22 November, 2011

Love post Super mortality...

by now you should be convinced that the Science Fiction we all grew up with is mostly completely wrong. Wrong about when we are going out into space, wrong about *what* is going out into space, wrong about how we will change on this planet in the next half century, wrong about the ways we will truly effect all living things on this planet in intimate genetic ways.

Here we are in the midst of building the detailed tools that will allow us to continue to modify organisms and create organisms from scratch.

Here we are decoding the book of DNA and finally understanding how it's secrets have been organized.

Here we are discovering how the book is organized beautifully into chapters and sections that enable specific production of entire tissues and organ structures and simultaneously guide their developmental projection over time.

Here we are, knocking on the door of the mutational and structural break downs that lead to the condition called aging, which we know KNOW for a fact does not have to terminate with death.

What an amazing time to be on planet Earth!! To share in the bounty that these lines of science will bring us, likely the last generations to lack a choice of dying by natural death...assuming we avoid the other unnatural means.

But what of love? How will we be impacted socially by the changes to come, here I put forward a story of love post super mortality....

Waiting for her arrival

Chris Munoz has been waiting almost 15 minutes now for the arrival of his fiance Neda, her transport was delayed from it's departure from the International Air port in Buenos Aires and thus now hours later and on the other side of the globe it's about to arrive, gently gliding through scant clouds under a clear blue sky at Paris' De Gaulle International Airport.

Chris is very excited, he hasn't seen Neda in nearly 3 months since her trip for business reasons commenced. Neda is a neurobiological engineer and has been working along with a team of cognitively enhanced NE-1 variant humans like herself to design a new series of autonomous robots for working in mines.  Her project was a 6 month project of which 3 were spent on site testing the new robots in the field. She reported to Chris via video IM that all things went well with the tests. The new robots employ mechanical, electrical and nano technological advances in their construction. They have extremely powerful and responsive electro-mechanical membranes for muscles that are 25 times as strong as those in a standard birth human, circa 2011. Of course that doesn't mean much as since then, nearly 50 years have passed and humans are classified based on the specific cognitive specializations they received upon birth.

At this point the reasons for these classifications have created all types of political unrest and most world administrative bodies have already repealed identification with explicit reference to individuals enhancements...after all, sensors can read the specific genetic traits of individuals in real time as they pass through check points and terminals all over a typical city in the year 2056. It's been a long time since the revolutions of the stem cell and genetic age that led to the flowering  of means to modify existing organisms in ways that would be specifically useful to human needs. Including to point modifications to specific traits of humans themselves...by 2020, stem cells had been coaxed into producing entire organs along with supporting tissues...by 2030, the organ insurance industry was in full flowering....by 2050, individuals who were born in the late 20th century in the late 60's and 70's were still alive and kicking with no apparent side effects from several decades of genetic revigorations. Chris is one such individual, he was born in 1971 and as he waits for Neda to get off her transport he looks age wise about as old as most people walking around the terminal at the air port, some one from our time would say he looked about 21 or 22 years old. Such is the amazing power of the techniques for revigoration that were perfected in the early 2020's and have now spread to a vast number of the human society.

Of course, there was much unrest in the creation of these technologies...questions of how they would effect population had very little time to be discussed as the consistent line of advances in the teens and early 2020's moved the Science and methods at an incredible rate, far faster than the old Moore's law trope that attended electronic advances 50 years earlier. In 2032 many countries began to institute "either or" laws, laws that granted "super mortals" as revigorated individuals became to be known...the gift of continued revigorations but only so long as they did not have children. The population of the planet had grown quite considerably despite efforts to educate populations in third world regions regarding birth control and though advanced technologies in agriculture and fuel supply were ramping up governments felt a need to put a clamp on growth especially as more and more people chose revigoration. It's true by the current year of 2056 that nearly 98% penetration of autonomous thinking robots in a nearly self healing infrastructure into all areas of what were former human only activities (like the mine work of Neda's robots) had addressed much of the problems of the 2030's but since senescence had all but disappeared in most of the modern world (a term which at this point in time included most of South Asia and Africa) it meant that population death rates would perform a near reversal as more and more people engaged revigorations...hence the need to enact controlling laws. Most countries had policies in place that traded 25 years of vigoration free life to be able to have children, during those years the parents could not be eligible for revigoration. It was a weird law that people came to resent, why create a connection between revigoration and being a parent? Should it matter if I look like a 45 year old when I am really a 75 year old who could look like a 22 year old had I been taking revigorations during my most 2038 child raising experiences??

