Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever Paperback – Sep 27 2005
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The idea behind Kurzweil and Grossman's Fantastic Voyage is that if you can make it through the next 50 years, you might become immortal. How will that be possible? Through some rather science fictional steps, it turns out, including taking advantage of the latest in biotechnological breakthroughs and not-yet-invented nanotechnology. Is all this longing for immortality driven by an obsession with youth or a fear of death? Readers can judge for themselves, as both Kurzweil and Grossman reveal the personal histories that led them to develop this plan. Fantastic Voyage is written in an easy-to-understand tone, with lots of sidebars giving examples of what the future holds for medicine and health. Whether or not you think that science will find a way to keep our bodies or our disembodied minds alive forever, this book is full of diet and lifestyle tips. For instance, the authors suggest carefully controlling the body's overall pH at an alkaline level, meditating, eating a diet composed mostly of vegetables and protein, and taking loads of supplements (Kurzweil downs about 250 pills each day). The dietary options presented here will mostly only be practical for people whose income levels can support buying organic produce, fresh fish and meat, and top-shelf supplements. The authors cavalierly state that we are living in a "time of abundance," but it seems likely that most who are able to follow this regimen will be Americans of a fairly high socioeconomic class. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Ray Kurzweil is a prize-winning author and scientist. Recipient of the MIT-Lemelson Prize (the world’s largest for innovation), and inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame, he received the 1999 National Medal of Technology. His books include The Age of Spiritual Machines, The Age of Intelligent Machines, and How to Create a Mind.
Visit Ray Kurzweil on the web:
Terry Grossman, M.D., is a certified anti-aging specialist and expert in longevity medicine. He is the author of The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Living Forever.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
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Written at the height of the Cold War, Isaac Asimov's 1966 science-fiction thriller Fantastic Voyage shifted the public's fascination from space travel to an even more fascinating journey-inside the human body. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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The book follows three lines, called "Bridges" by the authors. Bridge One is what you can and should do today to extend your life expectancy in order to maximize your chances to benefit from Bridge two drugs and devices who, in turn, should allow you to wait for the big prize: Bridge Three technologies.
Bridge one is definitely the best part of the book. The authors explain our current understanding of the mechanisms involved in atherosclerosis, cancer, inflammation, etc... and cover a tremendous amount of reliable, mostly peer reviewed, scientific litterature and large scale studies. This understanding is then used to derive the optimal diet and supplementation policy. The book doesn't break any new ground, but is remarkable in the way it synthetizes a large amount of information into understandable and directly usable recommendations. I was constantly telling myself: "yes, they are right, I know that! why am I not acting upon it?". True, there are some weak points: alkaline water comes to mind (check the many discussions on the net about this issue), stevia definitely hasn't been studied enough, it's hard to see how minerals would lose their properties in canned food (bioavailability??) but those blemishes are more than compensated by the careful research that went into other topics: for example, the authors rightly insist on inflammation's role but stop an inch short of recommending rofecoxib (Vioxx). They also shine on heart disease and myocardial infarction, clearly stating that heavy and expensive bypass surgery doesn't improve survival in many many cases.
Sound prevention is the key and you'll get a truckload of coherent tips.
Bridge two is less convincing, especially when it adresses drugs currently in development. These molecules may deliver what they promise, but there are many lessons to learn from the past... Do you remember those super antibiotics of the 60s and 70s? They were supposed to wipe out infectious disease. Do you remember those mood altering drugs. They should have defeated depression instead of becoming a health problem themselves? Do you remember how interferon would cure many cancers? We don't have any indication that those new drugs will perform better. True, they're interesting. True, we are pumping them out faster than in the past, but I am willing to bet a lot of them will have side effects, will reveal or trigger new mechanisms etc...
Bridge Three is mostly nanotechnology based science fiction. It is, I believe, the weakest part of the book. Hyper effective respirocytes sound like a good deal: they would tremendously boost our athletic abilities... but you'd tear your tendons and muscles as soon as you'd attempt a double efficiency sprint. Multiplying the efficiency by a factor of 100 - these are figures taken from the book - would lead to severe heat dissipation problems. Yes, this probably could be solved by some kind of radiator or sail. Whether you'd be bored enough by eternal life to fall in love with someone looking like a spinosaurus remains to be seen. Likewise, getting rid of the heart and using self-propelled blood cells may sound attractive, but it ignores the role of the heartbeat in growing and strengthening blood vessels. In many cases, the authors miss the forest for the tree.
These shortcomings aside, Fantastic Voyage is an incredibly useful resource. The voyage might not be the promised endless journey, I am willing to bet that Terry Grossman, Ray Kurzweil, you and I will die. But if we follow half of the book's suggestions, I am sure we'll be healthy corpses.
The last virtue of this book is to be thought provoking. One can't help wondering what large scale, well planned, preventive medicine could achieve. Social security budgets would certainly be easier to balance. Also, one can't ignore the cost of the full program: very few people could pay for it today. Ray K. believes that the cost will go down in the near future and/or that computing and data processing power will soon make your own private human genome project a $20 issue. He may be right, but the pharmaceutical industry will definitely milk the fancy drugs it develops for a while, twenty years, possibly more (see the Hatch Waxman Act loopholes in the US, similar legislation elsewhere), add these twenty years to the already long phase 1 through 3 studies and tomorrow suddenly sounds a bit distant. Bridge 2 will not be cheap: if it actually works, it will have huge social implications. But that's beyond the scope of this review...
