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Anuraag Reddy

AIESEC India

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Why evolution could never solve aging?

Maybe aging is an essential mechanism to clear out the old and make way for the new like cells within a body?

Maybe every form of life is already close to the upper limit of life expectancy?

Maybe aging is in the nature of carbon based life and metabolism?

Maybe we genetically sacrifice our longevity to survive the stresses of competition.

Emerging Questions:
Is it that our metabolic processes are over-compensated for dominance in their sexual prime which prove detrimental for longevity?

Is it that genes leading to different lifespans are mixed indefinitely in nature that it was never possible to select for it?

Isn't an organism with a longer span of mating at an advantage?

My hypothesis:
In the absence of change in ones environment, or competitive stresses an organism would eventually adapt itself to survive longer.

If every organism is a product of evolution then there must of course be underlying mechanisms within itself to aid such an adaptive process.

Under the influence of adaptive pressure, it would encourage mutation or variations in order create successful variations and also increase the number of life-cycles and so reducing the lifespan.

Under the influence of competitive stress, the dominance would lead to reproductive success and not the span of mating during ones lifespan.

In the absence of change in ones environment leading to adaptive pressure, or competitive stresses from rivals to prove dominance. Species would evolve longer lifespans.

Just a Theory though! But it would predict that

Lifespans of living fossils which have undergone little change in time should be greater than their relatives which have recently evolved.

Life having evolved on geographically isolated places far from intense competitive pressures should have greater lifespans.

Living things higher up in the food-chain or with few natural enemies should have greater lifespans.

Life span in pair bonding species should be higher than tournament species.

Topics: aging evolution
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  • Nov 22 2011: Evolution has not YET solved aging! I'm hopeful that it will be doing so sooner than later via our technology and medicine. All of our technologies from fire to biomedical research has extended our life spans throughout our entire evolutionary history. Human intelligence, technology, medicine and mastery of the natural world are all parts of our natural evolutionary path. We just haven't evolved the technology yet to solve aging. Getting closer every day though! It will probably be the greatest evolutionary advantage of all time for the species that greatly reduces or solves aging. The skills and knowledge that a person or species could acquire through a greatly extended life span of 200 or more years would be incredibly advantageous. What else could Einstein have done if he had a healthy and productive life span of 200 years? It's coming!
    • Nov 22 2011: We don't "evolve technology". We develop it, and perhaps that technology might get "better" as we (if we) evolve greater intelligence. Evolution ia not a directed process and it has neither goal no rintent, so it is not clear that in our current environment greater intelligence confers reproductive advantage. Such things as resistance to cosmopolitan diseases and shifts in psychology that make us more comfortable in dense crowds would perhps confer greater advantage.

      It is a random process of mutation, and selection through increased reproductive success if the mutated gene confers some sort of advantage. And the selection pressures that work on us are often subtle, and not necessarily descernable. .

      I don't think that in any evolutuionary sense aging is a "problem" that needs to be solved. In fact the older organisms need to die off for any shift in the prevalence of alleles to take place in a population.

      If longevity is increased radically through medicine and technology the ultimate result will probably be to reduce the gene pool, as individuals who can afford the treatments would consume an inordinate share of resources and leave little for others. They would probably stop reproducing themselves as the desrie for self-replacement would be lessened. And those who were relegated to the underclass serving those who had long lives would be selected (by the upper class) for a servile nature and lessened intelligence. A dreary future indeed!
      • Nov 22 2011: I would disagree that our evolution cannot be a self-directed process. Or to think of it another way...evolution becomes less relevant the more we master our natural world. I think there are plenty of examples of us currently self-directing our evolutionary path. We will be able to fully program our genes. There are great strides being made in that field today.

        When, not if, longevity is increased radically through medicine and technology I would agree that there will be a disparity between the have's and have-not's. That however is not our dreary future, it is our dreary present. I'm confident though that we will resolve the economic and social disparity that we suffer from. I'm very excited about the future!
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      Nov 23 2011: Hi Paul, I enjoy reading messages of hope about the future. Sometimes I'm just as hopeful, sometimes very hopeless, based on thoughts like those dennis westler replied with. I'm not as hopeful about solving the economic problem (by which I mean, basically, greed), which I think will be critical in how we deal with all the other threats to humanity's future, from global warming to asteroids to rogue biotech, nanotech and AI, nuclear war, etc., etc. My basic premise is that if we continue to fight over resources, the risk of each of these things wiping us out increases.

