. Genealogisches Handbuch der Furstlichen Hauser, (A.C.Starke, Marburg, 1980).
6. Human longevity was calculated for adults (those who survived by age 30) born in 18th and 19th centuries. The data for those born in 20th century were excluded from the analysis in order to have unbiased estimates of longevity for extinct birth cohorts.
The Quality of Life After Cryonics
by Mark Muhlestein -- email@example.com
Adapted from an Internet discussion
I liked Brian Wowk's comment on the Internet about many people being more afraid of life than death, and I think it applies here. In all honesty I mean nothing pejorative by that; I certainly don't blame anyone for being afraid of the unknown, particularly something so foreign to 20th century life as a future capable of cryonic revival is likely to be. And death per se is far from the worst fate imaginable.
Since I consider the odds for success of cryonics to be good, I regard this subject to be one of great importance. Curiously, it is one on which I have seen relatively little public discussion. This lack is no doubt partly because it seems intuitively obvious that health and life are better than sickness and death. Nevertheless, I think fears cannot be trivially refuted, and merit serious discussion.
Convincing someone that cryonics is worthwhile is a worthy challenge. In the discussion that follows, I'll assume that we are "lucky", and technology and society develop favourably for cryonics. So would such a life be worthwhile?
One way of approaching that question is to consider the case where medical technology advances rapidly enough to keep you alive and healthy until you arrive at that same future date on which you would have been revived had you been frozen. Just to make it concrete, let's say it is March 16, 2096.
If you are still alive on that date, it will be either because you have chosen to live, or because you are being kept alive against your will. I consider the latter possibility to be remote. What would be the motivation for it? Who would benefit from it? We have seen a steady evolution among educated people away from slavery, and towards a greater recognition of and respect for the value of others. It seems to me that, if anything, advancing technology has lessened the motivation for enslaving others. And since individual power and resources are likely to be greatly increased, it becomes that much harder for any would-be enslavers/mind-controllers to achieve their goals. Further, I will admit to a somewhat naïve faith that those who favour the worth of the individual actually do have an advantage over those who don't when it comes to innovation and creativity. If so, that increases the probability that the "right" people will have power when you are revived.
For these and other reasons it seems reasonable to take a more positive view of humanity, and consider that people will find it rational and desirable to allow others the same privileges they themselves want. This is not really a radical proposal; after all, future beings will either be continuations of biological humans, or the creations of such. I see no reason why elements of the human experience such as curiosity, adventure seeking, the search for spiritual transcendence, love, nurturing, the appreciation of beauty, etc. will suddenly lose all meaning just because we can manipulate matter on a finer scale.
So, if you are alive on March 16, 2096, it is likely that you will want to be alive. Given that you would want to be alive then, it is not absurd to conclude that you would also want to be alive if you had just been revived. It would take some time to catch up to where you would be had you not been frozen, but in the long term I see no good reason why you would be inherently at a disadvantage. Unless those reviving you were malevolent, you could be given the opportunity to take advantage of all the fruits of the past 100 years learning and technological development. Your particular set of skills, experiences, knowledge, and so on will be one more valuable starting point in the sparse, virtually infinite multidimensional space of possible beings.
To me, this answers Jeff Soreff's worry that AI's and uploads will make biological humans uninteresting. Yes, it may well be that the limitations of our biology would be somewhat confining in such a world, but that same biological human makes a fine starting point for a more ambitious entity who was willing to undergo a (probably gradual) process of self-transformation. We can only speculate about what life would (will?) be like in such a world, but since we are the ones who will be creating it we have a chance to steer things in the directions we want. That is one reason why I have hope for us hominids.
Let's now consider the case where you are not alive 100 years from now because one or more events cause you to not want to live, even though you could. Now let's suppose that instead, you had been previously frozen. When you are revived, if you see that some unacceptable situation obtains, again, unless those reviving you are malevolent, you will have the option of making that same choice and offing yourself. Just think of all the creative ways you could commit suicide if you had mature nanotech at your disposal!
That pretty much leaves the case of the malevolent reviver. As I said previously on the Internet, I'm willing to take my chances on that. Seriously, what would be the motivation for the torturer to go to the trouble of reviving someone just to mistreat them? It's true that there is a dark side to human behaviour; the past century provides ample evidence of that. However, I am convinced that people who have their basic wants met, and who will by definition have a large probability of many future interactions, will have a powerful incentive to cooperate together. Others have mentioned Axelrod's work in this connection, and it is manifoldly applicable for beings of indefinite lifespan.
Considering the kind of power at the disposal of those with the ability to revive a frozen person, it would have to be a depraved madman indeed, in a very sick society, to want to commit such a heinous act as reviving a helpless cryonicist for purposes of torture. And what about the cryonics company that has steadfastly kept its charges safe through all the intervening years? Would they not mercifully destroy the frozen bodies if they could see that things were taking such an ugly turn? I'm sorry, but I just can't convince myself that this concern is legitimate. You might as well worry that space aliens will come snatch you for torture. Or worse, what if some evil being comes back from the future and snatches some earlier version of you for torture? Since you have already existed, it's too late to stop that! Oh no!!!
To those who say "cryonics is not what I want": you must be alive in order to "go after what you want." Actually, nobody I know "wants" cryonics. It is more like something to put up with in order to open up other possibilities. Your statement is like saying "digging this bullet out of me is not what I want" after having been shot. Clearly, in both cases it is life that is sought, not the treatment necessary to preserve it.
If you wish to invoke the "may be"s of future life, why not worry about all the folks who piously believe your eternal soul is headed to a place which makes a "pain-racked island of consciousness" look like a Sunday picnic? At least yours might end with the heat-death of the universe. (Let's face it, we agnostics are dilettantes when it comes to graphic depictions of hell.)
As I have strived to show above, I consider the odds of something worthy of the description "long, healthy life in an interesting future" to be vastly more likely for anyone who is actually revived. And if one is talking about "nothingness," there is nothing to fear either way.
I don't recall ever purporting to offer anything more specific than a long, healthy life in an interesting future. Do you suppose your kids will enjoy watching you fall apart any more than you yourself will? Particularly since the odds that they will have access to indefinite lifespans are considerably better than yours, and with them knowing it might have been different?
My own father died at age 59 when I was 21. I miss him terribly, even after twenty years, and I'll never see him again. Neither my wife nor any of my children will ever see him or know him. Do you think I would consider that he was stealing the future from me if he had chosen to have himself cryonically preserved? Quite the opposite is true.
Conventional views are conditioned by the fact that until recently, nobody has had a serious prospect of anything better. One hundred years from now, it is very likely that such views will be as dated as the medieval 40-year life expectancy seems today.
You would still be able to enjoy the passage of time and its attendant changes without having to regret the loss of anything you value.
What is an individual's "time?" For people born in the near future, and perhaps some younger people today, it is likely that common lifespans will be indefinite. Why should they have all the luck? If we can see it coming, why not try to take advantage of it? I see no moral issue in trying to save life when it is possible. I find it hard to imagine that you would stand idly by and not try to apply life-saving measures to your mother if you were present when she had the misfortune of being injured in an auto accident. Surely you would not say, "I wouldn't want my mother to live beyond her time, and this might well be her time." That would be preposterous.
Why not live one day at a time, but with an eye to the future? In the unlikely event that life becomes intolerable with no prospect of getting better, we can imagine ways of dealing with that. But for me, the stars beckon, and I just hope there is time before the end of the universe to do all I want to do. Why not?
Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - DT
Cryonics and Population
by Peter Merel
It appears that there is a good chance that Cryonics is a valid medical treatment. Medicine is good. Medicine enriches our lives and sustains our loved ones. There should be no legislation against valid medical treatments.
Of course, there's still a real chance that cryonics won't work, or won't work well enough to make a difference. If cryonics doesn't work, then it's pretty silly, but no sillier than fancy coffins, marble headstones and family crypts. It's not really more expensive than those things either, because you can pay for it with a life insurance policy.
We still have teleological concerns. What about evolution? What about population? The first of these is trivial - we've already entered the era of evolution-by-design, and we have no reason to think that can not perform the role of evolution-by-chance. Indeed, since men are natural creatures, created naturally by evolution-by-chance we might say that evolution-by-design is a natural consequence of evolution-by-chance, and not something to concern us.
But the population issue is a damned good question. Here's some answers - you might have better ones, but these were handy from an article I just wrote for Internet Australasia:
On Earth there are now1 about six billion humans. Our population is growing exponentially, presently doubling every forty years. UN figures2 suggest that ecological limits will restrict world population to 10-12 billion after 2050, but there are reasons to think that a population of no more than 2 billion3 can be sustained over the next century without unprecedented improvements in technology.
The stress that human population is placing on the rest of the biosphere is already producing4 species extinctions on a greater scale than the death of the dinosaurs. Soil degradation5, loss of biodiversity6 and large-scale pollution7 proceed unchecked around the world. Some analysts predict global systems failure as early as 20308
So what? So if we don't develop nanotechnology within the next century, then it's irrelevant whether cryonics works or not, because humans and most other sophisticated(?) life forms on the planet will be dead. Even if cryonicists put together automated crypts to survive the catastrophe, it seems likely based on past experience that the next technological civilization on the planet will take 65 million years or so to evolve, by which time the cosmic-ray damage alone should make the effort nugatory.
