Opinion: ‘Upload your mind’ or alter genetics: Powerful billionaires are pouring money into life-extending technology — and they just might succeed.


What does it mean to ‘upload your mind’ onto a computer? 

The search for the Fountain of Youth is an age-old quest.

Over the centuries, efforts to extend human lifespan have made a turn from the philosophical to the scientific; nowadays some legitimate progress is being made concerning longevity. 

Many companies are deep into new drug development for gene therapy. For example, Pfizer’s
drug Rapamycin, which is typically used to prevent kidney-transplant rejection and the growth of certain types of cancer, has been found to slow aging in mice by 20%. It has a similar effect on invertebrates, as well as an added bonus of staving off diabetes, cancer, and heart attacks in humans. 

Bayer AG’s Acrabose
is another promising candidate. The drug is used to control diabetes in human patients, and has improved mice lifespan by 20%. This is because its effect on organism mimics calorie restriction, an intervention shown to increase longevity and health span in mice.

SS-31 aka Elamipretide, produced by Stealth BioTherapeutics, is a synthetic peptide that improves mitochondrial function; it is used in clinical trials for mitochondrial diseases and heart failure. Its lesser-known property is one of anti-aging. This study shows it has a capacity to reverse aging-related deficits in skeletal muscles in mice, with potential of translation into human use. 

A push is being made into multiplexing these three drugs for an enhanced anti-aging effect, and it’s only a matter of time before we see the results of this endeavor. 

Rich and powerful backers

It makes sense that those who have the most to lose would be enthralled by the concept of eternal life. Naturally, this includes some of the richest people on the planet. 

founder Jeff Bezos has reportedly invested in Altos Labs, a biotech start-up founded in 2021, which hopes to reverse the aging process. The investment follows a recent trend of high-profile individuals and companies investing in longevity research, which may lead to significant breakthroughs in the coming years. The startup has also reportedly received backing from Yuri Milner, the Russian-Israeli billionaire who also invested in Facebook, Russian email service Mail.ru and Russian social network VK. 

Digital eternal life

While longevity itself is a worthy goal, drugs that prolong life are often simply too expensive or not tested thoroughly enough to provide the coveted benefits. In those cases, individuals would be forced to turn to alternative methods of staving off death, such as transfer of consciousness onto a digital media.

The concept isn’t new; digital immortality has been explored in a number of popular works of fiction. But first, let’s first answer the basic question: What does it mean to “upload your mind” onto a computer? 

The process of transferring our consciousness to a digital realm involves mapping the brain’s neural pathways, which then can be translated into computer code. The resulting “digital brain” would be an exact replica of our mind, capable of running on a powerful computer system.

This digital version of ourselves would resemble us, act like us, even think like us, but it wouldn’t be us.

The implications of this technology are immense. It would allow us to create a digital version of ourselves, which could be stored on a hard drive and continue to exist long after we die. This replica would become immortal, in a sense, living on in the digital realm forever.

But there’s a catch.

Despite the technology’s potential, it’s unlikely that the transferred data would be our consciousness in the true sense of the word. Instead, we would create a simulation of our consciousness, run by an advanced AI system. This digital version of ourselves would resemble us, act like us, even think like us, but it wouldn’t be us. Instead – it would just be an intricate digital copy.

There are also ethical and philosophical questions that should be addressed. For example, if we create a digital replica of ourselves, who owns it? Who has the right to control it and access it? Would deleting it be considered murder? What about replication? These questions become even more complex if a digital replica is deemed sentient and self-aware.

Moreover, the idea of digital immortality raises questions about the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human. If our consciousness can be reduced to a series of neural pathways, what does that say about our sense of self and our understanding of what it means to be alive?

Despite these complexities, the pursuit of immortality continues, both through traditional means, such as gene therapy and the development of new drugs, and more unconventional methods such as digital immortality. While there is no guarantee that any of these will ultimately lead to eternal life, the search for the Fountain of Youth continues to spout.

More: How much should I save for retirement? Assume you’ll live forever — and plan accordingly.

Plus: The new rules of aging well involve small but mighty daily decisions




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