Posted: Sat, January 05, 2013 | By: Marios Kyriazis
When you eliminate the reason for ageing, there will be no reason that denies ’non-ageing’.
Ageing does not happen by default – it only happens because there is a deep-rooted underlying reason. When this reason is eliminated, there would be no reason why ageing needs to continue.
The reason for ageing has been known for some time. Ultimately, ageing happens due to a discrepancy between the rate of biological damage and the rate of repair. The rate of biological repair mechanisms tends to become progressively compromised as a function of age, resulting in accumulation of damaged biological material that reduces useful function. The underlying cause of this is lack of energy resources - these are being diverted, by Darwinian forces, from the somatic repair to the repair of the germ-line. Any intentional attempt which improves the input of potential energy into an organic system makes the equalisation of the rate of damage vs repair more likely, and thus ultimately must result in retardation of ageing [ageing equals loss of energy and thus loss of complexity. Non-ageing is virtually stable energy and thus higher complexity]. In this case, the reason for ageing is essentially removed. If there is no reason why ageing must happen, then it will not happen.
Biology ‘Constructs’- Physics ‘ Destruct ’
Energy is a medium used by Biology in order to thwart Physics
Entropy is a medium used by Physics in order to thwart Biology
(Here, I deliberately take an animistic stance, attributing human-like characteristics to inanimate patterns. I use notions based on action ontology in order to make my ideas easier to understand)
Biology has a general tendency to advance from simple to complex, whereas Physics have an opposite tendency, from complex to simple. In other words, biology is likely to increase potential energy, biological sophistication and redundancy (an Intentional Stance, see Dennett http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intentional_stance), whereas Physical laws seek a state of lowest energy, minimal uncertainty and minimal entropy (the Intentional Stance with regards to Physics is the tendency towards minimum potential energy).
In this context, the term Physics refers to classical Physics (friction, gravity, tension etc.) and thermodynamics, rather than to all branches of Physics such as relativity or quantum theories. Of course, I acknowledge that Physical theories are merely descriptions of what we observe empirically, and are not describing definitive reality.
Therefore, it can be said that Biology and Physics are entangled in an eternal confrontation, each leaning towards its own respective ‘aims’, but maintaining an overall balance, resulting in life with predefined limits, (i.e. a human lifespan of 80-120 years). In order to influence this balance (and increase our odds of living well beyond this limit) we need to reduce the impact of physical laws and/or strengthen our biological assets.
As it is hitherto impossible to change the laws of Physics*, one way to tip the balance in our favour is to enhance the laws of Biology.
* Nevertheless, the laws of Physics are not as immutable as we think, being just representations of our observations. Ultimate reality may be different from observed reality.
NB. According to Eric Chaisson (www.esalenctr.org/display/confpage.cfm?confid=10&pageid=102&pgtype=1), the expansion of the universe (a process described by Physics), is responsible for the rise of complexity in biological and other systems. As the universe expands, it makes energy easily available for use by any system (including a biological and thus a human) in order to increase its complexity. Complexity declines with age and this is due to the accumulation of damage that it is not repaired because of limited energy resources. Any process that increases available energy would be able to reverse this decline and so ageing will slow down or virtually stop. Therefore, it appears that Physical laws if applied in a suitable manner may ultimately enhance Biology.
In Chaisson’s opinion, Darwinian evolution is only a small subset within a wider Cosmic Evolutionary framework, and it could be possible that Darwinian evolution will be superseded by other, more effective forms of evolution.
Evolution by natural selection is the main obstacle to defeating ageing and thus bars HBI (Human Biological Immortality), because it requires the survival of the germ-line and thus diverts resources from somatic repair. If/when evolution by natural selection begins to weaken, the restriction of energy resources upon the soma will be eased, the soma will have improved resources for its repairs and thus it will live longer.
Based on the assumption that Biology tends to progress ‘from simple to complex’ it is reasonable to suggest that, if there is a way that increases biological complexity or sophistication, then this would have an impact upon health/longevity (because it will enhance biological assets and allow biology to continue its tendency for increased complexity).
I believe that ageing is due to loss of complexity of biological systems (increased entropy over time). In order to counteract this, we must input more energy into the system in the form of cognitive stimulation, i.e. informational energy, which activates many biological processes. This has been proven in many experiments.
During everyday life we are exposed to random unintentional challenges and stimulation (cognitive challenges, novelty of the environment, new ideas and situations). This helps our brain function well. Against this, we lose energy (increasing entropy), which eventually causes death because the degree of information input tends to zero with time, whereas entropy tends to infinity.
I propose to introduce another variable, the sum of intentional cognitive stimulation (i.e. intentional stimulation, special brain exercises, sense exercises, goal-oriented behaviour, seeking novelty and excellence etc.) which adds robustness into the equation. If entropy increases with age (obeying physical laws), this will have no meaningful impact because we can increase the amount of intentional brain stimulation.
This model accommodates the concept of Free Energy Rate Density (FERD) roughly the degree of density of energy flowing through a unit space of a system. The higher the FERD, the higher the complexity and intelligence of a system. For example, the Sun has 4 ergs per second per cubic cm, whereas the human brain has 150,000 ergs per second per cubic cm. This means that the Sun, despite its enormous reserves of energy, is considerably dumber than a human brain. This supports the view that energy must be maintained high in order to maintain intelligence (something biology does naturally for us), and when complexity declines due to physical constrains, we need to try and increase it by increasing FERD parameters.
