Ethan Zuckerman was blogging biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey's presentation at the BIL conference. Scroll down in his post for that section:
Gerontologist Aubrey de Grey has spoken at TED previously, and presented this year at TED University, a preconference event that focuses on short, practical talks. He gives this talk, called “Not the TED Commandments, or How to Be a Successful Heretic” to the BIL stage. de Grey is a phenomenally successful heretic - he’s the [cofounder of the Methuselah Foundation], and he’s been systematically challenging thinking about life extension for the past dozen years.
The set of thoughts on successful organized heresy - otherwise known as bringing about radical, lasting change in a community - is a good insight into the DNA of the Methuselah Foundation. The Foundation might be viewed as an organized heresy in the making that aims to reform gerontology into a goal-oriented community working to repair aging. It's also good advice for anyone seeking to build an organization around a vision that manages to Get Stuff Done.
1. Be right (diligence before oratory). He quotes Sean Carroll: "Being a heretic is hard work". It’s not enough to disagree with mainstream thinking - you actually have to be correct. "Galileo was a heretic, but understood the reigning orthodoxy at the time better than anyone else." Very few people work that hard: "Many casual heretics can’t be bothered."
3. Be a doer (as well as a talker). One reason to take de Grey seriously is the number of people who’ve taken him seriously, pledging huge sums to support his research. (I plan to steal his methodology for Global Voices.) You have to work very hard to raise these sorts of sums… and fundraising is a form of doing, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
8. Be inspirational (and have a team that’s organizational). (Oh man, is this one true.)
9. Be selfless (remember that control is only a means to an end) - Don’t control all your work too carefully - you make progress by reliquishing control to other people to take your idea forward.
Those last two above are particularly important in the history of the Methuselah Foundation and the development of now ongoing Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence research. They quite accurately encapsulate how to be successful as the point of the spear, the tip of a change process that, in the end, will lead to a growing, self-sustaining community with its own vision and ownership of the progress made.