So What Is the Difference Between Drexler and de Grey?

Glenn Reynolds made an interesting comment on the recent openDemocracy article that, at one point, compares biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey to nanotechnology visionary Eric Drexler:

I think that de Grey is a bit naive in saying that because people are cordial and give him intellectual respect, he's safe. Drexler got the same respect and courtesy, until he didn't. ... De Grey is probably safe from such attacks, but it's because the political configuration is different.

Phil Bowermaster suggests:

I wonder if Aubrey is treated better because this issue strikes closer to home? We all have a vested interest in life extension. And it may be true that we also all have a vested interest in nanotechnology, but that isn't as readily apparent to most observers.

The attacks on Drexler - and on advanced nanomedicine at one point - were really quite beyond the pale. It was all a part of short-termist posturing on the part of certain pigs scrabbling at the government trough; pretty despicable stuff. Do prominent advocates for radical life extension have this sort of thing to look forward to in the future?

An analogous scenario for scientific anti-aging research would be if the moderates prosper - say that metabolic tinkering, an outgrowth of calorie restriction research, expands into a large industry with the real promise of 10 or 20-year healthy life extension. The industry spawned by these moderates, bolstered by publicity and public enthusiasm, then starts after major government funding ... but they decide that they need those darned advocates for radical life extension technologies - far beyond 10 or 20 year increases - to go away and stop scaring the fishes.

I think there is a credible case that we can obtain far, far better results than those derived from manipulating the genes and biochemical processes at the intersection of metabolism and longevity. It is a stepping stone, just as the nanotechnology industry of today is a stepping stone to far more impressive capabilities. It serves us all poorly for stepping stones to be sabotaging the pathway ahead - hopefully this will not be the case for the future of longevity research.

More than just hoping, I think we can do our part through advocacy aimed at ensuring that support for plausible research aimed at near-term results in radical life extension becomes the moderate, dominant position.

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