Who Wants to Live Forever? Ray Kurzweil, for one.

“No one lives forever.  No one.  But with advances in modern science and my high level of income, it’s not crazy to think I can live to be 245, maybe 300.  Heck, I just read in the newspaper that they put a pig heart in some guy from Russia.  Do you know what that means?” – Talladega Nights, the Ballad of Ricky Bobby


This might be my best shot at living forever (that’s Pugsley and The Boy) – the apple isn’t too far from the tree.  And the tree has roots.  And those roots are me, and I need nourishment.  As in a glass of wine.  Hmmm, I’ll stop this metaphor right here.  And, yes, Alia S. MacWilder, and Zelda Wilder, you count, too.  I’ll be looking to all of you when I need organ transplants so I can live forever.

The past week had two posts about the debt:  (LINK) and (LINK).  The reason that I put those on Wednesday was that’s the day that we post about Wealth and finance related stuff.  Those posts were intended to work with this post and Monday’s post, since all of them serve to illustrate the aspects of the future that’s arriving quickly and will absolutely impact you, perhaps in most everything you do, and sooner than you might think.  You were expecting flying cars, but the future is much, much stranger than that.  Pig hearts!  Do you know what that means?

I think that one of the things that differentiates humans from animals is that from an early age we know we are going to die.  This shadow looms over us our entire lives, and there are constant reminders of mortality around us, from the seasonal shedding of the trees, to the passing of loved relatives – reminding us that we too are mortal.

And, in one sense, this mortality might be one of the greatest gifts to mankind:  it changes out the old for the new.  Imagine where our current and past politicians are the best we’re ever gonna see.  Regardless of where you sit politically, I know you barfed just a little in your mouth when you read that.  Death forces us to innovate, and to try to create a legacy that’s a capstone to our lives, because we all know that we only have so many days and, like a mayfly, we must do our work quickly lest it forever remain undone.  In the end, our lives are made up only of that precious, limited time.

But Ray Kurzweil wants to change all of that.  One of his obsessions (there appear to be many:  inventor, author, programmer, Sith Lord, PEZ® dispenser collector) is figuring out a way to extend human life.  And by “extend” he means “live longer,” but he’s attempting to change “live longer” to “live forever.”  As he’s about 70 right now, he has a vested interest in working as fast as he can to get progress . . . right now.

Right now one thing he is attempting to do is reprogram his biochemistry.  Kurzweil is attempting to do this by taking supplements.  Sure, like a multivitamin or two?  No.  At one point he was up to 200 pills a day.  Rumor is that he’s now down to under 150 supplements a day (LINK).  At that level of supplementation, do you even need to eat anymore??

I think I had the green pattern shirt that the goatee guy is wearing when I was in kindergarten.  It was a hand me down (back in the before-time, we wore crap our brother who was seven years older than us wore seven years before, because that shirt wasn’t worn out).

One of Kurzweil’s obsessions appears to be his company (LINK) (note:  I get NO compensation for any link on my site as of this writing, but Ray certainly does from his site) that sells his vitamins and his book.  And I have no problem with the man making a few bucks, and Ray seems to be committed to his lifestyle, so, be an informed consumer if you decide you want to buy some of his stuff, though I will warn you that his anti-aging multi-pack will set you back about $90 a month.  Which is not bad if it works.  I just ordered like $80 worth of stuff.  I’ll let you know what I think after I try it out.  Ray, if you’re reading this, take the $20 you just earned and buy yourself something pretty.

Going back to the list of supplements Kurzweil takes, one of them caught my eye:  metformin.  Metformin is a diabetes drug that appears to be gaining ground as a . . . wonder drug, but by accident.  The diabetics that take it get cancer only 40% of the time as their diabetic counterparts that don’t take it.  Additionally, they seem to stay well longer . . . they’re not as sick as the people not taking metformin.  They die of the same stuff (proportionately) but when they get cancer or heart disease, they’re older.

