Understanding Aging or Making Death Optional?

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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:

http://z.hubpages.com/u/7097_f260.jpg

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.

NEXT: Only 'Revolvers and Derringers' Allowed in D.C.?

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  1. Amazingly, the man in the picture is the ripe old age of 23.

    🙂

  2. I am so sick of that Gahndi quote.

    Most people who made a revolutionary change on society were once laughed at. You know what that DOESN’T mean?

  3. The Picture of Aubrey de Grey?

  4. Nice Art.

    I love the anti-aging group. Sadly, even if they can fix it, I doubt they’ll do it in time for me. Oh well, still cool.

  5. Does anyone else think he looks like Manson in that picture? Imagine a little carved-in swastika on his forehead if that helps.

  6. You know what that DOESN’T mean?

    That stand-up comedy is the first step to changing the world?

  7. “Do We Need Death?”

    Only for the haters.

  8. I can picture a rainbow on his forehead but not a swastika.

  9. Does anyone else think he looks like Manson in that picture?

    Naw. Next to Marshall Applewhite, Charlie Manson has the craziest eyes I’ve ever seen. I mean, damn.

  10. Rasputin was tough guy to kill. I’d listen to him, if I wuz you.

  11. If I could live as long as Yoda, I think I’d be good.

  12. What is a bioethicist for?

  13. Ron is shilling for Big Wrinkle.

  14. You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools. But that’s the way I like it, baby. I don’t wanna live forever.

    Don’t forget the joker!

  15. Art-P.O.G.,

    Ahem, I think you meant to say “good i’d be”. Any mention of Yoda must be followed by Yoda speech.

  16. Goddamed Howards.

  17. 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.
    Have they discovered any way to increase lifespan without resorting to starvation?

  18. If only I knew those “Have a Nice Day” lyrics . . .

  19. Any mention of Yoda must be followed by Yoda speech.

    Oh, man what a faux pas. It’s getting to the point where I’m not even cool enough to be an internet nerd.

  20. That stand-up comedy is the first step to changing the world?

    Winner.

  21. I’m against increasing lifespans due to the fact that the people who would mostly like avail themselves of this technology would be statists. That is all.

  22. An internet nerd you will be. Practice you must.

  23. Look Art-P.O.G. I don’t make up the rules. I just follow them for fear of being shunned. I would suggest you do the same.

  24. Perhaps we can ask if Justice Breyer believes “persuit of happieness” restricts this science to only law enforcement?

    I don’t have time to hang around the SCOTUS cafeteria to bump ino him and ask.

  25. Bright side: if we stop aging then ancient old protestors will not look so creepy when they are chanting young people stuff.

  26. 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.

    Have they discovered any way to increase lifespan without resorting to starvation?

    Birth conttrol. Duh!

  27. Winner.

    Disputed. I nominate J sub D.

  28. Zubon,

    Art’s comment made me swallow tobacco juice at my desk.

  29. That stand-up comedy is the first step to changing the world?

    It could be true. Every time I see Lisa Lampanelli I want to fight someone

  30. I just now got Art’s joke.

    Well played.

  31. Wired has a nice profile of conference organizer and anti-aging crusader Aubrey de Grey:

    Shouldn’t you only see one eye in a profile?

  32. “The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

    -Carl Sagan

  33. I still think that the longer we are able to live, the more we’ll become a bunch of pussies as a species. Think about it: you can live for 1000 years, assuming that you don’t do something stupid, like walk in front of a truck. I think Tolkien said something similar (and better worded) in the Silmarillian regarding the elves (who also could live effectively forever).

  34. (although, I read the MIT Tech Review interview with AdG, and he seemed more of a Wright Brother than a Bozo).

  35. Bozo the Clown, discoverer of the ozone hole, global climate change and the population bomb will never be thought of as a great thinker?

  36. Guy Montag, quite true, and as we all know, Carl Sagan was a dope smoking leftist LOON! Even worse, he believed in Global Warming and Evolution!

  37. e,

    He did come up with some crazy crap, like nuclear winter, vitamin c cures cancer, ozone hole will only cause cancer in Whites, etc. Yes, I saw him on C-SPAN talking about the last two to a large audience someplace.

  38. J Sub D,

    I was refering to the calorie restrictive diet being tested on lab mice.

  39. Josh,

    One of the guys who was in “Biosphere 2”, I think, was experimenting with that approach years ago. Forgot his name, but he had one of those long Foo-Man-Choo mustaches and a shaved head.

  40. I’ve been waiting for a semi-appropriate time to post this link. Click here and then click next use the force until you get to picture number four.

  41. Shawn,

    You are evil.

    But I will defend your evilness to the last drop of blood in the bodies of those to my left and right.

  42. I love that it’s called the Methuselah Foundation. All comp sci nerds are Heinlein fans.

  43. anonymous coward,

    You mean it isn’t Biblical?

    Color me shocked.

  44. “Do We Need Death?”

    I support the right of anyone who needs it to have access to it.

    Me, I wanna stay young and pretty forever.

  45. I love that it’s called the Methuselah Foundation. All comp sci nerds are Heinlein fans.

    Methinks the coinage predates Robert Heinlein.

    Me?thu?se?lah (m?-th?’z?-l?)

    A biblical patriarch said to have lived 969 years.

  46. One of the guys who was in “Biosphere 2”, I think, was experimenting with that approach years ago. Forgot his name, but he had one of those long Foo-Man-Choo mustaches and a shaved head.

    That would be Dr. Roy Walford, who died in 2004. visit: http://www.walford.com

  47. What is a bioethicist for?

    Mostly, for telling people that an early, miserable death is Right Thing.

  48. [Sagan] did come up with some crazy crap, like nuclear winter,

    I’m not going to worry about the other stuff, but why is nuclear winter crap?

  49. I’m not going to worry about the other stuff, but why is nuclear winter crap?

    I think the consenus is for nuclear warming now.

  50. TallDave,

    If a significant exchange of nuclear weapons creates enough smoke, dust, etc. and that stuff works in the atmosphere like debris clouds from large comet, etc. strikes work then a significant period of cooling (with the reduction in sunlight that entails) seems like at the very least a plausible hypothesis.

  51. Colin, we’re going to have to test the theory for some empirical analysis.

  52. If they were truly Heinlein fans, they would have called it the Howard foundation.

  53. Personally I still consider a “Logan’s Run” dystopia preferable to a “utopia” where no one dies.

    I would set the limit to 70 and see how fast the runners can run.

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