At the Bridge Table, Clues to a Lucid Old Age

So far, scientists here have found little evidence that diet or exercise affects the risk of dementia in people over 90. But some researchers argue that mental engagement — doing crossword puzzles, reading books — may delay the arrival of symptoms. And social connections, including interaction with friends, may be very important, some suspect. In isolation, a healthy human mind can go blank and quickly become disoriented, psychologists have found.

“There is quite a bit of evidence now suggesting that the more people you have contact with, in your own home or outside, the better you do” mentally and physically, Dr. Kawas said. “Interacting with people regularly, even strangers, uses easily as much brain power as doing puzzles, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this is what it’s all about.”

New York Times: At the Bridge Table, Clues to a Lucid Old Age

An article about Red Bull drinking 92 year old bridge players is a good compliment to this New Yorker article about 20 and 30 somethings trying to squeeze as much performance out of their brains as possible.

See also:

Blue Zones

5 real products of the 90s cyberpunk & transhumanist hype

Could Caffeine Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Also, whenever I start to worry about growing older, I take comfort in what Alejandro Jodorowsky had to say in this interview:

You’re 77 now. How are you coping with growing older?

It’s fantastic! I like it a lot. I don’t want to change myself. If you said, Do you want to be 40 years old [again] and I would say, maybe my body, but not my mind. It’s a nightmare, a social nightmare to get old – to get Parkinson’s, to become an idiot, but every day the brain is making new connections and is developing, like the universe. Your soul is getting better and better because you are losing what is not necessary. It’s fantastic to get old! It’s an incredible feeling of freedom, incredible!

What do the longest lived cultures in the world have in common?

Blue Zones is a project of Dan Buettner’s Quest Network, Inc that studies the regions of the world where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100 years. Scientists and demographers have classified these longevity hot-spots by their inhabitant’s uncanny ability to live longer, on average, than anyone else in the world. […]

Four Blue Zones have been discovered so far:

* Sardinia, Italy: One team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where men reach the age of 100 years at an amazing rate.
* The islands of Okinawa, Japan: Another team examined a group that is among the longest lived on Earth.
* Loma Linda, California: Researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among America’s longevity all-stars. Residents of these three places produce a high rate of centenarians, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more healthy years of life. [1]
* Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The Nicoya Peninsula was the subject of research on a Quest Network expedition which began on January 29th, 2007.[2]

The people inhabiting Blue Zones share common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity. Among the lifestyle characteristics shared among the Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda Blue Zones are the following:

* Family – Family is put ahead of other concerns.
* No Smoking – Centenarians do not typically smoke.
* Plant-Based Diet – The majority of food consumed is derived from plants.
* Constant Moderate Physical Activity – Moderate physical activity is an inseparable part of life.
* Social Engagement – People of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities.
* Legumes – Legumes are commonly consumed.

Wikipedia: Blue Zones

(via Appropedia

The Fight to End Aging Gains Legitimacy, Funding

aubry de grey

This weekend, his organization, The Methuselah Foundation, is sponsoring its first U.S. conference on the emerging interdisciplinary field that de Grey has helped kick start. (Its first day, Friday, will be free and open to the public.) The conference, Aging: The Disease – The Cure – The Implications, held at UCLA, is an indication of how far de Grey has come in mainstreaming his ideas.

Less than a decade ago, de Grey was a relatively unknown computer scientist doing his own research into aging. As recently as three years ago a cadre of scientists wrote in the Nature-sponsored journal EMBO Reports, that his research program, known as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, was “so far from plausible that it commands no respect at all within the informed scientific community.” Also in 2005, MIT-sponsored magazine Technology Review went so far as to offer a $20,000 prize to anyone who could prove that de Grey’s program was “so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate.” (No one won.)

Full Story: Wired

Enhancing Humanity

“There is increasing concern amongst a wide range of commentators that human nature is in the process of being irrevocably changed by technological advances which either have been achieved or are in the pipeline. According to a multitude of op-ed writers, cultural critics, social scientists and philosophers, we have not faced up to the grave implications of what is happening. We are sleep-walking and need to wake up. Human life is being so radically transformed that our very essence as human beings is under threat.

Of course, apocalypse sells product, and one should not regard the epidemiology of panic as a guide to social or any other kind of reality. The fact that one of the most quoted panickers about the future is Francis Fukuyama, who has got both the past wrong (The End of History) and the present wrong (recovered neo-con Pentagon hawk), should itself be reassurance enough. Nevertheless, it is still worthwhile challenging the assumptions of those such as Fukuyama who are trying to persuade us to be queasy about the consequences of the various technologies that have brought about enhancement of human possibility and, indeed, want to call a halt to certain lines of inquiry, notably in biotechnology.”

