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Google announces Calico, a new company that will focus on health and well-being (plus.google.com)
579 points by spankalee 1492 days ago | hide | past | web | 385 comments | favorite

Absolutely brilliant. Finally, Aubrey De Grey's unapologetically straightforward logic [1] regarding aging has gained traction with the crowd who has the means to tackle this grand challenge. I am sincerely proud of Page and Brin for their vision and commitment.

This is one of those rare times that powerful people make bold choices that catalyze a shift in the world's thought paradigm. Aging will now be seen for what it is: the root of all chronic illness.

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMAwnA5WvLc

catalyze a shift in the world's thought paradigm

Absolutely. The goal should be to enact a vector of a new paradigm, as proactive team players synergize an out-of-the-box strategy of functionality and infotainment, re-engineering the learning curve framework of your dotted-line relationship.

You're not leveraging your competitive advantages, there. I bet you don't even brainstorm blue-sky thinking for an innovation agenda. Tsk tsk.

You missed my personal favorite, 'thought shower' which sounds vaguely fetish like in an intellectual way.

In case you run out of ideas:http://www.1728.org/buzzword.htm

Let's take that offline.

I've added an action item to our sync up.

I don't have enough bandwidth right now.

I'll ping you tomorrow.

What's the ask here?

Stick it on the laterbase.


with Node.js and CSS3.

It took me a while to understand the sarcasm. I have probably been in the corporate environment too long :(

Personally I hope that Google is humble enough to morph cross-platform mindshare in addition to growing killer channels and facilitating bleeding-edge infrastructures.

This approach will surely recontextualize best-of-breed vortals, implement world-class research and innovate value-added technologies by embracing impactful infomediaries.

Imagine how much longer we'd live if we leveraged sticky e-services, brand user-centric channels, iterated seamless deliverables and matrix impactful architectures?

Your snark is unnecessary and very misplaced.

This will result in a significant thought paradigm shift in all things health-related, and it's a great thing that a company with as many resources and as high of a profile as Google is looking into this. Google is a company that is making self-driving cars, providing incredibly fast internet to consumers, providing Internet to suffering areas with a new idea (the Loon), exploring definitively new ideas for hardware (Google Glass) -- and now they're looking into aging.

I'd say Google guys are sufficiently more respectable than the political chameleon who's lobbying DC today [1], and just recently directed considerable resources on ads advocating a host of anti-environmental causes [2].

[1]: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/mark-zuckerberg-dc-969...

[2]: http://thinkprogress.org/immigration/2013/04/26/1925921/mark...

He's making fun of the buzzwords, not the message itself. Frankly, if you think "catalyzing paradigms" is a good way to say something, I'd recommend taking an English literature class.

I recommend not taking an English lit class, and instead going to your local library and borrowing some well-worn books on how to write by actual authors. And not literary authors either.

Though I doubt anyone is going to call you bad at writing if your press releases start sounding like Hemingway and Shakespeare.

Err... catalyzing a paradigm change makes perfect sense to me. I think Thomas Kuhn might have used that in his book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions".

A lit class isn't going to make any comment on a phrase like that, or management speak in general. Management speak is just a jargon.

> Management speak is just a jargon.

Its mostly not. Jargon is specialized use of terms used to facilitate clear communication of ideas within a specific community/domain. Management speak -- at least the form that is often mocked -- is just using flowery language to conceal the absence of substance, and is pretty much the opposite of jargon.

I disagree. I hear your complaint from many people, but I spend enough time talking to managers to understand what they mean, and I actually think there's content there.

I spend a lot of time talking to managers, and most what they are saying isn't what people describe as "management speak" (which is, despite the phrase usually used to describe it, more the language of marketing and PR -- which, to be fair, managers frequently necessarily engage in and all too often are also victims of.)

There is a jargon of management -- an array of terms with precise meanings in the field that are either not used outside of the field or are used outside with different meanings, and which facilitate clear communication in the domain.

But that's really not what people are talking about when they are talking complaining about "management speak", which seems to be all about marketing/PR buzzwords which are used to create certain feelings while minimizing communication of clear commitments and detailed information, which are used by management either when they are acting to promote the business in marketing/PR role, or when they've been successfully snowed over by some vendor's or other industry player's marketing.

All the talk of jargon while a paradigm has shifted... No doubt, you are all very smart (and literate) but the point was to notice how f^@k1ng big this is.

>Err... catalyzing a paradigm change makes perfect sense to me. I think Thomas Kuhn might have used that in his book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions".

And I think he wouldn't have touched that phrase with a barge pole.

>Management speak is just a jargon.

No. Jargon comes out of necessity and field-specific needs.

Management speak comes out of the desire to unecessarily dress-up bullshit.

To catalyze something means to speed it up.

So catalyzing a paradigm change means to make it happen faster.

I don't see the problem with this. Could you be more specific?

>To catalyze something means to speed it up. (...) I don't see the problem with this. Could you be more specific?

The problem with this is that "make it happen faster" is already clear and sufficient.

People understand it -- including people who don't have an idea what "catalyst" means (for me it's a totally transparent word, as its origin and etymology come from my language. YMMV).

If you want to dress it up to make it sound more impressive, then you're not communicating effectively.

And if you include 3-4 other unecessary buzzwords in the same sentense you're just name-dropping words.

"I saw a very puissant pismire lifting 100 times its weight in a sweven yesterday". Do you see anything wrong with this sentense?

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pismire http://www.thefreedictionary.com/puissant http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sweven

(Except if you're a chemist, and you use the word "catalyst" as it applies to your terminology)

"The problem with this is that "make it happen faster" is already clear and sufficient."

I disagree. Catalyze is more succinct. In addition, to catalyze has the connotation of making change happen via the injection of a catalyst, thus connecting the agent of change with the change it brings. It's a better word.

Catalyst is not a difficult vocabulary word, nor a particularly uncommon word. Compare it's frequency to the words you used: http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=catalyst%2C+pui...

>The problem with this is that "make it happen faster" is already clear and sufficient.

Do you only read Simple English wikipedia? It's very clear and sufficient.

Simple English Wikipedia sacrifices nuance to fit to its constrained lexicon. It is possible to explain pretty much anything using only 1000 words (and probably fewer), but it's going to be awkward because language is more than just conveying ideas through words. Words also have sounds and rhythm and evoke different images and emotions beyond their literal dictionary definition. For that reason, Simple English Wikipedia fails at being literature, but succeeds in communicating ideas to people that don't speak English. Since the latter is its goal, it's successful. But it's not something to imitate if you desire to communicate rather than just describe.

And, some phrases are simply used too often by people trying to sound smart when they really have nothing to say. There is nothing wrong with catalyzing synergy, but because so many people have applied those words when they had nothing to say, the phrase has gradually become meaningless. Omit meaningless words.

Management is itself a field, with its own jargon. You can have good management and poor management (just as you can have good engineering or poor management) but don't pretend that the use or absence of "management jargon" is somehow intrinsically connected to that.

Managers have their jargon because they often trade in abstract concepts (Plan of Record, Resources, Asks, Action Items, OKRs) peculiar to their trade that are ripe for shorthanding, which is pretty similar to the reason you see it in other fields.

Kuhn popularized the phrase "paradigm shift."

In his view, it occurred over generations as adherents to older scientific models died of old age - e.g. the Copernican model replaced the Ptolomeic model because Ptolomeic astronomers went extinct.

yes, but it's much faster now (look at how quickly the RNA World Hypothesis took over after Noller, Woese, and Cech demonstrated their results. One might say we're catalyzing paradigm shifts through network effects. Then engineers would complain I was using management talk, but I can assure you, that's a succinct and accurate way to explain it.

If it's a "succinct and accurate way to explain it" then why do so many people find it jarring and confusing? If management speak really is a jargon then it is useful only when talking to other managers, not to people in general. (And, it would appear, especially not when talking to engineers.)

"catalyze a shift in the world's thought paradigm" is the quote, so it sounds like you're the one who needs to be careful of language.

Although isn't "thought paradigm" a tautology?

No (nor is it an oxymoron, which I think is more relevant); a paradigm is a defining pattern, and quite including a pattern of action. Its frequently used in a way which implicitly references a pattern of thought, but its not redundant to make that explicit.

Hmm, interesting. I've just checked the OED's definition, and it seems to mostly relate to thought - essentially, "paradigm" as "mental model".

