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Attitudes to life extension via genetic engineering

Joseph J. Strout strout at cajal
Wed Feb 15 12:40:25 EST 1995


On Tue, 14 Feb 1995, Philip Rhoades wrote:

> : The only long-term solution, of course, is to expand from Earth.  As you 
> : pointed out, long lives would be benificial given ample room and 
> : resources.  Fortunately, there are resources aplenty in our home solar 
> : system.  The gas giants, especially, are rich in energy and raw 
> : materials.  
> 
> This is a nice idea but apparently just science fiction (unless some new 
> technology is developed to get large numbers of people off the planet 
> cheaply - in terms of energy).

I skimmed the argument that transpired in rec.arts.sf.science some time 
ago about this topic.  I was convinced that emmigration ALONE would not 
solve the problem.  But, neither will population control, IF we assume 
very long lifetimes, unless we are willing to virtually stop having 
children.  Me, I like kids, and I dislike dying, so space it must be.  As 
for "cheap", this is a relative term.  Our energy production (and usage) 
*per capita* has been increasing exponentially (I believe); there is no 
reason to suppose that we can't emmigrate faster than we reproduce.  My 
home town produces a few thousand babies a year.  Could we lift more than 
a few thousand people in a year?  Sure (assuming space travel becomes as 
*relatively* cheap as, say, jet travel today).  In other places, the 
situation is worse -- more babies and less resources -- and there we need 
to curb growth as well.

> Ideally, I think a world population of ~1 billion is a good idea - with 
> disease, poverty  and war elliminated - at least that's what we should be 
> aiming for - BEFORE we worry about going to other planets and stars. 

Er, if you eliminate disease, poverty, and war, and disallow emmigration, 
then what happens to the other 4 billion people "over the course of a 
couple centuries"?  Euthanasia would work, I suppose, and may be best for 
the planet and species in the long run, but I certainly would support 
it.

I'm a middle-of-the-road-ist; I think Drexler may be a bit 
overenthusiastic (and yes, I've read Nanosystems), but I also think we 
mustn't be too short-sighted.  Futurists tend to be too optimistic in the 
short run, and too pessimistic (or underimaginative) in the long run.  
We'd all *have* flying cars by now, if we had needed them, but we 
didn't.  A handful of shared flying vehicles, we found, was more 
economical.  Likewise, if we really *need* to get off the planet, we will 
do so; but until the need outweighs the cost, we will sit.

Phil, I would enjoy haggling over these issues with you some more, but 
we're straying rather far from the charter of this group.  Perhaps we 
should continue by email?

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|    Joseph J. Strout		Department of Neuroscience, UCSD   |
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