Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Fountain of Youth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fountain of Youth. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Scientists Grow Sperm from Skin Sample

Image Source: Telegraph.

Welcome the new year with a story about rejuvenation and regeneration for men - and possibly women - who have cancer and cannot have children due to the anti-cancer treatments. Scientists are on the verge of growing sperm - and possibly ova - out of adult skin samples or other stem cell sources: From the Telegraph:
Scientists have found that a man's fertility could be restored by the growing of early stage sperm from a skin sample. Research evidence suggests that adult cells, such as those of the skin, can be induced to return to a more primitive state and then turned into different cell types. To see if it was possible to produce sperm cells, a team at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the US grew stem cells from skin samples and found they were able to generate key cells, including early stage sperm cells. It is hoped the technique could help men who had cancer during childhood become fathers, as infertility can be a side effect of some cancer treatments.
For some, the stem cell technique by which this could be accomplished is highly controversial and spiritually offensive. BBC reports on similar research and its procedures:
A Kyoto University team used mice stem cells to create eggs, which were fertilised to produce baby mice.

Dr Renee Pera, of Stanford University in California, aims to create human sperm to use for reproduction within two years, and eggs within five years.

Infertility affects up to 15% of reproductive-aged couples worldwide.

"I know people think it's Frankenstein medicine, but I think it's not an imagined or lessened health problem - infertility affects your whole life," Dr Pera says.

"To have sex and have a baby would be a super simple decision, but not everybody can do it."

But using embryonic stem cells for research - as Dr Pera's lab at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine does - is controversial because the embryos are destroyed in order to use them.

Dr Pera's lab uses embryos left over from IVF treatments.

Stem cells have the potential to grow into any cell in the body. Creating eggs in a lab could become mainstream, much like IVF is viewed today.

Dr Pera says there are about one million or 1.5 million embryos made each year in America using IVF - and about 500,000 of those embryos are discarded. About 500 of those embryos are used for research, she said.

"And people worry about those 500 instead of the 500,000 discarded," Dr Pera says.

The Japanese study marks the first time a mammal has been created from stem cells. It is being hailed as the Holy Grail of reproductive stem cell research.

The researchers at Kyoto University say they have demonstrated how to grow eggs and sperm in a lab and combine them to produce seemingly healthy offspring.

"We are reinvigorated again. It seems that something every two years comes out that gets everyone reinvigorated," Dr Pera said of the Japanese study.

"We've been mostly working on the human system to do the same things - to make mature eggs and mature sperm in a dish."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Old are You Really?

Greta Garbo (1905-1990) in the 1930s. Image Source: MSN.

At a Christmas party recently, an interesting topic came up among several Baby Boomers. 'How old are you in your head?' Meaning, to what age does your mind hearken back as some point with which you associate your core identity? Two men in their 60s said they felt inside that they were in their late 20s. I, the Gen Xer, said I thought of myself in my early 20s. No one, including the older people from the Silent Generation who were there, went above their 30s. There was a consensus that a cognitive dissonance arises, wherein everyone is still 20- or 30-something in their brain, and meanwhile the body ages and becomes more and more at odds with the mind. I don't think the age of one's core identity coincides with one's mental age. The three are distinct: age of self-identity; mental age; physical age.

Joan Crawford (1905-1977) interviewed on The David Frost Show in 1970. Image Source: My Pretty Baby Cried.

This is similar to something one of my friends, C., noted about women: many of them style their hair for the rest of their lives with the same look they had when they felt they were at their most attractive; for many, that decade is apparently the peak of young adulthood. I don't think this is the case as much as it used to be. There used to be a Gloria Swanson parodied stereotype of older women who were young in the 1930s walking around with turbans in the 1950s or even the 1970s (by which time they had come back into fashion). Perhaps this lagging hairstyles trend among women has waned. We can all be thankful that we don't see many Gen X women walking around with late 80s' hair.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 9: Who Waits for the Setting Sun?

Image © Sharon Day via Ghost Hunting Theories.

