Apr 5, 2013
Posted by Franco Cortese in categories: biological, biotech/medical, futurism, human trajectories, life extension, nanotechnology, neuroscience, philosophy
This essay is in response to the Debate Forum “Will ‘meatbag’ bodies ever be immortal? Is ‘cyborgification’ the only logical path?”, hosted by ImmortalLife.info
In it, I explore the distinction between therapies for Longer Life (life-extension) and therapies for Unlimited Life (indefinite longevity).
If we’re talking far-future, non-biological approaches to life-extension will win out over biological approaches, due mainly to their comparative advantages (e.g. ease of repair and modification — both of which become methodological problems now rather than technological or “physical” problems so to speak, requiring a reorganization or rewriting of information — thus methodological — rather than a means of figuring out what changes to implement and then devising a technology and technique for actually implementing such changes in physicality) and because they will offer experiential and functional modalities categorically unavailable to biological systems (merely due to the fact that such functional and/or experiential modalities are determined by the structural and operational/procedural modalities of the system, and there are a much larger quantity of potential structures and operational/procedural modalities possible using non-biological systems than are available to what are normatively considered biological systems — that is, based upon cellular units forming emergent tissues, and embodying the structural and operational/procedural modalities of biological systems). That being said, I think that the distinction between non-biological and biological systems (especially if Drexlerian nanotech – that is, using mechanosynthesis – is implemented with any ubiquity) will increasingly dissolve. If a system exhibits the structural, functional and operational modalities of a biological cell, tissue, organ or organism, yet consists of wholly inorganic materials, is it not closer to a biological system than to what we would typically consider a non-biological system? Either the distinction between the two will eventually dissolve, or we will use the term “biological” to designate systems exhibiting the structural, functional, and/or operational modalities of biological systems, rather than designating systems made of specific types of material, such as organic or inorganic molecular substrate.
In the 9th installment of my 10-part introductory essay written for Transhumanity’s Certificate in Transhumanism Studies Program, I make a distinction between life-extension therapies and indefinite-longevity therapies, and I’d like to elaborate more on this distinction here. Life-extension therapies extend longevity, but for various reasons fail to make it necessarily indefinite or unlimited. Often this is because such therapies aren’t comprehensive – a given therapy solves one contributing factor of aging, but not all of them. Others, like SENS (which I’m in no way discounting), fix the major causes of damage, but use a different methodology for each respective source of damage or aging; the drawback of this approach is that if previously overshadowed causes of aging now begin to make a non-negligible impact on aging, in the absence of the more predominant causes, then we have no methodology to combat it. Because each strategy is tied intimately to the cause it seeks to ameliorate, the techniques often cannot be applied to the new source of molecular damage.