"Raging Against Aging" Transcript

Via transhumantech, we have a transcript of Anders Sandberg's presentation on healthy life extension in Second Life. I can't say I think these virtual spaces have gone far enough past prettified chatrooms and teleconferences to be a genuinely new thing, but not being there does mean you miss out on the slides - just like the first life we're all working on. You'll have to scroll down a ways (to the [10:22] mark) to get past the pre-presentation chatter. Some excerpts:

[10:27] Anders Nadir: The scientific study of the causes of ageing, biogerontology, is a young science that developed after WW II and was still often ridiculed by researchers from other field as late as the 1970's. What possible use could it have?

[10:28] Anders Nadir: Ageing is natural, and it was said that we needed to treat the many diseases of old age, not aging itself. The field was associated with generations of quacks, alchemists and other suspect characters seeking the elixir of youth. Even today when the field is mature and produces a steady stream of scientific discoveries most researchers are unwilling to speculate on where our knowledge may lead us. They often point out that we do not know any scientifically proven ways of even slowing ageing in humans. But that is just part of the story.


[10:30] Anders Nadir: Experts have time and again estimated limits to this trend: the curve has to stop somewhere. So far they have been wrong. On average their predictions are proven too pessimistic just five years after being made. This is unsettling, since it suggests that the models used to plan our pension systems and health care likely underestimate how long the people of the future will live. If the current trend continues for 60 more years the average lifespan in 2066 will be around a hundred years. But there are reasons to think this is an underestimate, because ageing itself is now under attack.


[10:33] Anders Nadir: The new consensus in biogerontology is that ageing is not inevitable.

[10:33] Anders Nadir: That bears noting, because it goes again so much established wisdom. Even if one does not expect radical life extension it suggests that the length and possibly shape of life can be changed deliberately. And given human motivation, it is likely that it will.


[10:42] Anders Nadir: In the past there was little chance of actually doing much about ageing, so it would actually have been rational to accept limited lifespan as any other inevitability. But given the current technological state it seems that the opposite is true: it would be irrational to not want to at least fix the negative aspects of ageing.

As I may have remarked upon before, the core concepts of transhumanism - of which healthy life extension is one of the foremost - are spreading, mixing, changing and diluting as the rest of the world catches up to an acceptance of what was once fringe and radical. Such is the way ideas and their cultural packaging evolve. What is self-evident to a few futurists - and no-one else - in one decade is greeted with a shrug and "of course" by the man in the street three decades later, long after the first, small groups of evangelists completed their work, and generations of subcultures have arrived, grown, whithered and died.

We are somewhere between those two extremes today, insofar as healthy life extension goes, and working hard to bring the concept to a wider audience. When most people see extending their healthy life span as feasible, the pool of those willing to step forward and help out grows large indeed - and then progress begins in earnest. Many hands make light work.

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I found that thread to be somewhat depressing, because of the number of people participating who displayed an amazing depth of ignorance ("prohibition of the 30's"), some of whom obviously didn't bother to read what Anders Nadir was actually saying. As a cross section of the longevity community, it was pretty sad to read, in particular the "Dresden Nakatani" account was pure noise with no value at all.

I do like one comment by Nadir: he states he's talking about "longevity Internet not longevity television", that's a nice thought with some deeper implications. Thanks for pointing to the discussion.

Posted by: Observer at December 19th, 2006 1:18 PM

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