However, the idea of an action paradigm is interesting - can you give an example of usage in that way?

what Jrockway said https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6407580

But your comments are factually wrong. None of Google's products you mention are new or really that much better (so far.)

>> Google is a company that is making self-driving cars

So is every major car manufacturer out there. Who's ahead of the game? I don't know because Google gets all the press and fawning from fanboys--like you.

">>providing incredibly fast internet to consumers

Experimenting in a few ares with plenty of subsidies doesn't count. The much hated Verizon has done a LOT more on that regard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verizon_FiOS

">> providing Internet to suffering area with a patently new idea (the Loon)"

Not providing anything yet, just experiments and Loon is not a new idea at all. http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB120347353988378955.ht...

">> exploring definitively new ideas for hardware (Google Glass)" Not a new idea at all. Different thinking of course but the verdict is still out.

One day--the focused like a laser--Google will manufacture their toilet paper and you'll be here to wonder how we managed without toilet paper before Google invented it.

> Who's ahead of the [self-driving car] game? I don't know because Google gets all the press and fawning from fanboys--like you.

It's Google. They have the right people, the right ideas, the resources, and they started first. Source: I'm a prof in a related field with graduated PhD students at Google.

The Google cars get press because they are really very good.

>It's Google. They have the right people, the right ideas, the resources, and they started first.

I believe we covered the "fawning from fanboys" part already.

>Source: I'm a prof in a related field with graduated PhD students at Google.

That's not a "source". That's at best a "full discosure" and at worst a "conflict of interest" in this discussion...

Sebastian Thrun's team was the first winner of DARPA driverless vehicles (2nd year) challenge, the year before that contestants failed very early. Do you know car manufacturers with such know-how ? They probably had research about it but I doubt they were as complete. Since Google backed the project they did very extensive tests in the real world. GM and such are bringing back computer aided driving but I'm sure they're too busy sustaining their business to put resources in something as disruptive and risky.

That's what I get for providing a professional opinion on HN? Wow.

For the record, none of my former students work on the Google cars as far as I know.

Google didn't start first at all. Maybe they have the right people but as far as resources, other car companies have them too. That's their bread and butter, not some experiment

By the way: " Mercedes missed a barn-door sized opportunity last week when it revealed technical details of next year's 2014 S-class, which showed that while this flagship model could potentially have been the world's first autonomous driving car, Mercedes has decided not to give it that capability. For now, the driver's hands have to remain on the wheel at all times.

"The car would do it [autonomous driving] today," said Jochen Haab technical support manager, "we have had test cars doing that, but what happens if a child steps out into the street and the radar misses it?" http://www.roadandtrack.com/go/first-looks/new-car-tech-2014...

Wow... what are you even doing on this site? What's it like hating everything?

No other company has reached so far in self driving cars as Google has. Learn to live with it.

OK, you hit a nerve, so I'll keep beating a dead horse: says who? Who made a side by side study of all the efforts in self driving cars?


"... Mercedes-Benz announced Monday that it had successfully driven an autonomous S-Class sedan 62 miles on German city streets."

Well, shit, that quote right there plus your hostile attitude sure have me impressed. 62 whole miles! They're clearly on the doorstep of releasing a production autonomous car, as you were trying to imply over at <https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6408590>.

Meanwhile, that other company's car has made the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles (at least 380 miles, in case you didn't know):


That was two years ago.

Here's a suggestion: why don't you just take a step back from the topic of Google, since you clearly get all twisted up inside about it?

Well, shit, that quote right there plus your hostile attitude sure have me impressed. 62 whole miles! They're clearly on the doorstep of releasing a production autonomous car

I'm here to impress you sir, that's my mission in life.

Now who said that they drove a total of 62 miles vs a 62 mile trip? Did the car crash at mile 62 or they reached the destination? All these are little details that need to be taken in consideration before an idiot exclaims "Google is #1 in autonomous cars..."

By the way, see anything funny http://i.bnet.com/blogs/google-self-driving-car.jpg sticking out of the Mercedes car http://www.trbimg.com/img-522e6325/turbine/la-fi-hy-autos-20... ? Don't tell me they have shrunk it to make it fits inside a normal car already. How much does the Google system cost now, is it $100K+ just for the autonomous driving system? Details, details, details

Well, sorry to say that you're failing pretty hard at your mission then. But do keep ramping up the snarky rhetoric. It looks like I hit a nerve.

I didn't say anything about total miles; I was comparing Mercedes' single 62 mile trip against the other car's single 380+ mile trip. But if you want to bring up total miles logged, That Company In Mountain View hit 300k miles last year [1] and there are absolutely no public numbers from Mercedes. If the figure were impressive, they'd probably have released it.

But now you want to make a fuss over the LIDAR on top of That Company's car while the S Class gets by on just radar. Your earlier post quoted a Mercedes engineer saying "we have had test cars doing that, but what happens if a child steps out into the street and the radar misses it?" -- well, gosh, maybe that funny spinning thing is doing something useful. Wouldn't you want an autonomous car to use any and every available method to detect obstacles? Details indeed.

[1] http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-self-driving-car-...

Okay, I'd say you're both off here. I think you're right that Bsullivan should take Google more seriously - I think he's going to have to eat his hat with the way Google is heading. But you shouldn't dismiss Mercedes - the German car companies are very smart, and have the potential to be top players over the coming decades.

There are more people who believe the google brain washing of "Google itself is singularly advancing the world of driving, ubiquitous computing, and medicine!" than realize google is just very noisy about the things it does (plus the fan-blog-fawning multiplier of hearing about the same thing in 10,000 different outlets).

Yup! Should have included a link but I thought people will think it's my site, spam etc.

Thanks for reminding me why I don't want stay here forever.

He just wrote an article as a response to this:


Ever since coming across Aubrey De Grey I've been waiting for a more mainstream adoption of his ideas. I can only hope you're right and that this announcement will incite real change in the public's opinion on age.

This is great if they do take the engineering approach of SENS and Aubrey de Grey. Ideally they would partner with SENS.org since they already have a lot of the infrastructure set up.

Agreed. I love that mainstream companies with lots of money are getting involved though. It's nice to be ahead of the curve but it's even better when the curve catches up.

Absolutely. Right now money is the bottleneck for the things that SENS is doing, so rich companies joining in are very welcome, as is the mainstream coverage that will come with them (hopefully resulting in more donations).

"Aging will now be seen for what it is: the root of all chronic illness." .. That´s simply not true. There are people suffering chronic illnesses at very young ages - ones that are completely unrelated to aging. Aging is a natural process that all biological species undergo - humans are no different. There are plenty of people who have lived healthy and normal lives, aged, and then died naturally. Chronic illnesses are caused by genetic factors and / or personal habits.

Honestly, this just smells like trying to get positioned favorably for the coming geriatric population bubble as the boomers finally reach the point where they aren't able to screw everything up anymore.

Perhaps I missed something... where is Aubrey de Grey linked with Calico? I didn't see any mention of him in Larry's post, the press release, or the time article. Where is this coming from?

Aubrey's reaction piece is listed on the front page of Time's website, and can be seen here: http://ideas.time.com/2013/09/18/finally-the-war-on-aging-ha...

That whole article is incredibly creepy -- 'War on Aging' -- do we really need more 'War on X' rhetoric? Regarding the fact that we know that we eventually die, he states

> So soul-destroying has this knowledge been, for almost everyone, that we have constructed our entire society and world view around ways to put it out of our minds'.

Absolutely ridiculous. Besides the fact that I think a 'soul' is a poorly-defined construct and thus hard to crush, I really don't see a problem with death; to me it's just as necessary as birth. Sure, it's sad when someone dies, and death can be a traumatic experience, but it's also simply part of being a biological organism. I suppose I find some agreement with de Grey in that large portions of societies fear death and try not to think about it. However, perpetual avoidance through the declaration of war on Death seems practically infantile in view.

It's part of being a biological organism thus far. There's nothing to say we can't do better. To the rest -- in particular, the notion that wanting people not to die is "infantile" -- I reply with a link: http://www.yudkowsky.net/singularity/simplified/

Yes, let's all listen to the man warning us that something will tile the universe in something other than humans.

You know, as opposed to not tiling the universe in anything.

I really fail to see what Yudkowsky's ideas about such things have to do with this particular point.

To my knowledge, it's part of the broad criticism that Yudkowsky doesn't seem to have any concept of avoiding overpopulation or general overconsumption of resources. It's like when people go around saying God gave us the Earth to exploit, except with an entire 14-billion light-year-wide Hubble Volume.

