Tag: life extension

Bioethics News

The Formation of the Global Bioethics Initiative Featured in IMPAKTER

In this series of global leaders, we will highlight an international non-profit healthcare organization that provides a bridge between patient care and the complexities of medicine. This area of healthcare is often referred to as Bioethics and in 2011, Dr. Ana Lita and Dr. Charles Debrovner co-founded Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI). This organization offers an all-inclusive resource that allow young and established healthcare professionals a place to learn about essential information about the ethical dilemmas in medicine. GBI is unique in their approach in that they make Bioethics approachable and tangible to everyone. This first installment of this series will layout the reasons behind making bioethics global, the reasons for forming GBI, and their educational programs.

WHY GLOBAL BIOETHICS?

People are beginning to appreciate more deeply the bonds between human well-being and the unrelenting pace of medical and technological advances. The progress made in life sciences, medicine and biotechnology in recent years has provided us with exciting and novel ways of treating, preventing, and curing human diseases. Some (relatively) recent notable and controversial developments in medical science and biotechnology include: markets in organs and transplantation therapy, the accessibility of biotechnological developments in reproductive healthcare, genetic testing and gene therapy, the End-of-Life, the “right to die” and palliative care, as well as life extension, healthy aging and regenerative medicine. While the positive impact of these advances on individuals and societies must be applauded, the ethical consequences of such developments necessitate our attention. The increasing power that new biotechnologies offer us requires that we consider not only whether something can be done, but whether it should it be done.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

The Formation of The Global Bioethics Initiative: As Featured in IMPAKTER

In this series of global leaders, we will highlight an international non-profit healthcare organization that provides a bridge between patient care and the complexities of medicine. This area of healthcare is often referred to as Bioethics and in 2011, Dr. Ana Lita and Dr. Charles Debrovner co-founded Global Bioethics Initiative (GBI). This organization offers an all-inclusive resource that allow young and established healthcare professionals a place to learn about essential information about the ethical dilemmas in medicine. GBI is unique in their approach in that they make Bioethics approachable and tangible to everyone. This first installment of this series will layout the reasons behind making bioethics global, the reasons for forming GBI, and their educational programs.

WHY GLOBAL BIOETHICS?

People are beginning to appreciate more deeply the bonds between human well-being and the unrelenting pace of medical and technological advances. The progress made in life sciences, medicine and biotechnology in recent years has provided us with exciting and novel ways of treating, preventing, and curing human diseases. Some (relatively) recent notable and controversial developments in medical science and biotechnology include: markets in organs and transplantation therapy, the accessibility of biotechnological developments in reproductive healthcare, genetic testing and gene therapy, the End-of-Life, the “right to die” and palliative care, as well as life extension, healthy aging and regenerative medicine. While the positive impact of these advances on individuals and societies must be applauded, the ethical consequences of such developments necessitate our attention. The increasing power that new biotechnologies offer us requires that we consider not only whether something can be done, but whether it should it be done.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

We’re all Gonna Die… Eventually

It might just be a product of the turnover of people with whom I have much professional contact, but I’ve not heard as much about human enhancement in the past couple of years as I had in, say, 2010.  In particular, there seems to be less being said about radical life extension.  Remember Aubrey de Grey and his “seven deadly things“?  The idea there was that senescence was attributable to seven basic processes; those basic processes are all perfectly scrutable and comprehensible biological mechanisms.  Therefore, the argument went, if we just put the time and effort into finding a way to slow, halt, or reverse them, we could slow, halt, or reverse aging.  Bingo.  Preventing senescence would also ensure maximum robustness, so accidents and illnesses would be less likely to kill us.  To all intents and purposes, we’d be immortal.  Some enterprising people of an actuarial mindset even had a go at predicting how long an immortal life would be.  Eventually, you’ll be hit by a bus.  But you might have centuries of life to live before that.

Dead easy.

