Revised Thoughts on the Demise of Death

September 05 2008 / by Mielle Sullivan
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

A follow-up to last week’s Demise of Death

My post last week on the Demise of Death received so many thought provoking comments that I feel compelled to further the discussion in another post. The new information and perspectives contained in the the comments have transformed the way I intend to approach parts of the debate.  With such a fertile discussion ground, I felt I would be remiss if I did not give attention and thanks to several of the eloquently expressed ideas.

Here’s the point-by-point update:

Nanotech & Biotech Will Not Necessarily End Death: That death may remain even if aging is cured was a point raised by a few of the commentors.  If our bodies did not deteriorate into death, fatal accidents, acts of violence etc. could still bring about mortality.  I realize that my rationale for thinking we may be able to conquer death altogether was somewhat obscure in my first post.  One theory proposed by futurists and transhumanists, is that to truly conquer aging, we will not be able to rely merely on stem cells, genetic therapies and drugs. 

These treatments can, the theory argues, only go so far to combat cellular deterioration.  If we are to truly end, and not merely delay aging, we would eventually have to develop nanobots capable of precisely repairing cells.  My own logic followed that if we are able to create effective cellular-repair nanobots, we will have mastered nanotechnology and it will serve a number of other functions beyond cellular repair. 

Prolific poster Dick Pelletier has pointed out a few times that if nanobot technology were mastered, we could, in theory, surround ourselves in a sort of thin nanobot shield that could, in theory, protect us from violence and accident.  Perhaps I have taken this rationale too far. It does not logically follow that by ending aging we will necessarily end death by accident or violence, but I think it is at least a reasonable possibility.

Taking Control of Your Fate Opens Pandora’s Box: Let us consider my original conjecture is incorrect and that we will be able to bring an end to aging, but not death by accident or violence.  If this becomes true, we will, in effect be gaining a greatly extended life at the expense of knowing that death will certainly come either by violence, violent accident or suicide.  I cannot help but think these are all troubling ends. 

Admittedly, most deaths now are troubling.  Death by disease and aging is most often the end of a long, painful, degrading, messy battle.  But, at present, we can at least hope to be one of the lucky few to die comfortably, unknowingly in their sleep.  This hope will be eliminated if aging is defeated. 

Even to me the benefits outweigh the downsides, but it is deeply disturbing to know you will one day kill yourself if you aren’t hit by a bus or murdered first. This is in part what I meant when I wrote that I considered myself a part of nature and do not wish to be removed from the natural process.  Taking your fate out of the hands of nature results in some very difficult decisions.

Accepting Suicide? This idea of death occurring either by chance or choice is tied to another point raised in the comments.  Johnfrink said, “I’m pretty sure if we conquer death eternal life will not be forced on anybody.”  And I am inclined to agree.  It is unlikely that in a future without aging, omniscient police will parole the streets taking into custody all those thinking of ending it all.  But that doesn’t mean suicide will be any more desirable than it is today. 

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Future Scanner Weekly Top 10

September 06 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 1

In addition to our weekly awards, every week MemeBox releases a Top 10 List of the most interesting and useful Future Scans posted the during the preceding week. This list is a great way to get acquainted with what the Future Scanner has to offer and to quickly digest some great information.

And the weekly MemeBox awards go to...

September 06 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 1

Here at MemeBox, once a week we look back at all of the Future Blogger posts and Future Scanner scans in an effort to distill and recognize the best of what you, the community, have contributed to the site throughout the previous 7 days.

Future Scanner of the Week: Christina for scans including New fingerprint method could unlock cold cases and Junk DNA may have handed us a gripping future.

Future Blogger of the Week: garrygolden for posts including Google’s battle vs. Apple begins: Killer Android Apps and MIT’s solar hydrogen storage ‘breakthrough’ – What’s all the fuss about?-.

Future Scan of the Week: Microbes for Off-the-Grid Electricity in Africa
- Scanned by AJ0111

Future Blogger Post of the Week: From a struggling past to a glowing future
- Written by futuretalk

Congratulations, winners!