I have written before (here and here) about radical anti-ageing techniques currently being researched, funded and pursued, primarily by the Baby Boomers. One of those treatments involves blood transfusions. Thank you to Dia (check out her blogs here and here) for sending a link about the new vampiric Blood Countess version of said treatment, now in development: scientists have found that 'young blood can reverse some effects of ageing.'

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 29: Anti-ageing at CBS Radio Mystery Theater

The Ageing Face. Image Source: Top News.

Generations and changing social values, ageing and anti-ageing are all themes on this blog. For centuries, anti-ageing gone wrong has been a constant horror theme, because it concerns a reversal of the natural order of things. As Millennial genetics and advanced medical research make that reversal the new normal, fears of unnatural immortality seem increasingly outdated.

Anti-ageing taps into other social values and trends, such as relations between the sexes, physical enhancement through medical technologies, the increasingly complex human relationship with machines and the dawn of transhumanism.

Two examples of scary story-telling show how fears around this family of issues are cryptically related and how they changed over time: the 367th episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater, broadcast on 24 October 1975 - and the 1,345th episode, broadcast on 30 June 1982.

CBSRMT's main site, where you can hear all 1,399 episodes, is here. Broadcast each weeknight, this American radio series ran ghostly and horror dramas from 1974 to 1982. This show was part of what could be called the last blossoming of the golden era of radio drama.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fountain of Youth 15: The Magic Word is Telomere

Telomeres - the tips at the end of chromosomes. Image Source: Nature.

A report from late 2010 confirmed progress made toward unlocking, halting and reversing the ageing process (via Top News):
London, Nov 29 [2010]: Scientists have found a way to reverse aging, unlocking the secret of eternal youth and paving the way for a drug to keep one "forever young".

Lives could be longer and healthier, free from illnesses such as Alzheimer's and heart disease, with skin and hair retaining their youthful lustre. Increasing the number of years of healthy life would greatly ease health service costs and reduce the burden on families of caring for frail relatives, the Daily Mail reported, citing the journal Nature. The research, carried out by oncologist Ronald DePinho of Harvard University, reversed the effects of ageing in animals for the first time in experiments on mice.

Before treatment, the mice's skin, brains, guts and other organs resembled those of an 80-year-old person. But within just two months of being given a drug that switches on a key enzyme, the creatures had grown so many new cells that they had almost completely rejuvenated. Remarkably, the male mice went from being infertile to fathering large litters.

The breakthrough centres on structures called telomeres - tiny biological clocks that cap the ends of chromosomes, protecting them from damage.
Telomeres are a hot topic among Baby Boomers (and likely will soon reach the attention of Gen Xers). Here are some of the hundreds of reports on this topic:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fountain of Youth 14: Embrace Your Immortality

Get me outta here. Image Source: Digital Journal.

People are so literal-minded these days. The staunchly faithful believe the end is nigh. The staunchly un-faithful believe the end is not nigh. Either way, the new Millennium's opposing camps of the very religious and the very atheistic seek exactly the same goal: immortality. The irony in this fact - that those who go in for the apocalypse are on the same page as those who go in for the technological singularity - derives from an excess of literal-mindedness.

Here is an example of Millennial literal-mindedness, from a Gen X neuroscientist at Harvard who is attempting to figure out how to download his consciousness onto a computer interface so that he can live forever. From a Chronicle of Higher Education report:
In the basement of the Northwest Science Building here at Harvard University, a locked door is marked with a pink and yellow sign: "Caution: Radioactive Material." Inside researchers buzz around wearing dour expressions and plastic gloves. Among them is Kenneth Hayworth. ...

Hayworth has spent much of the past few years in a windowless room carving brains into very thin slices. He is by all accounts a curious man, known for casually saying things like, "The human race is on a beeline to mind uploading: We will preserve a brain, slice it up, simulate it on a computer, and hook it up to a robot body." He wants that brain to be his brain. He wants his 100 billion neurons and more than 100 trillion synapses to be encased in a block of transparent, amber-colored resin—before he dies of natural causes.

Why? Ken Hayworth believes that he can live forever.

But first he has to die.