This is where Chris was, he'd been married once before in 2012...he met his first wife when she was 26 and he was 38...they courted and had 3 children. As the years went by he was privy to the technological advances that occurred and as he neared his 60th birthday in 2031 he was trusting enough of the revigoration technologies that he would go in for a treatment. On January 14th  2032 he was given his first injection of auto vectoring agents that would go to work homing in on his stem cells to administer the precise genetic modifications that would allow them to restore youthful function while cleaning out decades of cellular junk that had accrued in his body. The doctors told him that he will feel as if he's suffering a month long cold with symptons of stuffiness and sluggishness but soon after that he will notice changes, by the second month he will see clear and visible restoration of elasticity in his skin as the dermal and epidermal layers rethicken to youthful states. As the 4th month passes he will feel and look 20 years younger as bone density, neuronal plasticity and muscle function are restored, by the 8th month most of the cells in his entire body would have been replaced or restored to a youthful state...for most people this is a cell vigor state that after 8 months had them looking as they did when they were in their early 20's. Chris is fortunate he had no major health issues in his life along the way as those could lead to complications as revigoration proceeds ...when he first "dialed back" as some people call it, he was able to retain over 99.99% genetic fitness. His treatment was a bitter sweet event, his first wife who he loved and cherished, refused for her own reasons to ever submit to revigoration. She felt that she was meant to grow old and die and Chris couldn't bare the idea of leaving her....he stayed with her beyond his revigoration tending to their 3 grown children which...it must be said was a strange situation...especially as after his revigoration he *looked* nearly as young as his youngest child who was only physically 16 at the time. Unfortunately, though possibly unrelated, his first wife's choice to not revigorate gave way to tragedy on August 12, 2035. While Chris was away on a business trip he received word that she'd had a sudden stroke and died, natural year 52.

A new beginning after the beginning....

It took Chris 10 years to get over the death of his first wife. It was 2045 when he was taking one of many visits to the Metropolitan museum in Manhattan, NYC that he'd taken that summer and that is when he saw her. She exhibited a quality that was viscerally inviting in a way that he did not experience with any one other than his first wife and drawn by the energy was compelled to smile just slightly as he looked her way, gawked he thought later but she would later say...his eyes welcomed her and invited her smile in return.

He was compelled by this reciprocation of interest to find ways to sidle over to her area as he slyly observed her motions through the exhibit in the Egyptian wing of the museum. He could only focus on how beautifully the dark fall of her hair shimmered in the stippled rays of sun light bathing her from the glass wall of windows to the right of the Museum. He then chided himself for acting like a child and then laughed at the thought considering that he looked all of 22 years of age...to his eye Neda looked about his age and that comforted him....though he had no idea if she had been "dialed back". Since his initial treatment in 2032, he'd had another in 2042...the process had been refined greatly by that time...the side effects were much less severe than in his first treatment which involved the reversion of 40 years of cellular damage and material build up. With the second treatment he had a significantly lower level of accrued damage and material, only 10 years worth from that of a 22 year old as his biology indicated. Since that treatment he also made a few other modifications which were available actually in the 2020's when simple targeted genetic cosmecutical treatments were brought to market. When he was born he had brown eyes but he'd always wanted his iris to be hazel... he went in for the treatment after his second dial back had completed course and had his eye color genetically modified from brown to hazel, like the revigoration treatment the process occurred over time as the genes changed the production of melanin concentration in the iris tissue, after one month his eyes were expressing the precise shade of hazel that he'd picked from the cosmecutical catalog. It was these eyes that induced Neda to smile. Similarly, he was born with naturally wavy black hair, he had a treatment to add a slight tinge of brown to his hair and another treatment to permanently keep hair from growing on his face as he disliked shaving. By this point such treatments had been available for 20 years....

He sat down on one of the benches in the open space and continued to day dream as he looked out the glass wall at the swaying trees beyond. As he looked he smiled at knowing that the coming years would be filled with new experiences. He'd taken the last 10 to do a great deal of traveling, he had visited France several times with his first wife and had achieved mastery of the language by living in Normandy for 5 of the last 10 years after her death. He'd also spent another 5 years living in Madrid, prior to his first revigoration he had worked in Information Technology and had built and sold a technology business so his income was disposable. Also as the Self healing infrastructure of robots continued to be deployed, people put their robots to work for them. Chris had at least a dozen at the and Neda's home in a village just a few miles outside of Paris. They performed required tasks and errands and maintained the grounds, attended to shopping and delivery. Chris did very little of his own labor. When he first came to France, he'd taken his youngest daughter with him and she decided to stay there...he thought of his up coming trip there to go see her. She at this point had actually aged to appear older than he did as he was on his second dial back and she had only experienced her first the year before. Ever the romantic for the natural process of aging she sought to live in the vein of her mother though it caused consternation to Chris. He feared losing her as he lost her mother but she decided to dial back right after having her first child and Chris' 5th Grand child....who he'd not seen in nearly a year, was....

