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Is Death Natural? Can We Extend Our Lives?

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Death is as natural as birth. So say the large majority of people today. But is death natural? This question is for now merely academic but we could very well be on the cusp of technological advances that make it far more than an academic question.

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Ray Kurzweil argues in his impressive books, The Fantastic Voyage and The Singularity Is Near, that the key now is to “live long enough to live forever.” His point is that our generation is the first that will be able to take advantage of new technologies and have a choice about living longer than the normal life span, possibly far longer. Kurzweil goes further in his follow up book Transcend and suggests that there will be three types of life extension made possible in coming decades: 1) medical techniques by the 2020s or so for slowing or even stopping aging; 2) some years later biological and medical techniques will appear that can turn back the clock to whatever age you want to be (biologically); 3) and even later we’ll see neuroscience techniques for uploading your consciousness into whatever form you want to take (robot, Internet, etc.).

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Death certainly has been natural up until now. The large majority of creatures are born and live a life of finite duration, with that duration determined by how long their bodies can withstand inevitable breakdowns, predators or accidents. There are a few interesting exceptions. Hydras, for example, are small creatures related to sea anemones that live in freshwater. Hydras don’t die unless they’re eaten and stem cells seem to be involved in this unusual ability to keep on keeping on.

tambookHarvard’s medical school produced some very intriguing evidence in 2010 with an experiment that succeeded in reversing many signs of aging in lab mice by injecting telomerase, an enzyme that keeps the mice cells’ telomeres from degenerating, into their cells. Intact telomeres stop the chromosomes unraveling and this slows or stops cell death. The mice showed remarkable improvements from this treatment alone.

It’s not that simple, of course, because there are a great many ways for our bodies to go wrong, as is clear from reading Aubrey de Gray’s book, Ending Aging. So while telomerase treatments in humans will likely be part of rejuvenation techniques in years to come they won’t be the whole story.

Is It Unnatural To Extend Our Lives Through Technology?

I’ve been asking people for years now what they think about the potential to extend their lives with technology, or even to choose immortality if it’s a real option. I get varying answers but I often hear (from my mother, for example) that it just seems unnatural to extend our lives using technology.

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I can see their point but I don’t think I agree with it. We do, of course, extend our lives with technology all the time. When we fight cancer or any illness with medical technology we are using arguably unnatural techniques. So what’s unnatural about using new medical procedures to extend life even further?

There is an entirely different argument, however, about the naturalness of life extension that relates to the nature of evolution. The conventional view of evolution is that there is no directionality, no necessary progress, in evolution. Darwin himself thought that there was but the modern view is that such views are misguided and perhaps chauvinist. The data, it seems to me, however, strongly support the view that evolution is progressive in some ways. Eric Chaisson’s book Cosmic Evolution supports this notion.

One very interesting directionality in evolution is what Teilhard de Chardin called “an ascent toward consciousness.” In fact, he defined evolution as an ascent toward consciousness in his book, The Human Phenomenon. The biological world does indeed seem to exhibit a clear trend toward expanded perceptive abilities and greater cognitive abilities. There are always exceptions that we can highlight. For example, bats and some moles have evolved away their eyes for the most part as a result of disuse. But the general trend is pretty undeniable: most types of creatures have evolved over time more ways to perceive the world and better ways to process and act on that information.

Accepting this fact we can look to broader evolutionary themes for some relevant insights about the naturalness (or not) of death. This argument may seem a stretch but bear with me here.

The success of evolutionary processes, at least in terms of producing adaptive novelty, depends on the succession of generations: birth, death, birth, death… This is the case because novelty is thought to appear only in new organisms at birth (setting aside epigenetic novelties for the moment). Natural selection is all about culling random novelties that don’t provide any advantage to the organisms at issue, through death or an inability to reproduce. Most random mutations are negatively adaptive in that they actually lead to worse performance in terms of obtaining food, or avoiding predation, or finding more mates, etc. And because the large majority of mutations are not beneficial, species need to have a lot of births and deaths in order to find those beneficial adaptations in the space of possible adaptations.

