[extropy-chat] Financial Times on transhumanism:Themostdangerousidea on earth?

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au
Mon May 30 01:26:45 UTC 2005

The Avantguardian wrote:

> --- Brett Paatsch <bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au> wrote:
>> Which vaccines for deadly diseases did you have in
>> mind?
> Polio, smallpox, influenza, measles, mumps, tentanus,
> hepatatitis B, and many others. 

Yes, its my impression anyway that these have certainly
helped significantly, (I don't have hard statistics on hand
but in general), your point is well made and taken here.
However influenza still kills a lot of people as I understand
it, particularly the elderly and the weak in underdeveloped
countries. From memory, my microbiology is a little rusty,
it is really a cluster of diseases associated with a genera
or family of microbes rather than a single disease. It rapidly
mutates into forms that evade the hosting species resistence
mechanisms that are built up against it. 

>In fact, the diseases
> for which there are no vaccines for are rather
> exceptional in this day and age, essentially either
> consisting of newly emergent diseases like SARS (which
> doesn't seem to be a big public health concern any
> more) and really tricky ones such as HIV. Some of the
> newer vaccines in the works are against certain forms
> of cancer, nicotine (for people who can't quit
> smoking) and one against tooth decay. 

To your knowledge, is there a single database of available
vaccines anywhere? 

>                                                            For the most
> part, we now have the technology to develop vaccines
> for most diseases within a year's time. 

Hmm, what about heart disease and stroke? Degenerative
brain diseases like alzheimers and parkinsons?  Because
cancers are mutated human cells, vaccines would be 
problematic in many cases wouldn't they, in that, the vaccine
would be homing in on antigens that might occur naturally in
the human body? Again my rustiness in molecular biology
and immunity may be showing me up. 

>...................................................Whether there
> is funding for the technology to be brought to bear
> upon a particular disease however depends a lot on
> congress, lobbyists, and whether pharmaceutical
> companies think they can turn a profit. My point
> however is that the average American has little to
> fear from infectious diseases. 

In general, this point is well made and well taken. 

                                             (Bush's flu vaccine
> debacle excepted of course) 

I wasn't aware of that from Australia. What IS the
Bush flu vaccine debacle to which you refer?
>> Which gene-therapies are available to clinicians?
> Well the most successful to date has been against ADA
> deficiency otherwise known as SCIDs or "bubble boy"
> syndrome. In the cases where it was used, the genetic
> defect was essentially cured. There has been a
> temporary halt to development however because 2
> individuals out of some dozens or so have contracted
> leukemia potentially as a result of the gene therapy.

Yes there was a french boy affected from memory.

> Therefore progress on gene therapy has slowed down
> considerably in the past couple of years. 

That's what I thought. Real progress, but with some
substantial setbacks. Nonetheless life is genuinely complex,
one does not have to have a faith based worldview to be
reasonably concerned and mindful of the unintended 
consequences of treaments and therapies that are not 
necessary well understood in terms of their effects 
especially over substantial periods of time. 
>> I'm sceptical that its true as a generalisation that
>> a person dead for 9 minutes and 59 seconds or less can be
>> brought back.

> Oh they can be. They will never be quite the same but
> generally speaking at room temperature, the window for
> resuscitation is between 5-10 minutes. The brain
> damage starts very quickly however so obviously the
> sooner medical attention is recieved, the better. Note
> that even at the lower end of this window of 5 minutes
> still results in some brain damage but generally less
> than 10 minutes is the "salvage" window. There have
> been numerous anecdotal cases of people who have been
> "dead" at very cold temperatures (bottoms of frozen
> lakes and what not for periods of 30 minutes or more
> that have been successfully brought back.

I'm still sceptical, Eugen often champions this area, but
I don't think I can put my hand on a reliable peer reviewed
case of a human being surviving (essentially intack brainwise)
after 30 minutes at the bottom of a frozen lake. Can you? 
> There would be some unusual circumstances
>> where that could indeed be true but they are unusual
>> circumstances of what is still 'heroic' medicine.
> Nah, its pretty routine actually. One of the post docs
> in my lab (an infectious disease specialist) has
> brought back a dozen or so himself during his
> residency. I mean you could still think of it as
> "heroic" but it happens several times a day in most
> big hospitals.  

Hmm. Its not clear to me what infectious diseases has
to do with this. 

Btw: when you say your lab, do you mean the lab in
which you work or do you head up a lab? I would 
have thought the former rather than the latter. 
>> And as for keeping the mindless-body alive
>> indefinately,
>> that doesn't seem to be within the range of existing
>> general 
>> clinical medical practice either. 
> It isn't normal practice, but that is for ethical and
> financial reasons and not due to technological
> reasons. Schiavo for example could have lived well
> into old age if they hadn't unplugged her.

Lived yes, but "well"? As I understand it she could not
have formed the words to opine that she was in even
a "satisfactory condition".  
>> There is plenty of human condition yet to improved
>> upon
>> and we have very much work still to do. 
> I agree with that, but it still doesn't mean that the
> practice of medicine hasn't changed or had "break
> throughs" since penicillin. 

Depends, I suppose on what we mean by "break through",
incremental progress does not, to my mind, constitute a 
"break through.

Its hard to have serious conversations on these matters when
we used phrases like "break through" without putting numbers
or context around them. 

Brett Paatsch

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