Sci-Tech


‘Extreme surveillance’ becomes UK law with barely a whimper

yeah um

19th Nov 2016

A bill giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law with barely a whimper, meeting only token resistance over the past 12 months from inside parliament and barely any from outside.

The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.

The security agencies and police began the year braced for at least some opposition, rehearsing arguments for the debate. In the end, faced with public apathy and an opposition in disarray, the government did not have to make a single substantial concession to the privacy lobby.

US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”

Snowden in 2013 revealed the scale of mass surveillance – or bulk data collection as the security agencies prefer to describe it – by the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ, which work in tandem.

But, against a backdrop of fears of Islamist attacks, the privacy lobby has failed to make much headway. Even in Germany, with East Germany’s history of mass surveillance by the Stasi and where Snowden’s revelations produced the most outcry, the Bundestag recently passed legislation giving the intelligence agencies more surveillance powers.

The US passed a modest bill last year curtailing bulk phone data collection but the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election is potentially a major reverse for privacy advocates. On the campaign trail, Trump made comments that implied he would like to use the powers of the surveillance agencies against political opponents.

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Strasburger, one of the leading voices against the investigatory powers bill, said: “We do have to worry about a UK Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression. If Labour had backed us up, we could have made the bill better. We have ended up with a bad bill because they were all over the place.

“The real Donald Trump has access to all the data that the British spooks are gathering and we should be worried about that.”

The Investigatory Powers Act legalises powers that the security agencies and police had been using for years without making this clear to either the public or parliament. In October, the investigatory powers tribunal, the only court that hears complaints against MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, ruled that they had been unlawfully collecting massive volumes of confidential personal data without proper oversight for 17 years.

One of the negative aspects of the legislation is that it fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources, which could discourage whistleblowing.

One of the few positives in the legislation is that it sets out clearly for the first time the surveillance powers available to the intelligence services and the police. It legalises hacking by the security agencies into computers and mobile phones and allows them access to masses of stored personal data, even if the person under scrutiny is not suspected of any wrongdoing.

Privacy groups are challenging the surveillance powers in the European court of human rights and elsewhere.

Jim Killock, the executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.”

Renate Samson, the chief executive of Big Brother Watch, said: “The passing of the investigatory powers bill has fundamentally changed the face of surveillance in this country. None of us online are now guaranteed the right to communicate privately and, most importantly, securely.”

Trump’s victory started speculation that, given his warm words for Vladimir Putin, he might do a deal with the Russian president to have Snowden sent back to the US where he faces a long jail sentence. Snowden has lived in Russia since leaking tens of thousands of documents to journalists in 2013.

But Bill Binney, a former member of the NSA who became a whistleblower, expressed scepticism: “I am not sure if the relationship a President Trump would have with President Putin would be bad for Snowden.

“In Russia, he would still be an asset that maybe Putin would use in bargaining with Trump. Otherwise, Snowden does have a large support network around the world plus in the US and Trump may not want to disturb that. Also, I think any move to get Snowden out of Russia and into US courts would also open up support for at least three other lawsuits against the US government’s unconstitutional surveillance.”

  • This article was amended on 19 November 2016. The act has not yet received royal assent, as stated in an earlier version.

 

source; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/extreme-surveillance-becomes-uk-law-with-barely-a-whimper

Blood from human teens rejuvenates body and brains of old mice

bathory

17th Nov 2016

Blood plasma from young people has been found to rejuvenate old mice, improving their memory, cognition, and physical activity. The method has the potential to be developed into a treatment for people, says Sakura Minami of Alkahest, the company behind the work.

Previous research has found that stitching old and young mice together has an interesting effect. While sharing a blood system works out well for the older mouse, the younger one isn’t so lucky. The young animals started to show signs of brain ageing, while the brains of the older mice started to look younger. “We see a rejuvenation effect,” says Minami.

The key to youth appears to be in the blood plasma – the liquid part of blood. Several studies have found that injecting plasma from young mice into old mice can help rejuvenate the brain and other organs, including the liver, heart, and muscle.

Could blood plasma from young people have the same benefits? To find out, Minami and her colleagues took blood samples from 18-year-olds, and injected them into 12-month-old mice. At this age, the equivalent of around age 50 for people, the mice start to show signs of ageing – they move more slowly, and perform badly on memory tests.

