Fantastic Voyage Overview
We are in the early stages of multiple profound revolutions spawned by the intersection of biology, information science, and nanotechnology. With the decoding of the genome and our efforts to understand its expression in proteins, many new and powerful technologies are emerging. These include rational drug design (drugs designed for very precise missions, with little or no side effects), tissue engineering (regrowing our cells, tissues, and organs), reversal of aging processes, gene therapy (essentially reprogramming our genetic code), nanobots (robots the size of blood cells built from molecules placed in our bodies and bloodstreams to enhance every aspect of our lives), and many others. Some of these transformations will bear fruit before the ink is dry from printing this book.
Consider the metaphor of maintaining a house. How long does a house last? The answer obviously depends on how well you take care of it. If you do nothing, the roof will spring a leak before long, water and the elements will invade, and eventually the house will disintegrate. But if you proactively take care of the structure, repair all damage, confront all dangers, and rebuild or renovate parts from time to time using new materials and technologies, the life of the house can essentially be extended without limit.
The same holds true for our bodies and brains. The only difference: while we fully understand the methods underlying the maintenance of a house, we do not yet fully understand all of the biological principles of life. But with our rapidly increasing comprehension of the biochemical processes and pathways of biology, we are quickly gaining that knowledge. We are beginning to understand aging, not as a single inexorable progression, but as a group of related biological processes. Strategies are emerging for fully reversing each of these aging progressions, using different combinations of biotechnology techniques. In the meantime, we can slow each aging process to a crawl using the methods outlined in this book.
Many experts, including the authors, believe that within a decade we will be adding more than a year to human life expectancy every year. At that point, with each passing year, your remaining life expectancy will move further into the future.
Radically extending longevity will occur in three steps or bridges. This book is intended to serve as a guide to aggressively apply today’s knowledge to live long enough—BRIDGE ONE—to take advantage of the full development of the biotechnology revolution—BRIDGE TWO. This, in turn, will lead to the nanotechnology-AI (artificial intelligence) revolution—BRIDGE THREE—which has the potential to allow us to live indefinitely.
BRIDGE ONE (APPLYING TODAY’S KNOWLEDGE): The leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and diabetes—do not appear out of the blue. They are the end result of processes that are decades in the making. To help you understand how longstanding imbalances in the metabolic processes underlying life functions can lead to disease, we have developed Ray & Terry’s Longevity Program, which is presented throughout the course of this book.
Conventional medical care is geared toward dealing with long-term degenerative processes only after they erupt into advanced clinical disease. But by this time it is often too late. It’s like approaching a cliff, but walking backward. You need to recognize that you’re getting closer to the edge and stop. Once you fall off, it’s difficult to do anything about it. That’s what FANTASTIC VOYAGE is all about: to provide the knowledge and the specific steps to take, sooner rather than later, to extend your life, your vitality, and your well-being.
Our paradigm shift rate—the rate of technical progress—is doubling every decade. The capability of specific technologies such as genetic sequencing and nanotechnology is doubling even faster: every year. These emerging transformations in technology will usher in powerful new tools to expand your health and human powers. Eventually, the knowledge represented in this book will be automated within you. Today, however, you have to apply that knowledge yourself.
BRIDGE TWO (BIOTECHNOLOGY): As we are learning about the information processes underlying biology, we are devising ways of mastering them to overcome disease and aging and extend human potential. One powerful approach is to start with biology’s information backbone: the genome. With gene technologies, we’re now on the verge of being able to control how genes express themselves. Ultimately, we will actually be able to change the genes themselves: not just designer babies, but designer baby boomers.
Another important line of attack is to regrow our cells, tissues, and even whole organs, and introduce them into our bodies without surgery. One major benefit of this “therapeutic cloning” technique is that we will be able to create these new tissues and organs from versions of our cells that have also been made younger—the emerging field of rejuvenation medicine. Drug discovery was once a matter of finding substances that produced some beneficial effect without excessive side effects. This process was similar to early humans’ tool discovery, which was limited to simply finding rocks and natural implements that could be used for helpful purposes. Now that we can design drugs to carry out precise missions at the molecular level, we are in a position to overcome age-old afflictions. The scope and scale of these efforts is vast.
BRIDGE THREE (NANOTECHNOLOGY): As we peer a couple of decades into the future, nanotechnology will enable us to rebuild and extend our bodies and brains and create virtually any product from mere information, resulting in remarkable gains in prosperity. We will develop means to vastly expand our physical and mental capabilities by directly interfacing our biological systems with human-created technology.
Biological systems are remarkable in their cleverness. In the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “Human ingenuity may make various inventions, but it will never devise any inventions more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than nature does; because in her inventions nothing is wanting and nothing is superfluous.” We share da Vinci’s sense of awe at the designs of biology, but we do not agree with him on our inability to improve on nature.
Da Vinci was not aware of nanotechnology, and it turns out that nature, for all its apparent creativity, is dramatically suboptimal. For example, the neuronal connections in our brains compute at only 200 transactions per second, millions of times slower than even today’s electronic circuits. Despite the elegant way our red blood cells carry oxygen in our bloodstream and deliver it to our tissues, it is still a slow and cumbersome system. Robotic replacements already on the drawing board will be thousands of times more efficient than red blood cells.
The reality is that biology will never be able to match what we will be capable of engineering, now that we are gaining a deep understanding of biology’s principles of operation.