Given his focus on transhumanism related issues, it's likely that he has spent more time thinking about overpopulation than all but an insignificantly tiny proportion of the population.

"To your knowledge?" What, do you not know what point you're actually making?

More seriously, I don't think that's an accurate comparison. What fundamentally is the problem with the people saying "God gave us the Earth to exploit"? Well, it's what you said, overconsumption. But what is actually wrong with "overconsumption"? (That is to say, at what point does consumption become overconsumption?) Is there something inherently wrong with pumping lots of oil out of the earth? No, of course not. What's wrong with consuming too much now is that it leaves less for us later. Or that it has other ill effects, such as polluting the atmosphere and making our environment unlivable. There's nothing wrong with unbounded amount of consumption per se if we can find a way to deal with the ill effects (and make sure to leave enough for future people). The value against overconsumption is instrumental, not terminal. If you are in a situation where such consumption would cause a problem, well, don't do that then; but if you're not, go ahead.

Similarly with overpopulation -- there's nothing inherently wrong with a universe full of people; the worry rather is that you'll have so many people with so little space and resources for each that they'd have a terrible quality of life. Once again: Well, don't do that, then! Anticipate problems and avert them (or fail to anticipate them and then solve them, possibly by reducing population or consumption). Eliezer Yudkowsky is not suggesting anything close to the idea that we should make as many people as possible even if all of them would be miserable, or that we consume every resource as fast as possible even if we render the world uninhabitable for our descendants.

In short, the problem is not a large population, nor lots of consumption, but the side-effects of these things, and the shortsightedness that leads people to disregard them. Gotta maintain the distinction between terminal values and instrumental ones.

...OK, there is one obvious thing I'm glossing over. Namely, the idea that it's good to leave some space for the non-humans, as well; their disregard for other forms of life is I think something else we would agree is wrong with the "God gave us the earth to exploit" people, and there the comparison with Yudkowsky is perhaps a little more accurate. But, regarding animals, I don't think Yudkowsky's position is really different from that of most people. Yes, we'd like to have a world with, say, polar bears in it, and not just ones in zoos, or ones who are miserable all the time; but we probably wouldn't want to have a world that was partly ordered according to polar bear values. (Whatever that means.)

Now, other intelligent forms of life is a another can of worms, but I don't think the "God gave us the Earth to exploit" people worry much about those, so I'm going to stop here because I don't really know how to compare there.

(Also I'm not really sure that your earlier "tiling" post is really an accurate representation of Yudkowsky's ideas, but I didn't really want to argue about it, partly because I'm not prepared to right now and partly because it seemed essentially irrelevant.)

> death can be a traumatic experience, but it's also simply part of being a biological organism.

This tends to be glossed over in discussions of his work, but Aubrey de Grey is specifically interested in reducing the (currently inevitable) human suffering associated with aging. Clinical immortality would be an eventual side-effect of succeeding in that mission.

Every manner of treatable and correctable disease and condition is "part of being a biological organism," but it seems absurd to hold such a standpoint if you're not also in favour of discarding modern medicine in order to die slowly and painfully from cancer.

Curing aging wouldn't prevent you from dying if you desire to die. It would simply give an option for those of us who don't believe dying is necessary or desirable.

"it's also simply part of being a biological organism."


Absolutely everything we have built with technology is not simply part of being a biological organism. Who are you to say what being a biological organism is about? For that matter, what's special about biology (nothing, but that's a different discussion)?

Smallpox is simply a part of being a biological organism. Fighting with other organisms to the death is part of being a biological organism. Survival of the fittest is part of being a biological organism. But we're better than that. See, we have pretty powerful brains that allow us to escape the endless cycle of suffering and death that is "being a biological organism". You're not forced to use yours for that purpose, but don't act like there is some bright line between all the other supposed rules we break and curing death. It is all part of the same progression.

> Besides the fact that I think a 'soul' is a poorly-defined construct and thus hard to crush

Ah, I see, you're engaged in a 'War on Metaphor'.

Aubrey has been talking about tackling aging as a disease for a long time now. Some of us have been waiting for some real serious investment in that direction because historically it seems he has been the lone voice in the field willing to challenge aging in this way.

This announcement could be interpreted as strong support for the general concepts that Aubrey talks about.

He's not, he's just well known as having put together the first clear roadmap for life extension and ultimately "curing" death. If anyone could be considered the "father" of the field, it's him. Hence the comparisons people are making.

Juan Ponce de León springs to mind. He had a fairly clear roadmap, it just happened to end in Florida.

>This is one of those rare times that powerful people make bold choices that catalyze a shift in the world's thought paradigm.

Let's just go ahead and pump the brakes here before we start clapping each other on the back and talking about shifted paradigms. I'll gladly join in the happy-clappy fest once some actual results come through. But saying we've catalyzed a shift in the world's thought paradigm (that is a really pretentious way of saying "this might make people think differently", by the way) at the announcement of a new product might be just a wee bit premature.

An interesting point from one of Calico's announcements is a statement that curing all cancer would only add ~3 years to the expected lifespan.

This is thought provoking - if even a perfect solution to such a problem won't give us what we want, then we do need to "make people think differently" and try to focus on a different, bigger problem than the current approach of trying to strike out separate illnesses.

By the way, allowing medicine to think about not only "how to bring a broken-person to average" but "how to bring an average person to above-average" would also require a major change in the way of thinking for the whole area. Some homo sapiens are extremely resistant for diseases, some are smarter than average, some have much lower aging damage. Instead of thinking how to fix a genetic disease by replacing a broken gene with the "average" one; we should think about what is the best that we, as a species, could be.

the difference lies in quality of living. dying of cancer is a shitty way to go.

having a massive stroke/heart attack/aneurisma? at least you pop and you're gone. going through chemo/radio for months/years to slowly, painfully wither away is bullshit.

same is true for all those diseases, parkinsons, alzheimers, etc.

fuck them all. they are the bane of our existance, literally. pure evil.

That is exactly the point here.

Its not instant death, but the process of a slow death that is the enemy.

The biggest predictor of a society's average predicted lifespan is infant mortality. Most of the gains in average lifespan over the last 100 years is from increasing the number of children who live past 2.

3 years increase from a non-infant mortality related improvement is actually pretty huge. I'd have to look it up, but I think the impact of non-infant vaccinations would be roughly a similar sized increase.

3 years increase from a non-infant mortality is pretty huge only when compared to what we have done before - but it's not huge compared to the actual lifespan.

Going from 80 to 83 (for example) is nice, but it doesn't have a radical impact on how we should live our lives - going from 80 to 160 could do that. If we want major improvements, then we either need to make sure that the other things are cumulative (say, that we can get 20 disease-cures to add 3 years each); or we need to look in completely different directions.

It depends on what you see as a goal - in the long run, I believe that we can get to lifespans measured in centuries, because it's technically possible as seen from other lifeforms. If the marginal improvements due to curing diseases can't get us there, then we should investigate other options how to achieve that, instead of treating a 5% increase as "pretty huge" and being satisfied with that.

Very good point! I didn't think the statement about curing cancer and getting back 3 years was a very thoughtful one.

To me the (potential) benefit is not life extension but healthier lives.

I agree. The goal should be to achieve the best compromise between quality and length. Pushing from 80 to 130 is good and all, but I would prefer the research to be focused on preserving youthfulness rather than life in and for itself, i.e. I would rather die a young 80 year old than a decrepit 130 year old walking corpse. Of course, even better would be to die a young 130 y.o., or not die at all.

Well, but that's exactly what anti-aging research is about. If you learn how to fix heart disease or cure cancer or cure Alzheimers, then anyway afterwards you are a frail, decrepit person with a couple more years to live; but if you delay or fix the actual aging issues, then it prolongs the time that you are healthy and well-functioning.

Take a look at, for example, http://youtu.be/qMAwnA5WvLc (TEDx, Aubrey de Grey) linked in another thread.

Changing the way people around the world think about death is pretty significant, though. It's going to rewrite important aspects of many cultures. Edit: I mean "make people think differently" is underselling it.

Landing on the moon in 1969 rewrote a lot too. I bet if you asked people back then what the future would be like, the space program would look a little different.

All we're doing today is announcing a moon shot.

A great problem is the current mindset. Many, many people think of life extension as undesirable. It's mind-boggling at first sight, but then you understand it for what it is: the Stockholm Syndrome, with Death as the hostage-taker, and all the life-extension-deniers as the hostages.

We need to get out of that hole first. Google is doing the right thing.

