2006 November 30
Copyright © Brian Wright
Live long enough to live forever (the science behind radical life extension)
by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman M.D.
A review of Fantastic Voyage appeared in my Oakland (Oakland County, Michigan) Press early in 2005. As a longtime enthusiastic advocate—though not necessarily the most ardent practitioner—of life extension technology, I was ecstatic!
Here was a book about radical life-extension appearing in a ho-hum review geared to (what some say is) the cultural-literary wasteland of Detroit suburbia. The vitalist movement had just achieved a major breakthrough into common humanity… at least the branch of common humanity that reads.
Note: Terminology is still a bit tenuous in this transhumanist era we’re coming upon. But a vitalist is sort of a practical immortalist, someone who wants to extend life (with youthfulness and vigor) indefinitely, and generally thinks it can be accomplished in our natural lifetimes.
I’ll use the term vitalist to identify the movement Kurzweil, Grossman, and many others are pushing. The significance of their book is enormous: Just as Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw (with Life Extension: A practical, scientific approach (1982)) were to health supplements, Kurzweil and Grossman are to the universal prospect of living well for a long time.
The authors break down our pursuit of effective vigorous immortality into three phases:
• Bridge 1: Ray and Terry’s Longevity Program: present-day
nutrition, exercise, and wellness strategies that can get you
to the next bridge.
• Bridge 2: The biotechnology bridge, where we learn how to
turn off the bad genes and turn on the good ones, and
figure out the biochemical clues for keeping body and mind
• Bridge 3: What they refer to as the nanotechnology-AI
(Artificial Intelligence) revolution, where we can rebuild our
bodies and brains at the molecular level.
The prediction: generally effective Bridge 2 vitalist technologies begin 2010, with the beginnings of Bridge 3 technologies in 2020… with full flowering of those technologies a decade following those inception points.
The book is a reference manual on how to live right. I’m using it to determine my ideal weight and eat correctly, and it’s working. Moreover, the authors give us the science-fiction sounding realities of Bridge 2 and Bridge 3 technologies.
The upshot is if you can survive for 20 more years, chances are you will be (effectively) immortal. (Earth can always be
Author/inventor Ray Kurzweil is the motive power behind this innovative branch of the vitalist movement. Please take three hours and watch his recent CSpan2 interview to understand the importance of his ideas to our future.
struck by a meteor or supervolcano.)
Ray shares that as a youth he was an avid fan of the Tom Swift adventure novels. In those novels—written from the beginning of the 20th century to mid-century—the teenage Tom would encounter problems with people or nature, then use his imagination to solve them—usually with a brilliant invention.
If there’s a better argument for reading fiction, I haven’t heard it.
My prediction: 10 to 20 years from now, we’ll use a new Kurzweilian calendar and every year after 1990 (the publication year for his AI book The Age of Intelligent Machines) we’ll call AK (After Kurzweil).