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back to article Google fluffs DEATH DEFEATING startup Calico

Google has helped found a company that will focus on life extension technologies, presumably because if you die, then you can't click on ads. The death-defeating company "Calico" was announced by Google chief Larry Page in an insubstantial blog post on Wednesday, along with a PR-puffed article in Time magazine. Calico's chief …

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humans are not ready for immortality.

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Unhappy

"humans are not ready for immortality."

what makes you think the Google board is human?

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why not?

I am, as long as it's open to all so the important people in your life are there.

There are other problems with, things like feeding and houssing everyone. But I am ready and I am human........ I think.

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Alien

Sucks for you, Humans. None of you fleshy water bags are ready for immortality. Your mere perception of time is deadly to the vessels which carry your minds.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/17/the_smaller_the_creature_the_slower_it_perceives_time/

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Anonymous Coward

OK that's one down ...

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>humans are not ready for immortality.

Though not dealing with the impact of an entire species/culture becoming immortal (and yeah, we'd quickly run out of planet, so would have to give thought as to arranging matter and energy in our solar system...) this modest film is rather good:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0756683/ 'The Man from Earth'.

It is delivered in the manner of a drawing room drama amongst college professors, and relies on dialogue rather special effects.

If you want some explosions, robots, lasers and Jodie Foster in a film that touches on the divide between the long-lived disease-free ultra-rich and the wretched masses, then 'Elysium' in is cinemas now.

Previous sci-fi form would be Asimov's 'The Caves of Steel', and its sequel 'The Naked Sun'.

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Zardoz is also a good guess at what happens when Humans live too long.

Hidden behind Sean Connery's loincloth, and just to the left of the women who maintain societal dominance with jazz hands, is a reasonably deep storyline.

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The gun is good the penis is evil

Good film Zardoz one my favourite even thought it has Sean Conner in a red diaper, along with the whole immortality message I also get the message of Thus spoke Zarathustra thrown in to the rather mad mix.

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This type of forward thinking is exactly what the über rich companies ought to be doing.

Regarding humans not being ready for it: so what. Humanity hasn't been "ready" for anything but that hasn't stopped us from figuring it out and movin forward. Excepting, of course, the insanity in the desert regions.

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Agreed. George Bernard Shaw said it best:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Unreasonable goal in sight, full speed ahead.

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Stop

Maybe, Maybe Not, Maybe for You

"Love is blind. God is love. Ray Charles is blind, therefore Ray Charles is God".

Progress is not an inherently positive concept and cannot be measured. The effects of progress are the only measurable component and must be analyzed after they have occurred and compared to an arbitrary standard to define 'goodness'. Progress can made by doing nothing.

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@chris lively

"This type of forward thinking is exactly what the über rich companies ought to be doing."

Well that was what Bell Labs used to do. Anyone who saw the spec on the first electronic telephone exchange would realize they planned to be the only company to survive WWW III.

Which is about as "forward thinking" as it gets.

PARC also, but they did less well at getting their ideas through the corporate machine.

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Don't we live too long already?

Sure, improve the quality of people's lives while they are here, but then have the decency to hop off the mortal coil and let someone else have a go.

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Alien

Re: Don't we live too long already?

Arguably, as a species Humans do live too long. The idea of death is actually responsible for preventing even more atrocities amongst/to yourselves than you already perpetuate. Humans with little or no fear of natural death would have no reason to let the suffering of others be a factor.

For the time being and for the foreseeable future, Humans should not live exceptionally longer than they already do. No good can come from it. Perhaps in time, but fear, ignorance and greed will have to be controlled first. Not until then.

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Re: Don't we live too long already?

"have the decency to hop off the mortal coil and let someone else have a go."

Why--because potential people are somehow worth more than actual people who are already here?

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Re: Don't we live too long already?

If the potential people aren't better and 'worth' more; then we are all wasting our time.

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presumably because if people die..

this will includes Larry and Sergey, and what they really need is 2-3 lifetimes to spend all that money!

I for 1 salute our death-defying overlords and hope they will extend the courtesy to their subjects..

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Joke

Re: presumably because if people die..