Thinking that death is a problem or 'a bad thing that happens' is incredibly short-sighted. Improving the well-being of humanity in general is a great goal; life extension can be a different topic entirely.

While I'd love to live a thousand years (as long as it's in decent health), the big danger to society is obviously that it'll be the very rich that will live that long, and they'll hold on to their power that much longer. It creates an even bigger division between rich and poor.

Imagine what the world would look like if the medieval elite were still alive today. It's good that the people in power die every once in a while.

Awesome novel idea.

The problem that I see with this statement, from my perspective:

If everyone died at 30, everyone would say the same thing about life extension past 30.

If everyone died at 200, everyone would say the same thing about life extension past 200.

Why does death have to be where it is now? Natural death from aging comes a little longer than a few other causes of death tend to hit, but it's still very, very soon. People's twitch thinking skills start to decline so early (even in the 20s), and while they can more than make up for it through increasing knowledge, we have so little time to build that knowledge before we have to go.

Actually the root of all chronic illness is being born. You can't age without that happening first.

I for one welcome my immortal transhumanist cyborg overlords.

But seriously, the fact that the first thing they do is start a corporation to control the science is not exactly comforting to me. Genentech is known for selling Avastin, their drug that fights cancer for $55k after they received harsh criticism for the proposed cost of $100k+/year.


I fear a future where "all men are created equal", but only some can afford to become immortal and others cannot. We already see some of that now. Tons of ethical questions around this topic.

Like with anything else, the question isn't whether the rich will be able to afford it, the question is how much progress can we make in making it cheap, how quickly, to get it to how many people?

It is a moral imperative to make sure that short-sighted class warfare does not cut off the nose to spite the face by destroying this work under the guise of egalitarianism, because we can not turn on a dime and immediately grant it to everyone on day one. Yes, the rich will get it first. We need to ensure that market mechanisms remain functional and that they end up subsidizing the research the rest of us need. If we build gates and walls, they'll just end up captured in a heartbeat. Don't let them be built.

(Once the market has chewed on it and made it as cheap as possible, consider subsidizing it or something, but for the love of Life itself, don't break the market and destroy the research before it even happens. Seemingly suboptimal situations may need to be relatively briefly tolerated to make sure this happens at all.)

I have no problem with free market capitalism, if it's fair. But some think that companies like Genetech exploit the rules around patents and intellectual property at the expense of people's lives and receive preferential status.

There's a difference between making your money back to cover the cost of research and development while making a profit, and plain old greed. A 20 year lifetime on a patent with a 3-7 year window of exclusivity means you might be dead before you can afford treatment. That's one of the ethical issues that we will hopefully address in a sane and logical way as we move forward. How much money should one be able to make if they are adding days to your life?

I do agree that this type of thing may be helpful to humanity. I just cast a skeptical eye knowing how the drug industry has worked in the past.

Bear in mind I consider everything you just said to themselves be failures to allow for a free market. Patents are government monopolies, not creations of a free market.

(To which the natural next slur is "Oh, you want no regulation then?" No, I strongly believe a free market requires some basic maintenance to harness properly, and I'm a particular fan of internalizing externalities via government action. However, virtually by definition, if patents are being "abused", that is not maintenance; that's sand in the gears.)

I consider the idea that we live in some sort of anarchic free market wonderland today to be nothing more than propaganda, used by those who want to use government to take even more control over your life. There's very few free segments of the modern market that are even remotely free; they simply aren't as centrally managed and regulated as they could be.

> I have no problem with free market capitalism, if it's fair.

Free market capitalism isn't fair. All the dynamics and mechanics of capitalism have nothing to do with fairness.

I should have qualified that statement more. What I meant was I am against rigging the system and cronyism. "Free market" was the wrong term. I prefer a market that is overlooked by society, with the authority given to government. It's a balance that is still unfair in a lot of aspects of course, because with a winner there is a loser. But the fairness comes in the fact that anyone can be a winner. We're still working on that obviously.

Overseen also. Overlooked? Well.. that already happens.

But what about generation warfare?

Imagine having to live in a world where all the positions of power are permanently occupied by people from the generation of your great-grandparents.

You mean, that there might be a war between the 150 year olds and the 250 year olds? Sign me up! I don't even care for which side!

The base state of the world that we live in is that everybody dies. Your hypotheticals about how horrible it might be to live in a world where people might not die have to be pretty horrible to compete with what is already true.

(Mind you, this is not an unleapable bar, in my opinion, but it's much higher than you just leapt.)

If no one dies, what do we do with all those replacement people we keep making at the rate of about 300K per day?

We can stack them like cordwood for a while, but that gets messy, inconvenient and after a while, a bit smelly.

Dying isn't horrible at all. It's a part of the lifecycle.

Of course it's horrible. Life is all there is. When you die, from your perspective, that is the end of all things. That's pretty horrible. Just because it's natural doesn't make it good.

I remember discussing this in both of my philosophy courses, Intro and MetaEthics. In the intro course, the question was "Why should you fear death? When you're dead, by definition, you're not around to fear it, so why should you care?"

In meta-ethics, the question was "What does it mean for something to be horrible in the first place? How do you decide something is good or bad in the first place? If you fear your own nonexistence, why do you not fear the nonexistence of, say, unicorns?"

I never took an evolutionary psych course, but I read a bunch of their textbooks. I'd imagine the answer they'd give is "Of course you believe death is horrible. If your ancestors didn't, they wouldn't have an aversion to death, and so they would never have been around to reproduce, and so you wouldn't have been born. Therefore, we select for animals that fear death, because all animals that do not fear death never come into existence." There's something comforting about that perspective, knowing that our fears are nothing but evolutionary chance at work, but it's interesting to think that our fear of nonexistence is a consequence of our existence.

There was a book on that a little while ago by Shelly Kagan (decent excerpt at [1]). I think the evolutionary perspective is clearly "correct," but it doesn't quite answer the big questions for me. It establishes that "death is bad" is an axiom of our ethical system (and not a theorem of it,) but it has nothing to say when we ask whether we should attempt to adjust our morality.

1: http://chronicle.com/article/Is-Death-Bad-for-You-/131818/

> Life is all there is. When you die, from your perspective, that is the end of all things.

So? Why does that matter? From my perspective, before I was born and after I die are equivalent on account of me not being able to have a perspective. 13.8 billion years of the universe where I didn't exist wasn't horrible before so I don't see why it will be so horrible in 60 or 80 more years when I don't exist again.

It's weird how people get very philosophical and accepting about death form old age, but are horrified by murder, suicide, deadly airplane crashes, gas explosions, and so on. You get just as dead either way, but somehow death from old age is considered to be just a natural part of the Plan.

There's a pretty substantial body of opinion that dying of untreated cancer is, in fact, kind of horrible.

I was referring to the act of turning the lights off...the big empty. No doubt some things that precede and result in death are nasty, but those aren't death.

For example, if death was embraced and voluntary euthanasia was allowed, people could just opt-out as the nastiness started (I'm not suggesting we do that, though).

Anyway, the point is that we shouldn't fear the ending. It's the things that precede it that we should rightfully fear and combat. In other words, focus less on extending life (after a point) and more on decreasing the ratio of painful-years/lifespan.

Why aren't you suggesting voluntary euthenasia once the horrible dying process has begun? You've said that death isn't horrible at all, but the process of dying is, so if you truly believe those things, why wouldn't you want to cut the awfulness short? You don't seem terribly interested in the length of life, as such, so cutting it a little bit shorter should seem like no great loss.

If it's unavoidable, then acceptance is the right path.

If it's avoidable, then all else being equal acceptance of death strikes me as incredibly foolish. I want to live until tomorrow, and I imagine that tomorrow I'll say the same.

If we could effectively control aging and death, perhaps that would make human reproduction unnecessary or undesirable even. Perhaps that will stop all the nonsense in the name of "oh won't you think of the children?"

i wouldn't be surprised if you asked people and it turned out that the dying part was the thing they feared most about death.

> It's a part of the lifecycle.

Because something is natural (part of the lifecycle) doesn't make it good or bad.


You're welcome to accept it - as long as you don't require me to die or hamper me from living as long as I like.

This is the naturalistic fallacy. Just because something is that way does not mean that it should be that way.

My aunt - who died slowly and painfully, wasting away from the cervical cancer that was eating away at her body - might disagree with you were she still here.

I think this refers to death as distinct from the process of dying.