The Ascent Of Consciousness

This situation is changing, however, with the ascent of consciousness—recall that this was Teilhard de Chardin’s way of characterizing evolution more generally. Now that consciousness has reached the level of human consciousness, which is a step change in the nature of consciousness, to be sure, we are taking evolution into our own hands. Cultural evolution is now increasingly trumping biological evolution. Let me unpack this statement a bit.

Biological evolution works through the random mutations and natural selection already discussed (genetic drift and some other mechanisms also play a part but for present purposes focusing on natural selection alone is sufficient). The conventional view is that biological evolution is an entirely vertical process because acquired characteristics can’t be passed on to offspring. Lamarck is still reviled in conventional circles today because he believed that acquired characteristics could be passed on and that individual striving was in fact the primary force behind evolution. We now know, with the advent of epigenetics, that some evolutionary change is indeed Lamarckian because epigenetic changes can be acquired and passed on to offspring. For example, new research suggests that humans and chimps differ so remarkably, despite sharing 99 percent of their genes, due to epigenetic differences.

More generally, cultural evolution is uncontroversially Lamarckian. What I mean is that cultural evolution, which is all about ideas and the evolution of ideas, operates through acquisition of ideas by individuals and then the passing on of those ideas in slightly changed form to friends, co-workers and family. Language, for example, is a good example of cultural evolution. Languages are always changing, and we can look to the Oxford English Dictionary’s list of new words each year as proof positive of this phenomenon even in an era of written language.

Here’s the crux of my argument: because cultural evolution is now taking over from biological evolution in terms of the future of the human species we don’t need individuals to die anymore to ensure that evolutionary change continues. Rather, ideas can and do change in a Lamarckian manner and this happens horizontally (person to person) as well as vertically (parent to offspring). We individuals don’t need to die in order to keep evolving as a species. So if evolutionary change is the sine qua non of what is “natural,” we are now at the point where it may be more natural for individuals to stick around and be part of the play of ideas for far longer than is possible under our heretofore natural lifespans.

In other words, if humans are now characterized by our ideas as much or more than our physical forms then there’s no need anymore for our physical forms to undergo the same processes of birth and death if life is to keep ascending toward new forms of consciousness. We can individually evolve and continue that arc of evolution as individuals.

Whether we do in fact continue to evolve in such a manner is entirely our individual choice. But it would be nice, it seems to me, to at least have that choice. So I personally am looking forward to having more options in terms of extending my life beyond the 80 or so years we can normally expect. It should be a fun ride.

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Scientists Propose That We Can Travel Faster Than The Speed of Light

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new paper suggest travel faster than the speed of light might be possible given the creation of a new way of looking at propelling a vehicle.

  • Reflect On:

    When considering the advancement of life changing technology, does our current economic model speed up or suppress the collaboration, creation and advancement of ideas?

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In Star Trek Gene Roddenberry imagined it possible to set a ship into ‘warp drive’ and travel at speeds 6000+ times the speed of light, moving from one galaxy to a distant one very quickly. Imagine having that type of technology here on earth?! It has been said before that if we can think it, we can create it. Well, maybe that’s sometimes true.

What Happened:

The question of whether travel faster than the speed of light is possible was again approached in a new research paper written by an American physicist Erik Lentz. In the paper Lentz proposed a new theory for how faster-than-light travel could be possible. Given their models, Lentz and his team feel that travel to distant stars and planets could be possible in the near future, perhaps with proper research and development they could have something working in as little as 10 years.

The question of whether this is possible does not challenge our current understanding of physics that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity sets forth that it is not possible to travel faster than light.

Instead of focusing on our current understanding of matter, Lentz’s new paper puts greater importance on a possible engineering solution as opposed to the theoretical physics. The new paper was published in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

The paper proposes a plan to travel faster than light by creating a series of ‘solitons’ to provide the basis for propulsion. A soliton is a compact wave that keeps its speed and shape while moving with little loss of energy.