If you are still there ;-) - thank you, buy the book.
The authors are well-known within their fields of expertise. Ray Kurzweil, a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and an inductee into the Inventors Hall of Fame, is one of the world's leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists and the author of three previous books on technology. Terry Grossman M.D., the founder and medical director of the Frontier Medical Institute in Denver, Colorado, a leading longevity clinic, is certified in anti-aging medicine and lectures internationally on matters related to longevity and anti-aging strategies. These two experts, one in technology and one in medical science, have joined together to write about how you can "live long enough to live forever."
While I endorse and highly recommend "Fantastic Voyage," the subtitle of the book presents a problem for me. The very idea of "living forever" is a proposition with which I am not entirely comfortable. I am philosophically oriented both by training and by disposition and I have to wrestle with this question: "Is living forever a suitable and desirable goal for any human being?" I believe this is fundamentally an ethical question and at this moment I cannot answer it, at least for myself, because I haven't had time to consider it in depth and in all its possible ramifications. To be frank, I haven't really given any thought to it until reading this book. So now, thanks to the authors, I'll have to explore this problem. But I think it's an important issue to raise and debate, particularly considering that, while we may be able to prolong life indefinitely in a physical sense, there are psychological, sociological, and political factors which must also be considered.
Once we put this matter aside for further thought and discussion, the authors do indeed take us on a fantastic voyage into the world of cutting-edge technology, a place where modern biology, information science, and what is called "nanotechnology" intersect and impact each other. Their discussion of "nanobots" is especially interesting. These are robots, the size of blood cells, built from molecules placed in our bodies and bloodstream to enhance every aspect of our lives. Nanobots, suggest the authors, will even be used for surgery. For example, teams "of millions of nanobots will be able to restructure bones and muscles, destroy unwanted growths such as tumors on a cell-by-cell basis, and clear arteries while restructuring them out of healthy tissue." This especially caught my attention, as one who suffered a heart attack a couple of years ago and had to undergo an emergency angioplasty. If a nanobot could continually keep my arteries clear, I'd be more than happy to let it do so!
But correcting a medical problem after the damage has been done is not the major thrust of this book. I would guess that more than ninety-five percent of "Fantastic Voyage" is devoted to preventing disease, promoting good health, and dealing with the aging process. (I should warn the reader that there is some discussion of chemistry involved here, but I found that one can skip through the various chemical formulas discussed and not miss anything vital to understanding the point being made.) In line with the major thrusts of the book, the authors present "Three Bridges" which are "emerging transformations in technology that will usher in powerful new tools to expand your health and human powers."
The First Bridge is "Ray & Terry's Longevity Program" which includes "present-day therapies and guidance that will enable you to remain healthy long enough to take full advantage of the construction of the Second Bridge." The reader will learn about carbohydrates and the glycemic load, the importance of fat and protein, why the modern diet is out of balance, how to eat nutritionally, why sugar is the "white Satan," the real cause of heart disease and how to prevent it, and much, much more. The Second Bridge is the "Biotechnology Revolution" where "we learn the genetic and protein codes of our biology" and "the means of turning off disease and aging while we turn on our full human potential." The reader will learn about gene expression, somatic gene therapy, recombinant technology, therapeutic cloning, and how human aging can be reversed. The Third Bridge is the "Nanotechnology-Artificial Intelligence Revolution" which will "enable us to rebuild our bodies and brains at the molecular level." The reader will learn about programmable blood, nanopower, nanosurgery, "intelligent" cells, and a lot more.
I could go on and on; I've only scratched the surface of the information provided in this interesting and valuable book. Kurzweil and Grossman are to be commended for making this important information available to the public, written in an easy and understandable style, with recommendations that the reader can implement immediately. At the end of the book they provide a page of resources and contact information and the standard index to topics. More importantly, however, they provide over sixty pages of notes, references, and citations so the reader can consult the primary sources for more detail. I wish more authors would do that.
This is a serious book to be read once and then consulted continuously for its suggestions and recommendations. But, now, the real question: Do I really want to live forever? Well, let me think about that for a few years!
At first I was very happy to discover Kurzweil's book, thinking that he has filled a gap and made some interesting but hard-to-interpret informations available to all. And then I went from disappointement to frustration.
It started first with the chapter on alkalinized water. I will not talk about water alkalinizers since other have made enough comments on this topic. However this chapter is very representative of the book, since you can find this kind of over-simplified, misinterpreted informations in other chapters. Let's look at a few examples:
Genetic testing: Kuzweils says that the P53 gene mutation is found in 50% of cancers so he advocates testing for the presence of this mutation in blood samples. Big misinterpretation! The p53 mutation is mutated in 50% of CANCEROUS CELLS, but not in the BLOOD CELLS of people with cancer... Technically speaking, Kurzweil don't understand the difference between a germ-line mutation and a stem-line mutation. This difference is taught early in medical school's genetic classes. Obviously Kurtzweil has not read or don't understand the reference he is giving (Soucci).