"If your body stops functioning, it starts to eat itself," he explains to me one drab morning this spring, "so you have to shut down the enzymes that destroy the tissue." If all goes according to plan, he says cheerfully, "I'll be a perfect fossil." Then one day, not too long from now, his consciousness will be revived on a computer. By 2110, Hayworth predicts, mind uploading—the transfer of a biological brain to a silicon-based operating system—will be as common as laser eye surgery is today.

It's the kind of scheme you expect to encounter in science fiction, not an Ivy League laboratory. But little is conventional about Hayworth, 41, a veteran of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a self-described "outlandishly futuristic thinker." While a graduate student at the University of Southern California, he built a machine in his garage that changed the way brain tissue is cut and imaged in electron microscopes. The combination of technical smarts and entrepreneurial gumption earned him a grant from the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, a subsidiary of the McKnight Foundation, and an invitation to Harvard, where he stayed, on a postdoctoral fellowship, until April.

To understand why Hayworth wants to plastinate his own brain you have to understand his field—connectomics, a new branch of neuroscience. A connectome is a complete map of a brain's neural circuitry. Some scientists believe that human connectomes will one day explain consciousness, memory, emotion, even diseases like autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's—the cures for which might be akin to repairing a wiring error. In 2010 the National Institutes of Health established the Human Connectome Project, a $40-million, multi-institution effort to study the field's medical potential.

Among some connectomics scholars, there is a grand theory: We are our connectomes. Our unique selves—the way we think, act, feel—is etched into the wiring of our brains. Unlike genomes, which never change, connectomes are forever being molded and remolded by life experience. Sebastian Seung, a professor of computational neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a prominent proponent of the grand theory, describes the connectome as the place where "nature meets nurture."

Hayworth takes this theory a few steps further. He looks at the growth of connectomics—especially advances in brain preservation, tissue imaging, and computer simulations of neural networks—and sees something else: a cure for death. In a new paper in the International Journal of Machine Consciousness, he argues that mind uploading is an "enormous engineering challenge" but one that can be accomplished without "radically new science and technologies."
Extreme literal-mindedness boils immortality down to an "enormous engineering challenge." The connectome idea also has a metaphysical side. The connectome curiously reworks the concept of fate. This is a really seductive concept in a troubled (or if one prefers, fallen) world: a proposal to alter destiny on the cellular, genetic, atomic, and sub-atomic levels. Change destiny, whether it comes from nature or nurture, like changing a spark plug.

The article paints Hayworth as a dedicated figure, a futurist ahead of his time. And in that regard, he is a great visionary. His work may inadvertently cure terrible diseases or vastly expand our grasp of neural, or even cerebral, processes. But these would be incidental to his primary aim to 'cure' us of death. There is no moment where Hayworth stops and asks: should we be immortal? If death is hard-wired into every living thing on the planet, and even non-living things die, then maybe death exists for a good reason? Maybe it is the lynchpin in the order of the universe? Aside from the possibility that an immortal human could be horrifying, perhaps conquering death would destroy the balance of nature? I am not talking about hocus-pocus. Nor am I talking about cells and synapses, genes and enzymes. I am talking about the purpose of death, which we do not understand. There is a purpose for death in the universe, because even galaxies die. For Hayworth, these are non-issues:
One hundred years from now, he believes, our descendants will not understand how so many of us failed for so long to embrace immortality. In an unpublished essay, "Killed by Bad Philosophy," he writes, "Our grandchildren will say that we died not because of heart disease, cancer, or stroke, but instead that we died pathetically out of ignorance and superstition"—by which he means the belief that there is something fundamentally unknowable about consciousness, and that therefore it can never be replicated on a computer. ...

My [The Chronicle reporter's] conversations with Hayworth took place over several months, and I was struck by how his optimism often gave way to despair. "I've become jaded about whether brain preservation will happen in my lifetime," he told me at one point. "I see how much pushback I get. Even most neuroscientists seem to believe that there is something magical about consciousness—that if the brain stops, the magic leaves, and if the magic leaves, you can't bring the magic back."

I asked him if the scope of his ambitions ever gives him pause. If he could achieve immortality, might it usher in a new set of problems, problems that we can't even imagine? "Here's what could happen," he said. "We're going to understand how the brain works like we now understand how a computer works. At some point, we might realize that the stuff we hold onto as human beings—the idea of the self, the role of mortality, the meaning of existence—is fundamentally wrong."

