/ Experts


The Process of Evolution Cannot Be Stopped


How should a center for extending life span to 300 years be organized? What exactly is “dominanta” and can it kill a person? What will the human body of the future look like? We discussed these and other topics with Dmitry Shamenkov, director of the Center for Cellular and Biomedical Technologies at First Moscow State Medical University and a specialist in conscious health management, biotherapy and anti-aging.


Russia 2045: What kind of potential do you think the use of an artificial body has for extending human life span? How close are we to producing one?


D.S.: Science has now come within a hair’s breadth of reproducing a biological human body. They have already grown a bioartificial bladder, mammary gland, blood vessels, trachea. You can grow practically any organ, even the most complex ones—fewer and fewer problems remain in this area. There are currently thousands of projects researching cellular technologies. There are “tissue printers”—a 3-D model is created, cells are planted, and an organ grows. There are already hundreds of commercial products being released on the market today. Enormous sums of money are being spent on this.


Russia 2045: What about nerve tissue? That is, after all, the most difficult nut to crack . . .


D.S.: They have now figured out how to grow nerve tissue, too. It’s simply a neural network that has the same input/output, like any other electronic network. A functional neural network has already been created that has basic signal-processing capability and is used in biorobots.


Russia 2045: What about even more complex structures? Such as those that are found in our central nervous system and in the brain?


D.S.: That’s the thing! A bioartificial body can be grown, but I’m not too sure about transferring consciousness into it. Can the brain develop in isolation from the body? No, it can’t. When a person, for instance, loses a limb, the parts of the brain responsible for processing signals coming from that limb, or for control of it, switch to other functions. The brain has evolved with links of communication to the body, as a part of the body.


Russia 2045: And it is the structure that controls the body.


D.S.: In fact, the body is controlled by the oldest parts of the brain: the reptilian complex (basal ganglia), the medulla oblongata, the midbrain. The signals sent automatically by the spinal cord are fully adequate for controlling the body. The rest is more like a system for gathering experience and using it to maintain control in real time, in order to provide maximal protection for a person. That is the brain’s main task.


Russia 2045: It’s well known that “nerve cells do not regenerate”. Alexander Kaplan explained to us that they also practically do not age. And if our brain were to receive a more durable body, then it would be able to live for 200-300 years. But then we would nonetheless run into the problem of losing cells. Do you think it’s at all possible to fight that problem and further extend the life of the brain?


D.S.: It’s already been discovered that the brain has the ability to renew itself—there is the periventricular area of the brain, and an area of the hippocampus that is constantly regenerating. Neuronal stem cells have been isolated that could replace dying brain neurons. The brain has a regenerative mechanism built into it that allows it to maintain regularity and regenerative capabilities.


Russia 2045: Sometimes you get the sense that that mechanism does not always work.


D.S.: There is an array of systems in our body that maintain regularity. The immune system plays the key role in this. How does it work? At the initial stages of human development, it establishes a person’s molecular makeup. This can be likened to a photograph taken with a very long exposure. That blurry picture displays a person’s “correct” molecular makeup. The immune system then relies on that “picture” in the future to identify any new molecules that may appear and regulates the situation accordingly. This is true for the whole human body, including for the brain.

Consequently, we have practically unlimited regenerative capabilities. We are all descended from a single cell. From that one cell you can make and freeze a thousand, even a million bodies. The possibilities for regeneration are limitless.


Russia 2045: Why are they not being utilized?


D.S.: A human is a complex functional system that consists of a large number of other systems, and its condition depends on what “dominanta” that functional system has, i.e. what is most important and what the main goal is. If the dominanta is self-destruction, then sooner or later the regenerative mechanism will stop operating due to a lack of need for it, and the brain will deteriorate and begin to lose its attributes.

But if over the course of one’s life a person devises some other goal and is able to set a different dominanta, the regenerative mechanisms will work very effectively and harmoniously.


Russia 2045: If a person has the wrong dominanta, can he change it?


D.S.: It’s impossible to answer that question from the perspective of a single scientific discipline, for instance just from the perspective of biology, or just from that of psychology or medicine. You need an integrated, interdisciplinary approach. The human body has regulatory mechanisms that are related to mental regulation of bodily functions, neurophysiological regulation, somatic regulation. They must be properly modulated and they must work effectively.

The main problem with us humans is that we think about our actions too much in the context of past experience and attempt to repeat that experience indefinitely. Right from birth, a person strives toward stability and comfort, not thinking about the fact that maximal stability and comfort are possible only as a corpse. Humans are built to withstand change and hardship—we have an extraordinary adaptive system.


Russia 2045: And so the future will be full of old women who will live to be 200-300 years old, and all those years they will be grumbling and complaining . . .


D.S.: And they will curse us for having made their lives longer! That’s why you must take psychology into account when formulating a solution to the problem of extending life span.

