Monday, September 06, 2010

Here's To The Next 938 Years


I was listening to a fascinating piece about life expectancy on my favourite radio programme (the BBC's More or Less) yesterday when a claim about escape velocity grabbed my attention. We are used to the concept of escape velocity in relation to space ships breaking free from the gravitational pull of the earth, but the phrase can also be used in other situations in which the scientific ground rules undergo a sea-change after passing a specific point of time. In an interview, Dr Aubrey de Grey, the Chief Scientific Officer of an organisation called Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), applied the concept to human regenerative engineering. He puts forward the idea that technology is advancing at such a pace, in thirty or so years there will be enough technology around to keep the average person alive for another 30 years. During that 30 years enough technology will have been developed to keep you alive for a further 30 years ... and so on. Escape velocity will have been achieved. One might believe that you would then live for ever, but Dr de Grey suggests that non-age-related factors will still get you in the end (falling under a bus for example) but they won't see you off until you are, on average, a thousand years old. A quick calculation based on the fact that I am now 62 years old suggests that if everything goes according to plan I might still be around when escape velocity is reached and therefore I have a further 938 years to look forward to.

To find out what I might look like during the next 900 years or so of my life, I turned to University of St Andrews Face Transformation software. This wonderful piece of kit allows you to upload a photograph of yourself and then age it. I was quite impressed with the results, indeed the photograph I got back (see above) makes me look no older than a sprightly 368 year old. 

17 comments:

  1. you look quite well for being over 900 alan...ha. have a wonderful day! wonder if it will pull our cheeks back when we get as fast as escape velocity...

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  2. Hmmm! So much speculative fiction out there about societies that achieve longevity -- and sometimes the speculation is a little grim. But I must say that you look FABULOUS for your age.

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  3. Hmmm! So much speculative fiction out there about societies that achieve longevity -- and sometimes the speculation is a little grim. But I must say that you look FABULOUS for your age.

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  4. Huh! I can't seem to get the face transformer to work for me; it keeps telling me I don't have Java installed, and I most certainly do; I even update it regularly. Oh well.

    As to living forever, or even for a thousand years, I always think of this quote from a relatively unimportant movie - Aeon Flux, where the protagonist says this about a genetic engineer's efforts to prolong life indefinitely: "We're meant to die. It's what makes everything about us matter!" Or as the Oracle in the Matrix movies said: "Everything that has a beginning has an end." Exactly!

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  5. Yup. You don't look a day over 700!

    Seriously, it's almost a scary thought to think of even a few million people living to be that old. Hate to think of being 7 or 8 years away from a constantly-"updated" retirement age...

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  6. I'm reading quite a bit about escape velocity these days. Strange...

    And the term's a tad ironic in this case, isn't it? Wouldn't "staying power" be the end result? Hah!

    By the way, you've stirred quite a hornet's next with the Baino.

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  7. I tried the Face Transformer. Since it doesn't have the ability to alter your hair color, I was a bit disturbed to see a very wrinkled me still a ginger. Lots of fun to play with, though. I'm going to let my teenagers try it.

    As for the escape velocity theory, I wouldn't be surprised. Technology is progressing at an exponential rate. Who knows, Alan ... we may still be blogging by the year 3000!

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  8. Not bad at all. I'm not going to try it though. I tried something similar at a museum once and I was depressed for days.

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  9. I agree. You don't look bad at all. If we put you up against Methuselah, you'd come off far better, I think.
    Of course, you know I'm just going to HAVE to do this too. (Who knows? I may end up looking like my "Mystery Woman" from Sepia Saturday!

    Kat

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  10. Nice look, Alan!

    Dang it all, I couldn't get the face transformer to work for me though...

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  11. Perish the thought! I think I'm off to find a bus to thow myself under right now!

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  12. Oh, gosh, I don't need the software to age my face. Sheesh. You look pretty darn good, though!

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  13. If you look like that in 900 years, you'll have done pretty well.

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  14. Another 938 years and the coalition might may have turned things around. How many times, is anyone's guess.

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  15. Ah what a fun post - another few hundred years, that's a lot of meal yet to be cooked - and eaten ;-)
    I tried the process myself but I just ended up with a dirty looking face!

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  16. I'm so glad we'll all be reading your blog in the next century! -J

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  17. I listened to a public radio show about this very scientist not so long ago; an interesting character tho I did think he was somewhat cavalier about the problems of increased longevity in terms of population resources. But you do strike me as the sort of man who could keep his interest in things going for another 900+ years!

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