Nanotechnology9 seems to be the only way out - if we can't develop it before the end of the next century, then we and our societies are all goners because of the overpopulation and environmental problems explained in detail at the URLS quoted above. If nanotech succeeds, then that will provide us with the ability to heal the planet and end resource scarcity10 as well as to get humanity off the planet en masse11.
Now of course nanotechnology is the very thing that the cryonicists are counting on to get themselves revived. So if they can be revived then nanotech works and population will no longer be a problem, and if nanotech doesn't work then cryonics won't work but that doesn't really matter because then we're going to be extinct.
So, for my money, the real problem here is not whether cryonics will result in successful resuscitation or not. Wowk's and Merkle's material give excellent reasons for thinking that it might. The real problem is people here assuming that the future depends on morality, rather than on technology. My advice is to learn to respect other people's choices and to open your minds to uncertainty. If that doesn't sound like a good idea to you, then read reference 12 for some philosophical reasons for reconsidering your way of thinking.
This article is associated with a web page and mailing list. You can access the web page on reference 12 below.
World Wide Web References:
Bad Law vs Cryonics
by Robert C.W. Ettinger (Cryonics Institute)
Some fossilized barbs have been directed against cryonics in recent months on the Internet from uk.legal, posted there and on Sci.Cryonics & Sci.Life-Extension. In view of the possibility of saving a few lives, I'll try to add my bit to the discussion from time to time. Today I'll just focus on the incredible effrontery of attacks on the cryonics/immortalist movement, which is tiny and beneficent, by members of the legal establishment, which is enormous and malignant - a running sore on the face of humanity, depleting our strength and stinking to heaven.
Of course some modest qualifiers are in order. Many lawyers and judges are medium honest, in their fashion - and surprisingly honest against the historic background of pervasive corruption. Judges and lawyers have always been subject to constant opportunities and temptations for venality, and the present U.S. and U.K. systems are not bad by past standards. But that is faint praise indeed; in absolute terms, the legal profession is exceedingly backward and crammed full of thievery and bias. Let's first look at a few of the disgraces in broad terms.
1. Perhaps the least objectionable segments of the legal profession are in the clerk-assistant type functions, where the lawyer or solicitor merely helps a client navigate paperwork and deal with bureaucracies, as in drawing wills and contracts, reading real estate abstracts, etc. But even here the profession is close to the medieval guild heritage -- a self-serving, self-perpetuating monopoly receiving exorbitant fees for routine and usually simple work. Some small corrections have begun, in the form of allowing paralegals to do some of the work previously restricted to attorneys. This needs to be pushed much further, and the underlying structure simplified and rationalized.
2. The whole adversary system is a medieval holdover of the bizarre concept of trial by combat of champions; whoever hires the best legal gunslinger is likely to prevail.
Unlike almost any other profession, in adversarial law it is considered a mark of merit to lie, cheat, and steal on behalf of a client. Lawyers are proudest of those cases they won that had the least merit. In Michigan, and probably elsewhere, new lawyers being sworn in take an oath NOT TO ACCEPT AN UNJUST CAUSE - but of course that is totally ignored under the "right" of an accused or a litigant to the most vigorous representation.
Many improvements have been proposed, and some implemented to a small extent, including expansion of use of mediation and arbitration; but much more needs to be done.
3. The guild frequently protects itself at the direct expense of clients. For example, it is common in the U.S. for a husband in a divorce case to pay for both his attorney and his wife's. The wife's attorney will often submit fraudulent billing, but the judge and the husband's attorney refuse to challenge it.
4. Much of the law is fossilized, with obvious and important reforms ignored for decades or centuries. Consider the question of "admissible" evidence. In most cases e.g. the results of "lie detector" or polygraph tests are not admissible, even though there is a good statistical base for estimating reliability. On the other hand, a jury is encouraged to use the "demeanour" of a party or a witness in arriving at a judgment as to truthfulness, even though it has been well known and scientifically proven for many decades that such judgments are extremely unreliable.
5. Judges -- even when they believe themselves honest, which is far from universally the case -- frequently hand down rulings based on their personal prejudices rather than evidence and law. Often in effect they make law rather than interpret it, using their personal views of the social effects of the ruling. And they are frequently incompetent to understand the evidence. Corporate trial lawyers tell me their hardest problem often is to couch the argument in terms the judge can understand and to which he will pay attention.
In cases such as last year's Simpson trial, typically nobody on either side, or on the bench, understands the probabilistic side of the evidence. The court conveys the impression that if a particular item of evidence against a defendant allows a reasonable doubt, that item of evidence must be ignored. But suppose there are (say) ten independent items of evidence, each indicating only a 10% probability of innocence, which might be construed as reasonable doubt in each individual case. Then the COLLECTIVE probability of innocence is only 10% to the tenth power, or one in 10 billion, which does NOT leave a reasonable doubt. Gross miscarriages of justice undermine the fabric of society.
6. The concept of guilt/innocence, or liable/not, needs to be replaced by a finding of PROBABILITY of guilt or liability. In effect, this sometimes happens, when we consider together both the verdict and the sentence or award; but it needs to be made explicit and uniformly applied, with jurists and jurors trained in the underlying disciplines. I have shown mathematically how this would improve results, in terms of reducing miscarriages of justice.
7. Lawyers like to pretend that the law, if sometimes irrational and slow to change, is at least consistent and conservative. This is not the case. Different jurisdictions, or even the same jurisdiction at different times, may produce wildly different results in very similar cases.
In a recent exchange I said something to the effect that the law does not [usually] try to dictate to a testator to whom he may make bequests; a UK.legal response was that the law does indeed impose restrictions, such as the rule against perpetuities and sometimes individual judicial restrictions. Of course: that is so obvious I didn't think it needed mentioning. Obviously, sometimes a relative will claim the testator was incompetent or unduly influenced; and sometimes a relative may claim a "right" to some of the estate based on previous relationships etc., and sometimes the court will agree. It remains true, in general, that in the U.S. and the U.K. we are free within broad limits to bequeath our money as we see fit, EVEN FRIVOLOUSLY. If bequests are permitted that are frivolous or arguably irrational, why should any court even remotely consider disallowing a cryonics bequest?
8. As noted above, most lawyers and judges are naïve about science and statistics. In the exchange just mentioned, the UK.legal writer gave his basis for estimating probability of revival of a cryonics patient -- and showed a near-total ignorance of the subject.
What he said, in part, was that if a man can jump 1.95 m, it is reasonable to expect a jump of 2 m by someone some time; but if the existing record were 3 cm, an expectation of a future 2m would not be reasonable. This is not an apt analogy.
To make a partial analogy to his analogy, consider predictions of a moon rocket in the early part of this century, when Goddard and Tsiolkovsky were advocating it. To what fraction of the distance to the moon had rockets carried people then? Zero. What fraction of the necessary computer electronics had been created then? Zero. Many "scientists" did not even realize that a reaction engine does not need an atmosphere to "push against." Yet the basics were in place -- payloads and accelerations could be calculated for various fuels -- and it was a reasonable assumption that the technical details would be worked out in due course. But hardly any experts recognized this at the time.
We have many technical references and detailed discussions to support our position that revival of present cryostasis patients is NOT a long shot.
Further and more important discussion to follow, when I get around to it.
A Tasty Vegetarian Health Shake
by Steven B. Harris, M.D.
Every so often as nutritional knowledge improves, I'm forced to update or revise my recommendations for the ultimate life extension instant breakfast. Here is the latest incarnation of that drink, which fills so many important nutritional needs that I thought many people on this newsgroup would be interested in it, as one more weapon in the fight to stay out of liquid nitrogen as long as possible. If you don't smoke and take vitamins, what's the single most important thing you can do to avoid your remaining cancer risk? I think after long study that very probably the answer is to cut way back on meat, and eat soy. This recipe makes it easy to start out. In human epidemiological studies, 20 grams of soy protein per day is plenty enough to make a significant difference in cholesterol levels and cancer rates.
For many reasons, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, just as mom used to tell you.
For one thing, in the A.M. your brain's hormonally controlled desire for carbohydrates is high, and for fat, is low. This makes it easy to eat "good for you" low-fat meals in the A.M., but increasing fat-hunger also makes it increasingly difficult to eat virtuously as the day wears on. We've all had this
For another thing, breakfast calories count less, as we know now. As it turns out, the popular idea that calories eaten in the evening are more likely to get turned into fat during sleep, is an old wives' tale which is perfectly true.
Since your body "counts" calories during the day, eating a significant amount of calories (even low fat calories) for breakfast offers you the opportunity to have the willpower to bypass those nutritionally disastrous foods which may be the only things you'll find in vending machines, cafeterias, or fast food places while at work.