Generational warfare would definitely be something to consider. Imagine if immortality had been discovered 400 years ago. Are the ethics and morality of the leaders from 400 years ago something you, a person born in the late 20th century, would want to live under?

Generations eventually dying off keeps the human race moving forward in many ways.

Imagine if we grew up in a world like the one you posit, where humanity advances only slowly because it's held back by the ideals held by people 400 years old.

You propose that the best solution to this is kill everyone over 80.

That would make you a psychopath.

Or, imagine that you didn't like the dominant views among the 50-60 year olds in power when you were in your twenties, and you offered up the idea that we should just withold medical treatment from people over 30 so that we could increase the speed of social progress.

> That would make you a psychopath.

If we could have just figured this out 2500 years ago, then we 'd be Spartans instead of PsychoPaths.

that would only happen if you have a world that no longer creates new value, but simply redistributes ever diminishing existing size of the pie. I doubt that sort of dystopian society ala Cloud Atlas will ever come to pass, so there will always be room for young people to disrupt existing order

I'd rather live in a world where my great-grandparents are in charge than not live at all.

It's worth considering that extended lifespans could have very well result in you not living at all - the Earth can only sustain a limited number of people, and extended lifespans would result in a necessary decrease in new lives brought into this world.

Any action of anyone could prevent somebody from being conceived. Or inaction. Simply refusing to have as much unprotected sex as you could physically have results in new lives not being brought into this world...

I don't think we need to maximize amount of new people for the sake of it.

Old generation owes to the new generation to not screw them up by using up resources/making world worse than they got it, etc. But they have absolutely no obligations to actually _make_ a new generation.

I disagree with that thought, actually. I believe current models of consumption ignore human innovation, something we're quite good at doing when survival is on the line.

Even considering human innovation, the laws of thermodynamics will eventually limit growth, not to mention the sheer lack of space.

I don't believe the laws of thermodynamics will ever come into play when talking about the expansion of the human race, at least insofar as we don't start talking about humanity as a universal mainstay for the remainder of the existence of... existence.

That would be no wose than living in a world where all the positions of power are permanently occupied by people from my generation.

Your comment is the epitome of ageism.

I wonder if inertia would mean so much in a world of such grotesque abundance.

Normally I agree, but the implications of anti-aging treatment need to be considered.

Yes, the rich will get it first. But then think about what will happen: they will start living longer, and as a result, accumulate even more wealth over their lifetimes. While the poor will have 30-35 years of productive work-life, the rich will have much longer. Combined with the already large difference in their earning power, this will lead to a world where the rich not only life much higher quality lives, but also longer lives.

And the only other choice is that nobody gets it ever. There's no third choice. There's no magic wand solution where everyone just magically gets it.

Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.

There are many issues for which I agree with you, that the trickle-down is a legitimately good process. But this, no. The concentration of power even more than currently is enough that I would rather forego it than encourage it just for that group of controlling interests.

I would rather no one have it than institute a system of even more perpetual control. We have already signed most of our existence over to the rich and the only equalization is that they die, too. It isn't cutting my nose off to spite my face to not want to live 70-80 years under the continually-strengthening ownership of those who will live to 200. (And, similarly, me living to 200 so I can work all those years for those who'll live 400 doesn't strike me as particularly awesome either.)

Most people in history have lived under various degrees of oppression, and most have found it preferable to not living at all.

Do you know the suicide and depression rates throughout history?

There's no magic wand solution where everyone just magically gets it.

Universal health care is a thing, outside America.

I do not think that we would have the same economic system once everyone is immortal or living for hundreds of years.

Once the market has chewed on it and made it as cheap as possible, consider subsidizing it or something

Your argument hinges on a hoary anti-Marxist critique. As one example alternative approach, the hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars handed out to financial institutions and/or forgiven in legal penalties could have been used to reimburse companies for creating successful health technologies and treatments. It's a matter of policies and priorities, some of which are broken and some that aren't (Sturgeon's Law), and the market structures of medicine operate in the way that it does for specific reasons not necessarily aligned with benefits for those who are dying or sick.


Sorry, but no. Transhuman-level stuff is not safe or even morally allowable for our current society. No. Just freaking no.

I was born in a world where two things in life got to everyone: death, and taxes. They've already "relieved" the elite of taxes, and now they're looking to do the same for death.

No. We are not their cattle, and they are not our shepherds.

You want immortality, robots, and post-scarcity awesomeness? Great. Make it for everyone.

Don't develop The Future just so the capitalist elite can exploit even harder.

You can't "make it for everyone" before you figure out how to make it in the first place.

Then fund a nonprofit research agency rather than a for-profit productizing company. Lots of countries have public healthcare systems who could administer life-extension treatments universally if they're not locked down and treated as proprietary, for-profit products!

Just like the internet, right? A great philantropic endeavour planned for all. Get real, real research doesn't happen in a vacuum, it happens for profit or some advantage. And then it trickles down not because the research funders pass it on, but because market dynamics eventually make it inevitable. So you'd rather the internet hadn't happened? The industrial revolution too? Well let's just head right back to stone age where everyone gets a chance at cracking each other's skull, that's where it's at.

Sorry if I'm being harsh, but seriously, "make it for everyone"? Who is that even directed at, god? It's not like post-scarcity and immortality will be the work of Larry Page or anyone in isolation who could take it upon themselves to do it altruistically.

Just like the internet, right? A great philantropic endeavour planned for all.

You mean a government-funded research program that took place in academia and released its results under open licensing, thus allowing a hacker-ethic of free contribution and usage?

Because that's how the internet happened, actually. Do remember that the Mosaic web browser was invented by Tim Burners-Lee at CERN while on public payroll, it was released under free licensing, and the whole infrastructure spread precisely because it was decentralized and open.

The internet versus the App Store is an excellent example of why we want publicly-funded, open-access research initiatives, not private profit-mongering.

Sorry if I'm being harsh, but seriously, "make it for everyone"? Who is that even directed at, god? It's not like post-scarcity and immortality will be the work of Larry Page or anyone in isolation who could take it upon themselves to do it altruistically.

Well, if God is listening, I'd certainly like Him to consider that He should come down and issue a few ethical guidelines before we start stomping all over His Creation trying to overpower Him!

It is pretty weird that it's not a non-profit, I'll give you that.

Why? What is the functional difference? Non-profits just funnel profits back to execs, instead of shareholders. Non-profit != lower prices.

Prices? You want medical treatment to have a price?

Have you thought this through? Doctors have to be compensated, unless you want to enslave them. Even a single-payer system has prices.

On a side note, healthcare costs are high in the US due to artificially limited supply and failed central planning of future demand: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-03-02-doctor...

I for myself am a little let-down by how many HNers would prefer to live indefinitely as potential economic slaves under a gerontocracy only because everyone is so afraid of dying. The only thing that actually comforts me is that I think aging is really an insolvable problem, the same as strong AI is an insolvable problem.

Thank god people like you weren't around when vaccines were being developed.

45,000 people die each year in the USA for lack of medical insurance, and these guys want to offer radical anti-aging treatments to those who can afford it.

And you say they're the ones serving Life?

It's a moral imperative to destroy capitalism before we gain transhuman power over Nature!

The hard-left argument that this will empower an elite is a silly and pointless one - life extension technology will be developed by China in the unlikely event that Western Luddites manage to throw a spanner in the works in their affluent countries.

The technology tidal wave we've been riding is going to take us to strange and probably unexpected places if we stay on long enough. What it is going to do to distribution of wealth, is anyone's guess.

On the labour/production side a technology seems to be creating wider income gaps. For the winners it is a lever with which to create more wealth. For others, they are competing with machines and poor countries (enabled by technology to work with rich ones) for work.

On the product consumption side, the gap is pretty small. The cheap netbook that almost anyone in Europe or the US can afford is not much different (in price or performance) from the one used by a billionaire. No matter how rich you are, you can't get a better smartphone than the models you can see in any bus. Even the low end (50-$100) smartphones are getting decent. I expect smartphones to be as ubiquitous as dumb ones soon, that means the gap between rich British & bangladeshi (measured in smartphone wealth) is plummeting.

Who knows what future waves of technology will look like, especially medical technology.

I think the appropriate response is keep an open mind and see where stuff takes us. Don't bind your thinking to past paradigms. Go read the Communist Manifesto. Realize how it is a product of its time, the industrial revolution. It takes a lot of contortion to try understanding the world by that paradigm. For Adam Smith, technological efficiency was about making pins.