"Is it okay if I sit here?"

Chris was startled by a sweet voice interrupting his thoughts.

"Um..eh..yes, ...no ..I mean, sure...no no it's free." he stammered in surprise as he realized who was asking, it was Neda.

"Thank You." , she replied as she took a seat on the bench near him...now he was close enough to smell her and her aroma was delicate like the playing of a violin sonata. "You know, Akhenaton is said to be the originator of the original idea of monotheism." She continued.

Chris, again startled that she continued to speak to him, finally gained some courage and turned to her and said. "Yes, actually I did." They spoke and strolled the museum until sunset.

Over the next few weeks he courted her in much the way that he was accustomed, messages to her IM, gave way to stronger feelings, poetry....Roses and chocolates as their interaction continued. Unlike Chris, Neda had never been revigorated. She was a pre-vig human which at her age of 29 was beginning to be a rare occurrence. Despite little difference in age being visible between 22 and 26 the laws in the United States any way enabled people to perform their first revigoration, 5 years after their 21st birthday. Neda had chosen to stay natural for a few years beyond, so interestingly in this relationship she appeared to be more mature than Chris despite the fact that chronologically he was nearly triple her age. She was born in 2016 a few years prior to his youngest daughters birth but in a time of super mortals so much of the appearance based factors that people use to engage relationships simply go obsolete. With no more marker of any ones age in the physical appearance to rule them in or out every one focuses more on the content of their character and personality, people aren't necessarily any better at it though. However, multi-revigoration recipients like Chris have advantages that natural year individuals do not, no longer subject to the cognitive decline that attended pre - vigorative aging and bolstered by additional genetic treatments and advances in the areas of strengthened neuronal connections and enabled by his extra time on the Earth, Chris and others like him are living store houses of wisdom and often stand out to those who have not revigorated as exceptionally erudite, usually poly lingual (Chris was already on his fourth language with fluency and was considering several more)...for Neda these qualities were attractive and she enjoyed hearing the stories from Chris of a time when people actually feared unavoidable death at the end of a slow process of degeneration caused by aging.

Snatching life back for more love...

The transport finally landed and had docked at the port, Chris was anxious as he waited for his love. He had married Neda in 2052 and they were considering having children. The "either or"  laws in France concerning childhood were clear, individuals could not engage in revigoration for 25 years post having children, since they met neither Chris nor Neda under went a revigoration. As you'll recall, Chris had undergone his second in 2042 when they met in the museum in New York in 2045...he'd aged to about 25 and she was 29, now in 2056 both looked about in their mid to late 30's. They were planning a visit to the revigorist to be injected together soon after she arrived. He was looking forward to starting fresh with her, after they both aged back to the appearance of 22 year olds...fresh faced and energized to have children but they couldn't do that in France. Instead, after their treatment they would fly to countries with relatively low populations that had more liberal or no "either or" policies in place. Their plan was to go to Uruguay. Neda had visited the country while she was in South America and felt it would make the perfect place to start a new family.

The red light above the departure doors indicating that the passengers were about to enter the terminal began to flash, Chris tensed as he prepared to see his love and craned his neck around others crowding to the gates. As the doors opened he caught immediate sight of Neda. Her luggage bot was at her side with her items in hand but Chris only saw that smile, those eyes, that hair and remembered how she looked that warm summer day 10 years before...and how she would look in a couple of months after the revigoration process had completed. He started moving toward the gate unconsciously as she ran to him and they embraced and kissed a slow passionate kiss of longing recovered in an instant of affection. "You know, I could love you for the next 300 years." she said coyly as he recovered from the sweetness of her lips and aroma. "Well, that's a coincidence...because I fully intend to give you at least that much time." He returned as they began to walk toward to exit the terminal, their luggage bot following them along the way.

09 November, 2011

A revolution in living....