Lowering his voice, he continued. "It may be that we learn so much that we lose part of our humanity because we know too much." He thought this over for a long moment. "I try not to go too far down that road," he said at last, "because I feel that I would go mad."
Yes. Madness arrives, on schedule, when science heads too far into the outer reaches without support. Hayworth may see philosophers as part of the problem. But it looks like he needs one or two of them to watch his back. It does not matter whether you think the world was created by a divine being (or beings) who set in motion a grand battle between the forces of good and evil - or that the universe (or multiverses) exploded in the Big Bang and can be rationally dissected. The real cultural and historically relevant Millennial phenomenon across the board is a literal-mindedness about everything that formerly belonged to the realm of mystery.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tech Gadgets Revive the Past to Help the Elderly

The wartime hit, I'll Be Home for Christmas. Image Source: Rate Your Music.

Tech gadgets are being used in nursing homes to bring back the past, in order to improve the spirits of the elderly. From Gizmodo: "An old man in a nursing home is described as being depressed, unresponsive and 'un-alive' until he hears music from his era. When his caretaker puts the headphones on him and flips on the iPod, you can see the pure joy on his face. ... He starts listening to music around the 2:15 mark of the video. It's a long video but it's totally worth it, technology tapping into nostalgia." He remembers Cab Calloway and the 1943 popular song, I'll Be Home for Christmas.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fountain of Youth 13: The Psychological Distress of Immortality

What Else Is There? (2012) © by oO-Rein-Oo at Deviant Art. Reproduced with kind perimission.

On January 30, novelist Jonathan Franzen expressed his worries to the Guardian that ebooks would corrode values and diminish an appreciation for paper books (thanks to -J.).  "All the real things are dying off," he sighed.  This provoked plenty of sharp criticism in the comments, for example: "Jonathan Franzen warns that people shouldn't travel by train as the greater than horse carriage speed may suffocate passengers through an involuntary inhalation of ether."

But Franzen made one thought-provoking comment that, if extrapolated, could explain why we age:
"One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], 'Well, that won't have to be my problem'," he said. "Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don't see how you could stand it psychologically."
This got me thinking about the primary cause of ageing.  What if the primary reason we age is not physical, as futurists such as Kurzweil would have us believe?  What if we age because our brains are hard-wired to exist for no more than 100 years at the absolute limit?  What if our brains cannot handle the psychological test of ageing, combined with historic change in our environment?  What if it's our brains that begin short-circuiting the body, forcing it to collapse and ultimately fail?  What if ageing is a measure of how we are mentally able to adapt to change, or not adapt to it?  Conversely, does that mean that the true elixir of life is a case of mind over matter?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fountain of Youth 12: Kurzweil on Cheating the Reaper

Image Source: Dark Roasted Blend.

This is a post on why Ray Kurzweil's immortal singularity will never happen.  Kurzweil claims we will obliterate ageing via technological advances. His Boomer sensibilities seek an eternal youth in which a combination of drugs, vitamin and diet therapies and the injection of cell-repairing nanobots will obliterate not just disease, but ageing itself, thereby jolting humanity to its next transhuman evolutionary level. You can see one of his discussions on this topic below the jump.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Love in the New Millennium 8: What Women Want

Aishwarya  Rai: Often considered the most beautiful woman in the world.

What do women want? Forgive the rhetorical generalizations, but lots of people would like to know, including many women.  This post is a companion piece to my post on men and love and the Internet, here. In that post, I concluded that one of the reasons men invented the Internet was because it was a great democratic equalizer when it comes to pursuing women. Also, the Internet allows men to resolve discrepancies between dissatisfaction in their current situations and their desired situations. They can do this fairly seamlessly - until they have to make their online virtual reality match up with their everyday reality. Despite these wrinkles, the masculine desires for freedom and equality when searching for a mate appear to be two of the driving forces behnd the Tech Boom.

But how do the Internet, and technology in general, reflect and reveal women's greatest desires?

