Methuselah Foundation PSA Videos

I'm slipping behind the times here, it seems; the recently produced batch of Methuselah Foundation public service announcement video slots were mentioned by the deathist authors at Futurisms before that topic made it to the head of my "yet to post" list. Those folk write well, actually; it is a pity that they feel, like Leon Kass, that the spirit and purpose of their conservatism is to stand in support of present suffering and barbarism against a bright future of cures, change, and progress. History will judge them unkindly, if it recalls them at all.

In any case, here are some of the videos that the Methuselah Foundation volunteers have been working on of late. See what you think:

Comments

I'm the guy who started wrangling with the Futurism guys at New Atlantis. Yeah, they are a pro-suffering and pro-death bunch. I think its pathetic, but I'm not about to say as much on their blog (I like to keep the conversation high-brow). So, I say so, but in a polite manner.

Posted by: kurt9 at November 13th, 2009 4:15 PM

Well, it looks to me that on the progress meter of ignore->ridicule->fight->lose, they're at what passes for the fighting stage in the world of high brow sociopolitical blogs. Next up is the part wherein we wake up one day to find that the everyday folk of the world have come to take for granted all the tenets and visions of transhumanism. Not too long now, I think.

Posted by: Reason at November 13th, 2009 4:51 PM

I've decided that their blog will be useful for me to expand on the social effects of post-mortality (i.e. how post-mortality will affect the demographics of China or Japan in 2050).

Posted by: kurt9 at November 13th, 2009 8:24 PM

I usually comment over at Futurisms, but thought I'd chime in on this post.

@Reason, I suspect you're right that sooner rather than later "the everyday folk of the world [will] have come to take for granted all the tenets and visions of transhumanism" - or at least many of them. If so, I suspect the immortal writers of history will strongly retain the memory of people such as Kass as a cautionary and/or vindicatory tale against 'the last of the Luddites.' Which would be a shame, as most of these people are by no means against technological advancement per se (I at least am not) - we're above all simply trying to consider what these changes will mean, and tend to evaluate them through a historically-informed philosophical viewpoint (I'm a grad student digging away at Aristotle).

@kurt9, thanks for being honest about your intentions and views, even if on the other 'side' of the interwebs. I had genuinely come to respect where you were coming from, thanks to our discussions. I'm sorry to hear that you instead view people like myself as being nothing more than "pathetic" but "useful" tools in your hands. You may have been trying to be polite, but you ought to realize that you haven't succeeded.

Posted by: Brian Boyd at November 14th, 2009 6:33 PM

[@Reason, a clarification: I meant to agree with you about the immediate target audience of those ads, not humanity as a whole. I consider libertarian transhumanism to be the pure expression of the Enlightenment project carried out with all mitigating influences (such as the memory of Christendom) stripped away - and as such, to be attractive to many heirs of the Enlightenment. But a key lesson of postmodernism is that the Enlightenment simply isn't going to be accepted by everybody; in fact it has been and will be consciously opposed by a number of traditions (most obviously, Islamism). Increasing education and wealth do tend to secularize people, but it simply isn't an inevitable process.]

Posted by: Brian Boyd at November 15th, 2009 1:50 AM

I agree. It's extremely silly to categorise everyone who is willing to critique and interrogate transhumanism as 'pro death' or 'pathetic'.

Firstly, it's lazy and pejorative. Secondly, it's inaccurate. Thirdly, such critiques are necessary and should be embraced as an essential pert of the transhumanist project. These are big questions and the science we're all talking about will have big implications. It's counterproductive and utopian to believe otherwise.

I say that as someone who is very pro life extension, by the way.

Posted by: Ben at November 15th, 2009 2:52 AM

I went ahead and posted on their site, just to express the intent of the "finger shot" and commercials that were being criticized --
A most interesting thread. The "finger" picture is actually a photoshop exercise done by an Mfoundation volunteer and sent to me. It's my face pasted on the head of a finger wagging body - but it did make me smile enough to post it on my FB page where it was nabbed. And, to some degree, it does capture my personal sense of outrage and anger about the general populations refusal to deal with aging as a disease. And I'm glad to see the distinction made here about “marketing”, because that’s precisely what the commercials and the picture are. We had some real trepidation about the “Aging Sucks!” commercial, but we truly want to extend the Mfoundation message (and support) into the more mainstream population and the campaign is working very well for us – that commercial in particular – driving some very real click-throughs to the Mfoundation website and newsletter subscriptions as well.

Posted by: Roger at November 15th, 2009 5:06 AM

@roger

Aging doe suck, however, the meaning of disease is subjective, but not so subjective as to include aging. Aging is normal, and not in the sense age cancer is normal. I am not sure about the best way to sell the concept of life extension but it being a disease is clearly falsified. The whole notion of disease relies upon average well being. Life extension is about enhancement not restoring a loss of function with age. Although the former view does sound better to conservative minds.

Posted by: Matthew at November 15th, 2009 3:30 PM

@Matthew

Life extension is really about restoring function that you used to have, but lost due to the aging process. This is restoration, not enhancement. An example of enhancement would be some kind of genetic tweak that increases our muscularity 2-3 times greater than it ever was naturally.