I for one fear a future where anyone can become immortal. This would result in unimaginable struggles for our ecosystem.

I always feel modern medicine should focus on raising life quality for as long as we are alive, rather than extending life itself. But of course this view is painted by the large number of old people living in inhuman conditions we currently have.

Being immortal and having a high quality of life for as long as we are alive are not mutually exclusive. In fact, don't we have longer lives and better quality of life than our ancestors already? This would just be taking it one step further. Also, having a population that never dies has many more benefits than consequences. The amount of knowledge and experience that will not be wasted because of death is extremely valuable. Also, who says people will be giving birth to children as often as they are currently doing when they don't fear dying. Already in most developed nations the rate of population growth is plateauing. Also, don't forget we have an entire universe at our fingertips. I'm sure when we have 200 year old aerospace engineers and physicists we will be able to get to colonize other planets much faster.

Regarding quality of our ancestors: Yes, but there are downsides too. We probably have longer periods of lower quality of life. We improved both quality and length. But we improved length more.

I hope for more youth, not just more life.

People are and always will be free to die whenever they want. If you live a longer youth and then face a longer low quality life, either you want that longer low quality life more than you let on, or you cut it short.

Without access to some humane means of euthanasia, I think your statement is inaccurate.

Living longer might naturally force people to take a more long-term outlook on the environment.

Also slowing down growth is much more palatable on a basic level if you have that much more time to enjoy what you have and get what you don't have yet.

I think that as people live longer they will have less children as a result, simply because the inner need to procreate and keep humanity alive will die down. We see this in the differences between the first world and third world countries where mortality rates have a significant delta. For instance, In Africa they tend to have more children on average than they do in Europe.

Are you suggesting that I'd be better if the technology is not available to anyone lest some people live longer than others? I am pretty sure that in the beginning the new technologies will be accessible only to the people who can spare some cash, but I am also pretty sure that the cost will go down, as it has for any other technology.

No I'm suggesting that society as a whole should be part of the conversation about not only seeking immortality but also how much one can benefit from such wonderful breakthroughs. I would love to see people I love live forever. But there are ethical issues around the industry that we all need to discuss.

What does making the society part of the conversation mean exactly? If a private company develops a technology for immortality and then chooses to charge $1million/year for it thus excluding 99.999% people what does the society has to say about that? Should it force the company to lower the price? Should it bar the technology?

I agree, but existence is so much more important than availability at this point in history.

Accelerate existence by whatever means necessary; availability will follow.

> Accelerate existence by whatever means necessary; availability will follow.

This is not demonstrated at all. Increasing existence and production of food hasn't tackled food insecurity and hunger, for example. That something exists, even if cheaply, does not mean it will become accessible.

> Increasing existence and production of food hasn't tackled food insecurity and hunger, for example.

Um... what about the millions of lives saved by the green revolution and agricultural advances? Hunger hasn't been eliminated, but technology has increased the carrying capacity of the earth by a few billion.

Re. technological availability: see the falling price of mobile phones, personal computers, Internet connections.

> I agree, but existence is so much more important than availability at this point in history.

You assume that those in power will want to make more like them and I think that is mostly unlikely. Nothing attracts the powerful like an insurmountable advantage. Being able to outwait your potential competition at that scale is powerful and I have a hard time seeing powerful people wanting to make their potential competitors as powerful.

A world in which anti-aging technology exists is strictly superior to a world in which anti-aging technology does not exist, regardless of who has access to it.

Of course, universal access is far better, and we should keep that in mind, but if it takes profit-motivated corporations to bring the technology into existence in the first place, then so be it.

Serious question: what makes such a world inherently better if that's limited only to people in the position to exploit others? Because I personally think that's the likely scenario.

Giving the rich the tools to exploit the rest of us even further seems pretty foolish. Likely, even inevitable--but no less foolish.

Inventing effective anti-aging is much, much harder than subverting a power structure (either by pirating the drug formula or by revolution.)

Therefore, if you stipulated that such an invention could only happen if it started off in the hands of the powerful, I would still take that bargain.

These arguments make no sense. Poor / lower class people become wealthy all the time, disruption happens. The wealthy / immortal class will grow, maybe slowly maybe quickly. But it will grow. That means the poor / short lived class will shrink by necessity (or the red herring overpopulation argument). Over time, more and more of the population will become well off and/or immortal, and the great thing is they won't die.

If you think we'll get to a point where nobody can disrupt the anti-aging industry ever, and nobody will be able to make it cheaper, well, you're pretty pessimistic. Because the one constant we seem to see is (immortal) corporations being disrupted by little startups. Corporations right now live forever and yet they don't stay in power forever. The same will go with this.

> Poor / lower class people become wealthy all the time, disruption happens.

I don't see why you'd say this. Economic mobility in the developed world is steadily shrinking. I don't see that shrink getting better if the rich can play on the time scale of centuries. Or if the corporations they own can do so.

As has been noted numerous times, poverty means you have to think "tomorrow" rather than "a month from now" or "a year from now". When you can think "eight decades from now" or even "two centuries from now", you are in an incredibly powerful position and I am extremely skeptical that people with that advantage will give it up for the rest of us.

> I fear a future where "all men are created equal", but only some can afford to become immortal and others cannot.

That future is now. We already have first-world countries with medical technology that allows its citizens to live an average lifespan much longer than those in countries where such tech is unavailable. Not to mention the everyday technologies that indirectly extend "effective" lifespan -- every hour not spent gathering cooking fuel, preparing food, washing clothes, etc. is an hour you can spend "living". Even in said first-world countries, there is a dichotomy: those who are rich & influential enough to take advantage of expensive & cutting-edge medical treatment, and those who are not.

Actual life extension therapies are just the above, writ large. I don't see any difference between this tech and any other "early adopter" tech, which is always expensive and limited in availability. We can only hope that such technology will become cheaper & more widespread and trickle down to the rest of us in time for us to make use of it.

> But seriously, the fact that the first thing they do is start a corporation to control the science is not exactly comforting to me.

How else would they do it?

Well they could do a non-profit, a trust, setup labs, or just donate to existing research labs. In a business the goal of profit is not just a thing that leaders should be doing, but a legal responsibility to share holders that can't be ignored.

A nonprofit, a national lab, a university...

Indeed, what's the cost going to be for once someone finds a "cure" for cancer? Society should offer a bounty for such a thing, and then scientists / researchers are incentivized more towards the problem, and will be rewarded - as well as their research supporters - if successful.

Yes I agree, and the patrons of those ventures, perhaps all of society, could reap rewards in ways that go beyond a stock portfolio. It's funny that in the press release they mention "moonshot", because that's what we need. All of society puts in and all of society benefits. With measures and controls it could work, just like the moonshot did.

Yup. I imagine you'd be welcome and invited to stay for free, housing included, to many places around the world - if not everywhere. I do think in the future most everyone will have the ability, the benefit to travel anywhere in the world - as an incentive and reward for good behaviour; If you do criminal activity/counter-productive behaviours towards society or individuals, you lose that, etc..

Most of the world suffers from the health problem of never even reaching a ripe old age, and much of the rest from the problem of not being able to afford it, and increasingly so.

This is not about making the world a better place. This about allowing the elite that can afford it to live forever.

Your logic can be dismissed as nonsense with a very easy thought experiment.

Imagine you have two groups of people: Group A and Group B. You are voting on a technology that can prevent 90% of deaths in Group A. Do you vote yes or no?

If you vote no, congratulations, you just condemned a large group of people to continue dying for the sake of egalitarianism.

(The reason this thought experiment is powerful is that it strips the scenario of value-judgments such as "elite" and "poor.")

Your logic can be dismissed as a false dichotomy.

Of course. After all, it is simply a stripped down version of the parent comment that I responded to. He polarized the scenario such that it was a false dichotomy, but even then it was flawed.

If Group B is 99x the size of Group A, then I vote no.

In his example, he did not suggest that there were any downsides to voting yes. What was your basis for voting no?

Simple: indefinite lifespan for the members of tiny minority Group A will turn them into a ruling elite even if they're not one already. You can't separate the issue of lifespan from social hierarchy.

Okay, let's attach numbers to the scenario. Assume there are 1 million people in Group A and 990 million people in Group B.

By voting no, you just condemned 900,000 people in Group A to eventually die, simply because you wanted to prevent them from becoming the ruling elite.

Stated differently, you had the power to prevent 900,000 deaths (and in fact many more than that, moving forward), and you chose not to because of ideology.