Therefore, there is a need to reach an optimum between intentional increase of neuro-cognitive stimulation, against the increase of entropy, in order to achieve long life. The more we keep this system going, the longer the lifespan.
Remember that intelligence is ultimately the ability to make consistently correct selections from available choices. This means that one has to be in a position that contains (is forced to contain) challenges that need resolving, and choices that need to be made. Routine, monotony and regularity do not account for increased need to select, whereas variability, irregularity and uncertainty maximise our need to select (and thus increase intelligence) and thus increase informational energy.
The assumption is that there is an upwards ‘endeavour’ aiming to increase complexity, sophistication and intelligence, with the highest step being that of pure global intelligence (spirit).
In metaphysical terms, “spirit” has acquired a number of meanings. One of these is :
1 .An incorporeal but ubiquitous, non-quantifiable substance or energy present individually in all living things. Unlike the concept of souls (often regarded as eternal and sometimes believed to pre-exist the body) a spirit develops and grows as an integral aspect of a living (see Wikipedia).
I am suggesting that it is possible to work towards this stage by intentionally increasing external inputs, AND by optimising and enhancing the usage of internal cognitive signals.
This touches on the religious, i.e. the search for higher, pure metaphysical states, via meditation and religious rituals/practices. It also touches on the philosophical, with the search for excellence. Both the religious search for spiritual purity and the philosophical search for excellence, are merely disciplined and intentional enhancements of external cognitive information and maximal use of internal cognitive powers (meditation, mental discipline).
In the biological realm, this translates to a search for higher intelligence (here intelligence is defined as an ability to repeatedly make appropriate selections from a list of available options). For this there is a need to optimize the use of information by the brain, i.e. to make informational inputs use metabolic energy optimally.
It is necessary to work stepwise: first increase external cognitive inputs, then use these in an optimal way to work towards achieving more abstract stages such as excellence and awe (Kazantzakis calls this ‘Holy Terror’, the highest point of human mind can achieve).
What constitutes a good stimulation or challenge
A Positive Challenge is a condition that requires action (see F. Heylighen) because it represents an opportunity to be exploited. These can be planned/anticipated or unexpected/unintended. My advice is to follow a program of planned positive challenges. This is essentially a problem that needs resolving, and the brain is forced to make a decision one way or the other. It is forced to SELECT the best option among a number of others. A suitable/appropriate selection itself creates information (Shannon’s reduction of uncertainty). Meaningful Information (knowledge, experience, wisdom, excellence), via expressive activation of appropriate brain mechanisms (sensory to cortex and other areas) activates (increases the energy available to, or the potential energy of) biological patterns and agents that then improve repair and maintenance, thus non-ageing.
In this respect, challenge (accumulation of useful information) can prevent regress, i.e. reduce the rate of entropy increase. According to Shannon, entropy increase is associated with loss of information, so more information equals a reduced rate of loss of thermodynamical energy. Increased entropy destroys organisation.
However not all information is useful, and not a lot of information is beneficial, so it is necessary to filter it in order to avoid information overload. Suitable information is necessary in order to improve problem solving (by our biological processes). This will be achieved if the biological process can make the appropriate selection when confronted with a challenge. The increased power of selection means that the best choices will be chosen for the ultimate benefit of the organism.
The information must be analyzed and judged by an active process, and not just accumulated in a disorganized manner.
It has been shown in some experiments that information can be transformed into energy (Experimental demonstration of information-to-energy conversion and validation of the generalised jarzynski equality. A Toyabe et al. Nature Physics vol 6 p988-992, 2010). Also, the informational transfer process is associated with decrease entropy (Coherent informational energy and entropy. A. Avramescu J Documentation 1993 36(4)293).
The benefits of challenge are derived not only from external information but also from internally created abstract thoughts, meditation, awe etc. Intentional cognitive enhancement should be distinguished from a mere passive cognitive stimulation.
The generation of entropy over an average lifespan (around 80 years) was found to be in the region of 11,404kJ/K (Degrees kelvin) (Silva AC, Annamala K. Entropy Generation and Human Aging: Lifespan Entropy and Effect of Physical Activity Levels. Entropy 2008, 10;100-123). No entropy generation equals death.
Any reduction in the entropy production would therefore result/be associated with an increased lifespan (longer dt). Also, any increase of meaningful energy into the system would have the same result.
How to choose an ideal degree of challenge
Here, consider Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’. Essentially, the concept describes how a challenge that matches one’s skills and abilities causes well-being. If the challenge is over one’s ability then it causes anxiety. If it is below, it causes boredom (see equation above where the values of Ai are above or below k). This is similar to Blascovich’s ideas of ‘challenge versus threat’. A challenge is a situation that matches your resources to deal with it. A threat is when your resources are below what is necessary to deal with it (causing anxiety). So, if a mental challenge causes excessive stress or anxiety, is unlikely to be beneficial in ageing. If it is of such a low intensity that causes boredom, then it will not be beneficial either.
It has been suggested that the frequency, duration, type and level of the challenge has a power law distribution (see Le Corre), meaning that low intensity and frequent challenges must be occasionally enriched with infrequent high intensity ones.
According to Le Corre (http://movnat.com/movnat-team/erwan-le-corre-founder-and-master-instructor-2/) :”The variation between a low and a high level challenge is likely to mobilize biological resources and activate defence mechanisms that can ultimately increase biological redundancy and improved damage repair rates. This implies that there must be a continuous variation of challenging stimuli, without ever reaching a stage of exhaustion” (in this case, mental exhaustion).