Bad Points on a Good Foundation

The Technology Review is reprinting the satirical exchange between Richard Miller and Aubrey de Grey on the topic of the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence approach to the future of medicine. Please do feel free to add your comments to those already there at the foot of the article.

That wasn't what caught my eye, however. It was this post on the part of David Rotman. It really is a poor piece of work despite the basic truth of the premise: there is a great deal of similarity between the debates within gerontology over the future development of anti-aging medicine and those within the nanotechnology research community over the future of molecular manufacturing. The backdrop is similar too: marketeers pushing nanopants on one side, and life extension pills or worse on the other.

The old guard of researchers in both cases are, for whatever reason, reluctant to embrace change and rapid progress, overly skeptical of approaches that may bring results more quickly. That said, it would take a mindset particularly resistant to reality at this point to think that Richard Smalley was leading a heroic charge against "nano fantasists." He was calling them as he saw them, and all of his relevant points have been disproven or debunked; end of story. Smalley's "higher" goals - such as attacking true visionaries like Drexler, or trying to deflate what he saw as hype that would damage funding prospects - were neither noble nor worthy. I posted briefly on this whole sordid nanotechnology industry episode back when it threatened to spill over into the trashing of advanced nanomedicine as a worthy line of research.

Sadly, I can see much of the same all-too-human action at work in the debate within and around gerontology over engineered longevity. So let us just set this down here in stone: the scientific basis for the future of molecular manufacturing and advanced nanotechnology - both in and out of medicine - is very sound. So is the scientific basis for the future of working anti-aging medicine. Getting from here to there is a "just" a matter of a great deal of funding and hard work. Arguing against the fruition of either field of science is simply not a job with long-term prospects.

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