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VIII. Pedia Sapiens: A New Genesis Future

3. Positive Personal Enhancement within Community

Rando, Thomas and Howard Chang. Aging, Rejuvenation, and Epigenetic Reprogramming: Resetting the Aging Clock. Cell. 148/1-2, 2012. Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stanford University School of Medicine neurologists explore with wonderment such genomic promise of a fountain of youth.

The underlying cause of aging remains one of the central mysteries of biology. Recent studies in several different systems suggest that not only may the rate of aging be modified by environmental and genetic factors, but also that the aging clock can be reversed, restoring characteristics of youthfulness to aged cells and tissues. This Review focuses on the emerging biology of rejuvenation through the lens of epigenetic reprogramming. By defining youthfulness and senescence as epigenetic states, a framework for asking new questions about the aging process emerges. (Abstract, 46)

Rattan, Suresh and Serif Akman, eds. Biogerontology. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Vol. 1100, 2007. Proceedings of the 5th European Congress of Biogerontology, September 2006, which was held in Istanbul, Turkey. Via Google, the quoted definition is from the site, www.wisegeek.com, and aptly suits this volume. Prime advocates such as Leonard Hayflick, and Aubrey de Grey survey overall progress. This is braced by many technical papers such as by Mario Fraga, et al which contends that aging and cancer occur by lapses in regulatory epigenetic language. And it should not escape notice that a conference aimed at prolonging an enhanced human life span occurred in a religious milieu which holds to a short stay oriented to an afterlife.

The field of biogerontology focuses on the biology, physiology, and genetics of aging. This fairly new discipline investigates aging in cells, organs, and the whole body to the end of decreasing the harmful effects of aging, such as dementia, weakness, and deterioration. The early stages of research are involved with antioxidants, stem cells, free radicals, diet, and immunology. One day, biogerontologists hope to better understand how and why our bodies age so they can extend the length and quality of life.

Rees, Dai and Steven Rose, eds. The New Brain Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. A survey of novel chemical, medical, genetic and computer technologies that portend the intentional human recreation of cerebral capabilities. Rose has written a new companion book: The Future of the Brain: The Promise and Perils Of Tomorrow's Neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Both importantly dwell on ethical and social consequences.

Riley, James. Rising Life Expectancy: A Global History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Six topical aspects of public health, medicine, wealth and income, nutrition, behavior and education are considered as to how they contributed to a constant rise over two centuries in human life span. Their emphasis and success depends on the country and culture, but on average a steady advance has occurred with no end in sight. Riley argues this change in the human condition is of such magnitude that it is the most momentous event of the modern era.

In 1800, with nearly one billion people alive, life expectancy at birth did not surpass thirty years. By 2000, with more than six billion people alive, life expectancy reached nearly sixty-seven years amidst a continuing rise. This is the crowning achievement of the modern era, surpassing wealth, military power, and political stability in import. (1)

Robbins, John. Healthy at 100. New York: Random House, 2006. The author son of the founder of Baskin and Robbins offers a sensible look at how vigorous centegenarians around the world achieved their longevity, along with many dietary (don’t abuse it), behavioral (lighten up), and so on pointers. And yes, some ice cream is permitted.

Roco, Mihail and Carlo Montemagno, eds. The Coevolution of Human Potential and Converging Technologies. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Vol. 1013, 2004. Papers from another NBIC conference to wonder and worry over the seemingly unlimited abilities to transform the human and planetary condition.

Roco, Mihail and William Sims Bainbridge, eds. Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2004. Conference proceedings on the composite implications of Nano, Biological and Genetic, Informational, and Cognitive Science (NBIC) advances. Broadly governmental with agencies such NASA, NIH and advisors trying to comprehend breakthroughs in these fields so they can better serve and enhance individual and social welfare and creativity. Both visionary and practical, an emphasis is on health, communication and education. Yaneer Bar Yam, Judith Klein-Seetharaman and Raj Reddy are typical authors. But very technological and deliberations go on without an encompassing cosmology.

The twenty-first century could end in world peace, universal prosperity, and evolution to a higher level of compassion and accomplishment. It is hard to find the right metaphor to see a century into the future, but it may be that humanity would become like a single, distributed and interconnected “brain”…. This will be an enhancement to the productivity and independence of individuals, giving them greater opportunities to achieve personal goals.

