1. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    The limits of suspending disbelief, when it comes to suspending aging.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Anonym, Mar 13, 2012.

    Hi. I'm working on a futuristic, sci-fi type novel, where much of the technology is based on, and a fair bit of the plot ties to nanotechnology, genetic modification, etc.

    In general, I try to keep things relatively realistic and pragmatic. I'm trying hard not to veer off into sci-fi fantasy, as tempting as that can be for the sake of convenience.

    Basically certain members of a kind of futuristic aristocracy age very slowly due to a combination of, again, nanotech, eugenics and genetic modification. As such, their biology and appearance doesn't generally reflect their chronological age.

    My question is: In a relatively realistic sci-fi setting, say, 200 years in the future, what are the realistic limits of delaying aging to you? Or rather, at what point does it become unrealistic?
    Someone who looks 30 biologically, but is chronologically 50, 60, 80, 100, indefinite, etc?

    Not really looking for validation or whatever. More so trying to gauge the parameters of suspending disbelief when it comes to this issue. And of course, any and all comments, suggestions, etc. are welcome.

    Thank you.
     
  2. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    I honestly wouldn't be surprised if the human race discovers technology to significant slow the aging process within the next century or two. Science is making such huge leaps these days, it's incredible. I remember reading an article not too terribly long ago about the usage of antiretrovirals to slow down the growth of HIV, and how a similar process might be feasible to slow down cell, organ, and tissue decay.

    If such a technology were actually to come into use, I believe a person could look half their age with relative ease. If the process could be stopped entirely, then I suppose everyone would look the age that they did when they first began the therapy... It'd be like living in a world where everyone is either a child, or looks to be 18-25. How bizarre... and intriguing.
     
  3. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    I think a significant delay in the aging process is possible within our lifetime. So, 200 years in the future? Yeah I'd but that too.
     
  4. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    200 years old looks like 30 years old, why not? The upper limit of that age could be anything suitable for your story, but I will believe it only if it comes with some kind of limitations, you know, your story being a realistic sci-fi. I don't think this anti-aging technique will be free of side effects as we see in many medical drugs/techniques today.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    The bible carried it off with Methusaleh at 900 and something and Enoch over 300. Abraham and Sarah had a son after living for more than a century.

    Whether that can be made scientific enough I don't know - some of the ''science'' would be something like DNA being less mutated, cleaner enviroment, bacteria hadn't developed in the same way, less cars, no trousers and other modern living hazards etc

    There is reason I love writing fantasy over sci-fi lol I can make up the science.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think if you look at the state of medicine 200 years ago and compare it to today, your scenario isn't far-fetched at all.
     
  7. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I want live in a world like that! 'cept I've already passed the age I'd like to be forever - 22. Chuck in a time machine too please! :D
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Anonym, if you can convince the reader that the technology pet forward, then it's plausible. Life extension could have permitted the same researchers to continue to develop their theories, instead of new generations needing years or decades to reach the same level of expertise, for example.

    Look at the entire technologies developed in the last 100 years, or even since the 1950's.
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nah, any technology for immortality worth its salt should also be able to rejuvenate you, if the decay hasn't gone too far :)
     
  10. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Just think, if you could be rejuvenated to a little kid, you could live lifetimes all over again, you could have as many childhoods as you wanted, or you could spend your life at 18 or whatever. (Star Trek DS9, "In the Cards," 5x25)
     
  11. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese Contributing Member

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    I would imagine that reversing your age would be much much harder than simply slowing down or even stopping it.

    And in my opinion, I don't think it's that far fetched that the delaying of visible age will be available in two centuries. Technological advancement is exponential, after all.
     
  12. Afion
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    Afion Senior Member

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    We could probably do it now if we didn't have ethics ;)
     
  13. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    The beauty of fiction is, anything you think up is plausible. You don't even have to come up with a super detailed explanation for it either. Your explanation for slow aging could be, "Thanks to several medical advances in the twenty-xxx century, humanity had gained near-immortality. The average person could easily survive two centuries and not look a day over thirty..."

    It could be as simple as that. In fact, the simpler you make the explanation, the easier it will be for the reader to accept it because filling in the blanks of whatever medical advances are the cause for slowed-aging is left up to them. If you actually start throwing in technical details and other gibberish, the reader might get overwhelmed or bored and be less inclined to believe you.
     