But many people don't eat breakfast. They don't, because they don't have much time in the mornings, and they mistakenly believe that they should take advantage of the relative lack of appetite which many people have just after getting up (sometimes boosted by coffee, or even a cigarette). But this strategy doesn't really work, and in fact tends to backfire. We know that the average overweight person does not eat breakfast (beyond perhaps some wake-up coffee), has one or two high-fat snacks during the day, then begins to eat high-fat foods continuously from the time he or she arrives home from work in the afternoon, until time for bed at night. The results speak for themselves. Sometimes people think that the results would be even worse for them if they started eating at breakfast. But with the right breakfast, they are wrong.
A decently-planned breakfast shake is an alternative to the daily starve and binge cycle now trapping too many people in affluent countries. Such shakes are quick and easy to make with a blender, and are also easy to design to near nutritional perfection. The components of a good shake are carbohydrate, protein, fat, fibre, and flavour-- and with a blender it's
possible to put in exactly what we need, and still get something that tastes good. Let's take the components one at a time:
Carbohydrate: A little sugar is necessary for a good shake, but most of the calories ought to come from easy-to-dissolve, but nearly tasteless small sugar-polymers. These are intermediate in complexity between starch (which is hard to dissolve), and sugars. These smaller polymers are digested slowly enough not to raise insulin as much as simple sugars. The small sugar polymer product derived from corn is called "maltodextrin," and it can be bought under trade names like "CARBO-HIT" (Mega-Pro) in the body-building sections of health food stores. Any body-building product which is 100% carbohydrate, but contains no sugar, is maltodextrin (even if the label does not contain the word). Maltodextrin is a white powder containing about 225 Calories per 1/2 cup (56 grams). It is lactose-free.
Protein: Here the choices are between soy, milk, and egg proteins. Soy protein (available as 90-95% isolates in body builder sections of health food stores) has a number of benefits, including low methionine for low homocysteine production (unless methionine is added-- stay away from these products); and low lysine for low insulin levels. Soy is not quite so "balanced" in amino acid ratios as milk and egg proteins, but the differences are mostly due to the very same limiting amino acids which may make soy protein beneficial (limited protein is not a problem in Western diets). Soy products also contain other compounds like saponins and isoflavones (principally genistein) which both inhibit cancer (prostate, breast, colon), and impressively lower cholesterol levels (far better than equal weights of bran or corn oil). Soy protein is also present in soy milk, which is available in non-fat versions which have 6 or 7 grams protein per cup (don't bother with the 3 g protein per cup versions). Soy protein isolate contains about 60 Calories per 1/4 cup (13 grams protein). These soy isolates do not contain the high levels of protease inhibitors which cause problems in animals fed raw soybeans as a single protein source. Processed soy products are perfectly good foods for human consumption, as demonstrated by the diet and disease profiles of millions of Asians.
Fat: polyunsaturated omega-6 fats-- such as occur in corn or safflower oil-- lower cholesterol levels, but apparently increase cancer rates. On the other hand, most saturated fats, such as occur in coconut or palm oils; and also trans-fats, which occur in hydrogenated oils, raise cholesterol levels. Thus, the ideal fats to stave off fat-hunger and add calories, are the monounsaturate residue triglycerides, which lower blood cholesterol without causing cancer. The best sources of these fats are hazel nut oil, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, unhydrogenated Canola oil, macademia nut oil, and almond oil. Of all these, the author prefers almond oil, and finds that the others have peculiar "olive-like" tastes which are hard to hide in a sweet breakfast shake. Oil could be left out of a shake completely, but it's hard to fool the body completely about fat in the diet, and any shake which "sticks to the ribs" through lunch, must realistically contain a little fat. The 1 tablespoon of almond oil added to this shake (14 g fat) represents 120 Kcals.
Fibre: for fibre and body in a shake it's hard to beat a banana, which not only adds flavour, but also potassium and 100 nearly fat-free Calories. This, plus ice for cooling, and vanilla for additional flavour, completes our recipe:
Jenny Stein's "Soy Vey!" Banana-Vanilla Anti-Cancer Anti-Heart Disease Shake:
To a blender add:
1/2 cup maltodextrin
1/4 cup soy protein (no added methionine)
(This can be done as dry ingredients the evening before. A mix of 2 parts maltodextrin and 1 part soy protein powder (by volume) can also be made up in bulk, for even faster measurement)
In the AM add:
8 oz non-fat 6 or 7 gram protein per cup soy milk
(author's favorite: SOY-MOO brand)
1 tablespoon almond oil
5 drops vanilla extract
2 large ice cubes (made from distilled water)
1 large banana
Blend on "low" blend setting, until smooth (60 seconds or so), for a drink of 16 oz. Chug it down, rinse the blender under the tap, and you're out the door!
For other flavours, chocolate syrup or frozen strawberry fruit can be added to taste. Non-fat fruit yoghurts can also be added.
Nutritional Analysis (for the plain banana/vanilla version).
Protein: 20 grams (about 1/3 of daily protein requirement) Carbohydrate: 105 g (~30 grams sugar)
Fat: 15 grams (70% monounsaturate)
Energy: 615 Cals (Kcals), 20% from fat
Cost (Vanilla): About $1.75, depending on where you shop or mail-order. This compares reasonably to $1.50 for the same calories from 3 Carnation Instant Breakfasts with skim milk (200 Calories each). Calorically, an "Instant Breakfast" is not much of a breakfast. To be sure, it would be possible to duplicate the approximate food value in the above shake in the same volume at about the same cost with two Instant Breakfasts, condensed skim and regular skim milk to make 16 oz, and some almond oil. But the resulting drink would have milk casein in place of soy protein and soy nutrients, and also have a lot of lactose (unless you add lactase too...).
Again, note that some fat and fat-calories have been added deliberately, in order to avoid "daily Calories eaten late in the day" trap. There is no point in trying to make this a "low-calorie" shake -- that defeats the entire purpose of the thing! Also, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids have been not been addressed here, on assumption that supplement pills, fruits, vegetables, and other fat sources (Canola, linseed, fish) will be added later in the daily diet.
Some health-seekers will immediately think of adding the traditional "health-drink" things like brewer's yeast, vitamins, and lecithin to this recipe, and my advice is: don't. These things taste awful! Take pills with the shake if you must, but that is all. It takes an unusual person to drink something most mornings over the long run if it doesn't taste pretty good.
ENJOY! -- Steven B. Harris, M.D.
A recipe for intelligence
by John K. Clark <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I was only made aware of Drexler's thoughts on this subject second hand, through Carl Feynman, you're receiving it third hand from me, so if I say anything stupid in this article it is my fault, not Drexler's.
The idea that the Singularity could come in less that 20 years makes me weak in the knees, just like everybody else, and I'm not sure I really believe it could come that soon, but Drexler didn't just pull this amazingly short timeline out of a hat, it's based on calculations he made, even if they are informal and unpublished.
Seeing no reason current trends could not be extrapolated and using his considerable knowledge of the field, he expects to see the first assembler able to reproduce itself sometime in the first 2 decades of the next century. A full nanotechcomputer could be made almost immediately after that, because the design work will already be finished by then, as some people are working on that already. He figures that once we have nano computers it will only take a couple of years to develop superhuman artificial intelligence. At this point we have a mind (or minds) far more intelligent than you or me, and one that operates a billion times faster to boot. A few hours of that and the universe will never be the same again.
I can already hear the howls of protest. Even if you have the hardware, programming a nano computer to do anything useful would be a monumental task, and developing AI, superhuman or otherwise would be an astronomically difficult process. I think Drexler would agree with his critics that it will take many years to develop AI, many millions of years actually.
Drexler suggests we develop AI in the same way that nature developed intelligence, by brute force. Nature didn't need any experts with a deep understanding of intelligence or consciousness, intelligence just evolved, using only mutation and natural selection. We can do the same.
A recipe for intelligence: Build a simulated world in your computer and fill it with very simple creatures (programs). Make sure they must solve problems in order to get "food". The creatures that are better at solving problems leave more descendants. Now you do nothing, just step back and let it evolve. After evolving for a few hundred million SIMULATED years you have intelligence, high order intelligence.
How long would it take in real years? He calculated the amount of computer power needed to simulate ALL the brains that have ever existed before humanity, that is, all the brains since brains were invented in the Cambrian Explosion 570 million years ago. He concluded that 10^38 machine instructions would do the trick. A Nanotechnology computer the size of a large present day factory and using no more power, could perform 10^38 machine instructions in about 2 years.
Bottom line, you start with a nano computer but no software to run on it except a few simple minded programs, smaller than many you are using now on your home PC . 2 years later you've got an AI running on the computer, an AI at least as intelligent as a human and much, much faster.
As breathtaking as these changes are, it's really just engineering, Drexler invokes no new laws of physics and assumes no scientific breakthroughs. If there is one things would become even wilder. For example, if all the recent speculation about Quantum computers ever pans out and a practical machine is possible, it would make even Drexler look like an old fuddy duddy.