Back in high school, my insane English teacher said: "Don't be fooled, Boys! Women say they want love! But what they really want is powerrrrr." He said he figured this out one day when he found himself peeling a grape for his granddaughter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Amazonians Challenge the Universal Time-Space Hypothesis

The Amondawa were first "discovered" by anthropologists in 1986. Image Source: V. da Silva/Sinha/BBC.

In an earlier post, I described the South American Aymara people who think backwards when they conceive of time.  The Telegraph recently reported on the Amondawa people of the Amazon, who apparently have no concept of time. This challenges some of the core theories of linguistics and human psychology, which assume that time is innate to humans, their cultures and societies. In fact, time is not universal. And those who live without it are strangely free:
The Amondawa people who live deep in the Amazonian rainforests of Brazil have no watches or calendars and live their lives to the patterns of day and night and the rainy and dry seasons.

They also have no age – and mark the transition from childhood to adulthood to old age by changing their name.

The team of researchers, led by University of Portsmouth, said that it is the first time they have been able to prove time is not a deeply entrenched universal human concept, as previously thought.

Professor Chris Sinha said: 'We can now say without doubt that there is at least one language and culture which does not have a concept of time as something that can be measured, counted or talked about in the abstract."

"This doesn't mean that the Amondawa are "people outside time", but they live in a world governed by events rather than the passing of time."

Only discovered in 1986, the Amondawa, about 150 strong, continue their traditional way of life, hunting, fishing and farming.

They also have their own language which have a number system but it only goes up to four.

Prof Sinha and his team, including a linguist and anthropologist, spent eight weeks with the Amondawa researching how their language conveys concepts like "next week" or "last year".

There were no words for such concepts, only divisions of day and night and rainy and dry seasons.

They also found nobody in the community had an age.

Instead, they change their names to reflect their life-stage and position within their society.

A little child will give up their name to a newborn sibling and take on a new one.

Prof Sinha said: "We have so many metaphors for time and its passing – we think of time as a 'thing' – we say 'the weekend is nearly gone', 'she's coming up to her exams', 'I haven't got the time', and so on, and we think such statements are objective, but they aren't.

"We've created these metaphors and they have become the way we think. The Amondawa don't talk like this and don't think like this, unless they learn another language.

"For these fortunate people time isn't money, they aren't racing against the clock to complete anything, and nobody is discussing next week or next year; they don't even have words for 'week', 'month' or 'year'. "You could say they enjoy a certain freedom." 
This research was published in Language And Cognition (see the abstract here).  As a result of this research, the research team proposes "a Mediated Mapping Hypothesis, which accords causal importance to the numerical and artefact-based construction of time-based (as opposed to event-based) time interval systems."  In other words, according to a BBC report, the team assumes that the lack of a concept of time comes from a lack of technology to measure time.

The BBC report also reports on other researchers who have criticized these findings.  Another academic comments that these people may in fact experience time in the way we do. However, this similar experience may not reflect in their language, which is how researchers generally peg human apprehension of time in different societies:
These arguments do not convince Pierre Pica, a theoretical linguist at France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), who focuses on a related Amazonian language known as Mundurucu.

"To link number, time, tense, mood and space by a single causal relationship seems to me hopeless, based on the linguistic diversity that I know of," he told BBC News. ...

Small societies like the Amondawa tend to use absolute terms for normal, spatial relations - for example, referring to a particular river location that everyone in the culture will know intimately rather than using generic words for river or riverbank.

These, Dr Pica argued, do not readily lend themselves to being co-opted in the description of time.

"When you have an absolute vocabulary - 'at the water', 'upstream', 'downstream' and so on, you just cannot use it for other domains, you cannot use the mapping hypothesis in this way," he said.

In other words, while the Amondawa may perceive themselves moving through time and spatial arrangements of events in time, the language may not necessarily reflect it in an obvious way.
Citation Information. Language and Cognition. Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 137–169, ISSN (Online) 1866-9859, ISSN (Print) 1866-9808, DOI: 10.1515/LANGCOG.2011.006, /May/2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fountain of Youth 11: Centenarian Youth

Zsa Zsa at the height of her career.

