This interview was conducted by Venessa Posavec on Dec. 14,
V: What do you do and how is that related to the future?
A: I’m a biologist, mainly, and I’m focused on the development
of future therapies that will be able to postpone human aging a
very great deal. By postpone, what I really mean is, repair the
accumulating molecular and cellular damage that causes aging, and
really is aging. The various things that happen, the side effects
of our normal metabolic operations, so to speak, throughout our
lives that will eventually cause things to go wrong with us.
V: Where do you see the foundation heading in the future?
A: The main thing that it really has to do is to grow. At the
moment we’re not nearly big enough. There’s masses of research that
needs to be done, that isn’t being funded by anybody else, because
people think it’s too ambitious or they don’t understand the goals
or whatever, and it’s not being funded by us because we don’t have
the money yet. My my main purpose, my main focus at the moment is
to expand the foundation, to get more money in so that we can put
more money out.
One of the themes on Future Blogger and for fans of accelerating
change in general is life extension and the prospect of relative
We covered this topic in our very first interview with
Aubrey de Grey and Dick
Pelletier has addressed it many times. One of the core
arguments in this debate is that, regardless of increasing life
expectancy rates, humans have an upper limit. This is probably best
categorized as the Hayflick
limit argument . That there is a maximum number of years that a
human can live and if nothing gets to you before reaching that
threshhold, when you do, that’s it – it’s over. That limit is about
120 years of age, with the oldest documented lifespan being the 122
attained by Jean Calumet
Increases in life expectancy are ultimately discounted by this
assumption. In response to Jack Uldrich’s
recent piece on the prospect of living to 1000, John
Frink correctly points out that the radical increase in life
expectancy that developed societies have experienced over the last
170 years or so (roughly doubling) is largely due to advances in
health/medicine and hygiene. He cites the vast reduction in the
infant mortality rate as being of particular note. But that is more
reflective of initial gains and merely part of a larger trend at
Improving the delivery of healthcare is arguably the greatest challenge facing the United States and the global community particularly with regards to aging populations. Next generation healthcare services also represent one of the largest growth sectors for applied information and communication technologies that improve access and quality while reducing costs for patients and healthcare institution.
Is Healthcare 2.0 preparing for prime time?
This notion of applying advanced technology systems is not new, but widespread applications might be much closer to mainstream adoption than is currently reported.
This notion of next generation healthcare services has been explored by a number of forward looking physicians such as Dr. S. Vincent Grasso who organized a recent symposium at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey titled: ‘Enhancing the Delivery of Healthcare Services to an Aging U.S. Population.
Among the many topics explored by experts were: forecasts of diseases common to aging populations, and solution platforms based on low cost video conferencing to connect Doctors, patients and families, commercialization of easy to use imaging and sensing systems for remotely based diagnosis equipment, standards for patient records, and healthcare facilities management.
Last fall, I had the opportunity to give the keynote
presentation at the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s annual
meeting. The title of my talk was “The Future of Health Care.” At
the behest of the conference organizer, I provided an advance copy
of my presentation so that they could make copies for the
participants. The only problem was that the organizers asked for my
presentation a few weeks in advance and the pace of technological
change – especially as it relates to the health care industry – is
so rapid that I was compelled to update a number of slides prior to
As proof of the accelerating pace of technological change, I’d
like to just walk you through a few weeks of technological and
scientific advancement in the health care industry. In October,
researchers at Chonnam National University in Korea announced that
they had created a microscopic
robot small enough to travel through blood vessels. The robot
is so capable that once it is inside a blocked artery it is able to
release drugs to dissolve blood clots. According to this 2007 study, deaths from severe heart attacks
after hospital admission have already been halved in the past six
years. As a result of advances such as this microscopic robot, it
is reasonable to believe that we will continue to make even more
In early November, researchers at the Institute for Advanced
Bioscience in Tusuroka, Japan successfully demonstrated that they
had used inkjet printers to “print” human
stem cells. The significance of this advance is that society is
now one step closer to creating implantable organs. (cont.)
Steve has had a long day. He is tired despite having taken the
anti-fatigue pill “Alert” to get through the last web conference on
the company’s newest video unit.
Steve has had a long day. He is tired despite having taken the
anti-fatigue pill “Alert” to get through the last web conference on
the company’s newest video unit. A happy hour beer-fest at an Alfa
lounge sounds tempting, but just after leaving the building; a
sharp chest pain stops him mid step. The pain finally subsides, and
he quickly speaks to his cell phone, activating his personal health
record by uttering the word, “Emergency”.
Immediately, Steve is routed via the internet to his health
plan’s Clinical emergency centre for diagnosis. This Involves
answering a series of yes or no questions about the symptoms and
vital signs asked by a Med-Tech on duty computer. Steve places a
finger on the screen of his cell phone where his bio-signature
converts his bio-scan signals and sends them instantly to the
Emerg-Med Team via virtual Net Centre many time zones away.
