Accelerating Longevity and No Comment

I thought I would draw your attention to a pair of long, excellent posts from two other healthy life extension blogs. Firstly, Jay Fox writes on accelerating change and the implications for longevity science:

"The intuitive view is that the pace [of technology] will continue at the current rate," despite the fact that "a serious assessment of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential."


The take-home message here is not that technology is incapable of increasing lifespan beyond the treatment of a few diseases, but that there is a whole frontier of biomedical research which has the capacity to greatly extend lifespan.

Meanwhile, Kevin Perrott points out the "a peculiar new-found reluctance on the part of a few of Aubrey de Grey's colleagues to provide opinion on his theories" over at Health Extension:

There was a time not too long ago when much more vociferous denounciation was available.

Declining to comment because they don't want to endorse his work however is a bit thin I think. Perhaps they just might as well say that they have not read his work enough to formulate an opinion for if they had, surely these highly trained individuals would be able to logically refute his theories based on their vast knowledge?


Well, I for one would like to hear a little more commenting and some proper debate. I have been following reasonably closely how the biogerontology community responds to de Grey's theories and have yet to encounter any well thought out and researched position which can justify saying that what he proposes is not possible. Quite the reverse, we are faced everyday with much that indicates that his proposals are likely.

I think that "no comment" is a promising sign - it shows that those scientists most closely connected to aging research are starting to take Aubrey de Grey's work more seriously. In other words, realizing that they cannot just dismiss it out of hand when they cannot muster a proper debate or appropriate level of familiarity with the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) proposals. The next step, as SENS gains more support and influence, is for these scientists to become familiar with this work, participate in scientific debate on the details and merits, conduct research, and thereby make progress in the fight to cure aging.


The rate of technological innovation in any particular field is based on the increasing performance/cost ratio of the instrumentation that is used in the technology.

In the case of biotechnology, the analytical tools (gene sequencers, sythesizers, microarray and microfluidics tools and the like) are continually improving and the cost decreasing. This is particularly true for microarrays and microfluidics. If this trend continues (and I seeno reason why it would not) one can assume that biotech, in general, will undergo a "Moore's Law" like development path similar to that of semiconductors.

This trend is likely to continue because the tools themselves are based on semiconductor and the emerging nanotechnology. The cost of doing research should decrease along with the price of the tools.

The cost of the tools is relevant. If a particular state of the art tool costs $20,000, many more researchers can afford it than if it were to cost $200,000 or even $2million.

Just looking at websites such as BioCompare as well as catalogs like BioSupplyNet shows that biotechnology is an intensely competitive industry with many, many players.

Gene vectors and cloning systems are a common staple in these catalogs. Lines of stem cells, growth media, and automated cultivation systems are another competitive area in the industry. These products are easily found in the catalogs.
This stuff is getting so cheap that it is diffcult to build an import/export business on these products.

The capital cost of a state of the art biotechnology lab continues to drop, where as its research capability continues to increase.

This suggests to me that if noone did anything with Aubry de grey's SENS proposal, that it would be much cheaper to do 10 years from now than it is now.

In business, this is called the barrier to entry. If the cost continues to decrease, the number of laboratories doing this kind of research will continue to increase, thus accelerating the rate of development.

I should think that if aging is not cured by 2050, that a lone researcher working on a limited budget should be able to develop the cure using the tools that are available in 2050.

Physics research is about to undergo such a revolution. The recent development of femptosecond pulse-width lasers in table-top format is allowing for fusion research to be conducted in table-top apparatus. This means that the billion dollar colliders and accelerators may not be necessary for certain areas of physics research.

There are on going attempts to make optical "black holes" in table top systems using bose-einstein condensate. Similar table-top apparati are being used to scale up quantum mechanical phenomenon such as quantum tunneling and the like.

Any guesses on where this stuff might lead to?

Posted by: Kurt at March 20th, 2005 12:27 PM

It's hard to say where we'll be in 2050; it certainly looks to be the case the regulatory burdens and other means of slowing down and discouraging the individual scientist or small team will increase as the technology gets better. That won't stop the people who will do it anyway, but it will greatly slow progression from breakthrough to widely available therapy - at least so long as the actual practice of medicine remains centralized and socialized. Nanotech and replicative technologies offer a way around that, just as they do for centralization in manufacturing, but that's further out than I care to speculate on.

My focus is very much on the next ten years - making sure that directed anti-aging research gets the publicity, public acceptance and funding ramp-up that it needs to make use of all this wonderful technology that is in the pipeline. Otherwise we face the situation of it being 2025, with nanomedicine quite capable of being applied to the aging process, but a lack of organizations and knowledge to apply it.

Posted by: Reason at March 20th, 2005 5:23 PM
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