Savulescu, Julian and Nick Bostrom, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Seventeen men and two women wonder and worry about how and whether we ought to employ vast new abilities to alter every aspect of body, brain and self, especially at the reproductive and senescent edges of life. But sans any inkling of a greater knowable co-creation, there is no clue or guidance to advise what or why to ever do as we hurtle forward.

Savulescu, Julian, et al, eds. Enhancing Human Capacities. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. With coeditors Ruud ter Meulen and Guy Kahane, Oxford University and University of Bristol ethicists engage the sudden profusion of ways to intentionally revise and recreate the human condition – biomedical, cognitive, moral, lifespan extension, and so on. A sample chapter might be “Breaking Evolution’s Chains: The Promise of Enhancement by Design” by Russell Powell and Allen Buchanan.

Seligman, Martin. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Atria Books, 2012. The University of Pennsylvania psychologist and pioneer advocate of intentionally getting a better life here deftly joins clinical experience with practical advice to help us do so. Typical sections are Positive Character: Drawn by the Future, not Driven by the Past; Turning Trauma into Growth; and Positive Education: Teaching Well-Being to Young People.

With this unprecedented promise, internationally esteemed psychologist Martin Seligman begins Flourish, his first book in ten years—and the first to present his dynamic new concept of what well-being really is. Traditionally, the goal of psychology has been to relieve human suffering, but the goal of the Positive Psychology movement, which Dr. Seligman has led for fifteen years, is different—it’s about actually raising the bar for the human condition. Flourish builds on Dr. Seligman’s game-changing work on optimism, motivation, and character to show how to get the most out of life, unveiling an electrifying new theory of what makes a good life—for individuals, for communities, and for nations. In a fascinating evolution of thought and practice, Flourish refines what Positive Psychology is all about.

Seligman, Martin and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Positive Psychology. American Psychologist. 55/1, 2000. An introduction to a first issue for a new millennium which proposes that psychological studies ought to move beyond an emphasis on human failings and deficits to a perception and fostering of qualities and strengths, both individually and communally. A prime component is a personal sense of empowerment, self-actualization and freedom of choice. (It is notable that the first paragraph next was written prior to September 11, 2001.)

Entering a new millennium, Americans face a historical choice. Left alone on the pinnacle of economic and political leadership, the United States can continue to increase its material wealth while ignoring the human needs of its people and those of the rest of the planet. Such a course is likely to lead to increasing selfishness, to alienation between the more and the less fortunate, and eventually to chaos and despair.

The authors (in this special issue) outline a framework for a science of positive psychology, point to gaps in our knowledge, and predict that the next century will see a science and profession that will come to understand and build the factors (hope, wisdom, creativity, future mindedness, courage, spirituality, responsibility, perseverance) that allow individuals , communities, and societies to flourish. (5)

Sell, Christian, et al, eds. Life-Span Extension: Single-Cell Organisms to Man. New York: Humana Press, 2009. A comprehensive state of the medical science from Yeast, Nematodes, and Flies to Comparative Biology of Aging and Human Aging and Longevity within an Evolutionary Perspective. In retrospect, creaturely longevity and its enhancement is now passing to our collective sapient intelligence. Chapters include Slow Aging: Insights from an Exceptionally Long-Lived Rodent, the Naked Mole-Rat and Growth Hormone and Aging in Mice.

In recent years, remarkable discoveries have been made concerning the underlying mechanisms of aging. This novel work addresses the aging process in species ranging from yeast to man and, among other subjects, features detailed discussions of the naked mole-rat, an exceptionally long-lived rodent; the relationship between dietary factors/food restriction and aging; and an evolutionary view of the human aging process. Single mutations that extend life span have been identified in yeast, worms, flies, and mice, whereas studies in humans have identified potentially important markers for successful aging. At the same time, it has been discovered that the genes and pathways identified in these studies involve a surprisingly small set of conserved functions, most of which have been the focus of aging research for some time. Novel, emerging technologies and the increasingly wide variety of systems that are now used to study aging and the mechanisms of aging provide enormous opportunities for the identification of common pathways that modulate longevity. (Publisher)

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