      "It will probably be the greatest evolutionary advantage of all time for the species that greatly reduces or solves aging. The skills and knowledge that a person or species could acquire through a greatly extended life span of 200 or more years would be incredibly advantageous." - I see two main problems with this:
      1) Evolutionary advantage is a term that is relative to another population. Maybe you mean simply an advantage over what our species had previously. This, however, is a risky bet, as it's likely to involve a reduction in genetic variation, making us more susceptible to extinction through the above disasters. In that sense, it's an evolutionary disadvantage.
      2) The way computing, psychology, nanotechnology and neurology are advancing, I see vastly increased learning for individuals and humanity through increased speed, bionics and other techniques, which has the advantages over longevity that we don't have to wait another 200 years from inception to attain it. The same advantage could be got by founding an institution in which bright students are funded to learn all day every day instead of turning up to 3 lectures a term. ;)

      But some of my darkest visions involve us knowing an awful lot. Knowing and doing aren't the same thing. We pretty much know what we need to know now. We just don't do what we should, because of our deeply (genetic) competitive nature.
      • Nov 23 2011: Correct, by evol advantage I mean our continued existence. We already beat out our competitors thousands to millions of years ago. We win!

        I'm definitely on board with you about a great uptick in human intelligence and capacity through supplementing our brains and bodies. This too has me greatly excited about the future. I think we will know one day exactly how our bodies and brains exist. knowI fully intend to supplement my body and brain with technology and biotechnology if available in my life time.

        I don't think we can ever know too much. There really isn't anything that says we can't fully know and master our natural world or the entire Universe some day. There is no bad or wrong knowledge. Let's learn it all!

        I too struggle with the issue of genetic variation. I haven't been able to think my way around that problem. A friend once suggested that tightly controlled borders and immigration policy throughout all nations would be one way to ensure genetic divers. Instead of the move to make our entire world one big melting pot it would be best to encourage and celebrate diversity. Even when we can fully program our genetic makeup each unique society and cultures would choose the genetic profile that best matches their own values.

        It bugs me to no end when I hear people say "we are all one" or "we are all one world". We are not "all one" nor do we want to be "all one". Far better if we all maintain our uniqueness and learn to get along despite our differences.
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        Nov 23 2011: There is an economic advantage within our species to live longer. If my parents live longer, stay mentally young to educate themselves and acquire more money, I am more likely to find better suitors and mate more often. But this may apply only to humans and may already be a socio-economic trend.

        But such a trend would continue as I may have a genetic disposition to do so!
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          Nov 23 2011: Good point. Evolutionary advantage was conveyed when humans developed language and culture, and now our reproductive potential is most obviously measurable in dollars - at least that is a persuasive idea. More money means better health care, greater survival rates of children, who are better educated, earn more money, and so on. However, evolution is a compex issue. What seems advantageous within one particular time scale may not be over another, and evolutionary time scales can be very long indeed. So in saying "that trend would continue", one should always recognise that it's temporary.

          Here's a scenario to help understand it: in future almost all the rich people have sanitized their homes and work places (which are just their homes - they don't need to go out much), and have taken advantage of gene therapy over a few generations, so they almost all conform to a cultural ideal of perfect beauty and intelligence. They rely even more on advanced drugs, especially antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and so on. They grow a limited range of super-foods under relatively sterile conditions. Then some virus mutates such that it targets this genotype, or its food source. The epidemic could wipe virtually all of these "advanced humans" off the planet. Meanwhile, the poor, scraping a subsistence living out of the filth as usual, have the bio-diversity to survive in large numbers.

          Of course, it might not go that way - the rich might have the resources to fight the infection, but it's only kicking the can down the road until next time, IMHO. There is a rational argument that what would be best for humanity is to stop "advancing", but we can't do that, apparently.

          This is also why it's wrong to consider humans as the best organism. Those who appear ahead in the race would seem to be more vulnerable to being destroyed. There are many possible global disasters that could wipe us out, or all mammals, or much more. Bacteria survive almost anything.

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