Gadgets that Nag

September 05 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

To what extent are we going to let technology run our lives? I can understand wanting the Internet, a cellphone, even a bazillion-inch flat screen TV. But this latest gadget to come on the market, the iPosture, which screams at you whenever you sit in a hunched position, well, it’s just plain silly.

If you thought your parents were nagging you pretty hard at the dinner table, imagine a device that watches your every move (“beep I saw you hide your spinach in the napkin, eat it or no dessert beep“) without the ability to judge when it’s over-stretching its boundaries. Scores of children would grow up hating both the device and their parents, wishing they had received more attention from them, swearing not to raise their kids the same way.

Sure, most people won’t buy these products (at least in the near-future) since it seems so insane and counter-natural, but what about those few who will? For example, parents who think their own parenting techniques are faulty may well wish for a family butler that can help teach their children proper manners. Just imagine if Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes had his own personal assistant, or had been forced to do his homework by an ever-watching guardian…

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Energy independence will take commitment like space race

September 05 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Energy is the life-blood of America – it affects our economy, standard of living and national security. And our prime current energy source – oil – is a product we can no longer afford.

High gas prices, air pollution, and global warming are part of the problem, but more important are the tensions brought about with countries that supply this non-renewable energy. For decades, these tensions have directly or indirectly been at the root of most global conflicts.

In a “Wired Magazine” article, Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall say concerns about oil supply are indirectly responsible for our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have caused strained relationships with our allies. And clashes with the Muslim world, mired in oil interests, finally brought the unthinkable to our shores – the “9-11” World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

Schwartz and Randall believe there’s only one way to insulate the U.S. from oil’s corrosive power. “We must develop an alternative energy,” they say. “Hydrogen stores energy more effectively than batteries, burns twice as efficiently in a fuel cell as gasoline does in an internal combustion engine, and leaves only water. It’s plentiful, clean, and capable of powering cars, homes and factories.”

Today’s energy situation is reminiscent of Soviet cold war times. In 1957, Russia launched the first satellite into space, and in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in orbit. Afraid Soviet space domination would make our country unable to defend itself, President Kennedy announced Apollo, a 10-year, $100 billion program (in today’s dollars) to land a man on the moon. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong made his “giant step for mankind” and America quickly regained world leadership.

Schwartz and Randall believe we face a similar threat today from foreign oil dependency. “As President Kennedy responded to Soviet space superiority,” they said, “Our next president must respond to foreign oil by making energy independence a national priority to be achieved within 10 years.”

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Robot Spiders, Road Kill Prevention & Off-the-Grid African Electricity

September 05 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 1

The Future Scanner Daily Top 5 serves to highlight 5 of the best scans submitted to the Future Scanner during the last 24 hours.

Your Brain: the War Machine

September 04 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Security   Year: General   Rating: 3

The Army recently awarded a team of UC Irvine researchers a $4 million dollar grant to study the foundations of synthetic telepathy, a new practice that monitors brain patterns and mental images via a central computer which then deciphers the information, transforming it into actual machine-readable data. In other words, your thoughts would be captured and translated by the computer which, much like Twitter, would then distribute them to others you’re wishing to contact.

The practical implications of this technology, when fully operational, are amazing, as are the military applications. When it comes to war, one of the few constants throughout the centuries, be it in Roman times or even today, is the lack of quick and reliable communication. Effectively deployed synthetic telepathy would basically eliminate the inefficiencies of communication in the field. Any army in possession of this kind of technology would enjoy a tremendous advantage.

Commanders in the field would be able to look at a map, decide which units should be deployed where, what their function would be, and instantaneously send messages to relevant sub-commanders or even individual soldiers with their orders. Instant responses from teams in the field reporting locations of mine fields, mobilizing enemy forces, or potential weak positioning points would afford any commander equipped to receive and process this information in real-time such a strategic advantage that opposing them would seem almost futile.