Sergey died the minute he drove that horrid pink car in public. His money can buy him friends (and employees ha!) but it can't buy self respect.

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Anonymous Coward

Of course they had to wait...

... until Steve Jobs was gone.

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Re: Of course they had to wait...

Indeed, and Apple should sue.

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mid life time

So this is what it looks like when Stanford educated billionaires have a mid life crises? What with the mistress drama pretty obvious Larry and Serg are starting to realize getting old sucks.

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Of course medically-induced immortality won't stop you being hit by a drunk driver. Last I heard was, that even without the effects of aging, the /average/ life span in modern human society would be about 450 years.

(And that isn't actually a bad run - I always thought that a few hundred years would be nice, but more than 500 would start to get old - metaphorically).

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yep

Last I heard the big reason senescence is prevalent in human natural selection is due to random death. It makes more sense for your genes to make other somewhat copies (offspring) than to spend all their energy maintaining one copy if they can be eliminated due to non aging reasons at any time.

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Re: yep

The longer you live, the greater your chances of becoming accidentally trapped underground or immobilized.

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You are going to die

So is everyone else. Accept it, and make the best use of the short time you have.

(Hint: nobody on their deathbed ever wished they had spent more time in the office).

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Re: You are going to die

(Hint: nobody on their deathbed ever wished they had spent more time in the office).

This is precisely the sort of vapid sentiment that fatally weakens what might have been a marginally interesting comment.

I would guess that quite a lot of people, on the verge of death, have wished they spent more time at their jobs. Quite a lot of people find their work fulfilling. I can certainly think of things I've done that were less self-actualizing than my job, and given the option, I'd go back and replace them with work.

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If we all become immortal, must we stop breeding?

(a small number of new births to replace people killed accidentally would be allowable, I suppose)

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Joke

Re: If we all become immortal, must we stop breeding?

Yes, but Google could always buy SpaceX and promote expansion to other planets as a medium term alternative.

Another post I'm not sure should have a joke alert icon or not.

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Anonymous Coward

"Google has helped found a company that will focus on life extension technologies, presumably because if you die, then you can't click on ads."

Humans are too small a creature to be capable of such things. Death is normal. We can extend our life expectancy but immortality is impossible.

Who on earth WANTS to live forever? My peers have been watching too much telly. There's already some far fetched posts on 'ere.

Its' a fantasy world of children.

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Ulterior motives

I'm still unsure why anyone would care if Google are doing this primarily to generate more AD revenue. We don't have nearly enough research going on with regard to human health. I'm more interested in the fact a multi billion corporation is doing something constructibe with it's money than why they are doing it.

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Anonymous Coward

Wow

What a bitter article! Why so much hate?? They are only trying to do something to help others

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Missing the point

Immortality means you cannot be killed. By any means. No human can become immortal, they could however in theory live forever assuming all the cells keep reproducing as per instructions.

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Unhappy

You'll have to remove or counteract the assorted rubbish genes found in most people

Because you're core metabolism might be fine but you'll be a babbling drool case for the rest of your (very long) life.

But will there be time enough for love?

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Re: You'll have to remove or counteract the assorted rubbish genes found in most people

Wife and I often discuss how much you can remove or change and still be Human. Sure, it'll still say Human on the tin, but will the Nutritional Facts fine print say something different?

She's a geneticist and doesn't support genetic manipulation except through controlled breeding. It sets up all kinds of debates which usually end when I propose more wives to test her beliefs or some such nonsense. She gets way over my head.

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Unhappy

Re: You'll have to remove or counteract the assorted rubbish genes found in most people

"She's a geneticist and doesn't support genetic manipulation except through controlled breeding."

Ah. Ezra Howard's plan. :-) .

Typically when opinion polls ask about this people most people are OK with fixing hereditary diseases but once it comes to "tweaking" things to improve them then it's a whole murkier situation.

But even that can be contentious.

An argument could be made (for example) that fixing the Sickle Cell Trait in people of African ancestry was (in some ways) taking away part of their genetic heritage. BTW Sickle Cell gives improved resistance to malaria. So if you were of African ancestry would a)Want a regular gene to replace it b)Leave it there, it's your heritage. c)Want an "enhanced" malaria resistance to replace what you've lost?

