The Convergence of Nanotech, Biotech, Infotech, Cognitive Science

Jan 8, 2010   //   by Stephan Spencer   //   General  //  4 Comments

Once in a while, I attend a conference that I am not speaking at. It’s a rare occasion, but it is a welcomed one when it happens because I don’t have to be “on” in my presentation mode. I can just sit back, relax and take in the sessions, network and go to the parties– just be myself.

One such conference I got to enjoy like this was Convergence. It’s hard to believe it was over year ago now (wow time flies). This conference had nothing to do with search engine marketing, ecommerce or online marketing. It was named Convergence because it was a conference about the converging of technologies — namely nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive technology. You know… doubling the human life span, autonomous machines that think and feel, that sort of stuff. It was fascinating. The conference was done in an “unconference” format — like BarCamp and FooCamp — where the agenda isn’t determined until the start of the event and anyone can propose a session. Even though I wasn’t planning on doing so, I ended up co-leading a session on the “future of search” with Powerset co-founder Barney Pell.

I’m not going to elaborate here on that session (refer to my Future of Search post from a few months ago if you want a dose of SEO futurism).

Instead what I’d rather do here is share some of the things I learned about anti-aging and extreme life extension. This topic really appeals to the biology geek side of me (I have a M.S. in Biochemistry). Though “extreme life extension” doesn’t fascinate me enough to the point of wanting my head frozen for future reanimating (you can spare me the Ted Williams treatment, thank you very much). Cryonics is all the rage with Convergence geeks; you could spot them easily enough by looking for their metal “Alcor” bracelets.

The anti-aging/life extension session was run by Dr. Terry Grossman. Dr. Grossman is coauthor of the book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. His coauthor on the book is none other than the artificial intelligence guru, inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil. (I’m a big Kurzweil fan, by the way.)

The premise of the book is to help the reader live long enough until the arrival of molecular nanotechnology (when nanobots will be self-replicating) and of “strong AI” (when AI is no longer “artificial” but “autonomous”). Then we’ll be near to what is known as The Singularity. This is when all the known laws of evolution and evolutionary biology will break down. That means it’s beyond prediction. Who knows what will come of the human race. Will we be obliterated by AIs because we’re a plague? Will we have our consciousness downloaded into some sort of computing “substrate”? Will it be a Dilbert existence for all of us? It’s anybody’s guess!

So anyways, back to this session about extreme life extension. Dr. Grossman focused on ways that you can extend your life through healthy eating, exercise, screenings and proactive testing. Here are some of his recommendations (or at least what I interpreted from re-reading my cryptic notes):

  • Get the following tests regularly: carotid IMT (only costs about $250), ultra-fast CAT scan of your heart (again, only about $250), genomics test (e.g. 23 and me), APO-e blood test ($90), vitamin D levels (you want 40 or above; it’s $50), PSA test, insulin levels, blood pressure (130 over 85 is too high), CRP levels.
  • Supplements : 3-a-day multiple (or 2-a-day; but not 1-a-day). 100mg alpha-lipoic acid. High quality fish oil (such as Carlson brand). Vitamin D. Red yeast rice (e.g. Zymogen brand). Plant sterol pills.
  • Examples of healthier foods: Lentils. Steel-cut oatmeal. If you must drink milk, make it sugar-free. If you must eat omelets, use egg white only.

My cryptic notes above are not meant to be considered medical advice. Standard disclaimers apply.

Go read Terry’s book, and check out his site. Good stuff! Well worth your time.

Also see my post about The China Study for more tips on extending your life so that you can hopefully witness The Singularity in action. This assumes we survive 2012 of course. ;)

4 Comments

  • I love this stuff – but everyone living forever, for goodness sake, that’s not going to help that much, is it? We’re straining the planet as it is!

    Let’s hope those clever convergence people also manage to work out a way for us to start shipping onto other planets or we’re going to be in even more trouble in 50 years than we are now :)

  • Dear Stephan,

    Congrats on being acquired. It was fun to read your blog and your profile. YOu are one of Madison’s hidden treasures.

    Ellen Foley
    currently at Madison College
    formerly of Wisconsin State Journal

  • Pretty interesting meeting you had. I think that this would help some people but greed can play a factor to this and if the hands of evil people were to extend their life would probably not be for the better.

  • Sounds interesting. Definitely something to think about.

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