While discussing the longevity gene therapy project we encountered various questions and observations that prompted us to broaden the project and slightly change it. Generally, all the comments can be reduced into 5 main points…
On November 1, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard took medication to end her life. This wasn’t an act of cowardice, nor due to some psychological condition. She ended her life because she wanted to die on her own terms, rather than suffer the eventually-fatal torment of terminal brain cancer. Her ability to legally commit suicide – or what she referred to it as “death with dignity” – was due to the state of Oregon’s “Death With Dignity Act.”
We knew the risks. But last year, after my wife and I had our genomes sequenced, what we learned was still alarming. Amongst my wife’s results was a genetic variant associated with a significantly increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. And the matter-of-fact statistic on risk came with little information on how to reduce it.
It is a risky business trying to predict the future, and although it makes some sense to try to get a handle on what the world might be like in one’s lifetime, one might wonder what’s even the point of all this prophecy that stretches out beyond the decades one is expected to live? The answer I think is that no one who engages in futurism is really trying to predict the future so much as shape it, or at the very least, inspire Noah like preparations for disaster.
Chief Operations Officer Andy Zawacki guides us through a tour of the Cryonics Institute (CI) facility as well as the whole process of cryo-preservation – from the moment that legal death is declared to the moment patients are placed in long term storage.
In a powerful article at the Atlantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel lined up facts and figures showing that much of the recent gain in human lifespan is about stretching out the process of decline and death rather than living well for longer. Most of us would love to live to 100 and beyond with our minds sharp and our senses clear, able to take pleasure in the world around us while contributing at least modestly to the happiness and wellbeing of others. But clear-eyed analysis shows that is not how most elderly Americans experience their final years.
Suspended Animation is a mean to preserve life by slowing or halting its processes, while not causing death. This is similar to natural occurring anabiosis, though carried out artificially in order to preserve human and non-beings. Currently there are two main means of suspended animation, Cryopresevation, dubbed Cryonics, and the less developed Ahydrobiosis. The former uses low temperatures or chemical fluid replacements, while the former uses desiccation in order to preserve an organism.
The limitations of cognitive enhancement drugs will soon be complemented and surpassed by brain machine interfaces. The most consumer accessible brain machine devices that provide some intellectual enhancement are neurofeedback and transcranial direct current stimulation. Genetic and tissue engineering may provide avenues for at least the repair of cognitive deficits, and perhaps enhancement. Progress in actual nano-neural brain-machine interfaces, which will require advances in miniaturization, materials and nanotechnology, will enable more profound enhancement.
IEET Fellow David Eagleman has written and will host a six hour television series on The Brain for PBS. The series will premeire in 2015, and deals with tough questions of ethics and emerging neurotechnologies.
I’ve been writing about the ethics of human enhancement for some time. In the process, I’ve looked at many of the fascinating ethical and philosophical issues that are raised by the use of enhancing drugs. But throughout all this writing, there is one topic that I have studiously avoided. This is surprising given that, in many ways, it is the most fundamental topic of all: do the alleged cognitive enhancing drugs actually work?
The ability to think clearly and make good decisions is on almost every society’s list of virtues. In this essay I discuss the debate over different aspects of intelligence, the degree to which they are shaped by genes, chemistry and society, and the role of intelligence in other virtues.
We can encourage empathy and compassion through social policy and individual practices. But fully realizing our capacities for empathy and compassion will require careful, nuanced neurotechnological intervention.
Empathy draws on both mammalian circuits that we share with other animals and cognitive abilities that only appear to be present in our closest relatives, the great apes and and cetaceans, and ourselves. As with happiness and self-control, there is strong evidence that differences in our capacity for compassion and empathy are tied to differences in the brain structures and neurochemistries that they depend on.
Debate about the merits of enhancement tends to pretty binary. There are some — generally called bioconservatives — who are opposed to it; and others — transhumanists, libertarians and the like — who embrace it wholeheartedly. Is there any hope for an intermediate approach? One that doesn’t fall into the extremes of reactionary reject or uncritical endorsement?