In order to introduce changes into a society in which most people are busy scurrying around like mice, you have to wake them up. Global crises, catastrophes and personal tragedies are good at waking people up. Such things say to a person: “Hey, wake up! You’ve been a robot for the last 20-30 years—everything you do is predictable.” Around 80 percent of people live without taking the time to reflect, and it’s almost senseless to try to extend their lives. They don’t have that dominanta. They have no need for such a long life.


Russia 2045: Agreed. It only makes sense to extend the lives of those who understand why they need such a long life and what they will do with it. But this longer life can also give a person the opportunity to understand more, to realize more, to travel one’s path more completely. Some people believe that people become wiser as they age. But they lack energy. Is it not a marvelous thing to give people more time?


D.S.: It has become a matter of technological advancement. The appearance of computing technology changed the world. From 1990-2000, the speed at which information traveled grew a million times over. In the last ten years, it’s probably grown even more. Human beings have changed—our brains have expanded their limitations. It’s clear that the creation of neurointerfaces will accelerate that process another million times over. The world is on the verge of monumental changes, that’s completely obvious.


Russia 2045: Some predict that an artificial body—one that is biological or partly biological—will be fully built by 2045. Do you think that is a possibility?


D.S.: I think it is, yes.


Russia 2045: Our body is perfectly adapted to the natural environment. But we live in a technological world, walk on asphalt, wear clothes. Perhaps it would make sense to make some modifications to the human body?


D.S.: The human body is already gradually becoming artificial—new fabrics are appearing that are replacing existing ones; new forms of communication are appearing that are in one way or another expanding our bodies’ boundaries. Human beings are without question technologizing. Step by step, we are moving toward the creation of a cybernetic organism. The only thing is that this movement will not take place in a single step but in stages. Technologically, mankind’s capabilities are expanding, becoming more modern, allowing us to improve the connection between modern technological devices and human beings.

There is movement in this direction without a doubt.


Russia 2045: Do you think that all the mobile phones, computers, electronic organizers and so on that make up our lives today will sooner or later be integrated into our bodies?


D.S.: Of course they will be. Certain children with inner ear problems are already being given implants, these electrical devices are installed, that allow them to hear. So installing a telephone in one’s head is not too far off. But in the end, only God knows what changes will come about in human beings. The process of evolution cannot be stopped.


Russia 2045: What else could be integrated into the human body in the future?


D.S.: I think all the most modern and complete systems could be integrated. The problem right now lies in data processing speed and in the effectiveness of storage. At the moment no one has come up with anything more effective than a neural network. A human being is a highly advanced biocomputer. For example, no one has yet made photoelectric cells with the same properties, speed, and regenerative capabilities as the eye’s retina, or that will work for almost 70 years without malfunctioning. Even a telephone gets old and, after two or three years, quits working. Yet we use our bodies every day, and they function for 60-70 years.

It’s an issue of technological progress. It has now advanced to the point that we can reproduce human body parts, and with time, we will undoubtedly undergo changes.


Russia 2045: How should people prepare for 2045, when they will have the opportunity to become cyborgs?


D.S.: Why prepare for that? Human beings are already cyborgs. [Laughs.]

If you have a body, no matter what it’s made of, there must be a program that allows you to control the body. And there must be a “higher-I” that will run that program. We cannot yet control our own desires; at the moment, human beings run on autopilot and are not capable of properly using their body’s capabilities, of making decisions and understanding oneself. But sooner or later, people will have to learn how to do that.


Russia 2045: We are planning to open a center that would bring together all the research done on the topic of extending life span and the creation of artificial organs. We want to invite scientists to work collaboratively on creating an artificial body and mind. In your opinion, how should such a center be set up?


D.S.: The management apparatus for science in Russia will never allow anything new to develop. A fundamentally different approach is needed. A coordinating structure must be created that is led by people whose dominanta is linked not to personal enrichment or to a rise in status, but one that prioritizes the achievement of concrete, beneficial results.  That should be the highest dominanta for them—it should be even more important than security. What is needed is a team of people united by this principle.

In Russia, the concept of project management is not applied to the practice of science. People don’t even know what it is. In my opinion, what is needed is not a center but a project office that will operate according to all the rules of a project office, with a concrete goal and deadlines. The deadlines should be firm but achievable, and the projects should be result-oriented. There should be an integrated project management system, an information system that makes it possible to monitor and keep track of everything.

Dmitry A.
President of the Center for Cellular and Biomedical Technologies, First Moscow Medical University and expert on the conscious management of health, biotherapy and the prevention of aging

‘The body gradually becomes artificial; new tissues replace existing ones, and new media, somehow extending the limits of our body, are being invented. Of course, man and technology are being knitted together. Step by step, we are moving towards the formation of a cybernetic organism...’

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