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Look At It This Way :: Steve Mason


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#1 Bruce Klein

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Posted 20 February 2003 - 06:53 AM


Dr. Stephen Mason has generously composed the following article for ImmInst.org. Thanks!

LOOK AT IT THIS WAY
By Steve Mason
Posted Image

We make some of our greatest gains
When we see old things
In new ways


SCARED A DYIN?
There's a line from that classic tune "Old Man River" that goes: …tired
a'livin but scared a'dyin. Interestingly enough, that probably sums up the
feelings of a significant share of the population. As the average age goes
up, an ever-greater number of people are finding that their lives have become
decreasingly joyful and increasingly fearful. The aging process, during
which our minds and our bodies deteriorate to mere shadows of our former
youthful vigor, should prepare us for death. But it doesn't. People still
fight for life, however unsatisfactory, just as the condemned criminal fights
to file yet another appeal. And there's a kind of parallel there since, if
you think about it, aren't we all really on Death Row?

Religion is a dead end - literally. The notion that one dies and things get
better is so patently absurd that virtually no one with all his screws tight
takes it seriously. Oh they may pretend to believe in a better place in the
sky but for most, when the chips are down, no treatment is too costly and no
procedure is too painful not to try to keep them from their final reward.
And think about it, if they really took all that streets of gold business as
fact, why would they so resist putting themselves in harm's way? If I
honestly thought I had a ticket to Paradise in my pocket, I'd be working on
being outa here!

So in the end, people invariably turn to science and technology: Forget what
I said about a heavenly father and stem cell research…what can you do to keep
me alive right now? And that brings me to my topic - what can be done?

Let's begin by dispelling the myth regarding an ever-increasing life span.
If, a century ago, people lived only until 40 and now they regularly last
into their 70's progress is being made right? Wrong. What has happened is
that more babies are being kept alive. Think about it statistically. If one
half of the newly born infants didn't survive their first year but then the
other half lived on to reach the age of 80, the mean age would be 40. This
is not far from the facts of a century ago. Indeed, the typical adult who
reached maturity may actually have lived longer back then as a result of
having gone through what amounted to a weeding out process. Most of the
Founding Fathers lived long lives and Michelangelo almost made it to 90. In
fact, the Bible mentions three score and ten (70 years of life) as an
average…and that was two millenium ago. Very simply, the longer you live the
longer you can expect to live. A 25-year-old male, for example, had a
72-year life expectancy at birth while men who have already made it to 65 can
look forward to seeing their 81st birthday.

Of course it would be silly to deny that advances have been made. Most of
these, however, turn out to be decidedly low tech and passe science. Things
like central heating, pasteurized milk, clean water, closed sewers and
adequate nutrition account for most "modern" gains in the battle against
death. Getting the jump on just a handful of previously deadly diseases
(measles, pneumonia, diphtheria, whooping cough and tuberculosis) made a big
difference too. But even at that, Americans spend the most on health care
yet rank only 24th in life expectance compared to other industrialize
nations. People in Australia, France and Sweden live 73 years to our 70 and
in Japan they typically make it all the way to 74 and a half. Too much
weight and too little exercise may explain this discrepancy but even if all
diseases were eliminated…it would add only about ten years to the average
life span.

The fact is, we die as a result of a built in, preprogrammed, hardwired aging
process. Exactly how this process took us from healthy adults to senile
seniors was something that might only be guessed at 50 years ago. One of the
theories, the Hayflick Limit, said our cells contained a kind of counter.
They reproduced just so many times and then stopped. An inevitable downhill
slide followed. Today, it looks like Hayflick was on the money. The actual
mechanism may be compared to a shoelace. Each cellular division wears a bit
off the plastic end until, when that magical three score and ten is reached,
all the plastic is gone and the lace itself begins to unravel. The details
of just how this happens (and how it might be prevented from happening) are
covered at great length in many other places so I won't bore you with all the
complicated chemical interactions…even though your life depends on them.
Instead, I'd like to explore the man-in-the-street's reaction to his possible
immortality.