Somebody mentioned that safety concerns might slow things down, I doubt that it would, but perhaps it should. We are about to enter a period of gargantuan change happening in an astonishingly short amount of time, and that is an inherently dangerous situation, it would be foolish to deny it. The biggest danger is probably something that we haven't imagined yet, probably something we are incapable of imagining. In my darker moments I wonder if that could be an explanation of the Fermi paradox, the fact that we don't see any ET's and the fact that the universe has not yet been engineered.
In spite of the dangers I admit I'm happy about the coming changes, we might survive it, and the alternative after all, is certain death for all of us. If nothing else things won't be dull. The truth however is, it doesn't matter a hill of beans if you or I think it's a good idea or not, somebody, somewhere, will do it, and do it as soon as he thinks he can. The best we can do is prepare ourselves as well as we can.
Speaking of preparation, I don't want to be accused of promoting complacency as far as Cryonics is concerned. Even a man as brilliant as Drexler could be wrong, especially about something like a timeline, as it involves more than science and engineering, but economics and politics as well. It's safest if people plan for the worse and hope for the best. This is even more important for the leaders of the Cryonics companies. They should operate under the assumption that if it will take 1000 years for Nanotechnology to develop. If events in the next 20 years prove that they are wrong about that, I am certain nobody will be very upset with them.
by John K Clark <email@example.com>
In the April 12 1996 issue of Science there is an article on Quantum Computers. It makes clear that a practical Quantum Computer has not been proven to be possible, nevertheless the article had a very optimistic tone, an optimism I did not see just one year ago. If such a machine could be built the ramifications are mind boggling.
When a conventional 64 bit single processor computer performs an operation, it does it on ONE 64 bit number at a time. When a 64 bit (actually a 64 qubit) single processor QUANTUM computer performs an operation it does it on ALL 64 bit numbers at the same time, all 2^64 of them, more than a billion billion, and any increase in the number of qubits the computer can handle will increase it's already astronomical power exponentially.
It gets even wilder, because the quantum mechanical state of the matter in the machine's memory determines the output, Seth Lloyd of MIT thinks you could run the machine in reverse and the result would be a quantum mechanical micromanipulator.
Despite this enormous increase in performance and a possible short cut to Nanotechnology, most weren't very interested because it didn't seem like a Quantum Computer could ever be built. The slightest error or interaction with the outside environment would render the machine inoperative, conventional error correcting codes don't work for in the quantum domain and most said that correcting codes for quantum mechanical information was impossible.
They were wrong.
Late last year Peter Shor of ATT showed how to encode a piece of quantum information in a 9 qubit system so that the information is retained even if there is an error in one of the 9 qubits. A few months later researchers at IBM refined Shor's technique so that only 5 qubits was needed, and found ways to correct for multiple errors.
We still don't know for sure if a Quantum Computer is possible because these error correcting codes work for storing and transmitting quantum information not for the actual calculation, but most now think the problem is solvable. In fact both Shor and Lloyd have privately circulated ideas on how to do this but have not yet published. If this problem could be solved then we just need someone to put all the pieces together and make a machine.
I find all this very exciting, it must have been like this in the late 1930's when reports trickled in about nuclear fission and the idea occurred to people that a bizarre device like a nuclear bomb might actually be able to exist in the real world.
The Purpose of Life
by Michael R. Davis M.S. HTSC Physics
Regarding SETI searches, they have centred on the "water hole", Oxygen-Hydroxy RF signatures in ambient spectrum. These efforts were never funded seriously and had many technical difficulties. Recent investigations into the nature of planet formation via solar dynamics demonstrates that planet formation out of the residual solar disk in NOT UNIQUE, logically it follows that the gross estimates regarding the rarity of life in the Universe, which are centred on the number of habitable planets are in error. The fact that we haven't discovered any intelligent life during our searches may speak more to the relative difficulty of development of systems that are noisy. This relates to the fact that many specie demonstrate civil behaviour however, they cannot be detected at any appreciable distance. Regard the Dolphin and Whales, clearly they communicate at great distances however detection across light years is not possible. Would that imply to the distant observer that there was no intelligent life on earth if humans were not so Electromagnetically noisy? The question is ripe for argument...
It would be wonderful if one of the immortality ideas were funded fully. However, I think that the current climate excludes federal funding from consideration as a source.
I am in complete agreement with the preposition that the current "test" for intelligence is skewed toward our "kind" of civilization. Whales and Dolphins communicate across distances of several miles without external amplification. However, The U.S. space shuttle cannot detect the existence of any form of communication between them. I agree that efforts to extend the lifespan of individuals within specie enhances the development of the civilization. These efforts should be fully funded. The comparison that I make is similar to that which exists between the proponents of Fusion and Solar energy. It seems that all the scientific money pie is being spent on fusion (Billions and Billions of dollars), we have learned many interesting principles but have not developed any fusion reactors (with none planned anytime soon ARIES?). Progress has been made in the field of solar energy in a smooth and steady way, resulting in applicable technology that has lead to enhanced quality of life for Millions of people in the world. Take for instance solar ovens in semiarid and desert areas, or solar cell powered water pumps. or insulation....
See the comparison? It seems that the current scientific consensus is skewed toward research for research's sake. What is required is a change in the paradigm towards science for humanities sake. This shift in focus will naturally lead to increased funding of worthy efforts such as yours.
I agree with you totally with respect to lawyers and the drain that they cause on the scientific pool. The problem is that everyone in America wants fast cash and the way to get it is to sue the pants off some poor fool for whatever the reason. the revolving door policy where law is fluid naturally allows for the proper application of the scientific method (test and observe, record and vary, controlled conditions, variable accountability, etc.). This allows for the existence of no rule that is carved in stone and the continual reinterpretation of the law. What a waste of talent.
Regarding big science and small science, its all a paradigm thing, meaning that it is almost impossible to shake the convention wisdom during the lifetime of the "shaker". Note the problems that de Broglie had with matter waves, or the current problems with warm blooded dinosaurs and fractal dynamics as models of wide scale phenomena (Mandelbrot was released from IBM, this after they agreed that he was right). Its all about how the scientific paradigm is developed, continued, and reinforced. before any paradigm falls (is reinterpreted) massive amounts of money are spent making sure that there is something wrong. Once this is established the next step is permutation of the paradigm with the attendant expenditure of funds trying to make it fit. The final step is the replacement of the consensus opinion and "evolution" of the paradigm. Curious, the originator or the new idea is rarely incorporated into the paradigm or given credit as the
originator of the body of thought during his lifetime. Why is this? I believe that it goes to the fact that new ideal are outside of conventional science and therefore proponents of "new ideas" are radical. It takes time for ideas to be accepted and TIME IS MONEY. Look at the vast amounts of money spent on fusion as compared to all of the other areas of energy research. Billions just to learn or fine tune a concept. What I am not saying is that this research is wasted. What I am saying is that a finite fraction of all research money should be set aside for alternative concepts AND the judge of the worthiness or worthlessness of a project should have no vested interest in the current paradigm. A good example of the above is the fact that the DOE (department of energy) in America oversees all energy projects but DOE has vested interest in Nuclear, Conventional (fossil), and Fusion energy among others.
Therefore in a typical budget one will find minute amounts of funding for geothermal, solar etc. ( not much money is selling solar cells since its a one time profit if the cells last for their expected lifetime (>30 years). On another line look at the current research in AIDS, I really have a problem with the fact that the "way the disease progresses" keeps being reinterpreted as fringe data is substantiated by "established" researchers. Its an exclusive club, in short we are good because we say that we are good and others believe that we are good. Therefore if some young hotshot comes along he must pay his dues and not pull to hard to the left or right. Its the window washing approach to science. The problem is that there is more that one window but only one wash rag.
Colds and Influenza
I wrote the following on the Internet:
Ribavirin has been recommended anecdotally as a quick way to get rid of colds and flu, and antibiotics are also used to get rid of bacterial complications thereof.
I appreciate that viruses and bacteria can evolve immunity to drugs used to control them. But I am wondering whether this is the whole story. Could a given frequent user's body recognise and excrete the drug before it has exterminated the viruses or rendered them sterile?
If the only mechanism that renders these drugs useless is virus/bacteria mutation, I also imagine that as long as only a small part of any population uses these products the evolution of immune superviruses could be slow. But is this correct?
For many years there have been lozenges and other products sold that people can use if they are knowingly going into an environment contaminated with these viruses/bacteria. Is there any scientific evidence that these work? Are there any new products that may work better (Isoprinosine?)
Steve Harris, M.D. wrote:
Ribavirin does not work on colds, and as it actually can be mildly immunosuppressive (as well as horridly expensive) I don't recommend it for that.
It does seem to work well on the flu, and the fact that it isn't marketed for the flu in the US is as much a matter of politics as science. It's a wonderdrug for flu in animals, and (in most studies) also works in people. I'm reasonably sure this action is real. Amantadine is also useful for influenza A (the kind most people had the Winter before last).
