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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Man into Supermouse -- Some Reservations Regarding the Apotheosis of the Master (Mouse) Race -- Bio, Long

One person had these comments regarding my 'Man into Supermouse' post: "Altering the Klotho gene in humans could make people diabetic because of its effect on insulin. I don't think that parents would really want to tinker with that. Furthermore, since this can likely be developed into a drug rather than gene therapy, there doesn't seem to be much advantage to genetically engineering kids with extra Klotho. Just get them the Klotho pills. Then, when the next big antiaging advance hits, they won't have to worry about whether their Klotho genes will prevent them from having healthy access to it."

I've modified my original statement a bit elsewhere, but nevertheless, we have a therapy that may yet prove to be equally safe in humans. Or which may need to be jiggered slightly. The point is, the modification of a single gene could easily create a literally superior human being, _without_ diabetes. Or any other drawbacks.

Frankly, they're working on using the hormone or an analogue to produce the same effect in human beings without any gene therapy... but that fact just makes this a better place to start the conversation.

Ask yourself, what if we now essentially have the technology to give, theoretically at least, every unborn child on the planet a lifespan 20 to 30% longer by the simple alteration of a single gene? If we can do the same thing for everyone who is already here through a regular hormone or drug treatment, all the better. At least kneejerk jealousy won't play as much of a social and political factor.

Nevertheless, what if we can already alter the world's unborn generations in this way? What if we can create a change that everyone sees as unquestionably good? (And yes, the extension of youth and vitality along with lifespan would definitely be seen as an objective good, once it was laid out as a choice for the average person.) What responsibility do we have to our descendants? Should governments regulate this technology? Subsidize it? Analyze it and offer positive or negative recommendations?

And heck, where do we stand as individuals? Who here is waiting on the edge of their seats for the potential longevity drug or hormone that could come out of this?

Your point about wanting to avoid unnecessary genetic complications when the next longevity treatment comes along is well taken, but the counterargument might be that we know of no reason why they would arise with that particular gene (instead of one of the many others individuals may or may not have active) and a conflict might actually be more likely between the regular hormone pill or injection and whatever new longevity drug or therapy arises next.

Some of these details can only be settled by experimentation and analysis, but whether or not this particular innovation opens the floodgates or another one does, it's obvious scientists are tinkering more and more with genes with the potential to radically alter the human condition. That's what strikes me most about this genetic breakthrough -- that it was almost incidental to ongoing research towards a pharmaceutical solution. Now consider how many devastating human conditions are now being researched from a genetic angle whose cure could also serve as revolutionary human augmentations.

Does it matter whether it's methusaleh mice or dementia in a dormouse? There are other options in typical pharmaceutical research that could alter society far more profoundly than a mere 20 or 30% tacked on to our youthful lifespan. Say, literally superhuman intelligence arising from one or more optimizations of the human brain.

Which is another reason why talking about a global change "of this magnitude" is so useful. Because this earthshaking change is actually so very, very small.

So let's have that conversation, eh?

Future Imperative

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