The mice were given twice-weekly injections of the human plasma. After three weeks of injections, they were submitted to a range of tests. The treated mice’s performance was compared to young, 3-month-old mice, as well as old mice who had not received injections.

New neurons

They found that human plasma does have the power to rejuvenate. Treated mice ran around an open space like young mice. Their memories also seemed to improve, and they were much better at remembering their way around a maze than untreated mice.

“Young human plasma improves cognition,” says Minami, who presented her findings at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego, California, on Monday. “Their memory was preserved.”

“It’s more or less what we would expect,” says Victoria Bolotina, at Boston University in Massachusetts. “The blood of young people must have something in it that’s important for keeping them young,” she says.

The team then examined the brains of the treated and untreated mice. They looked for clues on the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus – a process called neurogenesis, which is thought to be important for memory and learning. Sure enough, the treated mice appeared to have created more new cells in their brain. “Young human plasma treatment can increase neurogenesis,” says Minami.

Minami says she has identified some factors in young blood that might be responsible for these benefits, but that she won’t reveal what they are yet. Some of them seem to be crossing into the brain, while others may be acting remotely, elsewhere in the body, she says.

She hopes to one day translate the findings into an anti-ageing treatment for people – one that might help those who start to experience the effects of an ageing brain. “There’s anecdotal evidence that people experience benefits after blood transfusions,” she says.

The company she works for, Alkahest, has already started a trial of young blood in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

source:https://www.newscientist.com/article/2112829-blood-from-human-teens-rejuvenates-body-and-brains-of-old-mice/?

Adobe Just Debuted a ‘Photoshop’ for Audio and It’s Kind of Terrifying

termina

14th Nov 2016

Adobe, the tech company at the forefront of photo manipulation (and creators of Photoshop), recently debuted VoCo (voice conversion), a ‘Photoshop’ for audio and speech that’s both impressive and alarming.

The software was unveiled at the company’s recently completed Adobe Max 2016 conference, which you can see above.

 

 

 

 

source:http://twistedsifter.com/videos/adobe-photoshop-for-audio-and-speech-demo/

Wikileaks releases new DNC emails day before election

wikileaks

7th Nov 2016

Wikileaks released a second batch of emails from the Democratic National Committee early Monday morning, even as it came under an online attack.

The site claims to have suffered a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack designed to —  and briefly successful at — knocking the site offline. That attack came around the same time that Wikileaks released the new emails.

Wikileaks immediately drew a connection between the release of the new information and the attack.

“Our email publication servers are under a targeted DoS attack since releasing #DNCLeak2,” tweeted the official Wikileaks account, following a link to a donations page to help it “increase capacity.”Denial of service attacks flood sites with so much internet traffic they can no longer operate properly.

The new DNC emails released by Wikileaks total 8,263.

In one, DNC press representative Lauren Dillon lists more than 40 different potential Republican vice presidential picks that the party had considered preparing for. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s pick, Mike Pence, did not make the list.

The DNC’s Republican vice president considerations were divided into four tiers with a fifth tier of those no longer being considered as candidates. The brunt of the names are on the “nixed” list, which includes Ben Carson, Jon Kasich, Jan Brewer, Jesse Ventura and others.

Dillon writes that party was collecting video on tier one (Chris Christie, Bob Corker, Jeff Sessions and Joni Ernst) and tier two (Mary Fallin, Jim Jordan, Newt Gingrich) names.

The first round of DNC emails lead to the resignation of several party officials, including former head Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Some of those emails appeared to show the party colluding to help nominate Hillary Clinton win the Democratic primary over Bernie Sanders.

 

 

source;http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/304648-wikileaks-releases-new-dnc-emails-suffers-cyberattack

Big four banks destroy 1.6 million paper land titles in push to digital versions

jedic-mind

4th Nov 2016

The mass destruction of paper titles and their replacement with electronic certificates has been questioned by property lawyers who fear it will compromise security and effectively outsource the 150-year-old Torrens title system to private operators.

The Law Institute of Victoria has been an outspoken critic of the electronic system, arguing it increases costs for consumers, undermines those holding titles for security against other assets, and adds complexity and legal uncertainty to a what was once a simple, safe system.

