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The Eternal Return - Transience Divine
May 23rd, 2010
07:40 pm


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The Eternal Return
This month's Scientific American has an article on a new process for rejuvenating cells ("Your Inner Healers" by Konnad Hochedlinger). Technically, a simple cocktail of genes has been discovered that can reprogram an adult cell to have the pluripotency of embryonic cells. These cells have a healing ability unknown to the adult body, like "a Fountain of Youth to escape the consequences of aging and disease."

It seems likely that within our lifetime, we (or at least those who can pay) will have full access to this power of rejuvenation. Which brings me to my question. Suppose by a simple process you could reverse aging, as much as you want. Your new stem cells would find the most worn-out of your adult cells, and replace them with shiny new ones. As a consequence, however, you would lose an equal part of the experience stored throughout your body, in a kind of fading away. You could become 20 years old again, but you would not be a sixty-year-old in a 20-year-old body. You would be a twenty-year-old, emotionally and intellectually, with vague remembrances of the 20th century.

Would you do it? How many years, and how many times? Would you live forever, eternally young and eternally forgetful?

Also, Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (author of Dykes to Watch Out For) is phenomenal. Intertwining threads of family and sexuality, lost in a forest of literary exploration, return again and again on ever deeper levels. Alison's history unfolds in a gorgeous water-color, multimedia, cinematic way that only sequential art is capable of. I want to be every character in that book.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:May 24th, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
Sure, why not? Wait 'till you're 90, then start all over again.
Date:May 24th, 2010 10:17 am (UTC)
Interesting ideas:

* Can you keep the money you've earned as a sixty-year-old and "give" it to your 20-year-old self? After enough tries (and economic luck) you could end up with super-rich 20-year-olds. Would raising new children (or supporting older, post-work people) become unfashionable, since why would you want to "waste" the resources necessary for living on unproductive humans?

* What if you commit a crime? Can you apply the procedure to return to a pre-crime age? Are you then still responsible for the actions (criminal or not) committed by your previously-older self?

* Could we do nature vs. nurture tests? For example, raise a kid with a certain educational method, test her, youth-ify her back to an infant, raise her with a different educational method, and see if her test scores are higher.

See also "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"... forgetfulness without reverse aging.
[User Picture]
Date:May 24th, 2010 09:51 pm (UTC)
Sure I think you will be able to pass money onto your rejuvenated self, but you will also pass on your debt. I think that there will be some super-rich 20-year-olds, as well as super-poor ones, and some that start out super-rich and lose all their money in a binge of 20-year-old irresponsibility.

The other point about older people is pretty disturbing. There will no doubt be kinds of diseases for which the only approved treatment is rejuvenation. You might not have the option of getting surgery, if surgery is too expensive and the expected cost of keeping around an old person is too high.

I think the crime case is related to the problem of financial responsibilities-- and academic degrees, and a lot else. I have no idea how we're going to legally deal with it, but we're going to have to find a way. I can't imagine how the nature vs. nurture tests will be legal, but it would be fascinating if we could.
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