life extension

Gene and Tonic: Excerpt of an Interview with Former President Obama in 2036

Interviewer: Congratulations on the Nobel. I mean the second one.

Obama: Thanks. I really feel like I earned this one for Physiology or Medicine. It took getting another doctorate degree, but I made it happen.

Interviewer: What I’d really like to know, Mr. President--looking back now, why did you do the whole become the president thingy?

'Transhumanism 101' with Natasha Vita-More

This interview originally aired on 1/3/13.


Natasha Vita-More, New Media Design Theorist and University Lecturer Bio and Contact Info

Listen (1:03) What is transhumanism?

Listen (8:26) A love/distant relationship with sci-fi writers

Listen (5:21) Platform diverse bodies of the future

Listen (5:36) What is the criticism of transhumanism?

As part of our series, Creating the Future, we talk with a transhumanist. Transhumanism is a philosophy and a movement that seeks to be proactive in the elevation of mankind through technology.

Today's guest, Natasha Vita-More, was involved in the movement as it took off, and in fact wrote the Transhumanist Manifesto. She is now the chairman of the board for Humanity+, a non-profit advocating the ethical use of technology to expand human capacities. Today's show is somewhat of a beginners course on transhumanism--what it is, where it's going, and what are the criticisms. In addition, Ms. Vita-More discusses the "love/distant" relationship between the movement and science fiction writers.

The role sci-fi writers play in creating the future by inspiring science itself is a theme we're pursuing in this series.

Podcast brought to you by: Assay Depot - the world's largest cloud-based marketplace for research services. With Assay Depot, you can easily find the perfect research service provider and manage your project from anywhere in the world.

Science and the "Great Delusion" with David Brin, Sci-Fi Author


David Brin, Sci-Fi Author Bio and Contact Info

Chapters: (Advance the marker)

0:47 Who's doing the heavy lifting of creating the future?

8:13 Imagination the great tragedy and boon of human nature

11:24 Science one of the four great pillars that freed us from the "Great Delusion"

15:35 When did you go from astronomer to writer?

24:23 Where are we going in the life sciences?

27:13 A contrarian on immortality

33:00 Renunciationism, stopping the forward rush of science

37:46 "The American Revolution stuns me."

40:55 BONUS: The author reads from Existence

Sci-fi author, David Brin, is the final guest in our series, Creating the Future. He says that everyone, that civilization is creating the future. However, he concedes that if you were to compare civilization to a human brain, that "a few of us are the pre-frontal lobes . . . who poke sticks in the sand, in the trail ahead of us that we're charging into so that we can find the quicksand pits . . . before we step right into them."

Brin is one of those sci-fi authors who was actually a scientist, an astronomer first. Why and when did he begin writing? And how does his inner scientist feel about it? David talks of the "Great Delusion" that man fell and falls into on account of his imagination. And it was Science, one of the four pillars of the Enlightenment, that freed us from the delusion. We have trained the imagination and are no longer subjects to the oligarchs of the past. Brin is an actor as well as writer and scientist. You're bound to be captivated by his command of science, history, politics, and by his entertaining wit.

Living in a Sci-Fi World with Author Kim Stanley Robinson

Note: This show was originally posted on January 20, 2013.


Kim Stanley Robinson, Sci-Fi Author Bio and Contact Info

Chapters: (Advance the marker)

0:47 How do you choose date and time?

5:14 We live in a science fiction world

9:25 Who's creating the future, the scientists and engineers, or the sci-fi writers?

11:22 The philosophical battle between science and capitalism

16:07 How does one go about creating the future on paper?

25:10 Is science becoming too much like a religion?

29:24 Fiction is the steady instrument, science is what evolves

33:00 Audience Question: On which planet or astroid or community from your novels would you most want to live?

35:55 KSR reads from 2312

Interviewing scientists and those who are in the field has led me to the question, are scientists and engineers the new world leaders? Are they setting our direction more than any other group? Are they creating the future? And these questions have led often to the answer, “We got it from the sci-fi writers.”

You’ll no doubt understand my pleasure, therefore, in interviewing the award winning sci-fi author of the Mars Trilogy, Stan Robinson. The Mars Trilogy is Robinson’s most popular work, a series of novels about the settling and terraforming of Mars over nearly two centuries. And it is this series which has been most oft cited by our guests as the source of their crazy ideas about settling Mars.


I’ve been reading the first of the novels, Red Mars. The opening shows off Robinson’s more poetic, lyrical side.

"Mars was empty before we came. That’s not to say that nothing had ever happened. The planet had accreted, melted, roiled and cooled, leaving a surface scarred by enormous geological features: craters, canyons, volcanoes. But all of the happened in mineral unconsciousness, and unobserved. There were no witnesses--except for us, looking from the planet next door, and that only in the last moment of its long history. We are all the consciousness that Mars has ever had." (Red Mars)

Red Mars tells of the initial colonization of Mars and delves deeply into the relationships and politics of the first 100 settlers. It provides Robinson another platform (he wrote a similar series about the future of California) to pit science (the expedition to virgin territory, a planet untouched as yet by man, is made up almost entirely of scientists) against capitalism (the earth is taken over by transnational corporations as resources become scarce and war breaks out).

For Stan, science and capitalism--born around the same time, he says-- are engaged in an epic battle for man’s future. Science is the greatest hope for mankind, he quips matter of factly in today's show. For Stan, capitalism is the greatest threat to this hope. It’s a provocative idea. One I must admit that plays out before me each day as I make my way through the news.