The man in the street hasn't a clue. The notion that death might have a cure
is not part of his thinking. Old habits are hard to break. He pays his
taxes and he expects to die. Indeed, some philosophers have suggested that
life is of value only because of the alternative. Personally, I'm more of
the object in motion tends to want to stay in motion school of thought. This
made it especially difficult for me to comprehend a caller to one of those
late night talk radio shows where I happened to be the guest. The discussion
had gotten around to cryogenics and the possibility of freezing and then
eventually thawing out the current crop of terminally ill. Starting with a
"Yea but" the man on the phone said, "if George Washington could have been
frozen and brought back today…what would he do for a living? Being a General
would be out - he would know nothing of nuclear weapons - and he couldn't
even fall back on his surveying experience because all surveyors today have
to belong to a union." So here I was offering everlasting life and here was
this cretin concerned with union affiliations. But he was the rule and I was
the exception. Just ask around and you'll see what I mean. With the
possible exception of Ponce de Leon, most men (including those in
policymaking positions) simply can't conceive of a Fountain of Youth. And
yet, what fools these mortals be, when immortality is just around the
proverbial corner.

And it is. A crash program similar to the one that put a man on the moon in
a decade can, I firmly believe, cure death. But without the will, there is
no way. Physically we are very, very close. Emotionally there are still
many miles to go before we agree to avert the sleep of death. And even you
probably doubt my word. How can Mankind possibly beat the Grim Reaper?
Well, genetic engineering is one promising avenue. Now that we know our cells
have a reproductive limit, simply change that limit. We know the mechanism
of the malfunction and we have the tools to fix it. Neither of these, the
cause nor the possible cure was ever know before in the thousands of years of
Human history since exiting the cave. Identifying the nature of the beast is
in itself an incredible leap forward.

And there's one final thing to consider, the way two or more people will so
often discover the same thing at the same time. This makes it difficult for
future generations to give credit where it's due. Who figured it out first
exactly? The reason I bring this up is because there are actually several
approaches to immortality (or at least a greatly extended life span) that are
close to fruition. Along with the most promising, genetic engineering,
there's nano technology which is supposed to have a greater impact on our
world than computers by 2015. You can easily see how being able to
manipulate individual cells is going to have an extraordinary effect on the
nature of living things. And too, with those computers doubling in power and
halving in price every couple of years, the day when you'll be able to
download your brain can't be far away. As luck would have it, the
breakthroughs may well come together with researchers at this lab getting
cells to make perfect copies forever and researchers at that lab skipping
biology altogether and moving directly into human minds mirrored in machines.

LOOK AT IT THIS WAY
There will be lots of questions to answer. Will life lose its meaning in the
absence of death? There will be lots of problems to solve. What will we do
on an already crowded planet if people keep getting on but stop getting off?
But the bottom line: Hey Buddy…yours may well be the last generation to die.
Think about that.

Dr. Stephen Mason is a psychologist living in Southern California. He is a former university professor, syndicated columnist, talk radio show host and comedy writer for Joan Rivers. He is a member of MENSA, a recipient of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal's Citizen Sane award, and once appeared as a centerfold in Playgirl magazine. Currently, he serves as Media Affairs Director of The Lifestyles Organization. Address comments and column suggestions to him directly at DrSBMason@aol.com.
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#2 ocsrazor

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Posted 20 February 2003 - 09:22 PM

I agree whole heartedly with Dr. Mason's philosophy and firmly agree that their should be a crash course program to go after aging. In fact I suspect that Dr. Mason may have come in contact with some of the literature from the Maximum Life Foundation or with David Kekich (the Pres of MaxLife). Phrases like "last generation to die" and "A crash program similar to the one that put a man on the moon in a decade" and the general tone of this article sound incredibly familiar :) I'm glad the meme is spreading. (I was formerly the VP of Maxlife)

Dr. Mason has made some gross technical errors though in his statements on the aging process.

The fact is, we die as a result of a built in, preprogrammed, hardwired aging
process.


Aging is definitely not preprogrammed or hardwired, but is most likely the effect of multiple system failures all having differing degrees of effect. People do not age and die all in the same way. Use of the term programmed is especially bad because it implies that the human body is destined to die. It is not. There is no program running for aging, it is that the program for maintenance of the body ceases to function correctly when its parts start to wear out. These parts do not wear out in a uniform manner though, that depends on the environmental stress they face over the course of a lifetime. Use of the term programmed also gives ammunition to people who object to extending lifespans based on the grounds that a divine entity or mother nature has destined us for a particular lifespan. Lifespan is definitely not fixed, so we should not allow them this argument at all.