Dr Love wrote:
Possibly, but I doubt it. Your body does recognize and eliminate drugs in the sense that your body has enzymes which degrade many strange molecules which enter the body (especially good at this is your liver) and these molecules and their by products are then eliminated by your kidneys, etc. So, yes your body can "recognize" and eliminate drugs.
BUT, if your question refers to a given body (assuming you are asking about specific differences from person to person), it is more complex. There is considerable evidence that some people "react" strangely to certain drugs. This may be due to their immunological history and the particular alleles (genes) the inherited, especially those involving liver enzymes.
All this leads to the fascinating world of Pharacokinetics, where gross generalizations and theories are often upset by in vivo experiments (which is why animal experimentation is REQUIRED, to determine even the most basic information about drugs).
With regards to your comment "If the only mechanism that renders these drugs useless is virus/bacteria mutation, I also imagine that as long as only a small part of any population uses these products the evolution of immune superviruses could be slow. But is this correct?"
True, or at least, the less use there is of a drug, the less likely it is that natural selection will promote a germ resistant to it. Note: much of the recent increase in TB (tuberculosis) is due to
1) people not continuing with their antibiotic therapy and
2) underdoing both of which are a great way to select for a drug resistant microbe. As the number of resistant TB bugs and their host (people) grow this will only get worse.
Lifespan and Survival Time
by Mike Darwin
It is interesting to note that lifespan is tightly correlated with survival time (i.e., how long the animal will survive in its natural environment before accident, macro- or micro- predation kills it). Mice live very short times. Shrews in areas with predators of small animals live even shorter lives, whereas shrews in areas with NO predators live MUCH longer.
Dogs (wolves) live a pretty long time, as do lions and other high-up-on-the-food-chain creatures like people. People of course, have big brains which they use to lord over everyone else with. But, I would point out that big complex brains, despite our pride in them, alas are still not the winners in the animal (as opposed to plant) survival sweepstakes. Birds have very thin skulls and rather small brains, they have metabolic rates which are far higher than humans (and speaking of endurance, geese in migratory flight have been instrumented and they make the endurance of ANY mammal I know of look pathetic by comparison). They also live inordinately long periods of time, particularly when you consider their BMR.
I keep finches: they live about 8-10 years. They run a core temperature that would fry me in a minute and they are extremely active. Even a plain old budgie (parakeet for us Yanks) can live 15 to 20 years! Mice live about 2 years and have roughly the same biomass (I'm guessing) and a LOWER BMR. Think about the repair capabilities evolution invested in budgies!
Birds however, are not very bright on average (although there are African Gray Parrots who can speak with vocabularies in the hundreds of words, speak appropriately (i.e., intelligently), and even do simple arithmetic and sort like objects (such as by colour, shape etc.). Some have scored above 80 on the Standford-Binet IQ test (100 is the human average, Koko the gorilla scored about 80). Always keep this in mind: fully half the human population has an IQ BELOW that of 100, and the curve is bell shaped. The take home message here is that there are apparently a lot of birds and gorillas that are as smart or smarter than fully half of 2.5 billion humans in the world. (also keep in mind that fully 3/4ths of the other half of humans, i.e., those with IQs above 100, are assholes, which cancels out any advantages their big brains give them).
Why are birds, despite their small brains, high BMRs and "fragility" so well invested with long lives? Some speculate that the average lifespan for the large avian raptors like the American Bald Eagle is in the 120 year range? Why? Because so far, anyway, wings have proved better than brains.
I have always loved birds, even as a child, long before I knew anything about evolution, biology, or lifespan. And I had birds most of my childhood (chickens, pigeons, starlings, canaries and budgies). Now that I am an adult and have only an indulgent lover to deal with, rather than a stern mother (the latter of whom loathes birds and reptiles) I am able to indulge myself. I have ducks, chickens, peafowl (my peacock is a spectacle of colour and cacophony of noise right now), pheasants, a pigeon (rescued from a cat's jaws when it barely had pin feathers), and two recently acquired, and very formidable African Grey Geese. It is sometimes shocking to me to realize that some of these animals may well outlive me. Indeed, a neighbour's Mynah bird which we "babysat" when I was a child (while its middle aged owners took a vacation) has long outlived its owners. We are told by their grandchildren that every once in a while still calls out Michaaaaeeeelll! in a perfect imitation of my mother calling me home to dinner! The bird is over 30 years old!
My geese are surprisingly smart and tough. And when a bird ages, it does so with great grace: they do not grow old and wrinkled like humans do or get gnarled joints (domestic turkeys being an exception: they have been bred only for fast weight gain and they age and die quite rapidly and frequently develop arthritis and feather "alopecia" near the end of their lives) but rather, shortly before they die, "go light"; simply loose body mass and die, often without obvious pathology. (Of course pneumonia and infectious disease, as well increased susceptibility to predation with ageing certainly cause most wild birds to die long before this happens).
My animals have taught me a great deal:
Dogs look up to men.
Cats look down on men.
Pigs (of which I have one) consider men their equals.
And birds, birds are above them all.
Masters of longevity.
Wings are still better than brains. But then, the story is not over yet...the "contest" not yet finished....
Why be immortal?
by Deck Hazen <dhazen@VOYAGER.CO.NZ>
I've been cruising the Internet Longevity group's correspondence for a couple of weeks now, and gone over a few of the back issues, and it strikes me that everyone takes for granted the assumption that all people want to live forever.
It's probably true, but I'd be interested to find out why. For myself, I think there are 3 motivations for my interest in longevity and immortality.
1. Like Miller Quarles, I'm very curious about what's going to happen next.
In particular I'd like to be around when we make formal and official contact with intelligent extra-terrestrial life. I'd also like to be around for (and participate in) the exploration of outer space. I see myself as a Jean-Luc Piccard sort of character wandering around the Universe sorting things out.
2. I want to re-live my youth.
The years I spent between the ages of 22 and 35 were the best years I've ever had, or could ever imagine (except perhaps to live those years again with more money). I'm enjoying my life now (at 45) and more so now that I've taken a more active interest in my health. But I still enjoy the things I did when I was 25 -- especially the night life, the clubs, the rock concerts, the parties -- and it pisses me off that I can't step into a nightclub these days
without being made to feel like someone's Dad, a chaperone, or a dirty old man. I have no intention of growing old gracefully -- I plan to be going to rock concerts when I'm 65 -- but I'd prefer to look and feel 25 again when I do it.
3. I think I have something to contribute to the betterment of the world and I'd like to be around to do more good.
I'm a member of several environmental and animal protection groups, I'm a member of a group trying to reduce the proliferation of guns in society, and I donate money to various other (what I deem to be) worthy social and environmental causes. In 10 years I hope to be able to give up my day job and live off my investments, and I plan to donate much of my new free time to similar worthwhile efforts. I could do more good if I lived longer, and if I was in good health while I was doing it.
If I thought that my immortality would be spent watching more television, plodding through a 9-to-5 job every day, and worrying about bills and declining health (that is to say that if I thought my immortality would be a never-ending extension of my life today) I probably wouldn't bother.
For me, it is because immortality (or even a greatly extended lifespan with better health) offers the promise of a better life in the future -- both for me and the world I live in -- that makes me so keen to see it happen.
Am I alone in this perspective? Are there other reasons I haven't considered? If all of us are thinking along the same lines are there things we can and should do to bring our hopes to fruition? Are there things we need to worry about -- like the government bringing in new tax laws to prevent us from living well in our advanced years -- or legislating restrictions on who gets to live longer and who doesn't?
I'd be happy to hear what anyone else has to offer on the subject (or take a reference to other sources if I'm going over old ground).
Population Growth and Declining Death Rates
by Gregory Bloom <Gregory.Bloom@EVOLVING.COM>
Achieving immortality is not likely to have much of an effect on the central problem of population. An expression which represents population at a given time t is:
P(t) = P(0) * ek * t
This expression is modified in an immortal (and still breeding) population by increasing k, the rate at which population increases. In either an immortal or mortal society, the fundamental exponential nature of population growth still means that you will ultimately run out of resources unless you create new ones. The effect of immortality is merely to shift the date by which you must come up with new resources a little sooner. To suggest that we must die so that we can postpone this schedule is somewhat heartless, at best. The earth is finite. If humans continued an exponential growth rate, earth would eventually become too small, and expansion into space would be desirable.
I suspect, however, that humans will transform long before the resources of earth are optimally allocated. By transform, I mean that we will control the structure of ourselves, in particular, our brains (or, more likely, some other embodiment of intelligence). This means that intelligence will be shaped by thought, rather than eat-or-be-eaten evolutionary forces. Once thinking and being become a function of thought, all our predictions about resource allocation, production and consumption are likely moot.
"Really, Greg, you should lay off the peyote flakes for breakfast! Doesn't it seem more likely the sun will grow to swallow the earth long before anything like this could happen?"
"Ummm, actually, if you look at the curves for growth rates of logic gate density, total gate production, total lines of executing software, scientific publication of genetic and neurological discovery, genetic manipulation, and stuff like that, it appears to even the casual observer that the curves for all this stuff are going to be nearly vertical in just a few decades. Some folks call this 'the singularity', and predict it coming to a neighbourhood near you sometime around 2035."
