Wednesday, 9 January 2013

07:53 – Barbara’s dad is still in the hospital. The news isn’t good, exactly, but it’s about the best that could be expected. Barbara’s hoping he’ll be released tomorrow or Friday and can go home. She and her sister are resigned to the fact that their dad’s congestive heart failure is chronic, and it’s likely that he’ll have repeat episodes every month or two indefinitely.

This episode hasn’t been much easier for Barbara and her sister than previous ones. The one bright point is that they don’t have to worry about their mom now that she’s in the retirement village rather than by herself at home. They’re trying to keep their mom away from the hospital as much as possible, particularly because of the nasty flu strain that’s going around. At her age and with her long-standing lung problems, a hospital is a very dangerous place for their mom to be. The retirement village staff is keeping a close eye on their mom, which is one less thing for Barbara and Frances to worry about.


10:01 – Yesterday while I was out with Colin, I ran into Paula, who lives across the street, walking her dog, Max. Max is almost 15 years old and on his last legs, literally.

Paula asked about Barbara’s dad. She went through the same thing with her dad a few years ago, and now she’s going through it with Max. Now, as then, she feels completely helpless to stop the downward slide, which of course she is. Paula is enraged about aging and death, and the fact that no one can do anything about it. I agree with her. Something needs to be done.

Biologically, of course, senescence and death are just a part of life. The old have to die to make room for the younger generations. Or do they? Some organisms are immortal for all intents and purposes. Individual examples of these organisms do not senesce, nor die from natural causes. Lazarus Long has real analogs in the natural world.

Scientifically, there’s no reason why normal human lifespans couldn’t be nearer a millennium than a century, or even ten or a hundred millennia. Nor is there any reason why humans couldn’t spend the vast majority of that extended lifespan in their prime rather than becoming increasingly decrepit as they age.

The real reason that so little work is being done on this has nothing to do with the science. It’s purely a matter of politics. Unless everyone can have it, no one can have it. And, unfortunately, even if we already knew how to extend lifespans by an order or orders of magnitude, the only people who would have access would be exactly the ones that shouldn’t: politicians. Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss, literally.

Even if we can’t (yet) arbitrarily extend human lifespans, there’s another alternative. While work continues on genetic engineering, we can at least clone those humans whose genomes are worth preserving. And if politics prevents that for the time being, we can at least collect and preserve DNA specimens from our geniuses in all fields. We do it now for plant seeds; there’s no reason we shouldn’t do it for humans. Eventually, although it may be centuries before it happens, we can use that DNA as seed material to create artificial human genomes that preserve all of the good things and eliminate all of the bad. As a matter of fact, I think I may start collecting cheek swab DNA samples from my genius friends.


11:24 – Hmmm. I’m running low on glass bottles (I still have plenty of plastic ones), so I just ordered a case of 10 mL amber glass bottles and seven cases of 30 mL amber glass bottles. At checkout, I was given a choice of one of two shipping methods. Next-day air cost $816.20. UPS ground cost $0.00. I dithered for all of a nanosecond before choosing the free shipping option.