The changes were ushered in by the Registrar of Titles who declared in a notice in the Victoria Government Gazette that paper based titles will be void and of no effect from October 22, 2016.

Property owners whose paper land titles are held by major banks were not told their title documents have been destroyed.

The conversion of paper certificates of title to electronic versions was part of a national push to electronic conveyancing on the PEXA system, a spokesman for Land Victoria said.

PEXA is owned by state governments, the ANZ, CBA, NAB, Westpac, Macquarie Bank and private equity.

“If landowners wish to get a paper title when their mortgage is paid out, they can do so,” the spokesman said.

Bruce King from Kirby & Co. Solicitors said he conducted his first property transaction on the system last week and it was more expensive.

The transaction went smoothly but other lawyers encountered difficulties with banks failing to nominate a controlling entity which meant some settlements didn’t get through, he said.

PEXA chief executive Marcus Price said paper titles were cumbersome to use. “People keep losing them, including banks,” he said.

Most property fraud occurs with unencumbered paper titles being taken and used by other family members, he said.

“This is a long overdue catch-up by property to the two other big assets, shares and cash, which are exchanged electronically,” Mr Price said.

“It is ultimately a much safer system,” he said.

PEXA was set up in 2010 with federal government support after a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments urged modernisation of the antiquated system of paper-based transfers used by land titles offices and conveyancers.

The Titles Office in NSW is in the process of being privatised and South Australia is considering similar plans.

 

 

 

source:http://www.smh.com.au/business/property/big-four-banks-destroy-16-million-paper-land-titles-in-push-to-digital-versions-20161028-gsdcgn.html

The Communist Party of China plans to launch a bizarre ‘social credit’ system for its citizens

big brother facebook

25th Oct 2016

PICTURE a world where every single action you make is monitored by the federal government.

Accidentally running a stop sign on a deserted street at 3am? That’s on your record.

Subtly scanning those slightly-fancier $6.99/kilo apples as the ordinary $4.99/kilo ones? That’s on the record too, thief.

Posted a harmless narcissistic selfie to your social feed? The government is ogling you as we speak.

All your social media activity, job movement, leisure activities and online purchases are ranked and perpetually monitored.

Oh — and did we mention this whole thing is both public and mandatory?

It sounds like a creepy George Orwell knock-off, but China’s government is actually developing a “social credit system” in which it monitors each individual citizen and collates information about their day-to-day lives.

The Communist Party of China hopes the ambitious plan will create a culture of “sincerity”, where citizens will be kept in line.

The whole thing is designed to assess each individual person’s trustworthiness in the eyes of the government, and your actions have the power to dramatically alter the rest of your life.

Each person is given a numerical “score” that could determine whether they qualify for financial loans down to getting a nicer room in a hotel or a better table at a restaurant.

It can even affect how many dates you pull, because the information is publicly available, and your social circle can influence your number.

In other words, if you want to live the high life, you and everyone you associate with had better comply.

The Chinese government is hoping that every one of its 1.3 billion citizens will soon be enrolled in a national database that includes all these little details.

The idea has been in development since 2003, but China hopes it will be fully achieved by 2020. It could spark a dramatic shift in how citizens interact with each other and the outside world.

For example, posting pro-government statuses to social media, recycling and showing evidence of fiscal responsibility in your purchases will increase your score.

Wasteful spending, posting political opinions without permission and posting information the Chinese government deems controversial — such as about the Tiananmen Square massacre or Tibet — will decrease your score.

Last month, the Chinese government released a revised plan detailing how the elaborate system would work.

big-brother-1984

A translation recently published by Oxford University China researcher Rogier Creemers points out that a person’s “score” would be publicly available and integral to their place in society.

It states: “Eliminate credit information obstacles between all localities, all departments as well as state organs and people’s organisations, social organisations, enterprises and undertaking work units, and move forward credit information interconnection, exchange and sharing according to the law.”

It also warns that any person or company who is deemed “untrustworthy” could see sanctions imposed on them: “All localities and all departments must carry out their proper functions, mutually co-ordinate, shape joint forces, and build credit supervision, warning and punishment systems where if trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere.”

What your friends say and do can also influence your public score — a feature that will create social pressure among citizens.

It stresses the importance of this being a communal system, saying “all levels’ governments must play a leading role” in helping to “stimulate the common participation and joint governance of the entire society, and realise the effective convergence of government leadership and joint social action.”