"Oh, and people will start interviewing themselves, too?"
"They already are."
by Doug McKee CRNA, 3024 La Vista, Bay City, TX 77414 409 244-4428
The wild Mexican Yam, Dioscorea Villosa, contains the precursor, the building block, necessary for the production of our adrenal prohormone called DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). Our bodies convert the building
block into the other adrenal hormones our body need. Unlike synthetic hormones that have been altered so as to be patentable, the precursor is converted into natural hormones so its bioactivity is maximal.
We have this prohormone in great abundance when we are in our early twenties but the conversion of cholesterol into this age-defying prohormone decreases rapidly until our demise. There is no other dietary source for the building block. The wild Mexican Yam gave us birth control pills and steroids as well. 200 million prescriptions based upon these compounds are dispensed each year.
There is a great deal of research material available concerning the results of raising ones DHEA level. Over 4000 medical studies indicate benefits ranging from a decrease in the incidence of cardiovascular disease to lowering cholesterol levels, reducing arthritis, PMS, osteoporosis, weight loss, relieving chronic fatigue and preventing some types of malignant tumours. Currently, research is being conducted using DHEA to treat AIDS, Alzheimers, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons Disease.
The structural integrity of every cell in our body is hormonally regulated. The health of each cell depends upon the cell membrane. Without adequate hormones to regulate the cell membranes, disease processes are much more likely. With healthy cell membranes disease processes and ageing are less rapid.
From The Physicians Guide to Life Extension Drugs, 1991 "Dhea protects brain cells from Alzheimers disease and other degenerative conditions. Nerve degeneration occurs most readily under low DHEA conditions. Brain tissue naturally contains 6.5 times DHEA than is found in other tissues. Eugene Roberts found that by adding low concentrations of
DHEA to nerve cell cultures he could "increase the number of neurons, their ability to establish contacts and their differentiation."
One reference you might care to look up is Bologa, L., et. al., Dehydroepiandrosterone and its Sulphated Derivatives Reduce Neuronal Death and Enhances Astrocytic Differentiation in Brain Cell Cultures, Journal of Neuroscience Research, 1987, 17,(3)pp. 225-34. You might not care to read it either, but I cited it just to let you see that there is indeed a basis for its inclusion in the research having to do with degenerative nerve diseases.
Approximately ten people with Post Polio Syndrome have tried the DHEA precursor product and have been impressed enough with the results to write Dr. McDaniel. That's good enough for me when it comes to a process for which medical science has no really viable treatment modalities.
The following schematic depicts the adrenal hormone production tree. The usual path converts cholesterol into pregnenalone and then into whatever active hormone the body is calling for the most. After our early twenties, our ability to convert cholesterol into Pregnenolone decreases so our ability to produce the other adrenal hormones decreases as well. Looking at the tree you can imagine if we have a limited amount of the building blocks the body will have to prioritize the hormones produced according to need. The other body processes asking for hormonal supplies will just have to make do with the amount available.
PMS and menopausal symptoms are a couple of excellent examples of the type of hormonal imbalance caused by this lack of supply. Arthritis is thought to be due to injury primarily and to the lack of calcium but is exacerbated by the lack of steroids to diminish the inflammatory processes before they become chronic. Severe arthritis is treated by prescribing steroids to help control the inflammation.
Almost unbelievably, to me anyway, thyroid hormone levels are increasing in people in a study group using the precursor. Knowing there is no connection between adrenal hormones and thyroid hormones I tried to dismiss the preliminary findings. Evidently increasing the health generally of cell membranes does have a salutary effect on even the thyroid cells ability to produce their hormones.
One theory holds that many people have a sub-clinical case of Hashimotos Thyroiditis. This inflammatory process then decreases thyroid function to a level which requires treatment. By giving synthroid the level is raised but the thyroid itself is suppressed and the cause of the condition continues.
Dr. William Regelson of the Medical College of Virginia is probably the worlds authority on DHEA. Dr. Samuel Yen at UC San Diego is also well known in the field.
Wild Mexican Yam Cholesterol Dioscorea Villosa \ / Pregnenolone / \ DHEA Progesterone / / \ Androstenedione Cortisol Corticosterone // \ / \ Testosterone Estrone Cortisone Aldosterone \ \\ Estradiol
Resistance To Immortality Concepts
by Don Ashley
Many people resist the idea of immortality. The excuses range from irrational to realistic. From having presented the idea of "arresting the ageing process" on the speaker's platform to diverse groups of people and spraying the concepts around various Internet groups, I found it constructive to list categories of excuses.
The best way to constructively deal with resistance is to listen and try to understand the rationale for such aversion.
A few of the most popular resistance issues include:
fears of population crowding
missing loved ones that don't stay
notions that social security will be drained
don't mess with God's plan
taxpayer-supported convalescent centres will drain the budget
old people are too slow, not fun
old people need to die to make way for youth
who wants to see 150 year old skin in the mirror?
can't have kids anymore, others will develop bigger families
would you go want to have sex with a 130 year-old?
don't get my hopes up, only to get let down
too far-fetched to give it mental energy
snake-oil salesmen are promoting it to make $
embarrassed to talk about it with my friends
the enemy or other countries might get it first
others might make money on it
having too much fun now
don't have time for it
other scientists might get the glory, not me
others have died, so should we
death is a relief from all today's problems
can't tolerate another 150 years w/ same spouse, job, car, house
who wants to spend 150 years hooked up in the hospital bed?
in 200 years average IQ will be 300, they will keep us around for pets
looking forward to meeting God in person
looking fwd to being reincarnated into something more exciting looking fwd to being w/ others gone by
looking fwd to infinite intelligence and answers to all q's
Saddam may spend $15 billion of his $30 billion on it first
don't toy around w genetics; who wants ears growing out their neck?
...the list goes on...
We are developing an essay contest for best commentary on the above categories of resistance.
Will have awards for most constructive, original, optimistic, pessimistic, ridiculous/humorous.
Would also welcome other excuses or resistance factors. Every excuse is a barrier to progress and delays public support for research. Every excuse must be acknowledged as being real and legitimate for the presenter.
We encourage people to verbalize their aversions because when they stay submerged, people act out by being sarcastic and destructive to the progress.
Care to participate?
USA tel 713-461-5550
Fostering Public Understanding of Cryonics
by Brian Wowk <wowk@cc.UManitoba.CA>
For the purposes of this discussion, "natural" = consistent with the laws of physics, "supernatural" = inconsistent with laws of physics (i.e. divine intervention). NOTHING is irreversible if supernatural means are admitted to consideration.
Suppose you are neurosurgeon. For the first time you are going to treat an otherwise inoperable aneurism by cooling the patient to 20'C, removing their blood, and stopping their heart for a full hour. You must explain the procedure to the patient and his family. Do you
a) Tell them that you are going to stop the heart and use cooling and special drugs to try and keep the brain viable during the procedure so that the heart can be restarted later, and the patient's life saved?
b) Tell them that you are going to kill the patient, leave him dead during the operation, but resurrect him from the dead at the end (hoping his soul will come back from heaven, and God will not be too upset with you for trampling on his turf)?
I'll give you one guess which one is used in real life.
The cure for ignorance is eduction. Let us then specify the precise nature of the eduction problem. The problem faced by cryonics and medicine today is the collision between the ancient beliefs that stopped metabolism = death and that death = a supernatural realm where God, not science, holds sway. Since medicine has now shown that stopping and starting metabolism is a purely technical procedure without any supernatural component, both beliefs can no longer be simultaneously true.
Which belief should our education process focus on reforming? I say teach people that stopped metabolism is not in itself fatal. This is the course that modern medicine has chosen when it explains concepts like hyopthermic circulatory arrest to patients and the public.
Perhaps you do not find the above self-evident. Well, there is another test we can apply. Let us ask which of the above education choices results in a calmer, more intelligent discussion of cryonics. This experiment has been done. For 25 years cryonics tried the "revive frozen dead people" approach. Audiences were told that cryonics is freezing dead people, but cryonics may still work because death is sometimes reversible. Discussions then invariably got bogged down in supernaturalism not science. Then about 8 years ago, I thought we should try the more sensible approach that medicine itself was taking. Specifically, explain to people that no one is dead until they are beyond all possible physical means of recovery. This approach was implemented in my first drafts of Alcor's Cryonics: Reaching for Tomorrow handbook, and in cryonics talks by people like Steve Bridge. The result was an immediate elevation of discussion away from issues like "Where does the soul go?" to "What is the nature of freezing injury?" and "What evidence is there that Nanotechnology can work?" The is the best proof that my definition of death (or, shall I say, my forced clarification of popular parlance) is the best definition for fostering public understanding of difficult medical issues.
Paris IPSEN Conference
by Samuel Cronin <samuelc@MAX.ROEHAMPTON.AC.UK>
On 19 April 1996 I attended a one-day symposium in Paris titled Longevity: To The Limits and Beyond which was hosted by Foundation IPSEN. The timing and setting of the Paris conference was particularly appropriate following the recent recognition of Mme Calment's claim to be over 120 this year. Since many of the topics discussed during this meeting would be of interest to the members of this newsletter I have written a summary of the exchanges which took place.