Age brings wisdom - sometimes - about aging.  Earlier this month, news broke that Zsa Zsa Gabor's 67-year-old husband planned to make her a mother again at the age of 94 through the wonders of modern science.  This started a row with her daughter:
Prince Frederic von Anhalt, the 94-year-old former star's ninth husband, said he went to a Beverly Hills clinic this week and gave sperm and blood samples.

Anhalt, who hopes a surrogate mother will give birth using a donated egg, said the couple had always wanted a baby and discussed the matter again when his Hungarian-born wife had her leg partially amputated in January.

"We talked about it, saying 'Remember, we always wanted a baby, and now it's too late.' And I said to her, 'Well maybe its not too late,'" he told AFP, adding that the whole whole process should cost about $100,000.

"Now my wife is in bad shape. I don't know how long she's going to be with me... I would like her to see the baby, I would like her to hear the baby screaming, to touch the baby's hair.

"If she dies before me, then I've nothing to live for," he added.

But Gabor's only child Francesca Hilton, the product of her second marriage to hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, issued a statement hours later via her publicist denouncing the baby plans as a publicity stunt.
Of course, it's a publicity stunt that appeals to our fascination with Millennial boundaries, in this case ageing and death, and bending or breaking the rules around them. On the same day, another news item reported that the world's oldest man, Walter Breuning, had died at the age of 114.  People are always curious to hear what centenarians have to say and what their secrets are for longevity.  These were Breuning's:
• Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. ("Every change is good.")

• Eat two meals a day ("That's all you need.")

• Work as long as you can ("That money's going to come in handy.")

• Help others ("The more you do for others, the better shape you're in.")

• Then there's the hardest part. It's a lesson Breuning said he learned from his grandfather: Accept death. "We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die," he said.
Ironic, isn't it, that the elixir of life is the acceptance of death?  Besse Cooper of Monroe, Georgia, USA is currently the world's oldest person, aged 114. (Thanks to J.)

See all my posts on the Fountain of Youth.

If you're not reading this post on Histories of Things to Come, the content has been stolen and republished without the original author's permission. Please let me know by following this link and leaving me a comment. Thank you.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nuclear Culture 1: Healthy Radiation?

Caption for the above photograph: "Doramad was a toothpaste created in Germany in 1945. It was made by Auergesellschaft of Berlin, a company that was founded by the inventor of the gas lantern mantle, Carl Auer von Welsbach. On the back of the product’s tube it stated that ‘radioactive radiation increases the defenses of teeth and gums… cells are loaded with new life energy, the destroying effect of bacteria is hindered… it gently polishes the dental enamel and turns it white and shiny.’"

As part of nuclear-themed posts in the run-up to the Chernobyl anniversary on 26 April, this post covers radioactive elements in their heyday, right after they were first discovered.  There was a time when radiation from these elements was associated with the power of the sun - and the future.  As incredible as it may seem, radium, a highly radioactive element, was seen up to the middle of the last century as a health treatment.  Radium was discovered in 1898 by Maria Skłodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre. New World Encyclopedia: "It was once used in luminescent paints on watch dials, and in the early twentieth century it was added to products like toothpaste, hair creams, and certain foodstuffs, based on the belief that it had curative properties. These ... uses were discontinued when the adverse effects of radium were discovered." The following are pictures of actual products - from toys to suppositories - that were marketed as revitalizing, empowering or inherently fascinating because they were radioactive.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fountain of Youth 10: Attitudes toward Age, Ageing and the Elderly

Report: many elderly people live in isolation. Image © Alamy. Image Source: Daily Mail.

There's been a lot of hype in some circles about preserving youth and increasing our lifespans - often among Boomer futurists who look forward to the Singularity.  One can't really blame the Boomers for pouring money into anti-ageing research and cures for diseases that kill the elderly.  They were always a generation defined by their youth.  Now many of them seek to prolong that youth for as long as possible.  This '50 is the new 30' credo among the so-called 'Zoomers' and 'Quintastics' seeks to redefine ageing as zippy, hip and current.  Take no prisoners.  Whatever it takes.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fountain of Youth 9: The Super-Aged

Jeanne Calment lived to 122. She died in 1997. This is a picture of her, aged 22 in 1897. Image: Wiki.

