Saturday, July 12, 2014

New Facial Recognition Technology To Enhance Lifespan Is Nothing But Bad News

Photo: Facial recognition to find aging.

As recently reported in the news, Jay Olshansky, a “bio-demographer” at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has come up with the idea of a facial recognition technology that can actually estimate your age. Oh, also  when you are likely to croak, based on the aging lines and contours disclosed by the computer..

According to Olshansky (Denver Post, ‘Computer Age Facial Analysis’, July 4, p. 20A):

We know in the field of aging that some people tend to senesce or grow older, more rapidly than others, and some age more slowly. We also know that the children of people who senesce more slowly tend to live longer than other people.”

The technology involves using a computer to scan a photograph of a face for signs of aging. The software also factors in the subject’s race, gender, education level and smoking history (every year you’ve smoked since 20 knocks 3.6 months off your life). The analysis then processes each section of cheek, eye, brow, mouth and jowl- all the time looking for shading variations that signal lines, dark spots, drooping and other age-related changes that would indicate how the person fares compared to others of similar age and background.

All well and good, until we learn about the other ‘shoe’ to drop: the interest from insurance companies who “see the potential in it for determining premiums.”

 Oh, just nifty and swell! If a poor slob is 60 but is saddled with a droopy mug – double chin, flabby jowls and all – he now gets the reward of knowing his premiums will double because the insurance honchos have pegged that he won’t live past 70.  But according to good old Jay (ibid.):

The technology might prod them to change their habits before it’s too late.”

Really?  Somehow I doubt that a computer facial task master will achieve that. The poor slobs affected will still gobble down their bratwursts each day – chased by helpings of mashed potatoes- with Nachos and beer on the side. They will persist in doing it because it’s human nature. For the same reason that another set of guys will continue their “low T” therapy despite the fact they’re even at greater risk of getting prostate cancer and ending up (after treatment) with a U-shaped penis, breasts bigger than Mariah Carey’s and having to wear mammoth ‘Depends’ whenever they go out to the 7-11.

But the biggest howler about this facial recognition technology isn’t the insurance aspects, but rather the possible applications for increasing life extension. Here the deal is that if one can target the aging signs one can act to counteract them and ….live a lot longer.

Evidently, the longevity knotheads are all het up about prolonging people’s lives – but not really considering the consequences.  The article babbles for example:

Not only will living to 100 become more common one day, longevity experts say, but the quality of life in the final decades might also be drastically improved, reducing the burdens imposed by an aging population.”

To which I respond: “Poppycock!”

First, until the Alzheimer’s bogeyman is solved, NO one can expect a better quality of life as they age – and right now – it’s nowhere near solution. Sure, they now have a blood test that's 87% effective in diagnosing it, but even if you found out you have it there's little to be done. Maybe take a certain med a few years earlier. Big deal!

Second, anyone who seriously thinks corporate America is suddenly going to start hiring geezers because they shaved a few lines off their mugs merits the “densan of the year” award. Companies right now will barely even look at the resume of any guy over 50 – even if he uses some T-cream or Androgel each day!  In other words, like it or not, the increase of people tending to 100 will put even more strains on existing social insurance and disability programs.  But instead of Social Security having to pay out over a 20-25 year time horizon, it'll be over 35-40 years!

And, btw, short of replacing all  oldster joints with bionic ones, and muscles with specially prepared artificial variants – don’t even think oldsters(as a group) will be able to run Marathons or engage in Triathlons and  ‘Iron Man’ competitions. Those will still be the preserve of the few, the exceptions.

The other question these longevity geniuses don’t even consider, is why anyone would WANT to live to 100 given the numerous 'hells'  soon to unfold as climate change enters its ultimate phase. This is given the solid assumption that the oil drillers/frackers  aren’t about to halt – thereby unearthing all those gigatonnes that Bill McKibben says we need to keep in the ground.

 By 2025-2030 we will likely see electricity blackouts over extended periods, water shutdowns or breakdowns – and heat waves hitting the upper 100s and lasting for months at a time. So imagine you are approaching your centenary year – but with no electric, no water, no fridge to keep any food cool, and baking in your apartment-  which is now at 110F. Think of the tens of thousands of super storm  'Sandy' victims but now living that aftermath daily.

You REALLY want to stretch out your years for THAT?

Then think of all the new diseases that’ll be running rampant at the time – given how much hotter it is: Dengue fever, new more virulent strains of West Nile, likely cholera, amoebic dysentery, not to mention new species of parasitic worms infesting brains, e.g.
 Want to live to 100 with a brain like that? On top of Alzheimer's?

By 2030 also, it is clear the last  of the most powerful antibiotics will have ceased to function. You will now be prey to every minor paper cut, prick, cat scratch or rat bite – that’ll now easily leave you with massive infection and possible gangrene.  

 As sewer lines and water mains-  as well as other infrastructure -  erode  because we didn’t provide the money to maintain them (preferring to piss it away on useless 'wars') look also for bubonic plague to return as the rat population explodes.

The takeaway here? Leave the longevity research to realms of fantasy thinking and put that money on more useful projects: say like the first manned trip to Mars.

As both Stephen Hawking and Isaac Asimov have said, we need to get off this rock, colonize other worlds, if we want the human species to survive.

Species survival, then, is worth the cost and effort –enabling individuals to live to or past 100 is not!

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