11 November 2008

Aging

It's time for the fifth edition of Hourglass, a blog carnival about the biology of aging, hosted this time on Laura's blog: psique.

Those of us who study neuroscience know that there is no life after death. We are acutely aware of the delicate structure of consciousness. We know that even the agnostic creed "I don't know what will happen to me when I die" is as misguided as belief in a flat Earth. We know. I'm sorry to disappoint you but we really do know now. It is not a mystery. After death your mind shuts down, permanently.

Some of us are OK with this. Some of us point out that once we're dead we won't know it, so what's to fear? I am not one such person. I do not want to get old, and I do not want to die. I want to survive, and I want those I love to survive.

So I applaud the new generation of biogerontologists who want to extend life indefinitely. I applaud stem cell research, personalized medicine, nanotech, and blog carnevals about the biology of aging. Advances in medicine and medical technology continue to reduce blood-pressures, patch up hearts, extract cancers and extend life expectancy worldwide, and nothing could be more important. But only a transhumanist would be so naive as to feel safe that "somehow" science will save us; that technological progress is "likely" to save those of us who are alive today from annihilation. Know, please, that it is not just a handful of diseases threatening you; not just a few potential cancers eating away at your heart. What you're up against is entropy itself, and as soon as that first blood vessel pops you'll find out just how immature our medical science really is.

This is at the core of the iPlant. I know the plan is drastic, I know that. But I don't want to die, and you probably don't want to die, and it seems to me, just seems to me, that the only way we'll have a realistic hope of surviving is by commitment and organization on a mass scale. Everyone - two, four, maybe eight hours of monotonous research every week. That is how we have to approach the problems and possibilities highlighted in this Hourglass carneval. That's how we survive.
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