Surely it is better for people to not die - to not cease to exist - even if that means they rise to the top of the social hierarchy?

Surely it is better for people to not die - to not cease to exist - even if that means they rise to the top of the social hierarchy?

Not unless they're going to be benevolent rulers, no.

I will not grant people immortal life so that they can make everyone else's lives into a living hell.

By that logic, we should never have eradicated smallpox. Medicine extends lifespan - and a rising tide lifts all boats.

By that logic, we should never have eradicated smallpox.

We eradicated smallpox for everyone, without distinction between rulers and ruled. That's the difference!

a rising tide lifts all boats.

"A witty saying proves nothing." -- Voltaire

>>We eradicated smallpox for everyone, without distinction between rulers and ruled. That's the difference!

You may want to familiarize yourself with the history of smallpox eradication before continuing this debate. The vaccination was available mostly in wealthy countries first.


"...coordinated efforts against smallpox went on, and the disease continued to diminish in the wealthy countries. By 1897, smallpox had largely been eliminated from the United States.[66] In Northern Europe a number of countries had eliminated smallpox by 1900, and by 1914, the incidence in most industrialized countries had decreased to comparatively low levels..."

>We eradicated smallpox for everyone, without distinction between rulers and ruled.

Notwithstanding the daughter comment that disproves this, try substituting 'smallpox' for 'cancer'. Cancer treatment is by no means available to everyone, or even the majority, yet it extends lifespans (of good people and dictators alike). Should we not have developed treatments for cancer?

There have been several times in human history where the majority have decided it would be best if the 'elite' should have their lifespans shortened. Arguably with positive results.

I can't think of any times when people have had their lifespans shortened for fear they would become the elite, and the shorteners were on the right side of history. That sounds more like The Crucible.

The point is they are not potential elite, they are already elite. The fact that they can get hold of the treatment when the majority can not shows they're already placed at the top of society.

Personally I agree with the logic that if we have the choice between 0 and 100,000 people living for ever we pick 100,000 (Even if that 100,000 include such greats as Un and Assad). Having said that If I had the choice between 100,000 living forever and 3 billion people living forever with less private jets in the world I'd pick the later. Perhaps I'm cynical but if we do indeed get this tech I'm a lot less confident about my values being satisfied in the second instance than the first.

French Revolution versus Red October, Mao's Cultural Revolution, gulags and concentration camps for every communist country. In 90% of these "elite trimmings" society is pushed back decades at least. Unruly mobs do not move the world forward.

They may not move their country forward, that doesn't mean they don't move the world forward. Say what you will about the French revolution's effect on France but it greatly influenced the spread of democracies and republics world wise. Similarly the presence of socialism(in the production owned by the people sense) hugely encouraged improvements in working conditions in countries that feared similar upheaval and loss of property.

But I wouldn't argue with you that the majority of these 'elite trimmings' set the society back. The question is after the set back does it move forward faster than it was or in a better direction (Often the answer to this would be hugely reliant on your personal values).

> Simple: indefinite lifespan for the members of tiny minority Group A will turn them into a ruling elite even if they're not one already.

Evidence or rationale supporting this conclusion?

Two words: compound interest.

> Two words: compound interest.

Compound interest works intergenerationally as well as within a lifetime, so that doesn't seem to be much of an argument.

And lo and behold! When we fail to implement estate taxes, compounding investments ensure that the bloodlines of the well-off and long-lived become the rich elite!

Remember, this is a scenario where we're talking about 1% of the population getting life-extension while everyone else remains stuck with 80-120 years of maximum lifespan. Those indefinite folks are going to get very wealthy very quickly (as in, within one century), because they can afford to wait for long-term investments to pay off in a way nobody else can.

> When we fail to implement estate taxes, compounding investments ensure that the bloodlines of the well-off and long-lived become the rich elite!

Right, so compound interest isn't magic as long as you have taxes (and, actually, compound interest per se is rarely a problem when you have taxable interest, appreciation of capital assets that works like interest but isn't is the problem -- and it comes about specifically because of the choice to give tax-favored status to long-term capital gains.) Estate taxes are a mechanism that works to mitigate the problems caused by favoring capital income when death is a reliable periodic effect, but you could acheive much the same effect in a progressive income tax system, without sensitivity the frequency of death, by simply not giving long-term capital gains a tax-favored status, and treating income as income, especially if you add more upper-range marginal tax brackets for super-high-end incomes.

Yes, that's my point. Capitalism is bad, not increased lifespan.

However, given a capitalistic or otherwise zero-sum/proprietarian social system, I cannot support inegalitarian life extension as moral. You need a broadly egalitarian society and broadly egalitarian life-extension.

So, as long as we have social systems you disapprove of, we should abandon medicine, which, in general, is "life extension"?

As long as we have social systems designed to maximize strife and toil, we should be working to destroy those social systems and replace them with systems for creating peace and happiness, yes.

Medicine and life extension as a public service is great. As a private luxury of the rich it's abominable.

Think about the implied statement of making radical life-extension available to the rich alone! "Whereas I will live to 160, you will only live to 80. Because I can afford these treatments, it means my life has double the moral worth of your life."

If you honestly believe that moral worth and financial net worth are two different things, you cannot support setting lifespan in accordance with money. Period.

its not about whether elite is saved or not ... its about whether you're healthy or not ....

Imagine you have two groups of people: Group A and Group B. Group A is living longer but unhealthy and Group B is living shorter but extremely healthy , which one do you pick - I rather pick Group B ... dont know whether Calico will be about living longer or living healthier - its not a easy thing to crack but I hope they succeed ...

Can you name something that was only for the elites fifty years ago that isn't available to pretty much everyone today? This is what progress always looks like.

Clean water. Basic health care. Not dying from diseases we've already been able to cheaply cure or prevent for decades.

Oh, I'm sorry, you don't consider yourself part of the elite?

Those things are available to the vast majority of the planet. Clean water, for example, is available to seven of every eight humans[1]. In the places those things aren't available, you'll usually find a corrupt government getting in the way. As you said, these aren't expensive problems to solve, so there's no intrinsic reason they should be limited to the elite.

[1] http://thewaterproject.org/water_stats.php

Some more context:

61% lack Internet access [1]

35% lack basic sanitation (e.g., toilets) [4]

26% don't have plumbing (e.g., water they can get from pipes in their house or yard) [2]

23% don't have electricity [2]

14% lack access to clean water [2]

14% lack access to health care [2]

13% suffer from chronic undernourishment [5]

11% can't read [3]

14% is about one billion people. Maybe you look at that and think, hey, 86%, doing pretty good! But if this many people can't even get access to even the most basic of technologies today, what makes you think most people, even people in the developed world, will have access to whatever mythical mortality-defying technology people are speculating about here? It's all such speculation as to what they are doing, the question is practically not worth answering. But if extreme life-lengthening technologies are truly on the table, the potential for an Elysium-like scenario should be taken seriously.

(Also, point of clarification: what do you mean by "intrinsic reason"? Can you give an example of an intrinsic reason something would be limited to the elite?)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Internet_usage

[2] http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-sta...

[3] http://www.statisticbrain.com/number-of-american-adults-who-...

[4] http://www.unwater.org/statistics_san.html

[5] http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20f...

Keep in mind when discussing internet access that effectively for the general public, the internet has only been with us for 20 years. And that was just the birth of its public mindshare - significant penetration would still take quite a few years yet in developed countries.

It also doesn't really fit in with the rest of the stats you're presenting - people can and do live quite luxurious lives without using the internet, but not so for the other items.

Yes, I wasn't trying to imply Internet access is essential, although it is such a powerful technology that lacking access to it generally sets you back a lot in the global rat race. Rather, I was trying to give a sense of how distribution of technologies progresses. It would have been helpful to have a few more data points but I couldn't think of good examples. (Especially in the higher ends -- what powerful technology do the rich have now that the rest don't? Maybe travel via airplane?)

Not to mention, with smartphones getting cheaper and cheaper, a lot of people in developing nations are getting access to the internet for the first time.

"Can you give an example of an intrinsic reason something would be limited to the elite?"


Sanitation and plumbing are cheap and easy if a government isn't corrupt. We're not waiting on advances in technology to make those things easy to provide to the world, so it seems tangential to anything Google could do.

What were the numbers ten years ago? Twenty?

I look at the 86% and thing we're doing pretty well because we've improved enormously during my lifetime and are continuing to do so.