It's difficult to preface the development indicated in the link above without getting emotional. For those who have been closely following the steady and rapid set of advances in the areas of cell biology and genetics over the last 10 years or so, the pacing has been exhilarating and remarkable. From the invention of iPSC by Shinya Yamanaka in 2006 to the demonstration of clear ability to restore a youthful state to senescent cells in only 5 years is amazing. In that time dozens of teams across the world have contributed additions to the race that have enabled the culmination of the success indicated above. These cofactors will go down in history as the beginning of the new therapy of revigoration. The restoration of life states to youthful points of operation using periodic treatments.

I prognosticated about this ability over several posts in the last few years, but in my wildest optimistic projection did I think we'd achieve so much so quickly.

An excerpt from the post shows how conservative my hypothesis may turn out to be:

"The genetic revigorations that he received were standard for astronauts of the ESA at the time. Today, the program is a historical footnote of the ESA's nearly 300 year history because since the invention of full genome vigorations development back in 2032, the entire human population has been undergoing continuous vigoration and adaptation."


2032 indeed. In 2008, to be fair when I wrote the post iPSC had many major issues preventing it from working as it currently works. For one the cofactors and methods used (by Yamanaka) were very different from the 6 used in this research, they had a bad side effect of triggering cancer formation. It was later in 2009 that efficient methods were found that used cofactors and lacked the oncogenic threat. Developments continued apace in 2009 and 2010 and now here we are on the brink of enabling super mortality as a treatment for aging itself.

I sit here stunned that in less than 6 years from their invention by Shinya Yamanaka, reprogrammed somatic cells via the technique of iPSC are now on the verge of unlocking the mystery of aging.

I wrote the hypothetical blog post on the life of Afusa O'Reilly 3 years ago in 2008 at the time, iPSC research was plagued with many issues (accidental cancer formation being one of them) but later discoveries of the use of enzymatic cofactors to enable pluripotency got rid of many of those concerns while significantly improving the percentage of cells that would become pluripotent.

Now, we know that rejuvenation is also a part of the gift of this technology. Though still in a developmental mode (the cells are not used therapeutically ....yet) we can expect the following to quickly occur.

1) Labs working on similar research will replicate the findings of the LeMaitre team (which is funny to me since it roughly means "the owner" in French) and test the stability of the rejuvenation.

2) Parallel work earlier this year (another Nobel Prize winning effort in my view) that enabled for the first time in vivo modification of genetic information without cancer formation will combine to allow living individuals to have their key stem cells (of any tissue type) rejuvenated.

3) Prior to 2) Occurring though...it is likely that cosmetics companies will look very closely into paying for some of this research to find ways to provide these cofactors to existing senescent cells in hopes of spurring rejuvenation. (Which may work but in a weak way)

4) The world needs to seriously sit down and wake up to what all this will mean. In my original prognostication I thought 2032 would be about when full revigoration (as I called it) would  be possible as a treatment to anyone who could pay for it. We don't have that yet (as these successes are only in the lab) but they are an inevitable result of this work that will likely happen within the next 2 years as no significant blockages present. The issues that a super senescent or super mortal population of individuals that can continue to reproduce must be taken seriously. All the projections on food supply and resource use assume that the death rate will pretty much stay as it has been but with a revolution like this that rate will shift dramatically (especially if these treatments are widely available as a commercial service) we will have to seriously think, one society after another about how to deal with over population. The time for such think is NOW.

5) Other serious issues also present, the fact that individuals living today carry the dominant cultural memes of the generation (baby boomers) in charge means that mores and ideas associated with such individuals will persist longer into the future. In some cases this may be a great thing as progressive ideas first pioneered by boomers continue to evolve...however in other cases it I believe is not a good thing. Strong supporters of philosophies of ignorance may be given quite literally much longer leases on life that will allow them to continue to pollute the human discourse that must happen increasingly more efficiently as we move forward in a growing populating of slowly dying individuals. I quote from the post I wrote on the idea when it dawned on me earlier this year:

"Still as this generation has a standing memory of these people what is likely to happen is an exaggerated remembrance in all human history to come of this time, as those who are alive now...and likely will be for centuries to come continue to push forward what they found important. If people who are the last active conveyor of knowledge live longer and longer than the time before obscure areas of knowledge are forgotten will also spread out into the future in an ever living memory concentrated around the last 50 years and moving forward into times yet to come. "


It must be clearly stated where we are:

Death by aging is about to be an option and not a requirement of living human beings.

The ripples through human cultural interaction and how those effect the one planet we inhabit must be dealt with if amazing levels of discord are to be avoided. I am excited about the development and look forward to see it develop but I am terrified at our level of immaturity. Let's hope we can draw on the inner will of humanity that got us here from the Savanah and make it through.