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Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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The Myth of the Longevity Elixir

Marios Kyriazis

Ethical Technology

October 30, 2012

The search for a single elixir or combination of elixirs, which can allow substantial longevity, is false.

Here, I use the term ‘elixir’ with reference to any substance, compound, pharmaceutical preparation, or therapy that is used by a person with the intention of significantly prolonging lifespan. When I started my career as an anti-aging physician and bio-gerontologist over 20 years ago, I firmly believed that it would, one day, be possible to discover, devise or create a compound - or a combination of compounds - that will cause an extension of human lifespan in a substantial way.

Drugs and supplements such as human growth hormone, carnosine, DHEA, antioxidants, calorie restriction mimetics, and telomerase activators were, at one point or another, my favourite choices. Even more advanced genetic therapies such as DNA interventions, stem-cells, and epigenetic interventions appeared to be promising candidate therapies.  Many dozens of products have been marketed and re-marketed, and a lot of research has been done in basic biological aging. Products and therapies have been suggested, based on mitochondrial aging, genetic repair, telomeres, lysosomes, calorie restriction etc.

However, during the past couple of years I started realising that this approach to defeat aging will never work. The aging process is an extremely complex process which is deeply entrenched within elementary evolutionary and natural forces. Taking a pill or using a treatment will never have enough impact to alter the basic mechanisms of aging.

This may be a disappointing point of view but it is easy to make it clear. Just get up (or stay up) at 2 am and look at the clear starry sky. If you spend a few minutes contemplating the enormity of the natural forces behind what you see, you will realize that we will never, ever, conquer aging unless we increase the complexity and sophistication of our approach. We need to start moving away from simplistic (yet popular) approaches and seek something deeper, scientifically and philosophically, even religious.

As a first step, we must look at society. A society that cannot support indefinite lifespans will be a bar to any attempts at individual longevity. On the contrary, a society that is built with the aim of promoting longevity will be a great and essential asset in our quest.

Individuals must harmonise with society, because if citizens live in a society that is selected for longevity they will themselves live longer. They will, in turn, contribute to society’s longevity which itself will reflect once again on the individual. This is in accordance with evolutionary processes and it is termed ‘reciprocal causation’ or ‘reciprocal determinism’.

The main direction of evolution is towards survival, and this means that if a society survives (i.e. lasts longer) then its individual members will also last longer. Thus, we need to look at efforts which improve the survival of society. There are many examples, not just based upon political or economic models, but also including novel ideas such as the input of meaningful information into a societal system. This may be achieved via holographic learning tools or bio-computing. Another is to devise societies that are architecturally sustainable, using for example, bio-architecture.

However, even this method may not be enough to promote extreme human or societal lifespans. One further step which can increase the sophistication of our approach is to look at higher order systems, at the planetary level, with notions that encompass the longevity of our planet as a whole. Here, concepts such as the Global Brain, the Global Superorganism and total planetary survival come to mind. Even so, my guess is that even this will not be a sufficiently sophisticated approach. An even higher step will be to look at a universal level such as cosmological longevity where we look at the use of black hole energy, matrioshka computing, minimisation of entropy increase, and the study of free energy rate density.

The integration of all of these (and maybe many more) methods, in association with a clear applied knowledge and understanding of complex evolutionary theory, is bound to have a significant impact on extreme human longevity.

Looking back now, I realize what a trivial impact single therapies have had on longevity, let alone on maximum lifespan. Therapies and strategies directed only at the individual are simplistic, naive and inevitably doomed to fail. These have not, and will not influence the rate of aging in any significant degree, and are not the answer to our quest to end aging.

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