On the Hayflick Limit, the number of cell types reaching this limit in humans is most likely very small or none. There is very little evidence that this is having a significant effect. It may be applicable in the oldest old (85+yrs) but it is not affecting the majority of us who will die long before cell division stops, of some other cause. From current research, this process is clearly not the one taking us from healthy adults to seniors.

Finally, ever increasing life span is NOT a myth. There is lots of statistical data that clearly shows this. Most of the reasons Dr. Mason points out for lifespan extension are true, (infant mortality, disease control, etc) but these were not low-tech advances when they were made, each was state of the art technology at the time they were discovered. Small advances will continue to push us to even greater lifespan, until a breakthroughs in one or more fields are made.

My point with all of this is that the mechanisms of aging should not be simplified, even for the general public. This gives false hope that there will be a magic pill solution to aging. This is a complex problem that will require continuing research over a long period of time. So many different technologies are converging on this problem though that there willl be multiple choices for methods of life extension, so there is reason for hope. I just don't like to see misinformation spread, especially on this topic.

A final note, in the last paragraph spreading the myth of overpopulation by bringing it up as an issue is probably not a great idea either. This is just such a non-issue it is frustrating to see it repeated. Every indication is that world population growth is leveling off, and will stop by mid century. People in western societies are having far less children and there is not any reason to think that the rejeuvenated old are going to start having kids like crazy, so they are not really going to be adding to population growth in a significant way, even if they aren't dying. (Immortality will not increase population exponentially)

Best,
Ocsrazor (Peter Passaro)
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#3 Bruce Klein

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Posted 20 February 2003 - 10:02 PM

To follow up with what Ocsrazor had to say....

You may wish to check this thread for an in-depth look in the causes of aging (Aging Theories), and further proof as to why death is not 'programmed' http://www.imminst.o...=44&t=826&st=0

Concerning Maximum Human Lifespan.. recent studies suggegst a rise in maximum lifespan over the past few hundred years. From an Article I completed:

According to a longevity study conducted by John Wilmoth, a UC Berkeley associate, the "oldest age at death for humans has been rising for more than a century and shows no signs of leveling off." Wilmoth and fellow colleges from the United States and Sweden researched the national death records in Sweden and found an increase in the average maximum lifespan each year since 1861. This finding calls into question the 120 lifespan limit.

"We have shown that the maximum life span is changing. It is not a biological constant. Whether or not this can go on indefinitely is difficult to say. There is no hint yet that the upward trend is slowing down," writes Wilmoth.

Wilmoth’s statements about maximum lifespan run counter to a commonly held belief that there is a natural limit. “Those numbers are out of thin air," said Wilmoth. "There is no scientific basis on which to estimate a fixed upper limit. Whether 115 or 120 years, it is a legend created by scientists who are quoting each other." says Wilmoth.

http://www.imminst.o...t=ST&f=67&t=680

Reference:
'No limit' to human life span
Thursday, 28 September, 2000
http://news.bbc.co.u...alth/946452.stm


And to quickly address the question of overpopulation.... there's infinite space in space :)
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#4 DJS

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Posted 21 February 2003 - 03:56 AM

Yeah, I also thought that the belief in an upper limit of 120 was pure conjecture (considering that that woman in France lived to what, 122?) However, I do believe that there is an upper limit to life span without some kind of, as of yet undeveloped, technological intervention. Basically, I believe that no matter how well you take care of yourself you are not going to live forever. There are going to have to be break throughs for immortality, not better maintenance.

I'm a little bit puzzle about why there is "controversy" regarding an upper limit. Whether it is 120 or 130 or 140 every biological entity eventually breaks down and dies. That is not really the point though, is it? I don't just want to extend my life to 130 and look like a 130 year old. I want to be a 4000 year old and look like a 25 year old. I want to stop the aging process.

Well that's all I have to say. Just some thoughts from a beginner...
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#5 ocsrazor

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Posted 21 February 2003 - 04:36 AM

Yep, there is no set limit, except for when all the systems just finally crash, but that is going to be based on stongly on how much environmental damage you absorb over a lifetime. Jean Calment (the 122yr old) was an occasional smoker! She just lucked out with incredible genes.