But, metformin only costs a nickel a pill since it comes from some French weed or something, but you have to have a prescription to get it.  There are a few dedicated doctors working to document the longevity benefits of metformin, but the FDA doesn’t consider aging a disease that you can cure with a pill . . . even though this one appears to have some pretty substantial positive effects.  My cynical mind says that this therapy faces headwinds – it’s cheap, it reduces very lucrative medical conditions (how much does chemotherapy cost???), medical research is not very good (LINK) and there’s nearly zero profit in bringing this off-patent drug to market.

But the promise of metformin is just one example of the breakthroughs that Kurzweil is anticipating.

His theory is that, right now, longevity treatments/knowledge/medicine are adding about a year of life for every year that goes by.  His goal is simple, live long enough to live forever.  And there has been interest in treatments like blood transfusions from young donors (I wrote about that here (LINK)) and a host of tech billionaires, like Peter Theil, are now treating longevity as a personal mission for their investments.  And to me that makes sense – if you’ve got billions of dollars that you made from making the world (and yourself!) wealthier, what better legacy to leave the world than longer life?  If you’re Mark Cuban, I’m not sure if you can spell any of that, but, hey, maybe his kids will invest well.  I’m hoping they can read better than him.

Kurzweil also has a contract to have his head frozen (or his body, my Magic 8-Ball® is unclear) after he dies.  No, not for fun, even though I hear that’s all the rage in Canada.  The theory is that, should they get to you fast enough and freeze you completely enough (and manage to minimize cell damage) that you’re still somehow in there.  Kurzweil was fairly optimistic in an interview about 20 years ago that we’d be able to bring back people from Popsicle™ Land© in 40 or 50 years, if they can peel the foil off and deal with the freezer burn.  And remember to pull the foil completely off the apple-cherry dessert thing.

If you translate that timeline to today, that would be only 20 or 30 years into the future, which seems optimistic to me, but just might be on time for reasons that we’ll go into on Monday (promise).

Why does Kurzweil want to go to all of this effort?  He preaches not only the gospel of living a long time, he wants to combine life extension with life enhancement.  Not only will your life be longer, it will be better.  I think this mainly involves being healthier, but one personal fear of mine is living on because I’m just too afraid to die.  To me, a life should be worthy of living.  If you’re not doing that?  You’re dead already, and no amount of Bookface© or Grand Piano Theft VII® will make up for it – you’re living a programmed life.  If it involves meaning, helping others grow, and killing alien invaders, dying gallantly like Randy Quaid in Independence Day® as we secure our victory against them?  Count me totes in.

But on the other hand?  Living because you’re afraid to die?  One case that I saw was someone who lived on for years merely because they were afraid of death – they liked pizza but wouldn’t eat it.  They like bourbon but wouldn’t drink it.  They like smoking but wouldn’t smoke.  It wasn’t pleasant to watch.  Me?  I’ll quote an earlier post (where I ripped off someone else’s line – it might be Stephen Wright):  I don’t ask for much – I just want to go out of this life like I came into it – screaming and covered in someone else’s blood.

And where does all of this end?  With, ultimately, uploading your mind, your consciousness into a machine.

Would that be you?  Would you still have feelings if your body was made of metal, your circuits gleamed?  Would a rose still look like a rose through tearless retina that could store exact HD memories forever?  Will Judas Priest sue me for paraphrasing “Electric Eye”?

True story:  I emailed Wozniak (who funded the US Festival, which is the featured concert venue above) and told him we needed to do it again, since I was too young to go.  As I understand it, the US Festival lost money.  I’ll give Woz credit, his folks responded:  “Ummm, thanks.  We’ll get back to you on that.  If we don’t, please understand that we did hear you, but just found your idea profoundly stupid.”  Actually they were polite.  But my idea was stupid.  Unless Woz really wants to do it again . . . .

I can’t really answer if machine you would even be you.  All the episodes of Star Trek® I watched when I was a kid would say, “No.”  Roger Korby created a machine to house his consciousness, but he wasn’t Roger Korby anymore.  Ray Kurzweil . . . is it a coincidence your initials are the same as Roger Korby?

Man, Shatner could tear up the screen.  And Korby’s hand.

There’s a lot more coming on Monday.  Stay tuned!!

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.

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