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Radical Life Extension is more likely than not in our lifetime.


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After 9 votes and with 63 points ahead, the winner is...

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Contender / Con

For the purposes of this debate, and since radical life extension is such a vague term, I would like to define it as achieving a life expectancy of at-least 200 years old.

Our lifetime is a vague phrase/term as well, and to keep the debate from going off course, I would like to define it as the life expectancy of the average current 21 year old, in western society.

I would appreciate questions for clarification on the topic, because I want to avoid a semantics debate.

Round 1
Escape velocity

Radical life extension may at first seem like a far off concept, but you have to remember that the current state of technology seemed like a far off concept 50 years ago as well. When you couple this with the fact that when we achieve a 200 year lifespan that we will struggle to even realize we have achieved such a thing. It’s just hard to believe you will live to 200, until you have done so. I’m sure a similar thing happens to people who make it to 100, now days.

In 1950, the average life expectancy was to live until your 40s, and now we have almost doubled that and people can expect to live until almost 80 years old. [1] On one hand this is good, because we have better prospects for the future. On the other hand it means enough Boomers still exist to maintain a strangle hold on government power.

In order to achieve radical life extension to take us from 80 years old to allowing an individual to live to 200, we don’t need a big advance in technology to give us another 120 years. Right now life expectancy increases by about 3 months every year.[2] If we improve a little, and have lifespan increase just 1 year for every year that passes, we have reached escape velocity. There is every reason to believe that technologies are increasing at an exponential rate.

Accelerating Returns

In our day to day lives, it may seem like technology barely moves forward, but an expanded view shows the rate of change is accelerating. From 1750 to 1850, it seemed like almost no change occurred, because it was happening so slowly, but from 1850 to 1950 the world looked unrecognizable, and between 1950 to 2000. we saw similar changes as from that 100 year period. Ray Kurzweil the originator of the law of accelerating return puts it like this:

An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The “returns,” such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity”[3]

He goes onto showing us an example of this in our not too distant past in the same article. The human genome project started in 1990, and critics pointed out that at their pace and with technology what it is, it might take 1000 years to finish the project, less than 5% of the project was complete by year 5, but the 15 year project ended up being completed 1 year ahead of schedule.

Predictable advances in technology

Kurzweil used his law of accelerating returns to make several startling predictions on the advancement of technology that came true. Of the 147 predictions he made since the 1990s 127 of them have been correct. 12 of those were off by a year or 2 though. This gives him close to a 90% accuracy rate, showing that the law of accelerating returns is a reliable predictor of what the future will look like. [4]

A hand full of Kurzweil’s predictions that have come true are;[6]

1. We will mostly use portable computers by this time
2. Personal computers will be available on clothing such as watches
3. Cloud computing will be common-sense
4. Predicted Google Glasses

Kurzweil as late as 2016 has predicted that within the next 10-15 years, we will see our life expectancy increase by 1 year for every year that passes, putting us at escape velocity.[5] He uses some current technologies to prove this. . He does not refer to unknown technologies, but known technologies and what they will be capable of when they are predictably improved at the predictable rate.

For example in the 2020, he says 3d printing will be advanced enough to start to replicate human
organs. By the 2030s we will have computers the size of human bloodcells, which can repair cellular damage or deliver drugs. Some companies are already working on this,


I appreciate my opponent being willing to debate this with me. As you can see the only thing we need to do to live an indefinite lifespan is to increase life expectancy by 1 year, every year we are alive and that according to the law of accelerating returns and Kurzweil’s predictions should occur within the next decade or 2. Live Long and Prosper



Round 2
One path to achieving radical life extension is to of course extend how long we can survive in our biological body. The other path that is less talked about is the ability to upload our mind into a computer. If we accept that this is in fact an extension of life and not a mere imitation, it is also something we can expect to see with-in our lifetimes.

According to an essay  by Ray Kurzweil;

“an analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The “returns,” such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity” [1]

Moore’s law is one manifestation of this that helps create these accelerating returns, but it is merely the most recently popular manifestation of the law of accelerating returns. It shows processor speed doubling every 18 to 24 months, which means computers can do more for less money every 18 to 24 months. Twice as much in fact.

Like I said though. Moore’s law is just one manifestation of the law of accelerating returns. Now that we are approaching the end of Moore’s law, if not have passed it, a new paradigm shift that pushes technological advancement forward has arrived. According to computer weekly this new paradigm is AI power. Here is what they say;

“But the Stanford report, produced in partnership with McKinsey & Company, Google, PwC, OpenAI, Genpact and AI21Labs, found that AI computational power is accelerating faster than traditional processor development. “Prior to 2012, AI results closely tracked Moore’s Law, with compute doubling every two years.,” the report said. “Post-2012, compute has been doubling every 3.4 months.”[2]

The law of accelerating returns is a very real thing. Particularly the speed of AI advancement is very important to us getting to a point where we can download our brains. A lot of professionals in the field of Artificial Intelligence (37%) think that in the next 5 to 10 years we will have human level artificial intelligence.[3]

This is good news. This means computers will have the ability to replicate our brain, in less than a decade. The next issue is whether we can break down the information in our brain in a way that is conducive of replicating or transferring that information into a computer.

neuroscientist Randal Koene says that it is theoretically possible to upload a human mind into a computer. The prevailing theory is that information is stored in the brains connectome, and that at some point we will be able to deconstruct it, and transfer that information to an artificial intelligence program. [4]

The 2045 initiative headed by Nectome a Russian based business created by billionaire Dmitry Itskov, is already working on preserving information inside the brain, which seems possible at the moment, although mind uploading is not yet possible. The procedure would mean instant death in the hopes of mind uploading technology to become available, to save your life. So I would not recommend attempting this unless you are already close to death.

What Is A Human

I our lifetime we can achieve some form of radical life extension. Be it mind uploading or increasing how long we can keep these primitive meat vehicles from deteriorating. The next question is whether mind uploading is actually something that would keep us alive, or is it merely something that would be a cheap imitation of who we are.

I would argue that we are the information we contain. We our in the simplest terms the continuation of our memories. I think the movie Freaky Friday does a good job of showing that it is our collection of memories, our beliefs, our collection of thoughts that make us who we are. The people in the film no longer had their original body, but as you can see, we all felt like they kept their original self.

The brains did not swap, it is the thoughts, memories and beliefs that swapped. Of course all of these things are malleable, but it is this constant changing state the continuity of these memories, that make us who we are. We can see further examples of this hard to pin down concept of who we are in other assumptions we make. If we see Siamese twins, they share the same body, but we consider them 2 different people. It is not the body that is us, or even the brain itself like Freaky Friday shows, but the continuation of this malleable self that we give credit as being “us” is.



Round 3
I'm just going to leave the debate where it is. I would like to expand on this topic, but I feel like the expansion I make is worthy of it's own debate anyway.