Attitudes to life extension via genetic engineering

Anders Sandberg nv91-asa at
Mon Feb 20 11:32:09 EST 1995

Patrick O'Neil wrote:
>There is a present balance in its production verses a biological need for 
>free radicals.  If you simply increase expression of free radical 
>quenchers such as SOD, you are insured to dork up biologically important 
>radical reactions in regards to nucleic acid synthesis, electron 
>transport, immune response, and a host of others known and unknown.  The 
>body's balance of expression vs inhibition of various enzymes is set for 
>best performance under the circumstances.  

It would not appear that unlikely that the balance is slightly suboptimal
(at least on longer timescales) simply because evolution don't favor
very long lifespans or spending more energy on self-repair. 

>I am not saying that any 
>increase in expression is sure to screw up the works, but on the other 
>hand, it is not just as simple as saying, "Ah, free radical scavenger.  
>Just increase the expression of that gene and viola!  Happy, healthy 

Yes, its quite complex. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it
right now. The antioxidation enzymes are just a first step.

>But...All the repair enzymes in the world will not stop mutation.  You 
>may decrease mutation rate somewhat but there are mutations that can get 
>past all the editing machinery.  Reducing mutation rate, in any case, 
>would only help to reduce the occurrence of cancer, not affect lifespan 
>outside of cancer.

Yes, that is true. However, decreasing the occurence of cancer is a
good start (especially since some of the other methods I have mentioned
may increase the risk). 

>  On another note, natural selection favors a certain minimal level of 
>mutation in order that diversity is evolved, thus allowing for adaption 
>to exist in the first place.

However, these mutations aren't particulary useful to us right now, since
we are caring more about ourselves and our children than the diversity
of our genome. If we begin to attempt to improve our genes, it would
not appear inconceivable that we also will control our own diversity
instead of leaving it to chance. 
Anders Sandberg			 	  	     Towards Ascension!
nv91-asa at
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

Anders Sandberg			 	  	     Towards Ascension!
nv91-asa at
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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