Interestingly, this technology would allow travel at ANY speed. This brings me back to an article I wrote yesterday discussing the incoming reality within collective consciousness that UFOs and Extraterrestrials are real. In that article I state that the question of ‘how are they getting here’ is of importance as it could give humanity access to technology that would completely change the way we live on this planet.

 [The method] “uses the very structure of space and time arranged in a soliton to provide a solution to faster-than-light travel,” From the press release.

Imagine this, the nearest star beyond our solar system is called Proxima Centauri. We know it to be about 4.25 light years away. (A light year is the distance it takes light to travel in one year.)

Lentz stated that using our current rocket fuel methods fo travel, it would take about 50,000 to 70,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri. If we were to upgrade to nuclear propulsion technology, it would take about 100 years. But if we employed a light speed warp drive, it would take only four years and three months.

This would mean that the average person would be able to travel to distant interstellar planets and complete the trip in a current human lifetime. Think of the vacations!

According to Lentz there are some barriers to making this all work, but they aren’t impossible to surpass. For the tech to work, it would require lowering the energy needed down to the level of modern nuclear power reactors. That is if we don’t take into consideration energy technologies that are currently suppressed. Lentz also stated that what would be needed is a  way to develop and speed up the solitons (waves.)

“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel one step away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering,”

Why Its Matters:

Humans are curious beings who seem to gain a great deal from expanding our curiosity beyond everyday plights of a system and way of life that doesn’t necessarily inspire the deepest use of our creativity. Perhaps a knowing that we can indeed go elsewhere without primitive technology would shift the way we see our role on this earth and how we choose to fight over what we believe are limited resources.

Then again, perhaps if humans carry their current story of separation and competition to other worlds, we’ll produce the same mess there. I guess the question is, would the possibility of being able to leave this earth and go almost anywhere change the underlying nature of how we choose to set up our cultural beliefs and narratives of what it means to be human?

It’s my feeling that humanity does not lack the solutions to live in a thriving world, we lack the worldview and state of being. Both of which we could change with a little effort.

The Takeaway:

When I hear research like this I am fascinated. Then again I also sometimes wonder if all scientists around the world saw the technology I have seen first hand, that completely changes the way we perceive energy generation today, would the way we look at creating technology that requires energy change entirely? Yes, of course it would.

In my mind and heart I see a world of true collaboration and curiosity. One where we aren’t competing to see who’s the greatest scientist with the best copy written tech, but a world where we transparently share what is out there to advance the entire human race. No powerful interests suppressing technology because it’s too threatening to an economy, but instead true open advancement where we can solve problems incredibly fast.

Can you imagine this world?

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What Causes Déjà Vu? The Neuroscience Behind The Memory Illusion

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Current explanations from the field of neuroscience suggest that déjà vu occurs when the brain is slightly fatigued and working to 'fact check' a memory. We experience this as being odd because we become aware of the process.

  • Reflect On:

    Might we explore a different explanation for déjà vu if we were looking at it from the standpoint of time being non linear and perhaps opening up to the idea of a collective consciousness?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

They say about 60% of people experience déjà vu during their life, right off the bat that hit me as something I didn’t expect as I feel like almost everyone I know has had it at one time or another. Déjà vu, (‘already seen’ to the French) is the feeling that you are re-living something that has happened before. In the movie The Matrix, where déjà vu is perhaps most thought of in pop culture, Neo experiences a cat going by a doorway twice in a matter of seconds. Same cat, same moves, same everything.

In the film, this moment is presented as a ‘glitch in the matrix,’ however, in real life, déjà vu doesn’t often happen like what is seen in The Matrix, it instead feels as though you can’t recall when the ‘other memory’ happened, more so that what you are experiencing right now has already happened at some time.

Let’s dive into what some believe neuroscience is offering as an explanation.

What Happened:

According to experts like Dr Akira O’Connor, who is a senior psychology lecturer at the University of St Andrews, déjà vu is not only a feeling of familiarity, but also the metacognitive recognition that these feelings are misplaced. In simple terms:

“Déjà vu is basically a conflict between the sensation of familiarity and the awareness that the familiarity is incorrect. And it’s the awareness that you’re being tricked that makes déjà vu so unique compared to other memory events.”