The country’s state news agency Xinhua reported on the social credit system two years ago, saying it would focus on four key areas: administrative affairs, commercial activities, social behaviour, and the judicial system.

The system would be accompanied by a related reward and punishment mechanism, with individual identity card numbers or organisation numbers to allow for the sharing of information.

While China’s government has sought to keep tabs on its citizens for decades, this would be the first of its kind of include technologies such as big data, cloud computing and the mobile internet.

The scoring system is public, and your friends’ rankings can affect your own. This creates social pressure to conform.Source:Bloomberg

Last year, China’s central bank gave eight private firms permission to provide personal credit reference services.

Alibaba’s Sesame Credit Management was permitted to score people based on their hobbies, interaction with friends, spending and lifestyle.

China Daily reported the rating method consisted of a numerical score scale between 350 and 950 points, with a higher score making it easier to borrow money.

For example, people with 600 points or more were permitted to take out a loan of less than 5,000 yuan ($A972) when shopping on Alibaba’s online marketplace.

Those with more than 666 points could take out a cash loan of up to 50,000 yuan ($A9719).

Creemers told Fast Company this is nothing new.

“They’ve been working on the credit system for the financial industry for a while now,” he said. “But, in recent years, the idea started growing that if you’re going to assess people’s financial status, you should equally be able to do that with other modes of trustworthiness.”

He points out that — while it comes with certain efficiencies — it’s ultimately just another means by which the government can directly control its people.

“On the one hand, this credit system is the institution of commonsensical rules for market behaviour. On the other hand, it’s a control tool.

“The Party sets out a way of behaving, then it makes that way of behaviour rational. You take away the ability for people to decide on what they think is good and you take away their choice of living a different lifestyle.”

In other words, the system could improve how workers and citizens function in their day-to-day lives.

But this comes at the expense of personal freedom. Is that really worth it?

 

 

source:http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/wtf/the-communist-party-of-china-plans-to-launch-a-bizarre-social-credit-system-for-its-citizens/

1 in 2 American Adults Already In Facial Recognition Network

19th Oct 2016

Half of all American adults are already in some sort of facial recognition network accessible to law enforcement, according to a comprehensive new study.

Conducted over a year and relying in part on Freedom of Information and public record requests to 106 law enforcement agencies, the study, conducted by Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology, found American police use of facial recognition technology is a scattered, hodgepodge network of laws and regulations.

“Looking at the sum total of what we found, there have been no laws that comprehensively regulate face recognition technology, and there’s really no case law either,” Clare Garvie, an associate at the CPT, told Vocativ. “So we find ourselves having to rely on the agencies that are using that technology to rein it in. But what we found is that not every system — by a long shot — has a use policy.”

That so many American adults are in at least one facial recognition database is largely due to the fact that at least 26 states, and likely more, share their Department of Motor Vehicles databases with the FBI, state police, or other law enforcement agencies, the study found. Compounded with that, police often have access to mugshot databases. Garvie’s study found that most law enforcement agencies don’t purge such records, even if the arrested suspect is found not guilty, unless a court orders it. The sole known exception is the Michigan State Police, which does expunge photos after a set amount of time.

us-states

 

 

 

 

source:http://www.vocativ.com/368572/facial-recognition-databases/

Invisible Plasma Shield, Which Protects Earth From Radiation, Discovered 7,200 Miles Above Planet

moon

8th Oct 2016

The Earth is protected from fast-moving “killer electrons” by an invisible plasma shield, which is located thousands of miles above the planet’s surface, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Colorado Boulder.

High above the Earth’s atmosphere, harmful electrons that make up the outer band of the Van Allen radiation belt travel at nearly the speed of light, pelting everything in their path. Exposure to such high-energy radiation can harm satellite electronics and pose serious health risks to astronauts. However, despite their intense energy, these electrons — circling around the planet’s equator — cannot come below 7,200 miles from the Earth’s surface due to the shield, scientists said in a study, published in the journal Nature on Thursday.

“It’s almost like theses electrons are running into a glass wall in space,” Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado Boulder and the study’s lead author said, in a statement. “Somewhat like the shields created by force fields on Star Trek that were used to repel alien weapons, we are seeing an invisible shield blocking these electrons. It’s an extremely puzzling phenomenon.”