Clean water. Physical safety. Electricity. Maybe when you thought "pretty much everyone," you had the bay area in mind or something, but actually it includes a pretty large group of very poor people.

Two things: Money. Power.

This isn't a serious objection and this line of thinking is fundamentally flawed. You could say the exact same about the internet or the automobile or the MRI. It only solves the problem of "the elite".

Unfortunately this is most of the politics that drives health care in the USA. Most people in the US don't even get close to old age because they don't have access to adequate healthcare.

Bill Gates is saving thousands of lives by trying to wipe out diseases that generally affect poor people for very little money per life saved. While in the US millions is spent per person to provide longer lives for a few people.

> Most people in the US don't even get close to old age

What? The average life expectancy in the US is 79 years old... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expec...

What a bizarre statement.

Life expectancy is nearly 80 years in the US at this point, even with the explosion of cancer, heart disease and diabetes that has come with obesity in the last 30 years.

You'd have to be defining old age as 140 for your statement to make sense.

Affording proper care is definitely a problem, but the diseases of aging are the greatest causes of death globally, not infectious diseases or other health problems [1]. Taking care of diseases like malaria is unquestionably a noble and important task, but if we're talking about the world as a whole, aging is actually the greatest burden on health right now. Cardiovascular problems in particular are a serious problem worldwide [2].

1 - http://who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/ 2 - http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/publications/glob... There are tons of statistics at http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.CODWORLD?lang=en for the full picture.

Plus the one thing Google doesn't have access to at the moment is your medical records.

I guess this fixes that.

They used to have a service for exactly that: http://www.google.com/intl/en_us/health/about/

I worked for a startup in the electronic medical records space. Data interchange.

We had various interactions with both the Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault teams. They were both making patient facing apps, ours was physician (and staff) facing.

We had a patient facing app, because all the hospitals thought it'd drive admissions.

But at the time no doctor would trust patient's data.

To the best of my knowledge, that hasn't changed (five years on).

The "quantified self" movement may change the perception of patient gathered data. When data collection is automatic, standardized. More importantly, when doctors are doing it for themselves, so are familiar with the tools and culture.

So, in short, Google Health and MS HealthVault were just wishful thinking. There was no "there" there.

Calico is a different company, so if some day you decide to give them access to your medical records, that won't automatically give access to google.

Yeah, then I guess they will just show you an annoying pop-up every now and then, basically pushing you to merge your Calico account into you Google account.

There are very specific laws in place in the US that make this more than unlikely, probably illegal. I sincerely doubt Google wants HIPAA to start applying to far more of their business and data.

I too, watched "In Time."

> This is not about making the world a better place. This about allowing the elite that can afford it to live forever.

You're probably right. But any advantages in medicine eventually will boost available level of tools to all. Well it worked as this so far. Elite is just able to get the best much earlier - but that doesn't mean we should stop all scientific progress and reset to the level of medicine everybody can get.

If your opinion were applied in practice universally, modern medicine would have never happened to begin with, for it was first accessible and affordable by the so called elites.

That is how all products first become available. The rich fund the R&D and scaling.

We'd all still be living in primitive civilizations if your approach ruled the day.

This basic argument could be used against any new technology, ever.

There are a lot of ethical arguments happening in this thread, and I'm concerned that most of them are missing the point. They tend to center on the idea that these technologies will help the wealthy, while leaving most of the world to suffer.

I'd love to see Google work on initiatives to give the world's poor access to clean water and basic healthcare. Those are awesome causes -- maybe the world's most awesome. But if we categorize pressing third-world health issues as the World's Most Awesome Cause, well, aren't age-related diseases the World's Second Most Awesome Cause?

We should for sure allocate more resources to the World's Most Awesome Cause. But why are people attacking funding for the World's Second Most Awesome Cause? Convince people not to buy top-tier smartphones, or expensive cars, or big houses, and donate to charity instead. But don't try to convince people to die of heart disease. Even if this new Google initiative isn't the absolutely most optimal way to spend money to serve humanity, it's pretty high up on the list.

Please remember that about two-thirds of all deaths world-wide are caused by aging [1]. It isn't just the elite who are getting heart attacks, and long-term, I'd be shocked if it were only the elite who were receiving effective treatments to prevent them.

1 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_causes_of_death_by_rate

Edit: formatting.

I'd rather see a high quality of life for everyone on earth for 80 years than 150+ year life spans for the first world. Which will just further increase the footprint of the rich and divert resources from the poor.

Not to mention, it's a more attainable goal. It doesn't help much to keep the body going for 50 more years if you can't also keep the brain going. I believe these are very different problems. If you can somehow solve both, it doesn't help if you can't feed and house all these people.

I believe these are very different problems.

Aubrey de Grey believes they are not different.

If he's right, the only way you could keep people perfectly healthy up to age 80 without them living much longer would be to execute on his plan (or a similar one), and then kill people once they got old enough.

You either believe in capitalism, or you don't.

Google believes in capitalism. They will offer goods and services to people who can afford them, and they will also work to make their products more accessible to those with limited resources.

I personally believe Android will have enormous long-lasting positive impacts on the rest of the world. A $25 smartphone ... A $10 smartphone... A $5 smartphone... Giving access to instant communication, and huge amounts of information, will in the long run dramatically improve human lives. My personal opinion.

I also disagree with the parent poster but you absolutely do not either "believe in capitalism, or you don't".

The only pure capitalist societies are anarchist hellholes. Among nice societies, capitalism is implemented all sorts of different ways with the things capitalism does poorly[1] papered over in different ways.

[1] law enforcement, basic standard of living for all, various economic regulations to address market failures, e.g. I can't legally plug in a transmitter at 100MHz and 1000 watts and black out WNBC in my neighborhood, and can't sell capitalist let-the-market-decide food out of a roach den

I didn't intend my first statement to be absolutist, and I do not believe I need to resort to some extreme form of free market society, in order to have my vision of reality work.

gdulli was criticizing a corporation for providing goods and services that a relative minority of the wealthy can provide.

I assert that that criticism is only valid, if you have fundamental problems with capitalism itself. The way I stated that was, "you either believe in capitalism, or you don't." I am not aware of a better way to state that. It's a matter of faith / belief / an assumption. If you share in that view, you can correctly engage in one set of logical discussion. If you do not share in that view, you can only engage in another set of logical discussions. Watching someone criticize a corporation for providing luxury goods is ample evidence that they're having the wrong kind of discussion. Their first necessary step would be to convince me that we should abandon capitalism. Period. There's no other first move in that game.

Well, if we're being honest, this isn't particularly capitalist of Google. It's an idealist, good-intentions-and-ego-driven play. Yes, they want to capture some of the value that they eventually might create but they are not doing it primarily for money.

yeah right!

> You either believe in capitalism, or you don't.

I hope what you really meant was far, far better than what you made it to sound like.

I don't get it. Can you expand upon what you're worried I might have said, which you think is far, far worse?

It seems like you're saying, it's either Ayn Rand or Stalin, there's no middle ground.

I get ya.

From that perspective it's hard to describe exactly what I'm thinking...

If you lean towards "capitalism and free markets are good," then I really don't think you have a leg to stand on, in criticizing a corporation for offering luxury services.

If you lean towards, "Universal healthcare, and this is health care, so therefore the government should have a monopoly on it, except this should be way down low on the list of priorities," then it's a completely different conversation.

And what if I lean towards, "Universal healthcare, and this is health care, so therefore the government should have a monopoly on it, and this should be way up high on the list of priorities"?

Then you'd be right. ;)

> I'd rather see a high quality of life for everyone on earth for 80 years than 150+ year life spans for the first world.

They aren't mutually exclusive goals; working on the social/political/distributional problems that prevent most people from having a high quality of life is not exclusive with working on the health technology problems that mean that no one is living 150+ years.

And I'd rather see a high quality of life for everyone on Earth for 150+ year life spans than either of your options.

So you should be happy with the work the Gates Foundation is doing. It's good to see different technologists tacking a similar problem from different ends of the spectrum.

You are assuming resources are limited, but they are infinite. Making the assumption the Universe is infinite.

The vast majority of resources in the universe are unavailable to us, and will likely remain so unless we make efficient use of the resources that are available to us.

>You are assuming resources are limited, but they are infinite. Making the assumption the Universe is infinite.

Silliest thing I've read all day. There are huge costs associated with extracting resources here on earth, let alone from the stars. And even if "the universe" is infinite, no new matter is being generated.


Huge costs for a scarcity based economy. I guess that will be changing soon enough.


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