Recently, there was a lot of protest in France as the government moved to raise the retirement age to 62.  There have been reports in America that the retirement age will be raised to 68 by mid-century and 69 by 2075.  There's just so much to look forward to in the future!  Seriously though, these changes reflect the lengthening of lifespans as well as a number of other generational, political and policy-making issues.  It is true that there is a new class of people emerging - those who live well past 100 years of age.  For the first time in history, they are numerous enough that they are now being talked about as a demographic group.  There is a list of the oldest people in recorded recent times here. The person with the longest confirmed life span in history was Jeanne Calment, a Frenchwoman who lived to age 122 and died in 1997.  Just to put her age into perspective, she was 20 years old in 1895.  Her spouse died in 1947.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fountain of Youth 8: The Immortal Game

Alien vs. Predator: Chess (2009-2010). © By Xidon. Reproduced with kind permission.

Everyone who has seen Ridley Scott's classic 1982 film Blade Runner knows the lines: "Queen to Bishop 6. Knight takes Queen. Bishop to King 7. Checkmate, I think."  BRMovie.com analyzes the film's chess game between the AI designer Tyrell and the android Roy Batty: "On a simple level, the game can be seen as just the fight of replicants against humans. However, The Immortal Game is also a clear reflection of the struggle for longer life that Roy and his fellow replicants seek. They want to escape from their status as pawns and find immortality (as a pawn becoming a queen on the eighth rank). Yet another layer can be seen at the individual level with Roy chasing King Tyrell. In the game, Roy checkmates Tyrell. In life, Roy sets up Tyrell - Tyrell gets some false confidence just before the end, but just as in the game, the King eventually dies." I would add to that intepretation that Blade Runner depicts humans playing God by creating sentient machinesThe machines occupy the position where humans are now: questioning their Creator and demanding immortality from Him. But while doing this, we create a deep philosophical problem because we are also looking to our tech tools to prolong our own lives. This connundrum suggests that we are trying to prolong and exalt our humanity by losing our humanity.  And we will end up in a battle to the death with the very tools we are using to do it.  In the end, we could become Posthuman monsters, playing a giant chess game with androids that are also monsters.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Age of the Genome 4

Image Courtesy of the Genetics and Public Policy Center with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Today, the four-part series, Age of the Genome, presented by the BBC World Service - which honors one of the greatest scientific findings of our times, the decoding of the human genome - concludes.  You can listen to the broadcast here and schedule times are here.  June 26th marked the tenth anniversary of the discovery.  The series speculates on the huge impact this research will have on medicine and our attempts to understand our own substance and history as a species.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Age of the Genome 3

Today, the BBC World Service is continuing its four-part series on the Age of the Genome in honour of the tenth anniversary on June 26 of our decoding of our own genetic map of life.  You can listen to the broadcast here; and program times are here.  This great discovery is the silent revolution of our times.  More, it suggests that genes themselves are a giant roadmap to our evolution - they are the unread history book of our species.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Age of the Genome 2

A reminder today to listen to BBC World Service's Age of the Genome here.  This is the second of a four-part series, which commemorates the tenth anniversary of this landmark finding.  The series explores how the 26 June 2000 discovery by Venter and Collins, which was supported by a research team of thousands, will change our world forever.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Age of the Genome 1

BBC reports on the Age of the Genome. Image © Coneyl Jay / Science Photo Library.

BBC has dubbed our era the 'Age of the Genome.'  Today on the BBC World Service there is the first of a four part series airing about the mapping of the human genome and its significance for medicine in our times.  On this blog, I've mostly talked about how we use physics, astronomy, archaeology, legends and mythology to understand eras of history that are beyond the reach of human records and associated concepts of time.  What I have not mentioned as much is the similar use of genetics and biology as tools for measuring time, and the impact of time, on the human experience.  In other words, the human genome sequence is not only radically changing our current period and leaving its mark on it.  It is radically reshaping our present and future by telling us about our deep past.  This BBC series may address how the genome is being used as a tool for writing the unwritten Prehistoric history of our species.  Program times are here.  You can listen to the program here.