The general theme of all the discussions were based on the current global trends towards decreasing mortality and higher life expectancy, and to try to answer the question as to whether or not there is a limit to human life expectancy and if so what is it? It was well attended by 100-150 researchers with speakers representing both demographers as well as biologists including, among others, Jay Olshansky, Jim Vaupel, Jacques Vallin, Tom Kirkwood, Francois Schachter, Raj Sohal, Tom Johnson and Caleb "Tuck" Finch.
First up was Jay Olshansky who put forward his argument that, as previously found in the US, in France there appeared a practical (as opposed to biological) limit to life expectancy. This was convincingly portrayed with data that showed that in order for the life expectation of the French population, as well as the populations of other developed nations, to increase there would have to be a disproportionate decline in mortality. He pegged the practical limit to mean life expectancy (LE) at birth in France at about 85 which to be achieved would require a decline in mortality of just over 50 percent. An important point made was that although simple extrapolation of mortality/LE trends suggest this to be attainable, such predictions do not consider the biology of populations. For example, to reach an LE of 100, 18 percent of the population would have to live beyond 120 years (the currently accepted "limit" to human maximum life span (MLS)). Consequently, such trends could only be maintained following elimination of all cardiovascular diseases, cancer and the other significant killers. He concluded that although there is nothing we can do today to increase LE beyond 85 years, an LE beyond 85 may be achieved if significant medical and
scientific breakthroughs were made that allowed successful medical interventions in disease and deceleration of the basic rate of ageing.
Next up was James Vaupel who began his discussion by boldly stating that he believed that "the average baby born in France today will live to 95-100", his confidence apparently unshaken by the previous speakers line of reason. However, I regarded the ideas presented by Vaupel not to be too far removed from Jay's conclusion, since he expressed his deep belief that mortality rates will continue their current rate of decline due to the likelihood of future breakthroughs in science and medicine over the lifetime of today's babies that will be of the same magnitude as those seen during the last century. Quite rightly he exclaimed that "the future has proved to be not only unexpected , but to be surprisingly unexpected". He also presented data which suggested that the recent increases in the probability of reaching late ages (ie. 60, 85, 95) is increasing at a greater rate for later ages. He regarded this and other results to discredit the commonly held belief that death at older ages are mostly intrinsic, and that its almost impossible to reduce intrinsic causes of death.
Jacques Vallin then took a flight of fancy and speculated on the consequences of a 150 LE and models of fertility on future population size. Although I was not familiar with some of the models he used I couldn't help but get the impression that their complexity could not be justified by the apparent lack of raw data. Nevertheless, some predictions made included a 'stable' world population of 118 billion (150 LE/2.5 children per woman) by the year 2315, more than double that predicted if LE is 85. Also, age structure of a population with an LE of 150 would result in <1 percent under age 20 while > 85 percent over 100 years old.
The biological perspective of a limit to maximum life span (MLS) presented by Tom Kirkwood brought many feet back down to the ground but certainly did not rule out the potential of modulation of senescence through biomedical interventions. Tom also introduced the (so far neglected) evolutionary perspective of _why_ ageing occurs and how this enables the question of _how_ ageing occurs to be answered. He explained that the optimisation of reproductive fitness through the balance between somatic maintenance and reproduction (the disposable soma theory) was modulated by the expression of genes involved in maintenance of the soma and whose combined force provided a particular "longevity assurance" for that organism. He was of the opinion that for any organism with a particular longevity assurance there was an intrinsic limit to MLS in any given environment, but that changes in these underlying genes either through selection, transgenics, or by changes in nutrition, exercise or biomedical intervention may allow modulation of MLS.
This was followed by a series of talks on the emergence of centenarians and 'supercentenarians', the trends in their mortality between the West and East (China), and broad differences in their health presented by Jeune/Kannisto, Zeng and Forette respectively. Then there was a special presentation of the first ever Foundation IPSEN prize on Longevity, a new award which each year will be given to a scientist in the field of ageing and longevity, be he biologist, demographer or otherwise. This year Caleb Finch collected the award in recognition for his exceptional work on the neuroendocrinology of ageing, and his seminal text on longevity, senescence and the genome.
During the lunch intermission I spoke with, Jay Olshansky about his views on the possibility of significantly extending human lifespan in the future. I was interested to find out that he considers himself an optimist even though his research predicts small improvements in LE. If any advances were going to occur then he felt they would probably come from developments in pharmaceutical and the creation of new drugs or medicines along the same lines of Melatonin and DHEA.
The presentation by Francois Schachter covered the goals and some early results of the Chronos Project: the collection and analysis of blood samples from centenarians to create a database of certain characteristics strongly associated with long living individuals. One interesting finding was that certain HLA types are more common in centenarians than in controls, in particular DR1, DR11, DR13 in male and DR7 in female centenarians.
The concluding three talks began with Raj Sohals transgenic fruit flies overexpressing both catalase and Cu-Zn SOD: two of the most well characterised genes involved in oxygen free radical scavenging. He found their joint effect to be much greater than the effect of each gene overexpressed on its own with extension in MLS between 70-100 percent. More importantly there also appeared to be an improvement in "healthspan" with the flies exhibiting greater mobility into old age, a delay in the onset of the inability to fly and an improved response to X-ray exposure.
This was followed by discussion on the significant extension of MLS of more than 100% in the nematode C. elegans by a mutant form of a gene called age-1 by Tom Johnson. He explained that this result is very exciting since in means we 'might be able to significantly extend lifespan of even higher lifeforms (including humans) by single gene manipulations'. When questioned whether he would expect to see lifespan extension in humans of the same scale found in C. elegans he replied that he it is very possible to achieve equally dramatic effects in humans and that although development of the technology to accomplish this feat may take 5 years or 100 years, he sees it one day becoming a reality. He had also found several other genes such as daf-2 and spe-26 which produced similarly impressive results, and was near to cloning age-1.
The final speaker was tuck Finch who provided some interesting insights into the causes of non-genetic variations in life span; why there is a greater than five fold variation in lifespan among genetically identical individuals maintained under identical conditions. The main thrust of his argument was that random events during early development set absolute limits to the functional lifespan of certain organs. Included among these were the initial size of the cell pools of oocytes (determining length of reproductive period in females), neurons (determining the threshold of neuron loss beyond which major dysfunctions emerge) and stem cells from which immune cells are derived. This has obvious implications for Alzheimer's disease were there appears to be great losses of neurons. One factors suggested to effect cell pool size during development was influences from a neighbouring fetus. Such limiting factors were observed in both mice but not in C. elegans in which cell numbers are strictly controlled to ensure each individual has the same amount, which suggests mammals and lower life forms may differ in the origins of these non-genetic variations in LS.
Generally, I found the conference to be a really great combination of views - many conflicting - and despite being only one day a lot was covered. The conference will be repeated next year and I hope to go again.
Exercise, Calories and Genes
by Doug Skrecky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Low calorie or low weight?
Unfortunately exercise does not possess the age retarding effect of caloric restriction. Rats that lose weight by exercising do not live as long as those on a diet. The following chart derived from Journal of Applied Physiology 70(4):1529-1535 1991 tells the tale:
OF RATS AVERAGE OLDEST
A: controls 875 1200
B: exercised 978 1208
C: 30% restricted 1056 1322 (same weight as B)
D: exercised & 995 1328
E: 46% restricted 1088 1341 (same weight as D)
As can be seen exercising can even reduce the average (but not maximum) lifespan of restricted Long Evans Rats. However the real action is not with exercise or caloric restriction, but instead it is with life extending supplements. The following can be added to the above chart from Medical Hypotheses Vol.43 253-265 1994, which reported the effect of chromium picolinate on the lifespan of ad libitum fed Long Evans rats.
F: chromium 1320 1440
Caloric restriction may not help the elderly.
Caloric restriction instituted in infancy has been documented to retard ageing and extend maximum lifespan in numerous studies. When begun in early adulthood at 12 months of age caloric restriction exerts more modest effects with a 10% increase in average & maximum lifespan for B10C3F1 mice and 20% for C57BL/6 mice.1 Based on an average lifespan of 75 years for humans, the age of 12 months works out to 27 equivalent years for B10V3F1 mice and to 35 years for shorter lived C57BL/6 mice. Another experiment with C57BL/6 mice instituted either modest or severe calorie restriction at 25 months of age or 73 years in human terms. No alteration in lifespan was detected with changes in calorie intake in these old animals.2
Whatever the anti-ageing mechanisms of caloric restriction are, it appears they are not operative in old age.