The invisible shield, dubbed the “plasmaspheric hiss,” is made up of very low-frequency electromagnetic waves in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Scientific data and calculations have helped researchers deduce that the hiss deflects incoming electrons, causing them to smash into neutral gas atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, and ultimately disappear.

“It’s a very unusual, extraordinary, and pronounced phenomenon,” John Foster, associate director of MIT’s Haystack Observatory, said in a statement. “What this tells us is if you parked a satellite or an orbiting space station with humans just inside this impenetrable barrier, you would expect them to have much longer lifetimes. That’s a good thing to know.”

The latest study is based on data collected by NASA’s Van Allen Probes that are orbiting within the harsh environments of the Van Allen radiation belt. During the study, the researchers observed an “exceedingly sharp” barrier against harmful electrons, which was steady enough to withstand a solar wind shock in October 2013. To determine what could create and maintain such a barrier, the researchers considered a few possibilities, including effects from the Earth’s magnetic field and radio signals from human transmitters on Earth.

“It’s like looking at the phenomenon with new eyes, with a new set of instrumentation, which give us the detail to say, ‘Yes, there is this hard, fast boundary,’” Foster said.

 

 

source:http://www.ibtimes.com/invisible-plasma-shield-which-protects-earth-radiation-discovered-7200-miles-above-1730214

Tech billionaires convinced we live in the Matrix are secretly funding scientists to help break us out of it

matrix-doorway

6th Oct 2016

Some of the world’s richest and most powerful people are convinced that we are living in a computer simulation. And now they’re trying to do something about it.

At least two of Silicon Valley’s tech billionaires are pouring money into efforts to break humans out of the simulation that they believe that it is living in, according to a new report.

Philosophers have long been concerned about how we can know that our world isn’t just a very believable simulation of a real one. But concern about that has become ever more active in recent years, as computers and artificial intelligence have advanced.

Elon Musk – The chance that we are not living in a computer simulation is ‘one in billions’

That has led some tech billionaires to speculate that the chances we are not living in such a simulation is “billions to one”. Even Bank of America analysts wrote last month that the chances we are living in a Matrix-style fictional world is as high as 50 per cent.

And now at least two billionaires are funding scientists in an effort to try and break us out of that simulation. It isn’t clear what form that work is taking.

“Many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation hypothesis, the argument that what we experience as reality is in fact fabricated in a computer,” writes The New Yorker’s Tad Friend. “Two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation.”

The detail came from a New Yorker profile of Sam Altman, who runs Y Combinator which helps develop tech companies.

Mr Friend didn’t indicate whether Mr Altman was one of those two, or who those people might be. A number of prominent tech billionaires have discussed the idea of the simulation – including Elon Musk, who has used his fortune to fund potentially odd efforts in the past.

Mr Musk spoke earlier this year about the fact that he believes that the chance that we are not living in a computer simulation is “one in billions”. He said that he had come to that conclusion after a chat in a hot tub, where it was pointed out that computing technology has advanced so quickly that at some point in the future it will become indistinguishable from real life – and, if it does, there’s no reason to think that it hasn’t done already and that that’s what we are currently living through.

If we aren’t actually living through a simulation, Mr Musk said, then all human life is probably about to come to an end and so we should hope that we are living in one. “Otherwise, if civilisation stops advancing, then that may be due to some calamitous event that stops civilisation,” he said at the Recode conference.

Mr Altman seemed to echo that fear and told the New Yorker that he was concerned about the way that the devices that surround us might lead to the extinction of all consciousness in the universe. He spoke about how the best scenario for dealing with that is a “merge” – when our brains and computers become one, perhaps by having our brains uploaded into the cloud.

“These phones already control us,” he said. “The merge has begun – and a merge is our best scenario. Any version without a merge will have conflict: we enslave the A.I. or it enslaves us.

“The full-on-crazy version of the merge is we get our brains uploaded into the cloud. I’d love that. We need to level up humans, because our descendants will either conquer the galaxy or extinguish consciousness in the universe forever. What a time to be alive!”

 

 

source: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/computer-simulation-world-matrix-scientists-elon-musk-artificial-intelligence-ai-a7347526.html

Human lifespan has hit its natural limit, research suggests

6th Oct 2016

Humans are unlikely to ever blow out more than 125 candles on their birthday cake, according to research that suggests that our lifespan has already hit its natural limit.

