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Fantastic Voyage: The Science Behind Radical Life Extension    by Ray Kurzweil & Terry Grossman order for
Fantastic Voyage
by Ray Kurzweil
Order:  USA  Can
Rodale, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The title is taken from Isaac Asimov's 1966 SF story, Fantastic Voyage, later made into a movie. The authors tell us about research that will make Asimov's prediction a reality, not by shrinking a submarine and its crew, but through the application of nanotechnology. They combine accessible tutorials on how our bodies function with the latest discoveries about how to keep healthy as we age and promising research into 'life-extending and life-enhancing technologies' that might lead to slowing down, and even reversing, the effects of aging.

The intent is to address how to 'Live Long Enough to Live Forever', that is long enough for some of the most exciting research to be realized, providing enormously increased longevity with good health. Of course, this begs the question of whether or not living forever is a good thing on an individual basis, what it would mean in terms of overcrowding the planet, and so on. But that's not the focus of this book, which addresses three 'Bridges' - how to remain healthy with today's knowledge; how the biotechnology revolution will allow us to fight against disease and aging; and how the nanotechnology revolution will enable rebuilding of our bodies as they wear out (I rather liked the notion of self-propelled 'nanorobotic blood cells' eventually eliminating the need for the heart). Specific cases of these Bridges are described under all the subsequent topics.

Chapters address hot health topics in a fair amount of technical depth and detail, and with predictions of where research will lead for each: the right type of water; carbohydrates and glycemic load, fat and protein; digestion; weight correction; sugar (and insulin); genomics as a key to health care personalization; inflammation; methylation; detoxification; heart disease prevention; cancer prevention; brain health; hormones; supplementation; exercise; and stress management. The authors' premise is 'that you can create your own health by taking an aggressive, proactive role.' Though this may be true, it seems like it would be a full-time job, or that one would require a personal supplement trainer to make sense of what is required (Ray Kurzweil mentions that he takes 250 supplement pills every day), as well as an ongoing battery of medical tests that few of us are able to command).

Despite my skepticism about the inability of most of us to carry out the recommended program as a whole, I took note of many suggestions relating to medical problems of family members, found specifics (like a new 'Food Pyramid') useful, and was most intrigued by predictions of what the future will bring. The book closes by advocating to us 'a continued search for insight in an era of expanding knowledge'. Fantastic Voyage offers a wealth of information to those able to take it in - Isaac Asimov, for one, would have found it fascinating.

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