That's just for something most people would think of as an illness to be got rid of ASAP.

I'll be prepared to bet there are other conditions whose effects are also more than a little ambiguous

I'll note that eugenics (a word I'd never even heard of till I saw the original Star Trek episode "The Wrath of Khan.") has a not very reputable history, as Michael Creighton observed in "Next."

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Re: You'll have to remove or counteract the assorted rubbish genes found in most people

"Next" is a pretty good book; even though it is speculative, it wouldn't be much of a stretch for things to get like that. Not much of a stretch at all.

Wife's thing is that she has zero confidence in the commercial sector to not cause huge messes and 100% confidence that nature will cause huge messes if we take GM animals out of the lab at scale. Her field is aquaculture and she uses the entire industry supply chain in her talks and specific examples in her guidance statements to commercial operations and government research programs.

Most of it is directly applicable to Humans; but solutions to the messes are much more difficult in a species (like ours) where there are significant moral implications with destroying entire generations (or even one individual) with unsatisfactory qualities or releasing superior species outside a laboratory. You quickly create a Wrath of Khan type situation where you have three groups competing for dominance: Superior specimens, inferior specimens and 'unmodified' specimens. All three have a right to live now that they exist, but their designs dictate they must compete as they are all dependent on the same basic resources. In fish the result is predictable, if not ideal. In Humans those conditions also create a predictable scenario but it is completely unacceptable (to most people who are still living with the direct results of what was, effectively, our first non-fiction 'Eugenics War').

In her, factual, fish example she talks about Rainbow Trout, a massively farmed animal and subject of many enhanced traits as a result of commercially valuable results driven breeding. They created a breed of trout that is significantly larger, requires less food, is resistant to the major fish farm diseases and able to survive in warmer (less oxygenated) and shallower water: Allowing farms to be located in traditionally unviable geographical locations without expensive water conditioning requirements. A complication is that for maximum efficiency they require specialized nutritional supplements which are included in a type of corn created in parallel with the fish.

Long story short, accidents happened and now the superior fish is in the wild, in places where unmodified trout couldn't normally thrive, as well as traditional trout friendly places. They're more than happy to share their completely heritable and superior characteristics with other trout it meets; assuming this hyper aggressive version of a normally dominate species doesn't eat them first. So they're out there, increasing their ranks and displacing both wild and farm raised game fish by breeding and eating: Passing on wholly unsuitable for the wild traits. Then there's the corn.

The GM corn has, inevitably, crossbred with different corns and now the supplements that they need for super enhanced performance are present in the feed that is used in most farms. Most farms are inline or parallel to natural watercourses where their water flows through the farms and back into the natural ecosystem, carrying excess super corn with it; ramping up the superior fish and their scions with super performance. It all completes a nasty cycle that nature only guarantees will progress. This is happening right now all over the US and Canada. But it's just fish...

In a similar Human situation, a good assumption could be that the Superior modified specimens force the Inferior modified specimens to do all the farming because they are also dependent on the special GM foods and could be reasonably trusted not to destroy it. Meanwhile suitable land for the 'unmodified' Humans is gradually taken over for production of the GM foods which both sets of those 'modified' won't want to share. The survival of the 'unmodified' is threatened so they undertake a scorched Earth warfare strategy where land is no longer suitable for any food production, the 'modified' population retaliates and you end up with exactly the backstory to the Eugenics War in Star Trek.

Anyway, my point in all that was that once we start modifying people the potential and uncontrollable results are highly unpredictable and all very dangerous societally, in addition to the unknown complications you point out with 'simple' things like Sickle Cell Anemia. Once those things leave the lab mankind defers control of all future events to nature and we'll never be able to control that. Only try and cope with what it throws at us.

It sounds ultra cheesy, but the randomness of Human attraction and resultant breeding (love, if you will) and all the inferiorities it perpetuates actually makes Humans a stronger, more adaptable and viable species. We've evolved, both societally and physiologically to cope with those random inferiorities and attempting to affect those random factors actually results in new random factors we have no ability to deal with.

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