Southern California reasonoids might want to drop by the free conference, Aging—The Disease—The Cure—The Implications, over at UCLA late this afternoon. The session is the kick-off for the Understanding Aging conference also being held this weekend at UCLA. That conference will feature top flight anti-aging researchers from around the world.
Wired has a nice profile of conference organizer and anti-aging crusader Aubrey de Grey:
Gandhi once said, describing his critics, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
After declaring, essentially out of nowhere, that he had a program to end the disease of aging, renegade biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey knows how the first three steps of Gandhi's progression feel. Now he's focused on the fourth.
"I've been at Gandhi stage three for maybe a couple of years," de Grey said. "If you're trying to make waves, certainly in science, there's a lot of people who are going to have insufficient vision to bother to understand what you're trying to say."
This weekend, his organization, The Methuselah Foundation, is sponsoring its first U.S. conference on the emerging interdisciplinary field that de Grey has helped kick start. (Its first day, Friday, will be free and open to the public.) The conference, Aging: The Disease—The Cure—The Implications, held at UCLA, is an indication of how far de Grey has come in mainstreaming his ideas.
Less than a decade ago, de Grey was a relatively unknown computer scientist doing his own research into aging. As recently as three years ago a cadre of scientists wrote in the Nature-sponsored journal EMBO Reports, that his research program, known as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, was "so far from plausible that it commands no respect at all within the informed scientific community." Also in 2005, MIT-sponsored magazine Technology Review went so far as to offer a $20,000 prize to anyone who could prove that de Grey's program was "so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate." (No one won.)
Now, though, some scientists are beginning to view his approach—looking at aging as a disease and bringing in more disciplines into gerontology—as worthwhile, even if they still look askance at his claims of permanent reversible aging within a lifespan. The Methuselah Foundation now has an annual research funding budget of several million dollars, de Grey says, and it's beginning to show lab results that he thinks will turn scientists' heads.
In December, de Grey and I participated in a Cato Unbound debate on "Do We Need Death?" The pro-death side was argued by President Council on Bioethics member Diana Schaub and Harvard University bioethicist Daniel Callahan. You can find that whole discussion here. The Wired profile is here.
Hat tip to the folks at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.