The oldest human who ever lived, according to official records, was 122-year-old Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment, who died in 1997.

Now a team of American researchers suggest Calment is unlikely to lose the top spot any time soon, as their research shows that though more people reach old age each year, the ceiling for human lifespan appears to be stuck at around 115 years.

“The chances are very high that we [have] really reached our maximum allotted lifespan for the first time,” said Jan Vijg, co-author of the research from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Figures such as Aubrey de Grey, chief scientific officer at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (Sens) Research Foundation, have previously claimed that the first person to reach 1,000 years old is likely to be alive today.

But the new study suggests that is highly unlikely. The upshot, says Vijg, is that people should focus on enjoying life and staying healthy for as long as possible. “That’s where we have to invest our money,” he said.

The notion of extending the human lifespan has captured imaginations for millennia. Among scientists, enthusiasm for the idea has grown in recent years with a host of Silicon Valley companies springing up to join academic institutions in attempting to chip away at issue of longevity – among them Google’s California Life Company, or Calico, as it is known – with big-buck prizes such as the Palo Alto Longevity Prize adding to the clamour.

But the researchers, writing in the journal Nature, describe how analysis of records from a number of international databases suggests there is a limit to human lifespan, and that we have already hit it.

Using data for 41 countries and territories from the Human Mortality Database, the team found that life expectancy at birth has increased over the last century. That, says Vijg, is down to a number of factors, including advances in childbirth and maternity care, clean water, the development of antibiotics and vaccines and other health measures.

But while the proportion of people surviving to 70 and over has risen since 1900, the rate of improvements in survival differ greatly between levels of old age. Large gains are seen for ages 70 and up, but for ages 100 or more the rate of improvement drops rapidly. “[For] the oldest old people, we are still not very good at reducing their mortality rates,” said Vijg.

What’s more, in 88% of the countries, the ages showing the greatest rate of improvement have not changed since 1980.

The researchers then turned to the International Database on Longevity and analysed data from France, UK, the US and Japan – four countries with a high proportion of those aged 110 or above – so-called “supercentenarians”.

The researchers found that the maximum reported age at death rapidly increased between 1970 and the early 1990s, rising by around 0.15 years every year. But in the mid-to-late 90s, a plateau was reached, with the yearly maximum reported age at death at around 115 years.

Modelling of the possibility of living beyond such an age offered further insights. “Based on the data we have now, the chance that you will ever see a person of 125 [years] in a given year is about 1 in 10,000,” said Vijg.

The apparent limit to human lifespan, the authors say, is not down to a set of biological processes specifically acting to call time on life. Rather, it is a byproduct a range of genetic programmes that control processes such as growth and development.

Henne Holstege from VU University, Amsterdam works on ageing of centenarians, and previously led research into Dutch supercentenarian Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, who died aged 115. She says the new study suggests “there seems to be a wall of mortality that modern medicine cannot overcome”.

“If you die from heart disease at 70, then the rest of your body might still be in relatively good health. So, a medical intervention to overcome heart disease can significantly prolong your lifespan,” she said. “However, in centenarians not just the heart, but all bodily systems, have become aged and frail. If you do not die from heart disease, you die from something else.”

Medical interventions, she says, cannot solve the problem of overall decline, with the only promising approach lying in slowing down the ageing process itself. But, she added, “It is however not yet clear if and how this can be accomplished.”

But Tom Kirkwood, associate dean for ageing at Newcastle University, is sanguine that the lifespan ceiling will continue to rise.

“There is no set programme for ageing and we know that the process, which is ultimately driven by the build-up of faults and damage in the cells and organs of the body, is to some degree malleable,” he said. “Even without any change in the biology of ageing, it is almost inevitable that the current record will be broken.”

Cynthia Kenyon, vice president of ageing research at Calico, is also optimistic.

“No one, particularly not evolutionary theorists, predicted that single-gene mutations could slow the aging process and double the lifespans of animals. But they can,” she said. “While we don’t have demographic data supporting the idea that the maximum human lifespan is now increasing, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”

 

 

source; https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/oct/05/human-lifespan-has-hit-its-natural-limit-research-suggests