Kurzweil Doesn’t Tailgate

New interview with Ray Kurzweil about his plan to live forever:

Ray Kurzweil doesn’t tailgate. A man who plans to live forever
doesn’t take chances with his health on the highway, or anywhere else.

As part of his daily routine, Kurzweil ingests 250 supplements,
eight to 10 glasses of alkaline water and 10 cups of green tea. He also
periodically tracks 40 to 50 fitness indicators, down to his "tactile
sensitivity." Adjustments are made as needed.

"I do actually fine-tune my programming," he said.

Once again, I think Sherwin Nuland’s assessment is right on:

Sherwin Nuland, a bioethics professor at Yale University’s School
of Medicine, calls Kurzweil a "genius" but also says he’s a product of
a narcissistic age when brilliant people are becoming obsessed with
their longevity.

"They’ve forgotten they’re acting on the basic biological fear of
death and extinction, and it distorts their rational approach to the
human condition," Nuland said.

As to the increased demand for resources when he and his friends start living forever,

Kurzweil says he believes new technology will emerge to meet increasing
human needs. And he said society will be able to control the advances
he predicts as long as it makes decisions openly and democratically,
without excessive government interference.

But there are no guarantees, he adds.

Link, via Kottke: Inventor believes humans eventually will be immortal (AP)

Bioethics left and right

Utne’s January issue has a brief article about the "transhumanists": 
"The Next Digital Divide: How biopolitics could reshape our understanding of left and right"

Didn’t think it was possible for the left to be anymore splintered?
Welcome to the world of biopolitics, a fledgling political movement
that promises to make mortal enemies out of one-time allies — such as
back-to-nature environmentalists and technophile lefties — and close
friends of traditional foes, such as anti-GMO activists and

Biopolitics, a term coined by Trinity College professor James
Hughes, places pro-technology transhumanists on one pole and people who
are suspicious of technology on the other. According to Hughes,
transhumanists are members of "an emergent philosophical movement which
says that humans can and should become more than human through
technological enhancements." The term transhuman is shorthand for transitional human — people who are in the process of becoming "posthuman" or "cyborgs."

James Hughes is pleased at (what he reads as) the article’s cyborg-positive tone, though I think he’s reaching a bit.

“For instance, here is a monkey with four asses”*

This article from National Geographic looks at recent biotech research that has produced chimeras, hybrids of two or more species:

Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003
successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. The embryos were
reportedly the first human-animal chimeras successfully created. They
were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before
the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.

In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.

And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.

Link Animal-Human Hybrids Spark Controversy via Presurfer.



More on Aubrey de Grey

Aubrey de Grey’s response to Sherwin Nuland’s Technology Review article about him is fairly weak, in my humble/uneducated opinion.  While he might be right about a few logical inconsistencies in the article, I suspect those are due to his misreading or to ambiguity in the text.  (Would that we all could think and write as perfectly clearly as de Grey thinks he does!)

In some cases I just don’t think he understood Nuland’s point.  For example:

Nuland: "Unlike engineers, the adoption of whose methodology de Grey
considers his main conceptual contribution to solving the problems of
aging, biologists do not approach physiological events as distinct
entities that have no effect on any others. Each of de Grey’s
interventions will very likely result in unpredictable and incalculable
responses… the next thing you know, it all explodes in your face."

de Grey: "Engineers reading his article may beg to differ concerning whether they
can successfully manipulate systems consisting of mutually interacting
subsystems, and the briefest consultation of my publications will
reveal that it is precisely the management of those interactions, by
the judicious choice of which places to intervene, that defines my

But Nuland is talking about biologists, not engineers!  Did I miss something here?  And saying "go look at my publications" is not a valid refutation.

In the end, de Grey’s response turns a bit juvenile and personal: you guys are just jealous!  scared!  I’m not letting you join my club, then you’ll really be sorry!

Speaking of juvenile, take a look (if you have a strong stomach) at their forum posts on this topic.  Most of the posts are rabid attacks on Nuland for his "lack of imagination", "paranoia", etc., but don’t offer any responses on the real risks and the ethical and moral questions at stake.  A choice quote:

"What strikes me is the fear Nuland has about dieing…"

Huh?  If there were ever a clear example of the "denial of death", in Ernest Becker’s words, then the actions of these narcissistic, simple-minded "transhumanists" is it.  Are they really so immature?  Isn’t part of life and personal growth about learning to see outside of your self and find meaning in the face of inevitable death?

What’s scary is that, as Nuland wrote, these people may well destroy us in their attempts to save us.

Kurzweil’s “health” books — is he out of his mind?

Maybe those 250 supplements he takes a day are messing with his brain…

I liked The 10% Solution to a Healthy Life — (I thought) a very sensible and useful description of how to take advantage of the latest science on heart disease, among other things.

When I spotted his new book, Fantastic Voyage : Live Long Enough to Live Forever, I figured he’d just brought 10% up to date.  But no, this is full-on "live forever through genetic enhancement and robots in your veins" propaganda, and some of the practices he recommends (for today) sound dangerous to me.  Without even thinking about all the practical and ethical issues involved in living forever, what kind of hubris does it take to think the world needs you around forever?

His next book sounds even loonier (The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, due April 2005 according to Amazon).  I guess he’s bought into the whole singularity cult nonsense now.

Kurzweil is undoubtedly brilliant and deserves immortality as much as any of us; I just wish he’d go back to inventing synthesizers.