Marios Kyriazis has invited me to engage with him in a dialog about the possibility of indefinite life extension and our first e-mail exchange is included here. Dr. Kyriazis is a well-known physician and researcher in the field of anti-aging medicine with a long history of research, scientific and popular publications in this field. You can find the Wikipedia entry on him here and get a sense of some of his accomplishments from this google search. This dialog will appear here and on Dr. Kyriazis’ web site www.elpistheory.info
My comments, starting with a response to Dr. Kyriazis’ original e-mail appear in this blue font preceded by VG and his original e-mail comments are in this black font preceded by MK.
VG: Thank you for entering this dialog. There is much food for thought in your comments and it seems clear to me that we are very much in alignment both on a deep level of ontology and in intention. I comment on your points as they are listed.
MK: Yes, I am based in London and so it will be necessary to communicate by email. I read your treatise On Being and Creation, but I need some time to digest its contents, particularly as some parts are directly relevant to my interests.
VG: Yes, I think aspects of that treatise are likely to be quite relevant to what you want to see accomplished. I would very much appreciate any further comments. The framework in that treatise about being able to create my own reality is what empowered me to get into my present career of longevity science. And faith in that framework is why I am willing to enter with enthusiasm into a dialog with you designed to lead to a historically “impossible” objective, very significantly increasing human life spans, perhaps making them indefinite.
MK: Basically, I am exploring ways to achieve human biological immortality. My current line of thought is as follows.
MK: As you rightly say,” Creations are the result of Source and more directly the operation of the normal laws of reality”. These laws operate from a simple level to a more complex one. Biologically, first there was the formation of organic matter, then more complex matter, then primitive cells, then fully formed bacteria etc etc until we see the creation of complex animals and finally, humans. We contain much more complexity in out biological and other systems than say, a primitive cell. This emergence of higher levels of complexity is seen through the universe.
VG: I absolutely agree.
MK: It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that these normal laws of reality, operate in a way that constantly and progressively creates higher complexity and sophistication, particularly neural tissue sophistication that eventually results in intelligence, consciousness and wisdom.
VG: Yes, I believe this is so. As I see it though, biological evolution has been supported strongly by human social evolution, without which the potentials of our brains could never be realized. And the social evolution is now bringing us a new distributed form of memory and kind of intelligence particularly via the Internet (which, by the way, I played a role in forming) and its distributed computers and devices, vast memory and instant communications.
MK: So, I say: what is the purpose of aging and death within this scenario? I can accept the view that the ‘purpose’ of nature is to evolve the complexity of the DNA and this can only be achieved through Darwinian evolution.
VG: Yes, that was and probably still is the objective of biological evolution. With our intelligence we have evolved the complexity of silicon chips and distributed electronic networks and now are moving on to quantum computing, theories-of-everything and if we can get our way, life extension.
MK: This in turn, must operate within the cycle of death-birth that we experience at present.
VG: Yes. Of course the accumulated knowledge and society survives the life of any individual.
MK: The DNA must evolve (as everything obeys the universal laws of evolution towards higher complexity). In order to evolve, it must be mixed with other DNA and hope that something more complex will result. In the process, due to limited energy resources, the currying body must die and a new one created. This is the basis of aging and death by aging.
VG: Yes. As Darwin put it, nature favors the species, not the individual. The issue at hand is whether:
1. VG: Additional complexity will primarily be achieved in the social/distributed intelligence sphere depending on accumulated networks, instant communication, brains connecting easily with other brains as we are now doing, and brains connecting with computers with little biological DNA evolution,
2. VG: Evolution in DNA will accompany 1., leading to ever-longer life spans to keep up with the social evolution.
3. VG: We can radically speed up biological evolution by significantly extending life spans.
VG: I think 2. Is already happening and that is why, as a colleague recently put it, “Every day, in advanced Western countries average lifespan increases 4 hours.” You and I want to do 3. I want to do it because I think effective social evolution will require great wisdom, and we are not going to get that easily from young people or from computers for a good while.
VG: I comment that since our genomes are fairly stable and change very slowly, the evolution must be epigenomic, not in the genes but in the DNA that determines gene activation patterns.
VG: I don’t think our bodies die because of limited energy resources any more. Rather, I would phrase it that evolution created programs so older members of a species assuredly die off in well-defined time frames to enable younger members of the species to have access to resources like food. Perhaps this is what you are getting at.