I was always a bit suspicious of that.  The idea that death provides meaning to life is utterly unconvincing; but the idea that more life is always a good thing is unconvincing, too.  What are you going to do with it?  In essence, it’s one thing to feel miffed that one isn’t going to have the time and ability to do all the things that one wants to do: life is a necessary criterion for any good. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Digital Immortality of the Future – Or, Advancements in Brain Emulation Research

By Kathy Bui

This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016.
Kathy Bui is a 4th year undergraduate at Emory University, majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and Psychology. She hopes to pursue a PhD in neurobiology after graduation. Her current interests include social justice topics of class disparities and human health rights. 
Introduction: “How do you want to be remembered?” 
The fear of our looming death has haunted us since human life began. It’s not hard to believe that the quest of human immortality has not changed since Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality in 22nd century BC. However, with the technological strides in conjunction with ambitious billionaires, the cure to death may be closer than we think. Life expectancy has been steadily increasing over decades, and yet, Americans seem to look forward to the inevitable prospect of immortality. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 44% of Americans would want to extend their life to age 120 if given the opportunity [1, 2].

An integral part of human life is our biological death. We have sought to create artworks, legends, monuments that would outlive us – to show that we have made a mark on this world. In fact, they have: the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, the Pantheon in Rome, and the Nanchan Temple in Wutai are only a few examples of the remaining buildings, surviving for centuries beyond their makers.
Interestingly enough, there is something else that has not only survived but is growing and expanding beyond expectation: the internet [3].

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Puffing Cryonics in New Scientist?

New Scientist is a British-based popular science magazine. It’s been around for 60 years, which is long enough to stumble and recover a few times. For instance, in 2009 it published a cover story with the startling headline “Darwin Was Wrong.” (Not so, even if his concept of the “tree of life” was simplistic.) The story is mostly behind a paywall but still on-site; the cover image can be found elsewhere.

To be fair, New Scientist has also published informed and incisive commentary by experts such as Donna Dickenson and our own Marcy Darnovsky. The magazine has also been, at least on occasion, sensitive to questions of ethics, as in this 2014 editorial on “three-parent babies.”

But they just stumbled again. The July 2 issue featured on the cover “The Resurrection Project.” The articles included:

Ark of the immortals: The future-proof plan to freeze out death
A visual tour of the weird world of the cryogenically frozen
I want to put your death on ice so that you can live again

The perpendicular pronoun in the third title refers to Max More, the transhumanist who currently runs the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. We last mentioned More and Alcor in March, when we referred you to Corey Pein’s excellent article in The Baffler. Pein describes the folks behind Alcor as “technophilic necromancers” and digs deep into the risible history of More’s Extropy Institute and “proactionary principle.” As science (and business) goes, cryonics is on the quackery side of reality.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

One of America’s finest novelists tackles life extension

“We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn’t it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?” — Zero K 

Immortality through cryonics is the central plot device in the latest novel by Don De Lillo, one of America’s best writers. Zero K takes the reader to a remote secret compound called “the Convergence” where bodies are frozen until a technology is developed to awaken them.

A billionaire takes his dying wife there to be frozen and has to decide whether he will join her, even though he is healthy, or whether he will live on, battling against existential doubt and a loveless life. The story is narrated by his son who is sceptical of the promises of the cult of frozen immortality and returns to New York in the second half of the novel.

The Convergence is a elaborate pastiche of the real-life  Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, where 144 heads and bodies along with a few dozen pets are currently stored in liquid nitrogen awaiting resurrection.

The setting of his 16th novel gives De Lillo abundant opportunity for his signature reflections on life, death, commercialism, branding, marriage and the loneliness and alienation of post-modern living. As most reviewers have pointed out, the 79-year-old author is reflecting on his own mortality as well. 

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Cryonics Taken Apart

Screenshot from promotional video.

Corey Pein has written another excellent piece in The Baffler, this time focusing mainly on Alcor, the cryonics company he describes as “technophilic necromancers.” His starting point is actually a very unfortunate New York Times article.