William Galston writes in the Wall Street Journal about a Republican senator’s plans to force a confrontation on government disability benefits. Though Mr. Galston doesn’t seem to see it this way, it sounds as if Sen. Orrin Hatch plans to hold benefits for disabled Americans hostage in order to force Social Security cuts on everyone.
We asked “If a gene therapy that added fifty years of life was safe and effective, should parents be legally required to give it to their children?” Only a third of the 182 respondents thought mandatory gene therapy for longevity for kids was a good idea.
The DARPA-funded program launches this month at two prestige locations, UC San Francisco (UCSF) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). This $26 million, multi-institutional research was announced last October by the President as our best chance at reducing the damage caused by a wide range of brain disorders including Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, and other dementia-related illnesses.
More than 200 participants from North America, Europe and Asia met in post-Olympic Sochi for five days this April, as world-famous anti-aging researchers exchanged ideas at the third International Conference on Genetics of Aging and Longevity. They discussed progress and remaining obstacles, in their efforts to deepen our understanding of this complex phenomenon and develop strategies for interventions.
The Cryonics Society of Canada was created by Douglas Quinn in 1987. Two years prior, he became the first contracted Canadian cryonicist, and went on to be the president of the CSC (Cryonics Society of Canada), and editor of the Canadian Cryonics News . One of the early ideas in cryonics circles which he advocated for was the concept of permafrost burial  as a low cost alternative to standard cryopreservation by using areas of northern Canada where the ground never thaws at a certain depth.
Picture this: A group of abortion opponents stand outside a women’s clinic holding pictures of fetal remains. As they stand there, calling and offering pamphlets to people entering the clinic, a trickle of pro-choice activists also arrive…
Most of the ethical discussion of the use of stimulant drugs without a prescription in education has been negative, associating their use with performance enhancement in sports and with drug abuse. But the use of stimulants as study drugs actually has few side effects, and is almost entirely applied to the student’s primary obligation, academic performance. In this essay I consider some objections to off-label stimulant use, and to stimulant therapy for ADD, and argue that there are ethical arguments for the use of stimulants, and for future cognitively and morally enhancing therapies, in education, the work place, and daily life.
Today we enjoy basic conversations with our smart phone, desktop PC, games console, TV and soon, our car; but voice recognition, many believe, should not be viewed as an endgame technology. Although directing electronics with voice and gestures may be considered state-of-the-art today, we will soon be controlling entertainment and communications equipment not by talking or waving; but just by thinking!
The FDA is considering approving an experiment to repair a genetic disease in humans by creating embryos with DNA from three parents. Genes would be transferred from a healthy human egg to one that has a disease and the “repaired” egg then fertilized in the hope that a healthy baby will result. The goal of the experiment in genetic engineering is not a perfect baby but a healthy baby.
In a recent newsletter, The Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) is asking people to sign a letter they’ve drafted requesting the FDA not approve clinical trials of a genetic therapy which could prevent thousands of children a year here in the U.S. from being born with serious disabilities. So how does that square with their claim to be for the rights of the disabled?
We asked “How long should caregivers prevent recently disabled people from refusing life-sustaining care (and thereby causing their own deaths)?” Of the more than 230 of you who answered, almost half (47%) said “The recently disabled should be treated until they are no longer depressed, and have a sustained, rational intent to die.”
Thirteen-year-old Jahi McMath died on Dec. 12 at Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. Yet about a month later, Jahi is still on a ventilator because her parents refuse to accept her death. Aided by a misguided legal decision, she has been moved to another facility to be kept on artificial life support, which makes no medical or moral sense. What’s being done to her corpse is wrong, but a bigger issue is the threat her case poses to the rational and moral use of health care resources.
Freedom is an important ideal in liberal political theory, but what exactly does it entail? What do we have to do in order achieve the ideal of political freedom? How will we know if we have achieved it? The first step to answering these questions will be to provide some concrete conception of what it means to be free.
The study, conducted by a team of scientists and clinicians from JCVI and WCHN, will focus on two groups of elderly individuals aged 65 to 85 years by correlating genetics with a variety of human genomic, gut microbiome and other “omics” profiles and integrating these data with the individuals’ health record. One group will consist of healthy individuals, and the other will have individuals with a variety of diagnosed health conditions.