Chatting With S. Jay Olshansky

Frank from Anti-Aging Medicine & Science sat in on the Immortality Institute's latest online chat session, this time with S. Jay Olshansky as a guest. He comments:

I came away from the chat with the feeling that Professor Olshansky has been unfairly villanized by some in the anti-aging community. Folks, he's on our side. While he doesn't see radical life extension happening any time soon, he believes that anti-aging work should be done and he is a supporter of the Methuselah Mouse Prize.

I've probably done my share of unfair villanizing in the past, but in my defense I should note that Olshansky has changed his public position on healthy life extension over time. The positive spin to put to that is that Aubrey de Grey is succeeding in his fight to bring the scientific community around to his way of thinking about things. The sort of criticisms I have applied in the past to Olshansky are still true for many other prominent folks in the research community; people whose public and private stances on healthy life extension research are quite different, or who refuse to address the issue publicly in a substantiative way. Progress at this early stage is a matter of broading and expanding the discussion as much as anything else.

UPDATE: You can find the chat log in the discussion thread for the chat session. Go read it - interesting stuff.

[17:01] <BJKlein> Jay, so why are you picking on us?
[17:01] <JayO> because I want you to succeed.

I have also done my share of villanizing of Professor Olshansky. Perhaps, I too, need to back off a bit. I think Reason is right in that his attitudes may have changed over time as a result of SENS.

In any case, I think the Mprize and private finance of anti-aging is the way to go. We will not convince governments of the possibility of immortality until it actually becomes a reality and its rubbed in their noses.

I actually think that people like Francis Fukuyama and Daniel Callahan will come around to our side in the next few years. I have looked through both Fukuyama's and Callahan's books. Both of their objections to life-extension seem to be rooted in the notion that it would result in more years of decrepitude, rather than as complete rejuventation.

Only Leon Kass seems to be have an ideological obsession with death. I think in the years ahead, he will become increasingly isolated with this attitude.

Posted by: Kurt at May 23rd, 2005 9:23 AM

From the chat last night, Jay seems quite different to what the media portrays him to be like. He has some good points I think and It's good to know that he wants Life extension and thinks its a good thing. Some of the articles Iv'e seen around made me think that he hated the idea of radical Life extension. Hmmm.

His predictions that there will not likely be major breakthroughs in the next few decades to enable radical life extension is not something most of us agree with. But he's just being very skeptical I guess.

Posted by: Matt at May 23rd, 2005 11:34 AM

I still want to know what he ate for breakfast.


Posted by: April at May 23rd, 2005 1:51 PM

I have to side with S. Jay Olshansky. We can not remotely identify even a fraction of the cause of aging to merit a full-blown cure in the next five to eight decades. The recent stem cell breakthrough in Korea I personally see as only an incremental step towards a decent intervention in the aging process.

Posted by: MysticMonkeyGuru at May 23rd, 2005 6:14 PM

Hi all. The chat the other evening was fun. Contrary to what some are saying, I have not changed my public or private position on healthy life extension one bit since I started writing on the topic in the early 1980s. I would encourage you to read our articles -- what I said the other night during the chat I said two decades ago, with the exception of specific reference to the ideas of my friend Aubrey which are more recent.

And April, for breakfast almost every morning I have a fresh orange or grapefruit (or other piece of fresh fruit), 1 oz. of cheese or a small non-fat yoghurt, and a small number of almonds and walnuts. FYI, I've changed my dietary habits in the past year based on advice from my friends the Willcox brothers who study Okinawans. I've gone to 5-6 small meals a day and my weight has been dropping steadily, with no more food cravings.

S. Jay Olshansky

Posted by: S. Jay Olshansky at May 24th, 2005 7:45 AM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.