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domingo, 21 de julho de 2013

About Respirocytes, live longer and the future

During humankind History, as we know today and without considering events of conspiracy, aliens and things like that, the average life expectancy was always around 30 years old, with some years up and down here and there, improving  a couple of years if you were lucky to be born at the richest city of the time.

Things just began to change for real back in 1900, when all the wealth from the industrial revolutions started to generate more concrete results to everyone. Among them, the most important one, that  changed all, was the possibility of existence of an environment where technological advances could occur, with urban centers where lots of people could live without starve, and also develop and discuss ideas, going to schools, universities and so forth.

Today, using data from 2011, the World Health Organization, tells us that the average global life expectancy is of 70 years old. In other words, it means that in a little more than 100 years, the life expectancy doubled. So, is it crazy to wonder if with all the constant technological development, in 2111 we will have a world where people will live 140 years?

It is awkward to say that the answer is no, but not because it won't be possible, but because the evolution of technology grows exponentially, this way, 100 years from now, we can have a world where people will live beyond this 140 years, to be more dramatic we can even have a world where dead is a thing form the past.

It may sound like crazy talk, but these are very realistic assumptions, if we consider the technology in development and their present real results, like the possibility of literally print human organs, a gel that makes the healling process of wounds six times faster, or one that can stop bleeding almost instantaneously There is also another branch of research dedicated to not only heal the body, but to improve the functionality of it using nanotechnology and genetic manipulation.

I just said all this to talk a little about something called Respirocyte, a redesign of our red blood cells, that can get out of the paper in the next 20 years and which can be the first big change to the things as we know.

Red blood cells are responsible for the transportation of gases inside the body, mostly CO2 and Oxygen, from the lungs to the cells and from the cells to the lungs. The main difference of this redesign is the possibility to carry 236 times more volume of gas than the regular red blood cells and the ability to perform the gases exchange with the body's cells more efficiently.

All this would allow, things like a person to survive for hours after a heart failure giving more time to get medical help, or dive and stay under water for a whole day. The most impressive thing, however, that could change things for real,  is that all the way muscles and cells use oxygen could be optimized in such a manner that is hard to estimate how much the aging process could be retarded. It is possible that Respirocytes alone will be able to increase our lifespan by more than the double of today.

The responsable for this project is Robert A. Freitas Jr., and he first presented it in 1998. Since then, a great number of advancements have happened and the necessary technology to turn these devices from theoretical projects to actual real devices is closer and closer. In fact, this is one of those technology roads where the path to development is already set, the matter of reaching the goal is just a question of time and money.

Considering the world's population we have now, with all the life condition we have in these days, it is paradoxical to realize that technologies that could increase the average lifespan of people could be actually catastrophic to the point where the species could end. Think for a second about all this new people not dying, the resulting increase of population. How is that the world is going to feed all these people who won't die or that will live and eat double of what they are eating and consuming today? Where they gonna live? What about the economy, the jobs, careers and all the consumer products? What about education, will people be able to study more, will they need to study more? Imagine all that. Maybe only one planet won't be enough to handle all this, and maybe even the people won't want to live all that long.

If you are interessed in knowing a little more about all this, I highly recommend the books When I'm 164, by David Ewing Duncan and Homo Evolutis, by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans. Both books are published by the guys from TED and, at the end of the post, there are links to TEDtalks about them.

So, truth is, it is hard to put in just a few words all the things that can change in 100 years, even if we focus on things that are real and not some crazy speculations, so I won't try. Things evolve fast and with the right direction and intention, they can evolve even faster. Many things still have to be developed to a world with so much people, that will be living for very long, can come to be. Technology evolution is the evolution of the tools we use to live and, honestly, I can't stop thinking that we are reaching a point where the evolution of the hands that are going to use this new tools is necessary as it have never been. The world these days is a little strange, with worldwide espionage programs that make no sense and have zero respect for everyone, with crazy prohibitions, political unhonored games, staggering social gaps and so on. Perhaps right now what we are really needing most to develop and created are not ways to live longer, but to live better, as a "global community", with mutual respect, with new forms of philosophy and culture that will give direction and make sense. But, hey, one thing doesn't necessary eliminates the other, right?

--- Links
"When I'm 164", on TED
From one of the authors of  Homo Evolutis, "The next species of human"
From one of the authors of  Homo Evolutis, "Will our kids be a different species?" (com legendas)
More about Respirocytes