Growing tech trees for longevity, molecular machines, neurotech, computing, and space
By Aaron King and Allison Duettmann, Foresight Institute.
Longevity: The First Tech Tree
I started playing the game series Civilization back when it was just called… Civilization. Back when there was a throne room (remember that?) and square tiles instead of hexagons. Through the years, one of the unchanging hallmarks of the Civ series has been the technology tree.
Now I’m much older and play Civ a lot less.
Okay well, I’m at least older. And I now work at the Foresight Institute, focused on advancing longevity.
For our biotech group, I recently finished a 166-page overview of longevity technology and I have to admit that even I don’t want to read through it. The idea came up to do a tech tree for longevity, outlining current advances and how they connect with each other to unlock novel capabilities and applications. A dynamic overview of the field would make it easier to coordinate efforts; to find and fund undervalued areas.
But this is just a scaffold. It does no good for someone to sit alone in a room and come up with some universal system of reality. We are developing the tech tree through discussions with those working on each node and are open to crowdsourcing methods. Cycles of feedback will lead to iterations of the tree until we get a clear picture of the longevity field.
Each node will be clickable, letting us zoom in on any particular node to see relevant companies, advocacy groups, labs and independent projects. Advanced features can include heatmaps answering how many people and how much funding is employed on a strategy. Others will want to know which open challenges need incentivization through prizes, tokenization and other (crypto)-funding mechanisms. You may want to build your own boutique filters on top.
To contribute to the longevity tree, email email@example.com
Branching Trees Across Technologies
“Longevity” is not the only field that could benefit from a tree. We’re gradually building similar trees through Foresight’s molecular machines, neurotechnology, computing, and space technology programs.
Membranes separating these fields may prove to be pretty permeable. For instance, molecular machines will become useful for unlocking new longevity capabilities. The computing nodes will have something to say about Brain Computer Interface nodes. Which will, in turn, affect longevity nodes. All of them will inform our future in space; from material and energy advances through molecular machines, to human capabilities strengthened by longevity and neurotechnology.
As the branches of different tech trees start interacting with each other, risks will become more apparent, for instance from advanced artificial intelligence. But so will technologies to mitigate them that we can accelerate, such as improved computer security and cryptography.
Some may want to coordinate on desirable paths through the forest of trees, such as this path proposed by Trent McConaghy.
Others will care only about advancing the frontiers of their local domain, company, or project. All may stand to benefit from each other.
Such a long-term project may sound pollyannaish from our current vantage point. One reason is that we have suboptimal tools. To solve this, we’re co-hosting this hackathon to build an app for crowdsourcing and crowdfunding maps of problems. Another reason is that trees take time to grow. But the earlier we seed them, the earlier we start the many cycles of iteration required to harvest their fruits.
We aren’t the first or only gardeners. Balaji Srinivasan and others have independently advanced similar ideas:
The time seems great to plant some seeds and let them grow.
To contribute domain knowledge, technical skills, or constructive criticism, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.