Neuroscientists have determined that this memory illusion occurs when the frontal regions of the brain are attempting to correct an inaccurate memory.

“For the vast majority of people, experiencing déjà vu is probably a good thing. It’s a sign that the fact-checking brain regions are working well, preventing you from misremembering events. In a healthy person, such misremembering is going to happen every day. This is to be expected because your memory involves millions and billions of neurones. It’s very messy.”

While there isn’t a completely agreed upon explanation for what happens in the brain when déjà vu occurs, most models suggest that déjà vu occurs when areas of the brain (such as the temporal lobe) feed the mind’s frontal regions signals that a past experience is repeating itself. The frontal decision making parts of the brain then checks to see if the memory is actually true or possible, perhaps saying something to the effect “have I been here before?”

“If you have actually been in that place before, you may try harder to retrieve more memories. If not, a déjà vu realization can occur.”

It’s typically believed that we are more susceptible to déjà vu when the mind is a bit more fatigued and not as quick to discern that validity of our current moment.

Why It Matters:

What fascinated me about this in particular is two things: I’ve long felt that it’s quite possible that memories may actually be non local, i.e. they exist outside the brain not in the brain, and that perhaps the brain tunes into those memories that are somewhere around us. Or maybe we could say that some memory may exist in the brain, while others are part of some sort of collective field.

The second fascinating part for me is that I wonder if déjà vu has something to do with emerging science that tells us time is not linear. Perhaps when we take a classic scientific model that states all time is linear and all experience is linear, we limit our explanation of what déjà vu might be to something that fits that paradigm. What if the brain is tuning into something relating to quantum potentials that always exist, and that perhaps something different is happening with déjà vu? I’m not sure yet, however this is where déjà vu intrigues me the most.

Of course, the end result of exploring a question like this invites us to shift our worldview around the nature of reality, time and experience. Something that might be uncomfortable for some but I feel post material science is inviting us to do.

The Takeaway:

As with anything that is happening in our lives right now it seems, we are culturally in a time where a long avoided shift in our scientific paradigm is creating a lack of meaningful explanations for many things that happen in life. Is déjà vu one of those things that doesn’t have a good explanation in our current scientific paradigm? The jury might still be out on that, but for me, the current explanation presented in this piece did not quite ‘do it for me’ and my inquisitive mind and gut feeling pushes me to explore these questions through the emerging paradigm of non material science.

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If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

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These Anti-Solar Panels Don’t Require Daylight To Generate Power

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CE Staff Writer 7 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new approach to solar panels attempts to generate energy during the night, when there is no sunlight to turn into energy. This new invention could make solar a more efficient and reliable option for energy generation.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we being made aware of all energy technologies that truly exist out there? Are our ideas of what energy technologies we could create and bring to market limited on the belief that they must fit inside our existing economic structures?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Energy is one of the most important elements to any functioning society, and since our modern era of living uses so much power, the industry is always looking to evolve towards newer and more efficient solutions. Furthermore, given the environmental damage that often comes with many of our modern energy generation practices, people have been thinking outside the box to come up with ideas that are harmonious with mother nature.

Solar panel technology has been around for decades, but there are a few main issues with it. First off, you often need sunlight for it to produce enough on demand and stored energy for daily life. There are many areas in the world where that can be an issue in certain seasons. Secondly, during the night energy can’t be gathered so you’re always dealing with a limited time period where you can generate power for the moment or future use. This prompted inventors to imagine a new “anti-solar panel” that is designed to work both during the day and at night.

Typical solar panels work by gathering visible light from the sun and converting it to usable electricity. This energy can be used as it’s created, or it can be stored into battery cells to be used at a later time. That is to say, it might be a sunny day, you and your family are at work so little power is needed at home. When you return home and you need power,  batteries hooked up to your solar panel had been storing the energy collected from the sun during the day, so it’s ready for you to use once you need it even if the sun isn’t out.

No sun for a couple days while your family is at home for the weekend? Well, you can start to see the issues with solar, you might run out of power if you aren’t connected to a standard city power grid as backup.

