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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, September 16, 2006

A Society Short on Breath, and Other Issues...

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This article from Medical News Today discusses how many people in Europe are sick and/or dying because of unhealthy lifestyle choices:

Aware of the rising costs and burden of chronic disease, countries across the WHO European Region are taking a comprehensive approach to curbing the epidemic. As many chronic diseases are closely linked to lifestyles, an estimated 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancer, could be avoided if common lifestyle risk factors were eliminated. Without the engagement of a wide range of sectors and stronger health systems for better prevention and control, large numbers of people will continue to die every year from mostly preventable diseases.
The lifestyle choices leading to these problems seem fairly obvious:

Seven leading risk factors - high blood pressure, tobacco, alcohol, high cholesterol, overweight, low fruit and vegetable intake and physical inactivity - account for almost 60% of all ill health in the Region. The leading risk factors are high blood pressure for death, and tobacco for ill health. Alcohol is the leading risk factor for both ill health and death in the Region's young people, experts stress.

When considering major social problems, one thing I often see in the numbers is tremendous opportunity. In this case, note that some very simple shifts in lifestyle -- say, giving up tobacco and alcohol, getting a bit of exercise and changing the average diet... oh, and some deep breathing/meditation -- would transform the health outlook of the continent of Europe. And presumably that of the rest of the advanced world as well.

How would such a shift "change the world"? Simple. First, healthy people tend to think more clearly. Second, the tremendous human capital loss resulting from early death, dementia, debilitating conditions, etc would be dramatically reduced. And finally, advanced nations would save vast amounts of money on their medical bills.

How does this, say, bring about the Singularity? Actually, it doesn't. But there are those who argue that humanity is fundamentally stuck at its present level of combined intellectual performance. And those people tend to forget how many factors there are like this "health crisis" -- factors that if only altered slightly (if on a large scale) would turn around completely. Other conditions include warfare (a phenomenal waste of life and resources), the arms race (still effectively going on amongst countries, if only in the form of "upgrades"), the lack of children's vaccinations in the Third World and elsewhere, illiteracy, poor education, too few students acquiring education, too few workers being employed to the best of their abilities, excessive pollution, and energy sources that are both overpriced and destructive to the environment.

If only a few of these issues were solved, the resources freed up could be challenged to far more productive ends. That doesn't mean that they would. But leaving aside all the non-traditional means we have and will soon have to amplify human abilities, there are still many ways in which human society could collectively become far, far more powerful and brilliant that it is now.

Future Imperative

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