DHEA: hormone of youth . Same BS as the alkalinized water. Kurtzweil takes some correct informations, mixes them with some pure speculations and make a kind of very spicy stew of it.
Tea and heart disease. I agree that there is probably a benefit in drinking tea. However Kurtzweil cites the work of Mukamal (Circulation 2002) saying that drinking tea reduces the mortality in patient with heart infarct. But if you read the article written by Mukamal, you'll see that the "tea drinker's" were also leaner and had a better life hygiene than the other's, and Mukamal says that the advantage these people had, was perhaps related to their general condition and not tea. Kurzweil, forgets to notice these restrictions.
The chapters on food, diet and exercise have also some misinformations...
Unhappily I didn't have the time to cross check all the informations in the book (I was expecting Kurzweil to make an accurate summary for me), but I wonder how many other errors there are. That's why I feel frustrated. I was looking for a receipe book that I could follow blindly, and I find myself with something that may be bobby trapped...
Is Kurzweil honest? I believe that he is, but that he has developed a kind of mecena/alchemist relationship with Grossman, the later selling to the former his philosopher's stone. Who know's, maybe in the future, something more interesting will emerge from this, like modern chemistry emerged from alchemistry.
In the meantime, should you throw away this book? Well if you have it, read it as an encouragement, follow the simplest recommendations, always using your good sense (stop smoking, loose weight, change your diet, exercise, ask your doctor). If this book motivates you to change your life style, it will already be a big achievement.
It now appears that Kurzweill has possibly been somehow negatively influenced or somewhat possibly brainwashed by Grossman.
This book now has assertion that are highly misleading.
For example: (p.64)
"We are not aware of any adverse reactions reported from the use of stevia"
Yet stevia has been rejected not only by the US FDA but also the canadian equivalent and also the European Union equivalent because of concern about reproductive damage (In animal studies, stevia reduce sperm production and testis weigh when given to males and reduce the number and birth weight of offstrings when given to females).
The authors therefore either want to mislead or are ignorant. Indeed the problem with stevia is a matter of public debate.
I suspect that part was written by Grossman. In his previous book (the baby boomers guide to living forever), he views it as a form of conspiracy of the holder of aspartame and saccharin patent and the sugar industry. Funny because public defense groups such as cspinet.org are impressed that the FDA resisted the powerful industry lobbies (that wanted stevia to be approved) and rejected stevia until safety is better established. Doesn't the authors realise that the soft drink industry would love to have a commodity product such as stevia to replace patented alternative? Didn't he care to know exactly why 3 different pannels of experts rejected it?
Same thing about the glycemic index: selective disclosure of information again. There is no mention that the whole idea is still very theoretical and experimental. Among the facts not disclosed in the book that a reader would have certainly been interested to know is this:
- the glycemic index is calculated using a single food on an empty stomach
- when researchers examined a more common situation, they discovered that adding plain SUGAR (an ultra-high glycemic index food) to a meal did NOT (suprisingly) change the glycemic index of the meal !
On an another subject, it is easy to see the (unfortunate?) influence of Grossman (a "chelation" doctor) over Kurzweill in this: Mr Kuzweill has regular INTRAVENOUS chelation therapy to "detoxify" his body, not on a yearly basis, not every 6 months, but... every WEEK ! 52 intravenous infusions per year is probably more dangerous (risk of septicemia among other) than any possible elusive benefit.
Bottom line: at this time there is no scientific studies (with random assignment of groups) that establish that such extreme program actually improve life expectancy (as opposed to simply beneficially affecting some biochemical markers).
On the positive side for the book, there are highly stimulating and interesting information on the latest research in different medical field that should give hope to many.
As you might not know, Dr. Grossman has a longevity clinic in Denver Colorado. Living in the Denver/Boulder area, I decided to investigate the costs of the two day health screening advocated in the book. The $5000 price tag was enough to make me think twice. You might also want to note that the authors have their own "Ray and Terry's" Brand of supplements that reflect the dosages recommended in the book.
Most of the book was fairly reasonable. I would not dispute the validity of the majority of the information. However, several papers cited in the book were misquoted or twisted in favor of the authors' point of view. "How would I know?" you might ask. It helps if you know the researcher who wrote them. I think this is what many people call psudoscience.
One part of the book is just simply wrong. The authors' advocation of drinking alkaline water is misleading at best. Anyone who has a basic understanding of biology and organic chemistry would have problems swallowing (sorry about the pun!) their auguments. You don't have to take my word for it. Just Google "Ionized Alkaline Water" and you can get several websites that will explain these silly ideas better. One website: [...] is particularly interesting. One closing comment on this issue. The water ionization system recommended is sold by a company in Boulder Colorado. I wonder what link the authors have with this company.
Now I don't want to make it sound like I didn't like that book. It was very well written and easy to follow. Just keep in mind that it flows a bit like a muscle magazine where the information and advertisements seem to blur together. Just don't blindly buy their products just because they are recommended in the book.
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