1 Nutrition Reviews S66-S71 Vol.53 No.4 April 1995
2 Age 13-17 Vol.8 January 1985
A full life of 100 years in humans works out to about 36 months for long lived C3B10RF1 mice. Using severe lifelong caloric restriction this has been extended to 54 months or about 150 "mouse" years.1 However this does not represent a longevity record for mice. The Peromysus Leucopus strain of mouse appears to avoid the normal ageing process and lives to (for mice) absolutely ridiculous ages. In one experiment fully fed PL mice bred successfully at 65 months (180 years). Although they gave no appearance of ageing their mortality rate was not zero. Instead the low mortality rates established in adulthood persisted unchanged so that there was a roughly linear decrease in survivors with time. In one cohort 12 month survival was 94%, 24 month was 86%, 36 month was 66%, 48 month was 51%, 60 month was 39%. This experiment and the remaining mice were terminated after some mice had reached 66 months of age. It has been reputably reported that PL mice has reached over 98 months (270 years) of age.2
A critical examination comparing PL mice with other strains may yield clues as to what are the main mechanisms underlying the ageing process. If this could be applied to humans then the spectre of senility and old age disabilities may some day be eliminated in humans as well. Then instead of old age homes filled with vacant eyed 80 year olds, we'll have society's seniors remaining productive till (for instance) they wipe out on their motorbikes at 100 or 200 years of age.
1 Journal of Nutrition 641-654 Vol.116 1986
2 Growth, Development & Ageing 17-22 Vol.56 1992
The Big Health Fraud
by Brian W. Haines
Health is big business. Everyday new health foods are brought on to the market, new promises of better drugs to control wide ranges of disease and the shops are filled with packets of the latest discovery of some life extending herb from the Amazonian forests.
Most people want to retain their youth and few look forward to a decrepit old age with any degree of pleasure. Hardly surprising that when some new claim comes up that pledges to banish all ills the public will pour out money upon in the hope of keeping old age at bay. No one wishes to become old wrinkled and bald, consequently creams, lotions, pills and all the range of treatments collectively sold under the name of health cures enjoy massive public support.
The aim is to extend youth. Whatever the criteria of youth may be in the scale of years, most people have an ideal time of their life they would either wish to retain or aspire to achieve. The purveyors of dreams play upon these inner desires. Good health and youthful vigour go hand in hand. Who would have it otherwise.
The questions that bothers some people is simply one of principle. Should claims be made that cannot be or are not verified simply because the general public do not want the illusion shattered. In practical terms everyone knows life involves a certain amount of illness and disease, there are accidents and we all grow old. So far no one has beaten the system. There are no Methuselahs around. Certainly there are individual instances of people who have reached a verifiable age of 120 years. But they are not the general rule, neither have any of them followed any particular health regime. Or for that matter claimed to have taken pills to produce the result.
It is perhaps significant that in the United States where the standard of living is possibly the highest in the world, where the majority of people have more food in a greater abundance than anywhere else, where overweight and the need to diet is a problem, the sales of vitamin pills, health aids, eating fashions, and every form of health extension programme through new and every increasing range of proprietary food is extensively advertised and sold. A slimming programme has never sold well in the third world.
Strangely enough the quoted magical ingredients and philosophies of the health industry are to be found in the depths of the forests of poor and primitive underdeveloped nations. The next generation of drugs are coming from the newly discovered herbs of the Shamans and tribal healers of the rain forests.
Macrobiotic as a word was coined in 1797 to mean the art of prolonging life. Macrobiotic diets were introduced later and by 1890 well in vogue. It is not, as may be imagined by some, a new idea of the 1960's when great social changes took place. They were more in the form of a re-discovery and yet misunderstood. Suddenly only Zen Buddhists or equally far away Eastern mystics had the answer to all of the ills of civilisation. This is not to say Buddhists do not know how to eat sensibly, it is the interpretation put upon their ideas by a new generation of "alternative" life style practitioners that is the cause for comment. For the most part these have been young, vociferous and Californian. Time will tell whether they will live to a disease free an old age the prognosis at present does not support any "hippy" commune has a handle upon longevity.
It is a fact that for a million years or perhaps even longer, the human race managed to survive and multiply extremely well without the benefit of cooking or a wide choice of foods.
Going back further in time, the Dinosaurs grew to a great size upon a diet that enabled them to populate the earth for longer and in a more spectacular fashion than any other known animal. And no-one could suggest they had cookery books or theories of eating or special protein enhancing drugs to give them size and strength. Whatever may have been the reason for their extinction, there is no case that a handful of pills could have corrected it.
It is said by many of the experts that the human race in Western Society is living longer. There are problems anticipated in the health service and the pensions industry of the costs of maintaining an ageing population. As with most statistics such ideas need to be examined very closely to detect the real truth. In 1880 the same claims were being made. Medical advances and a rising standard of living were said to account for the increasing population. It was pointed out that in fact more babies were surviving but at the other end of the spectrum the older age groups were suffering from an earlier disease ridden old age due to the problems of pollution and over indulgence. Today the same is true except there are not so many children being born, the ones that are do survive, but there is no correlation between that and good health in the population in general.
People are convinced of a decrease in the level of health. New and complex illnesses are filling the hospitals. These are the diseases of affluence, too much food, poor air quality, overcrowding in the cities, a rising tempo of life, and too little exercise. Pills and potions cannot cure these evils.
Of course it is tempting to believe a return to a "natural" way of living will bring about the desired freedom from ageing and sickness. The myths and fancies are that once upon a time in the long distant past humans led an idyllic life in some Elysian haven where the streams ran crystal clear and food hung on the trees. Within the dream is a belief it is possible to get back to nature and all will be well. Such dreams are fostered by big business to the advantage of their shareholders.
A moment's reflection will tell anyone there can be no magic pill which will eradicate years of over indulgence. Yet there are chemists shops, supermarkets, speciality mail order and ordinary health shops which hold vast stocks of pills and liquid preparations claiming to put right a whole gamut of human deficiencies. The overwhelming number of bottles contain the magic ingredient that solves disease, sexual reproduction and age problems. They are true elixirs from the fountain of youth.
If one part of many of the remedies on display worked, there could be no need of the others. Mathematical theory shows in factual numbers no person however skilled could begin to work out the huge permutations of the effects of taking so many remedies could have upon bodily functions. Yet customers are encouraged to take any number of a variety of magic potions ranging from vitamins through to herbal preparations and flower odours.
Nor is life any better in the "real" medical world. There are hundreds of authorised drugs and treatments available to the doctor. All with standard dosages regardless of the age, height weight or life style of the patient. The same antibiotic can be given for tooth ulcers, stomach problems, bladder infection, influenza or athletes foot.
In part some of these treatments may work. Cats chew grass for stomach ache, humans have devised thousands of preparations for the same job. The difference being cats don't go in for industrial expansion or monetary systems, humans do. The more treatments available, the greater the selection, the greater the opportunities for profit.
There are a few basic preparations which have the ability to attack a wide variety of conditions. This is because the body always moves to heal itself. The natural condition of the body is to be healthy and functional. By far the greatest majority of ills will cure themselves with no medical intervention whatsoever. A good physic will aid this process. What it is hardly matters provided it works.
The problem is medicine has become an industry. It is increasingly difficult to sort the fundamental healing principle from the business activity. Nothing is quite so enticing as the promise of freedom from all infirmities and long and happy life, for the simple reason life is all the human race has. Life is about life.
It is as well to reflect before accepting the claims of some new cure, or some new treatment whether there is a genuine underlying condition that requires a treatment. As to whether a problem exists at all. Marketing words like "Natural", "Organic", "Farm Fresh", "Latest Discovery", "Scientifically Proven", "Original Discovery", "Laboratory Tested" are nothing more than inducements to purchase, they have no precise meaning.
Long chemical names are also nothing more than descriptions of particular products. The use of a chemical name does not by itself confer a benefit upon mankind. Salt is still salt whether it is called sodium chloride or any of the wide range of commercial trade descriptions.
It is a fact of life that the body needs food, it needs nourishment. Without food (including water) it cannot live. The human body has adapted itself to the world in which it lives. It must of necessity continue to adapt itself or else it will die. Only an extremist could claim the human race had organised the world to adapt to the needs of human life, all logic and the geological evidence indicates the world will go on long after the human race has vanished.
Therefore the answer to longevity is not in new and better drugs, it is not in medicinal preparations or abnormal surgery and body swapping operations. A full and happy life can be had for the price of common sense. Health comes with living in harmony with the world. Understanding is the basis for well-being.
There are many threats to life, either a short or a long life. The worst threat is not disease, it is ignorance. Stupidity comes as the second, and the wilful refusal to think as a close third.
It is all in the mind, no-one ever spoke a truer word.
Stop Press: News items are appearing as Longevity Report goes to press concerning the UK government's statements that individuals should fund the long term care of themselves or their dependants rather than the National Insurance system they have all paid in to. The National Insurance funded National Health will only pay for medical treatment, not care. This could result in whole families facing bankruptcy if one of their members needs long term care through age, illness or accident. Hopefully by the time the September issue of Longevity Report appears I should have some answers as to how UK cryonics funding can be arranged to circumvent this problem. One in four people is said to need long term care at some point during their lives, which means that one in two couples will die leaving no money at all.
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