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Attitudes to life extension via genetic engineering

Peter Merel pete at extro.su.oz.au
Wed Mar 1 07:18:57 EST 1995

Patrick O'Neil <patrick at corona> writes:

> If there is profit to be made in a technology, then it develops but...you
>and others like to call for, essentially, what amounts to a Trinity
>Project of investment with specific goals in mind.  THAT is where it wont

I've never called for such a thing, nor do I believe that it would be
sensible to do so. Nanotech will come like other engineering, from
private sector investment in profitable development projects.

>As for drugs to give immunity to
>everything...impossible in principle (though very Star-Trekian).  

I begin to understand why you think that Drexler is a fantasist. I've suggested
a fairly simple and concrete idea in encrypting the human genome; implementing 
it will no doubt be fraught with technical difficulty, but perhaps your skills
could be useful in identifying such difficulties. However, dismissing the idea
out of hand as a fantasy is neither useful nor rational.

>really ARE limits to what technology can do.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy
>using my technologies:  nice kevlar skis, a fast computer for working on
>and playing really cool games, VCRs, microwaves, strong fabrics, etc.  But
>I also recognize that technology is not the Grail that will bring all the
>world to paradise.  Technologies that offer benefits ALWAYS are
>accompanied by costs of varying pains.  Some costs are ignored until it is
>too late, others, being unpredicted (and unpredictable) are forced upon us
>to deal with at the last minute; and the treatment always itself brings a
>cost.  Just don't get all rosy-eyed and expect the universe. 

My grandfather used to tell a story about a family of peasant farmers coming
down out of the hills to visit his hometown in Austria about 75 years ago. They
saw one of the first electric trams in operation there; they went around the
front of it, and they went around the back of it, and they said "Nothing is
pushing it, and nothing is pulling it ... it must be devil's work!"

>  To make a comment on your above statement:  the deserts do not NEED to
>be reclaimed.  Reclaimed to what?  Deserts are ecologies with perfectly
>adapted species in their own right and have been here since before the
>dinosaurs.  They ain't broke.  

Never heard of the Sahara or the Gobi?  Those are _man-made_ deserts.
They're the result of thousands of years of poor agricultural
practices. Most of the continent I live on is one big man-made desert -
before the arrival of the man and the dog, central Australia was a huge
inland sea, with a fantastic variety of flourishing flora and fauna; a
minimal desert ecology has evolved in its place, but for the most part it 
is now nothing but flat dry red earth. Men destroyed it - why shouldn't
men recreate it?

>There ARE areas that were once plains or
>forest that are now arid as a direct result of human activity
>(overgrazing, over-cutting, over-tapping of water supplies, downright
>STUPID farming practices) and could use a little reclaimation, but
>hopefully not ONLY so people will buy real estate there to build houses
>and cities on.  It would be nice to protect some of it in untouched form. 
>Matchbox houses on matchbox plots tend to really dick up habitats, plus
>the grassy lawns everyone insists upon are the worst water wastes on the
>planet (in places where water is not plentiful).  

Just about everywhere in your hemisphere has been cleared of forest and
turned into farms and towns. The untouched forests in my hemisphere are
being woodchipped as fast as the bulldozers can go. Humans are all over
the place, cultivating, stripping and building.

Imho, we have two ways to go from here. One way is down into a pit of
constant resource scarcity, ignorance, war, famine and suffering; the
other way is up into a world of peace and riches, control of resources
all over the solar system, boundless innovation and experience beyond
our wildest imagination. Star Trek seems a dull and stagnant fantasy
beside this prospect.

There is no third path that I can see.  If you can describe concrete
objections to the technologies that have been proposed, then please
explain them. Not "we shouldn't" or "it'll never" or "it's devil's
work", but real engineering problems. Stop waving your hands and tell
us what the problems are - then your skepticism will be healthy. 

Internet:pete at extro.su.oz.au           |         Accept Everything.            |
http://www.usyd.edu.au/~pete           |         Reject Nothing.               |

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