Stan has an inspiring notion of science. And midway through the interview, as I listen to him, I begin to sense his definition and wonder to myself how I would define science. Try it. It’s not easy. Feeling it his duty as a writer to probe the difficult questions, Stan is comfortable talking on the philosophical plane. He acknowledges and expands upon the “loop” between scientist and science fiction writer in creating the future. He’s willing, if not anxious, to theorize about politics in his utopian fashion. “Science is egalitarian. . . and it’s always for human good. . . . In capital[ism], there is no sense of sufficiency, or adequacy, or of what’s it all about. It’s just, more is better. And more is not always better," he says.

(There is fertile ground for a series on the subject of science vs. capitalism where we could have Stan back to the program to argue his point with a venture capitalist who might argue that there is an important symbiosis here between the two forces.)

This series is named Creating the Future, so I push Stan to tell us about the actual writing process. How does one go about creating the future on paper? Is it the futurist writers who do the heavy lifting for the rest of us? Extrapolation is the main tool at work, but what gives Stan his confidence to go out so far and say, "hey, this is how it’s going to be?"

I haven’t read or met many sci-fi writers with whom to compare Robinson, but he, and his writing, strike me as very grounded. He doesn’t write about technology which is not feasible now. He admits that he is evolving in the direction of going further and further out there. His latest novel 2312 is set in that year, a time when interplanetary travel between Mercury and Neptune takes just 16 days. This is the furthest he’s gone.


KSR at his writing table in Davis, CA

Stan lives in a quiet community in Davis, CA surrounded by the fields of industrial agriculture. He was eager to show us his writing station located outside his front door, where he writes, rain or shine, warm or cold. It was unusually cold last week, yet he persists, writing in a ski coat and gloves. His home and place in what he calls a “village” community with common garden space bears no resemblance to any place in his novels. Except perhaps the odd rock collection he keeps on his writing table.


KSR and Host, Theral Timpson in the garden

As he proudly points out which winter greens he attends to in the garden each morning, he tries to explain to me that a 16 day trip from Mercury to Neptune would only require that we go at 1 g. Standing between a patch of lettuce and some healthy looking carrots, watching children play in the distance, I’m entirely convinced that such a trip is possible.

“I’m as 'here' as anybody,” he says in the interview. “This science fiction thing is a way of thinking about now and a way of understanding now more fully. . . It’s a very boring and stable life, which for a novelist is a great thing.”

Be sure to get to the end of the interview, where Stan reads from the opening chapter of 2312.


Podcast brought to you by: Assay Depot - the world's largest cloud-based marketplace for research services. With Assay Depot, you can easily find the perfect research service provider and manage your project from anywhere in the world.

Why We Must Focus on Aging as a Disease: Brian Kennedy, Buck Institute


Brian Kennedy, PhD, CEO and Professor, Buck Institute

Bio and Contact Info

Listen (3:55) Why are so few researching aging?

Listen (4:50) The promise of rapamycin

Listen (5:01) US in danger of losing our edge

Listen (5:46) Lifespan vs. healthspan

Listen (4:45) A shift in public awareness

Listen (8:50) Aging still not designated a disease by FDA

Each day we read about breakthroughs in research on cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, and a host of other diseases. But would our precious research dollars be better spent going after the aging process itself? Brian Kennedy says yes.

He's CEO of the Buck Institute, the nation's first independent research organization devoted to 'geroscience,' or research on aging. In today's program, Brian shares his thoughts on the institute's recent successes and challenges.

"Most people think of aging as a natural process that can't be changed," he says in the interview, "but we've realized in animal models it's pretty easy to manipulate aging. We can slow aging in everything from yeast to worms to mice."

Brian acknowledges that there are pretty big barriers for aging research, such as the current funding crisis in the U.S. and the fact that the FDA still does not recognize aging as a disease. Still, without sounding too over the top, Brian is confident that a much needed paradigm shift is happening on this topic.

Podcast brought to you by: Chempetitive Group - "We love science. We love marketing. We love the idea of combining the two to make great things happen for your marketing communications."

"When I'm 164": a Chat with Journalist David Ewing Duncan


David Ewing Duncan, Journalist, Author Bio and Contact Info

Listen (5:36) The survey

Listen (3:24) What life science technology most excites you?

Listen (2:53) Maximum vs average life expectancy

Listen (4:11) The limitations of science

Listen (9:33) Being a journalist today

Listen (4:53) Science and politics today

Listen (2:58) David, how old do you want to live to be?

How old do you want to live to be? Seriously. Author and life science journalist, David Ewing Duncan, has asked over 30,000 this question. 60% have answered they wish only to live the average 80 years. 30% shoot for the 120 year mark. 10% think big at 150 years. And about 1% go for the biggie, immortality. Did the scientific audiences Duncan asked have different numbers than the lay audience? David explains the numbers in this interview which is not only about his new e-book, "When I'm 164: The New Science of Radical Life Extension, and What Happens if It Succeeds," but also about life as a journalist in today's world.

A 'Revolution in Science' with Joseph Jackson

Podcast brought to you by: Assay Depot - the world's largest cloud-based marketplace for research services. With Assay Depot, you can easily find the perfect research service provider and manage your project from anywhere in the world.


Joseph Jackson, StartUp Science Bio and Contact Info

Chapters (Move marker to advance)

0:50 StartUp Science Event

2:41 What do you mean by a revolution in science?

6:45 Orthodox economics doesn't account for the impact of technology

25:33 What does privacy mean today?

39:06 "I believe it's attainable to eliminate aging in the next 50 years."

46:53 What is the most influential book you've read?

Joseph Jackson is is a leader in the open science movement. He organizes the yearly Open Science Summit and most recently he's a founding member of StartUp Science, a new event and business plan competition that took place June 15, 16th here in Silicon Valley.

Joseph believes there's an organizational revolution going on in science. Not shy of being a futurist, Joseph says that it's possible to eliminate aging in the next 50 years.