  14. Defenestration
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    Defenestration New Member

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    Considering how much of anti-ageing research is tied up in stem cells this is pretty accurate. I remember reading once that the hardest thing to preserve is the brain, so that might be an interesting aspect for you to explore.
     
  15. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    If I remember correctly, Icehenge did something like that; some of the characters were a thousand years old but couldn't remember things that they had done more than a couple of hundred years ago. As you say, it's a potentially interesting aspect of aging.

    Personally as a reader I have a hard time reading SF stories set more than a hundred years in advance where the characters aren't at least effectively immortal (i.e. average lifespan increasing at least a year per year) or stories more than a couple of hundred years in advance where humans haven't been replaced by something more efficient and robust.
     
  16. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Well, one thing to keep in mind is that 'growing up' and 'growing old' are entirely different processes, and a treatment designed to alter one realistically shouldn't affect the other. So no perpetual children. If we cure aging, probably everyone would grow up normally and then freeze at 25-30. If you had something that stopped growth, you might end up with an 80-year-old child, but they'd be as frail and sick and wrinkly as any 80 year old despite being physically a child.
     
  17. mcpout
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    mcpout New Member

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    am gonna play devils advocate here and say that the chance of us having this technology in the next 100- 200 years is slim to none. Remember that scientists don't actually know what the aging process is yet. Is it a cause or is it a deterioration is the main thing they are trying to define right now. An to those that say that they are always making advancements, this is true but there has also never been a cure for any virus and they have been at them for about two thousand years!
    On the plus side though it means you can create the science so theoretically there are no limitations to your process that you don't set up yourself. :)
     
  18. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    I'm not convinced; lately it seems that hardly a month goes by without some significant news on the aging front. As others have said, I suspect that reversing aging is going to turn out to be much harder than stopping it.
     
  19. mcpout
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    mcpout New Member

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    I agree with you that reversing it would be more significantly harder than slowing it but at the moment there is still no clear definition of what factors cause the aging process to begin with. Thats why if you read studies on the subject they will normally give an accumulation of factors as a cause but no clear outright answer. if you think of the human body as a machine then theoretically it shouldn't actually age as long as it is sustained with fuel. Yet we know that this is not to the case. Why does the body stop producing as much new cells after time. An if time is such a big factor then why is it effected by speed? i personally think we are missing a fundamental piece of the information that will not be solved with a purely biological answer.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    But it would age if there's no maintenance done. So for me, the method of slowing the aging process would have to include some sort of 'oh, that cell's damaged, better get a replacement' type of system. And nanotechnology seems perfectly suited to that sort of thing.
     
  21. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    Things to consider...

    Telomeres:
    I'll spare you the science and give you the gist of it. Human cells can only divide so many times. Find a way to regenerate telomeres and this limitation is overcome. How? I would suggest magic.

    Wear and tear:
    Magical genetics aside, the human body breaks down for much the same reason a car engine does. Because it is a physical object existing in a physical universe where entropy exists. Eventually, unless new material is added and the current structure maintained, any system will break down and cease functioning. There was a Larry Niven (I think) novel where a background technology was teleporting booths and a main part of the narrative was how a civilization stopped aging (and doomed themselves to constant population growth and expansion of their empire to combat it). Turns out the two were connected. There were special medical teleport booths that only sent you a few feet (this was the break you down and broadcast your atoms teleportation, not the create a duplicate of you at the other end kind), but removed all the toxins and other defects that had built up in your body over the years. Basically when you materialized, your bones and organs and blood were decades "younger". When the character looked in the original booth he saw a cloud of smoke. That was all the crap that had built up in his body's cells over the years.

    Plastic surgery:
    You have not stopped aging. Your society has just gotten really good at hiding it.
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Would you really want that though, is the question? Think of it this way - would you personally want to live the life of a 5-year-old again, with the mind of a 5-year-old, now that you know what you can have as a 25-year-old, for example? Or if your mind doesn't change, and yet you're a 5-year-old, that would simply be damn frustrating, because people would be trying to wipe your nose and tell you to go to bed at 8pm when all you wanna do is go out for a beer instead of stare at picture books.

    Sometimes I wouldn't mind being a child again - the lack of responsibility, the ability to enjoy almost anything and everything is very tempting. But at the same time, I love having a husband. I love being able to see things and analyse things. I love being able to write. I couldn't have any of these if I were, say, 7, or 12, for example.
     

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