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Voice-enabled ID chips will soon make our lives more efficient

September 03 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 1

By Dick Pelletier

You enter the supermarket, grab an electronic cart that recognizes you from your touch, toss in some bags and begin shopping. The monitor on your ‘smart cart’ displays products, price, and total amount spent; and even subtracts items returned to the shelf.

As you wind through the aisles, the cart’s voice recognizes products you’re running low on, and offers special discounts just for you. When finished shopping, simply tap a ‘chipped’ finger indicating payment preference and walk out the door – no more lines or grocery clerks to deal with. On exit, select an option to deactivate or encrypt all chips, which protects your privacy by preventing evildoers from tracking you or your merchandise.

After putting items away at home, the milk might say, “I expire in nine days, would you like a 24-hour reminder”, or the hat you purchased may say, “Hey Dick, why not wear me now, you know how great I make you look”.

By 2012, experts believe the above scenarios could be happening at stores everywhere.

Milwaukee futurist David Zach agrees that voice-enabled chips will increase efficiency. Clothes could remark, “Don’t wash me with colors”; cars may cry out, “I need oil”, and a glass might tell the bartender, “he’s had enough”.

Wearable computer maker Vocollect believes their voice-enabled machines can team up with RFID (Radio Frequency ID) chips used to identify items, and create an enormous array of exciting applications.

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The Vicious Tech Adoption Cycle

September 04 2008 / by John Heylin
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

If you’ve never taken the time to watch the TV series Ghost in the Shell: The Standalone Complex, I suggest you do. Looking past the nearly nude and obviously impossibly-hot characters, you’ll find a near-future society that relies so much on technology to survive that everyone needs a mechanical implant of some sort. In fact, the only people not outfitted with some sort of body-enhancing component are the homeless. And while the cyborg cops race around Tokyo searching for criminals and hackers, you’re given a glimpse at a possible future that is both Utopian and Dystopian in nature.

On the one hand you have incredible technology that can allow even the most handicapped the ability to function at a high level in society. On the other hand it leaves just about everyone vulnerable to personal body hacking by the ill-intentioned. People get their memories wiped, are programmed to commit acts of violence, and if rescued are unable to restore their old lives and memories (ghost hacking). It’s a very yin-and-yang situation.

The reason I bring this up is that it was the first thing that sprang to mind upon reading a recent article detailing how pace-makers are now being hacked wirelessly.

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Google in a Decade, Algae Aviation Fuel & Your Face on an Avatar

September 04 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 1

The Future Scanner Daily Top 5 serves to highlight 5 of the best scans submitted to the Future Scanner during the last 24 hours.

Brain-machine interface connects disabled to computers

September 03 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Cyberkinetics of Foxborough Massachusetts has begun FDA-approved clinical trials with BrainGate, a device that enables paralyzed people to control computers directly with their brains – and eventually could help them regain complete mobility.

Most handicapped people are satisfied if they can get a rudimentary connection to the outside world. BrainGate enables them to achieve far more than that. By controlling the computer cursor, patients can access Internet information, TV entertainment, and control lights and appliances – with just their thoughts.

And as this amazing technology advances, researchers believe it could enable brain signals to bypass damaged nerve tissues and restore mobility to paralyzed limbs. “The goal of BrainGate is to develop a fast, reliable, and unobtrusive connection between the brain of a severely disabled person and a personal computer” said Cyberkinetics President Tim Surgenor.

BrainGate may sound like science fiction, but its not. The device is smaller than a dime and contains 100 wires thinner than human hairs which connect with the portion of the brain that controls motor activity. The wires detect when neurons are fired and sends those signals through a tiny connector mounted on the skull to a computer.

Implanted into the brains of five handicapped patients, the device is already showing great promise. A 25-year-old quadriplegic has successfully been able to switch on lights, adjust the volume on a TV, change channels, and read e-mail using only his thoughts. And he was able to do these tasks while carrying on a conversation and moving his head at the same time.

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Self-Taught Robots, Programmable Matter & the Universe 2015

September 03 2008 / by Marisa Vitols
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 1

The Future Scanner Daily Top 5 serves to highlight 5 of the best scans submitted to the Future Scanner during the last 24 hours.