MK: BUT. I am proposing that we have now reached such an advanced level of neural sophistication (we are homo sapiens sapiens) that it may be possible to avoid the above scenario. It may be possible for our brain to continue evolving without the need for DNA to continue its evolution. In effect it is the brain that matters, and not the DNA. It is now more energy-efficient for our brains to evolve via increased input of information. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15929717) PLUS increased use of technology (such as the internet, nanotechnology and AI).
VG: I am convinced that overall evolution of intelligence via electronic augmentation of our brains is already happening and has been the basis for much of our progress over the last several years. As to hormesis as mentioned in the citation, have you seen my blog entry Hormesis and age retardation? While hormesis can extend lifespans, however, and while hard thinking can augment intelligence, I think we will need additional interventions to get to the really extraordinary longevity we want.
MK: I claim that this is a more efficient way for achieving higher intellectual sophistication, rather than wait for Darwinian evolution to create more sophisticated brains through trial and error. If this is correct then, it follows that humans must remain alive for an indefinite number of years, so that their brain can evolve (through self- input).
VG: Yes, yes and yes. However, if we are truly gaining 4 hours of average longevity per day right now in Western countries, there has to be something else already at work that is more profound than Darwinian evolution. I think it is a rapid capability of the epigenome to respond to social and environmental stimuli.
MK: Thus aging will become redundant and immortality will ensue. (Immortality=indefinite lifespans, not indestructability)
VG: The process of life extension is very slow now. I think if we want to see the possibility of immortality while we are still alive, we must conceive or foster the creation of interventions to make that possible. I do agree with your definition of immortality.
MK: Then, if this is the case, I ask: can we do something now to see if we could bring this process forward? I have started studying possible interventions, for example with transposons, but I am quite willing to accept other less tangible suggestions.
VG: I see two possible kinds of interventions that could radically expand life spans, perhaps indefinitely, because they assure constant renewal of the soma. One is what I call closing the loop in the stem cell supply chain, and the other is discovering epigenetic means for resetting cells to earlier states – and both approaches are actually equivalent. To start, you can view my presentation at the 2010 American Aging Society meeting Towards a Systems Theory of Aging. This presentation describes what I think are the deepest mechanisms of aging that are susceptible to interventions – exhaustion of the pools of adult stem cells that replenish practically every cell type, and age-related epigenomic silencing or activation of longevity-related genes.
VG: The stem cell supply chain theory of aging is my own creation, covered in my treatise of aging here.
VG: I have written several essays on the topic in my blog. You could start with The stem cell supply chain – closing the loop for very long lives, and then go on to Progress in closing the stem cell supply chain loop . Three days ago, breakthrough results were published which brings the possibility of closing the stem cell supply chain a step closer. I plan to start generating a blog entry on this topic later today.
MK: In summary:
1. MK: Everything must become more complex.
2. MK: Until now, Darwinian evolution was the way to go.
VG: YES. IN CONJUNCTION WITH MUCH SOCIETAL EVOLUTION INCLUDING THE INTERNET
3. We have now achieved high neural sophistication AND high technology.
VG: YES, YES
4. MK: The best way to evolve from now on is via long-term input of information into our brain.
VG: I WOULD SAY WE NEED TO AUGMENT OUR ALREADY RAPIDLY- EVOLVING EXTERNAL KNOWLEDGE NETWORKS OF COMPUTERS, INTERNET ETC. WITH SIGNIFICANTLY LONGER LIFE SPANS.
5. MK: Our brain (and us) must now stay alive for an undetermined amount of time for point 4 to succeed.
VG: YES. WE NEED TO CONSERVE OUR HUMAN CAPITAL. OUR SOCIETIES CAN ONLY SURVIVE THROUGH ACCUMULATED WISDOM AND WE CAN’T AFFORD TO HAVE IT DIEING OFF
6. MK: This is going to happen anyway, but can we make it happen soon?
VG: YES, EXACTLY
MK: So, these are some of my initial thoughts. Please feel free to comment or criticise. If you agree, I can put this dialogue on my website www.elpistheory.info) and you on yours. Best wishes
VG: I agree about putting the dialog on our websites. The site has up to 1,800 serious daily visitors and expect we will get a lot of comments. The dialog will go up today, and I hope we can continue it.
Readers, please feel free to wade in with comments.
I remember Bill Joy and Ray Kurzweil written on these ideas long back.
It is a pleasure as always to read your articles.
And I love your steady stream of thpought-provoking suggestions and comments. You have very much helped to enrich this blog. At some point I will comment on Kurzweil’s ideas which I think are a mix of genius and off-the-wall.
Hi there, a very good read and it sometimes just takes someone to post something like this to make me realise where I’ve been going wrong! Just added the site to my bookmarks so will check back now and then. Cheers.