(via Philosophy Now)

How To Live Forever

‘IN THE long run,’ as John Maynard Keynes observed, ‘we are all dead.’ True. But can the short run be elongated in a way that makes the long run longer? And if so, how, and at what cost? People have dreamt of immortality since time immemorial. They have sought it since the first alchemist put an elixir of life on the same shopping list as a way to turn lead into gold. They have written about it in fiction, from Rider Haggard’s ‘She’ to Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’. And now, with the growth of biological knowledge that has marked the past few decades, a few researchers believe it might be within reach.

To think about the question, it is important to understand why organisms-people included-age in the first place. People are like machines: they wear out. That much is obvious. However a machine can always be repaired. A good mechanic with a stock of spare parts can keep it going indefinitely. Eventually, no part of the original may remain, but it still carries on, like Lincoln’s famous axe that had had three new handles and two new blades.”

(via The Economist)

5 real products of the 90s cyberpunk & transhumanist hype

Life Extension – As covered previously here on Technoccult, aspirin is the best life extension drug on the market. And it’s cheap. See: Top Ten Life Extension Drugs.

Intelligence amplification – Mind machines and smart drugs never did live up to the hype, which is probably why you don’t hear much about them anymore. I actually conducted some trials with volunteers using a brain entrainment machine for my cognitive science class in college. The results: the machine didn’t do jack. I was only ever able to experiment with self-medication with smart drugs, but my general conclusion is that some of them work as stimulants (piracetum, vassopressin) but they’re not worth the money.

The good news is, there are some new high tech intelligence amplification tools on the market: “brain fitness” games like Brain Age and Lumosity. I’m not sure how much good it will do, though. See Seed Magazine’s coverage.

Virtual Reality – We’re still waiting on decent immersive VR, but the Nintendo Wii has brought some elements of VR to homes.

Brain Backups – There’s no wetware brain backup, but if you want to preserve your knowledge for all of eternity, you can try posting the contents of your brain on the web. Google and the Internet Archive (backed by Amazon) are both attempting to archive and back-up the entire web.

Space Migration – Like brain backups, this remains vaporware. But space tourism and private space programs are taking off, including one by Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos.

Life extention myths debunked

At the end of her essay, Schaub worries about decreased fertility; that healthy oldsters would be less interested in reproducing. A first response is: so what? Shouldn’t the decision to have children be up to individuals? After all, already countries with the highest life expectancies have the lowest levels of fertility. A lack of interest in progeny could have the happy side effect of addressing the possibility that radically increased human lifespans might lead to overpopulation. No one can know for sure, but it could well be that bearing and rearing children would eventually interest long-lived oldsters who would come to feel that they had the time and the resources to do it right. Since assisted reproductive techniques will extend procreation over many decades, people who can look forward to living and working for hundreds of years will be able to delay and stretch out the period of parenthood.


Callahan’s demand that all problems that doubled healthy lifespans might cause be solved in advance is just silly. Humanity did not solve all of the problems caused by the introduction of farming, electricity, automobiles, antibiotics, sanitation, and computers in advance. We proceeded by trial and error and corrected problems as they arose. We should be allowed do the same thing with any new age-retardation techniques that biomedical research may develop.

Full Story: Cato Unbound.

The future of media

I was trying to articulate some thoughts on these very concepts earlier this year. However, I didn’t do nearly as poignant job as the Casaleggio Associati. What I find interesting is how this renders our interest in the occult. If everyone is going to have access to the things we sometimes struggle to grasp in our studies these days. Perhaps we should just work diligently to make sure the road is paved for the revolution as predicted by this video (and the likes of others, just check out Ray Kurzweil or any number of Boing Boing posts).

Mac Tonnies on the singularity and life extention

Mac writes:

Personally, I’m evenly split between the sort of cosmic all-at-onceness Rucker espouses (even though I’ve never done LSD) and Kurzweil’s chomping-at-the-bit transhumanism. Like Rucker, I’m a little wary of “The Singularity Is Near.” Not because I fear I won’t enjoy it (I thought highly “The Age of Spiritual Machines”) but because I fear Kurzweil’s consummate punditry. It’s great fun to wonder what the postsingular future holds in store, but Kurzweil (and many others of the same general outlook) seem to have overlooked William Gibson’s observation that the future’s arrival is seldom evenly distributed.

Full Story: Posthuman Blues.

Gaians vs Transhumans: Or How to Survive the Crash

Regarding Gaians vs Transhumans, there is really is no conflict and I consider myself to be both. I see no reason why we as children of Gaia shouldn’t be able to survive, prosper and grow, while harmoniously restoring the biosphere to a pre-human paradise. If done right, nanotechnologies are the most environmentally friendly technology that could possibly exist. It is the perfect emulation of life in everyway, while also possessing an evolutionary unfoldment of ever- increasing intelligence. In no time at all, nanotechnology could reverse every “damaging” thing we’ve ever done, while simulataneously bootstrapping life and intelligence to the stars, which is by far holistically, cosmically and universally the most sustainable thing life could ever do. Life is about balance, beauty and harmony, but it is also about evolution, growth and awakening. Let a thousand worlds flourish!

Future Hi: Gaians vs Transhumans: Or How to Survive the Crash

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