Pein’s “Everybody Freeze” begins:

Narratives are made by the artful omission of facts. Never was this maxim more evident than in a gullible feature story that landed on the front page of the New York Times last fall, about a young woman’s last-ditch bid for life extension as she succumbed to the ravages of brain cancer. A sober look at the case would have revealed it to be but the latest botched mortuary procedure conducted by a gang of creepy scam artists. Instead, through the good graces of the Times, this grim tale was spun into an inspirational saga of one person’s courageous quest for a second chance at life, aided by medical visionaries on the verge of miraculous technological breakthroughs.

(Incidentally, the Times also gave Alcor publicity back in 2005, though in a less hagiographic article.)

Pein details the gruesome facts of the case, with splendidly straight-faced humor: “a crack team of quacks shaved her head and drilled a number of sizable holes into her skull.” He then delves deep into the history of Alcor and indeed the origins of modern transhumanism.

Of particular interest to those of us who have been following transhumanism and the like for a while is that Alcor’s head nowadays is Max More, the quondam Max O’Connor, who reinvented himself and devised the Extropy Institute in the late 80s.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Revolution Against Aging and Death – RAAD Festival

An interesting meeting this summer in San Diego:  RAAD Festival.

“The revolution against aging and death starts with you. . . .  The movement for radical life extension is about the creation of our own future.”

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Genetic Surveillance: Consumer Genomics and DNA Forensics

“If we each keep our genetic information secret, then we’re all going to die.”

So says Bill Maris, founder, President and CEO of Google Ventures, that $2B investment firm with stakes in more than 280 startups, looking to spend $425M on anti-aging and life extension this year.

Maris isn’t simply trying (successfully) to make headlines, he’s looking to drive a consumer genomics market by convincing people to hand over their genetic material for research. He isn’t alone on this front. 23andMe and Ancestry.com have also engaged in grand, seductive promises: Learn your carrier status! Meet your long-lost relatives! Learn how “African” your DNA is, based on “ancestry informative markers!”

This kind of hype downplays the limits and obstacles to providing reliable genetic information and using it to generate beneficial health impacts. It completely obscures the extent to which research as a system—corporate, academic, governmental, what have you—has been co-opted by private gains and has proceeded with little-to-no accountability to the public good and health. And it elides the real drivers of the genomics business model: mass data collection and brokering data access.

Much of the recent reporting on consumer genomics has focused on the FDA’s battle with 23andMe about selling clinically unreliable health information, and on business developments in the sector. Earlier this month, we learned that Ancestry.com is in talks with FDA to start selling health information. Last week, the big news was that 23andMe has been cleared by the FDA to begin selling carrier screening tests for 36 genetic variants.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Apotheosis now

A Jewish technohistorian believes that human beings are destined to become gods, and soon.

Professor Yuval Noah Harari of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem claims that humanity is on the verge of a major evolutionary leap, where we will overcome the confines of the human condition by integrating computers and robotics into our very being.

Speaking at the Hay Festival in Wales, Harari said he believes human beings will ‘upgrade themselves’ into god-like beings in the next 200 years:

“I think it is likely in the next 200 years or so homo-sapiens will upgrade themselves into some idea of a divine being, either through biological manipulation or genetic engineering of by the creation of cyborgs, part organic part non-organic.”

He continued:

“It will be the greatest evolution in biology since the appearance of life. Nothing really has changed in four billion years biologically speaking. But we will be as different from today’s humans as chimps are now from us.”

Harari believes we will eventually be able to overcome death itself, through innovative life extension technologies.

He is, however, wary of the risk of exacerbated social inequalities. He warned that the ‘cyborg’ technology would be restricted to the wealthiest in society, widening the gap between rich and poor in society. In the future the rich may be able to live forever while the poor would die out.

Harari sees religion and human rights as a ‘nice ideas’ that have now become obselete.

“Religion is the most important invention of humans. As long as humans believed they relied more and more on these gods they were controllable…

“But what we see in the last few centuries is humans becoming more powerful and they no longer need the crutches of the Gods.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.