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Attitudes to life extension via genetic engineering

Eugen Leitl ui22204 at sunmail.lrz-muenchen.de
Thu Feb 16 07:13:30 EST 1995

On Wed, 15 Feb 1995, Patrick O'Neil wrote:

1> On Wed, 15 Feb 1995, Eugen Leitl wrote:
1> > 1> Increasing expression of superoxide-dismutase and other 
1> > 1> enzymes; this will make the body more resistant to free radicals,
1> > 1> environmental dangers and perhaps slow aging somewhat.
1> > 
1> > Probably true. Difficult to estimate additional life span in years.
1> There is a present balance in its production verses a biological need for 
1> free radicals.  If you simply increase expression of free radical 
1> quenchers such as SOD, you are insured to dork up biologically important 
1> radical reactions in regards to nucleic acid synthesis, electron 
1> transport, immune response, and a host of others known and unknown.  The 
1> body's balance of expression vs inhibition of various enzymes is set for 
1> best performance under the circumstances.  I am not saying that any 
1> increase in expression is sure to screw up the works, but on the other 
1> hand, it is not just as simple as saying, "Ah, free radical scavenger.  
1> Just increase the expression of that gene and viola!  Happy, healthy 
1> body!"  There are many other things involved that would have to be 
1> considered.  None of the enzymatic systems within our bodies are 
1> completely independent of other reactions.

Essentially, I'm on your side. I've written in this and the last
posting that messing with human biochemistry is highly unlikely
to bring us true immortality. I am a LifeScan and Download believer.
Yet if there is some primitive (or elaborate) device which would
allow me to hop around for 30-40 years more (instead of lying as 
a lump of brain tissue in a liquid nitrogen tank (provided I will 
ever have the necessary pocket money)) I might at least witness the
emergence of the necessary technology, if not work on it.

1> > 1> Increase of DNA correction rate by increasing expression of 
1repair enzymes
1> > 1> These two methods don't appear that hard to use, since we only 
1need to
1> > 1> create more copies or promoters for the genes (evolution haven't 
1done > > 1this,
1> > 1> since it would require more energy (which we humans have plenty 
1of) and > > 1> long lifespan is normally not selected for).
1> > 
1> > Very true and sound arguments.
1> But...All the repair enzymes in the world will not stop mutation.  You 
1> may decrease mutation rate somewhat but there are mutations that can get 
1> past all the editing machinery.  Reducing mutation rate, in any case, 
1> would only help to reduce the occurrence of cancer, not affect lifespan 
1> outside of cancer.

I have already said that other sources of death, as accidents, 
ilnesses as cancer, etc. make a prolonged life not eternal. 
If an infomorph's hardware home box is blasted, he's revived 
in another location, loosing only the time since last backup. 
(Distributed redundant storage _has_ a lot of merits ;)

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

I am an Evolutionist and use GAs on my computer. Yet if I am
an individual suffering from fatal intreatable cancer, arisen
from essentially the same mutation/crossover process which is
the driving force of evolution I don't care a fig for adaptation.
It is entirely clear that a population of immortal individuals 
does not evolve. 

Unless it wishes to. Do you care for Darwinian or Lamarckian 
evolution? Or a pleasant mix of both of them? You're free 
to choose. That is the nice point in the Downloading concept:
freedom to do anything you did before (including the death
_option_), plus More. How much more, is only limited by the
amount of computation at you disposal and your imagination.
It's Man-made Heaven, all right.

1> Patrick


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