But now a team at UC Davis is hoping to develop a new strategy relying on having panels that can also generate electricity at night from heat emitted by a device in the infrared spectrum that is used to generate power.

Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and who leads the research team:

“In order to produce electrical power after the sun has set, we consider an alternative photovoltaic concept that uses the earth as a heat source and the night sky as a heat sink, resulting in a “nighttime photovoltaic cell” that employs thermoradiative photovoltaics and concepts from the advancing field of radiative cooling.”

They also explain in another report:

We were thinking, what if we took one of these (thermoradiative) devices and put it in a warm area and pointed it at the sky? A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for current to flow, (but) in these new devices, light is instead emitted and the current and voltage go in the opposite direction, but you still generate power. You have to use different materials, but the physics is the same.”

It’s not yet known how much power this technology might produce, but at this time the UC Davis team estimates perhaps as much as 50W during the night. This is about one quarter of the amount a typical solar panel might produce during the day. While this isn’t a huge amount, one could argue it’s worth it.

But what happens if we think outside the box a little further?

Breakthrough Energy

At Collective Evolution we have been exploring new energy technologies for many years, and have had a few close relationships with several investors who have truly been thinking outside the box. This has provided us with an inside look at what technologies are out there beyond what most people commonly speak about in the realm of renewables.

I’m talking about technologies that would deeply disrupt our current energy economy and that could provide energy to anyone, at anytime and in a completely clean manner.

Many believe these types of “breakthrough” technologies are nothing more than unicorns – they aren’t real. They believe them to be elaborate hoaxes that only show up online and in YouTube videos. And this is fair to say. There have been may hoaxes, including inventors who didn’t quite have what they had claimed, however, some of these technologies are real and work exactly as claimed.

“I started to examine the breakthrough solutions, and much to my surprise, these concepts have been proven in hundreds of laboratories throughout the world, and yet they have not really seen the light of day. If the new energy technologies were to be set free worldwide, the change be profound, it would affect everybody, it would be applicable everywhere. These technologies are absolutely the most important thing that’s happened in the history of the world.”  – Dr Brian O’Leary, Former NASA Astronaut and Princeton Physics Professor

In our research we came across a device local to us here in Toronto and had the opportunity to see it functioning first hand. We were there alongside a group of third party investors and engineers who were eager to see the technology in action and understand how it functions. Unfortunately for this piece, the NDA we had signed stops me from saying too much more about the specifics, however you can decide whether or not you believe my word that, yes, this technology was very real, worked to produce multiple kilowatts of power, and had the potential to change the way you view energy generation entirely.

We have also explored technologies our friends and colleagues have vetted as well. One of our latest ones from a man in Zimbabwe who invented a power generation system that charges itself via radio frequencies around the device. A truly remarkable idea, one you have to see to believe.

Another friend and colleague of ours, Susan Manewich, has been working to bring these technologies to market for years. Her and her team have travelled around the world vetting various technologies and working with inventors to find viable ways of making their technologies available for mass use. In her travels she has seen that only a small percentage of claims and devices are real and viable, perhaps only 5%. As low at that sounds, it still shows us that there are in fact devices that would completely revolutionize the way we produce and use energy today and yet these devices are not known about and in many cases hidden purposefully from the public.

We talk about this with Susan in great detail during an interview with we did with her as she shares her insight and experience having worked in the ‘new energy’ industry for many years. Dive into this important conversation on CETV here.

The Takeaway

Imagine what a society would look like if we had ‘freed’ up the secrecy behind the existence of these breakthrough energy technologies. Do you see humanity thriving? Do you see energy being free of charge for people? If not, do you feel humanity’s existing worldview i.e. competition, separation, etc, might be a barrier to these technologies being used to liberate the way we live?

Finally, if it is humanity’s worldview and belief that we must all compete with one another that gets in the way, does it suggest we might need to go about re-examining our worldview’s in order to live in a more peaceful and harmonious society? It appears as though the solutions are already all here, but the way we think of ourselves and one another deeply holds back a thriving world.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

Click here to check out a sneak peek and learn more.

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