The GE Cyberdoc decides that Steve’s condition maybe acute
cardiac ischemia and dispatches a clinic mobile to his exact
location. En route to the nearest emergency-care unit, a battery of
tests, including another bio-scan, are performed and transmitted
immediately through a wireless devise in real time to a lab for
Here’s another good reason to lay off that super-sized combo with extra fries: bad sperm. Besides being the cause of diabetes, heart disease, and back problems, a large waistline can also affect fertility. And not in a good way.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen conducted a study involving the sperm of more than 2,000 men who were having trouble conceiving. The results, presented at a recent conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona, revealed a substantial difference between the sperm of obese men and those of normal weight. The men were divided into four different groups, depending on Body Mass Index. Men with an optimal BMI of 20 to 25 had a healthy level of normal sperm, while the opposite occurred with heavier men. Findings show obese men produce more abnormal sperm as well as lower volumes of seminal fluid.
It was recently
announced that hospitals in Isreal have begun using virtual
reality programs to diagnose and treat patients with brain
injuries. The patient tries to catch a virtual tennis ball being
thrown on a screen, their actual hand movements are recorded, and
the information is fed into a computer program. The program then
diagnoses whether the person has had a traumatic brain injury or
stroke (with 90-98% accuracy!), and run a series of simulations to
determine what will be the most effective treatment and
This is a huge step in demonstrating the value of virtual
environments and simulations to do real good in the world. For
almost all of the decisions we make, we run simulations in our
brain without even thinking about it. “If I do A, then B is a
likely and desired outcome.” Through trial and error, our
simulations get more accurate over time – we may call it “wisdom”.
But, in some situations, such as the above brain injury example,
even our best human guesses for the right course of action may be
wrong. By running computer simulations, we can take that guesswork
out. Instead of creating a rehabilition therapy that may not only
be ineffective, but downright harmful, doctors will now be able to
implement the most effective therapies according to the patient’s
level of injury.
As computer processing speed continues to increase, and we
methodically quantify the underlying systems that drive everything
around us, we’ll see simulations popping up as tools for increasing
efficiency in all fields. I can see this being used to improve
learning and skill development in both education and the
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.
One of the most exciting areas of 'Nano-bio' research is the engineered integration of 'wet' and 'dry' nanoscale systems that might revolutionize research in genetics and proteomics (Study of Proteins). But how do you explain this breaking down the barriers of biological and human-made systems? Through 3D animation videos on YouTube, of course!
It was the summer of 2022 and I was invited to go
rock-climbing with some friends. I had never attempted this
exercise before, so naturally, I was concerned.
My friends simply dismissed my unease, saying “rock-climbing is
not what it used to be”.
They were right.
Body line pressurized suits have been in use since 2012; first
in NASA spacewalks and then were quickly
introduced to the public. At first they were simply pressurized and
used as a space suit based wrap. It increased mobility and
decreased its size. Since then electronic fibers were introduced to
manipulate the structure of the “smart” fabric thus magnifying the
strength of movement while wearing the suit. Making the user of it,
astoundingly stronger. I knew that hours in the gym would not be
needed for what would be a grueling rock-climbing trip, because my
hire suit enhanced my strength five fold. The trip turned out to be
great, getting to the top was definitely worth the now-easy trip.
Next month we will go kite surfing, I think I might need hire the
Some great science fiction movies have depicted the protagonist sitting in front of a beautiful landscape with chirping birds and incredible gardens (Aliens, Total Recall, etc). Spooky Science Fiction has yet again struck close to reality.
Called the SkyCeiling, it uses high resolution imagery on embedded image tiles to give the looker a true 3D experience. Some of the technology they use in developing the SkyCeiling is used currently to treat seasonal depression. It provides “daylight-balanced light (the same light used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder) for rich color rendition and recognition as ‘natural’ daylight.” The hope is that the product would help sooth and calm people in hospitals who are unnerved by the white and sterile environment.
Paul Saffo recently gave a talk to the Long Now
Foundation entitled: Paul Saffo recently gave a talk to the
Now Foundation entitled: “Secret’s to effective
forecasting.’ In it, Saffo argued that “inflection points are
tiptoeing past us all the time.” To make his point, he used the
example of how no robotic cars finished the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004, but all 23 cars
started and finished the race just a year later. (For readers
interested in a more in-depth look at this exponential-like
progress, I’d recommend this old post).
Saffo went on to advise forecasters to look for things that
don’t fit. Using the earlier example, he noted how at the same time
robotic cars were achieving their extraordinary progress; there was
a massive 108 car pile-up of “human-driven” automobiles on a
highway in California. Saffo’s point was that the two events point
to a possible future scenario whereby robotic-driven cars become