Aubrey de Grey Podcast, More on the SENS Challenge

Biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey was interviewed recently for a Boston area radio show, Tech Talk With Craig Peterson. Via the miracles of modern technology, the podcast is ready and waiting for your attention:

Aubrey De Grey, a biogerontologist from University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom joins Craig to discuss the technology of regeneration and what advancements are currently taking place.

While we're here, I thought I'd also point your attention to a couple more items from the blogosphere and healthy life extension community on the SENS Challenge and related matters.

Color me confused:

So some people are going to use learned debate to prove something is unworthy thereof? Sounds a bit self-defeating to me.

What does Aubrey de Grey need to have a shot at achieving his goals?

If I understand correctly, de Grey wants one billion dollars for a decade long research program that he would spearhead in an attempt to make major progress in the war against aging. Is this correct? And I'm curious to know if list members think this is enough money and/or time to achieve his goals. Finally, what do you think the odds are that any government agency or very wealthy private individual will put forward the money so he can try to make his ideas a reality?

A good conversation is underway in the comments to this last post - you can find the answer to the first question at least at the SENS website, within the outline for the Institute for Biomedical Gerontology. This, more than the science, is the struggle we face: to raise the large-scale funding needed, and to bring into being a growing, self-perpetuating research culture and infrastructure to best make use of those funds. It is not rocket science, and has been accomplished a number of times within the past few decades for specific research goals: AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer's, for example. But it is not easy. It will require a great deal of work from a great many people - but we must achieve this goal, and soon, if we are to see radical life extension within our lifetimes.

Transhumanism: The SENS Challenge:

Three people have responded to the $20k prize for critiques of Aubrey de Grey's SENS proposal. They need to show that it is "unworthy of learned debate", which is obviously an extremely high barrier, since the very act of submitting a critique is a type of "learned debate" (i.e. the challenge is almost self-denying, in a sense). Nevertheless, it's extremely important to get critiques of the SENS plan out into the open, both so that we can learn if there are real problems with the plan, and so we can learn from those real problems. Maybe a SENS+ plan will work better?


To go to an even bigger big picture, I wish these guys would sit down with Aubrey and actually work on some kind of "SENS+" thing that they can agree is a good plan for addressing the causes of aging. Their own research is already doing this in a piecemeal way, from a roundabout disease-based direction, and you'd think that a "big picture" of the field that they can all agree on would have a beneficial effect in terms of optimizing the distribution of research efforts on a global scale. Their resistance to SENS as given should be inspiring them to make a better SENS, not to go on a pseudoscience witch hunt. I think that the general term 'anti-aging' scares them because of it's power, and that's why the field has shied away from it in the past. They need to get over their fears and accept their proper role as heroes in pursuit of an ancient human dream.

A lot of interesting opinions in there; it's a long piece, so read the whole thing. As with a number of other people, the poster doesn't think any of these challenge submissions will merit the pot - but that's very much in the hands of the judges now. Hopefully they'll be thinking along the same lines.

UPDATE 06/15/2006: I just missed another good, long set of thoughts from Anne C.

What I've read and managed to process so far of the challenge submissions, rebuttals, and counter-arguments seems to indicate that even in the scientific community (except for a noted few), the very notion of drastically extending human lives is considered to be so unfathomable as to be unworthy of true scientific consideration. One thing that struck me about the challenge submissions was the space taken up by offering definitions of pseudoscience and quackery -- definitions that are most likely understood quite readily by the average skeptically-minded armchair philosopher, and that any serious scientist would most likely have to understand in order to become and work as a scientist in the first place.

In general, this SENS Challenge exercise is proving to be very illuminating in terms of drawing out the wide range of views from folk within and without the healthy life extension community. This, I think, is a very good thing. More discussion means more support means more progress.

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