Biological entities can essentially be immortal. If you look at it from a cellular perspective every living thing on the face of this earth is a decendant of the first cell. Is 4 billion years close enough to immortality for you? ;^)

I completely agree that we need robust non-aging tech but in the short term there are already some very interesting things close to going to market which may make enough difference that most people alive today can reach the real breakthroughs.

Best
Ocsrazor
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#6 Bruce Klein

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Posted 21 February 2003 - 07:45 PM

Kissinger: Whether it is 120 or 130 or 140 every biological entity eventually breaks down and dies

There are quite a few examples of immortality in biology in nature... proof of concept that aging in not inherent to life in general. check: http://www.imminst.o...?s=&act=SF&f=48
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#7 fruitimmortal

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Posted 21 February 2003 - 08:57 PM

Plant seeds that where found in the Egyptian Tombs still contain all that is needed to create an offspring; they are thousand of years old.

The evidence of Immortality is written into our natural world.


BTW, I think every Immortalist should have a seed collection [!] [B)] growing and eating our own non toxic food extends life :)
---

more on seeds and seeding.......

According to ancient knowledge one of the biggest enemy's of mankind is procreation.Production of progeny is the 'great sacrifice' mentioned often in sacred ancient texts.

Hilton Hotema explains the ancient Ageing Theory:

" When we study the creative progress and see how the flowers of the field decay in the function of production and die as they seed.
Mandkind hastens his deterioration when he beginns to serve the commandment " be fruitful and multiply" His slow descent to the grave is quickend when he begins to consume his Creative essence in propagation and pleasure. Some Authorties claim this alone cuts two hundred years from man's life- span." [ph34r] [unsure]

The Ancient masters invented Fables to convey and conceal facts of life and death. Like the fable of Samson and Delilah. The name Delilah means " the weakening or debilitating one".
The words comes from Hebraic Lilah, which means" darkness", and 'night'. [huh] [?]

..... any scientific studies on this Subject?

Edited by BJKlein, 28 February 2003 - 05:18 AM.

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#8 ocsrazor

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Posted 23 February 2003 - 10:14 AM

Fruiti,

Yes, there several studies that show that in humans, regular sexual activity will extend lifespan, not shorten it.

Best,
Ocsrazor

P.S. This is off topic, so just in the interest of keeping continuity in the thread, if you would like to discuss this further, please start a new thread on this subject.
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#9 Bruce Klein

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Posted 02 March 2003 - 08:14 AM

Steve Mason asked that I post this response to his article. He mentoned that he'd be out of town the next few days, but will be back soon to check for replies.

I am indeed delighted that you chose to run my article as it has allowed me to be in touch with a number of especially bright individuals.  The comments made by OCSRAZOR, of course, stand out and I would have emailed him directly with my thanks but was unable to find his address.  His comments regarding the Raelians were also noteworthy.

There were two things mentioned upon which I may add:


As for life spans increasing - I recently came across a piece saying that
life spans are just now going back to where they were before the last ice age
when humans first began living in large groups and tending animals.  Comments?

As for sex effecting life spans - see my "Sexual Epidemic Sweeps Nation"
piece.

http://www.imminst.o...st=0

Comments?


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#10 immortalis-REX

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Posted 18 March 2003 - 04:56 AM

Just imagine Thomas Edison, or other greats if they lived a heathy 1000
years or so. The improvement in quality of life would be staggering . The reason productivity goes down with age is energy levels decrease and depression sets in killing motivation. If your energy and health stay at the level of an elite 20 year old then creativity and productivity would remain at a youthfull level. Actually productivity would increase I feel if a human had the experience and wisdom of a 1000 year old and the energy of a 20 year old it would be beyound the comprehension of anything we understand now. Also I do not believe death or aging are pre-programed, but what does it matter, we must make physical immortality the focus of our scientific research for all other research is trivial if your dead.
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#11 Bruce Klein

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Posted 18 March 2003 - 03:32 PM

Welcome immortalis-REX,
Your sentiment is much held by many members. But what can we do to share our ideas with the world? And what can we do to refine and focus our message for a wider audience?

Maybe you'd be interested in composing a three paragraph story on the above topic - something like... 'saved wisdom and the potential for a better world'. You can submit your ideas to ImmInst for publication on our home page. From there we can distribute your ideas to other sites that host such news. Submit Here
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