I see no reason to consider aging to be any more "normal" than cancer. I consider any physiological process that causes loss of biological function as a disease. Besides, I think it easier to sell life extension on this basis to people who may be leery of the kind of "enhancement" that athletes do. This is called good marketing and PR. We need more Madison Avenue in the transhumanist movement.

@Brian

Do you actually relate to and want to experience the suffering (physical and psychological) and the closing personal horizon (psychological) that is the result of the aging process? Do you really consider these things worth experiencing personally for "social structure"? I'm sorry if I come across as offensive. But you must understand that I really and truly despise the aging process and want to get free of it as soon as possible. If I come across as rude and insensitive, you must bear with me. The very personal nature of this issue makes it a rather emotional one for me.

The comments I make on the other blog with regards to economics and demographics are sincere. I am restating facts and recognized future projections with regards to these matters. I state these facts. Of course, my purpose and intent underlying anything that I say is to promote radical life extension. Don't be upset with this. All people (and media outlets) have their own personal biases. We are no different.

@Roger

I don't think your "bird" picture is that big of deal. This is just a simply gesture of defiance.
Anyone who is into life extension and has testosterone in their body (like me) probably got a kick out of it and said "right on!". I even think young women seeing it would get turned on by it as well. Women really do respond to subliminal messages of defiance and masculinity, despite any protest to the contrary on their part. I would not worry about their reaction, either. Remember, the alpha males score and betas do not. I think part of marketing transhumanism, at least in this society, is to somehow convince everyone that it is an alpha male (BTW, Roissy is an advocate of radical life extension). I don't think it reflects badly on you or the movement, in general. The New Atlantis people made a big deal out of it, not because they considered it a rude gesture, but because they appose the life extension agenda itself.

Posted by: kurt9 at November 16th, 2009 10:47 AM

@kurt9 -- I appreciate the (conditional) apology and explanation.
As for your questions, I'm in my mid-20s, so I don't have a full perspective on aging. Three years ago, however, I came down with ankylosing spondylitis, an (as yet) incurable autoimmune disease which causes serious pain and physical limitation; so I can at least begin to appreciate what you mean by a 'closing personal horizon.' This isn't the appropriate forum to go into details -- just wanted to emphasize that we all have an emotional stake in these issues.

Posted by: Brian Boyd at November 16th, 2009 2:01 PM

Below is a long email, posted elsewhere on this site, addressed to William Millard of the Millard Foundation. The reason for the email comes out in the opening lines. The science presented in the email may be a bit hard for the beginner to understand, and can be passed over as its details, especially as they appear in the published paper mentioned, are very esoteric. But for a more empirical grasp of what is being touted, one is encouraged to go to the site mentioned. The gist of the email is that de Grey's dismissal of metabolic considerations in favor of spectacular, expensive medical interventions for everyman as he runds down, will result in nothing being available for a long, long time; and that de Grey's own recorded assertions about widespread ignorance of metabolism remove any authority he might bring to the dismissal.

Enjoy. It's a long one.

Mr. William Millard,
Having witnessed your video "Regenerative Medicine: Why and When?," and upon hearing your invitation at its finish to contact you if I wanted to help advance the first regenerative protocol, I wrote the following letter.
First I would like to say that all of the approaches to regeneration of aging bodies or amelioration of age-related decrepitude discussed in the video are unrealistically expensive even if they should be made feasible, and this makes them elitist and irrelevant to the people of the world.  Secondly, none of them is anything more than an ad hoc, stop-gap measure introduced at a time in life when the cascade of systemic problems starts to become a torrent.  Too much sand in the hour glass has rundown.
Thirdly, and most importantly, I want to direct your attention to the presentation of Aubrey de Grey.  De Grey claims at one and the same time that there is still a lot of ignorance about the nature of metabolism, and that it is the corrosive part of metabolism that causes the pathology whose accumulation shows up as the deterioration of aging.  De Grey is only correct about the first part.  That ignorance shows up in the second part.  The deterioration is a result of too little metabolism, which in and of itself is not at all corrosive.  The problem occurs with de Grey's understanding of metabolism in particular, and with the opacity of the concept in the life sciences in general.
Neither de Grey nor life scientists are adequately informed of the nature of chemical energy.  The study of metabolism began as consideration of heat retention and loss.  And although metabolic measurement has advanced to quantification of sugar and oxygen consumption in vitro, in vivo measurement too is limited to measurement of these things in moments of equilibrium, that is, when the patient is at rest and not having had eaten for 12 or more hours prior to measurements.  Those making the measurements in both cases can neither handle deviations from equilibrium, nor can they determine how much of either (oxygen or sugar) went to heat production.  In fact the inclusion of thermogenesis as part of metabolism removes any consideration of efficiency when caloric expenditure is calibrated.
This shortcoming is no more starkly demonstrated than in the field of mathematical biology, where a power law called Kleiber's Law is used to describe the relation between metabolic rate and body mass.  The most common and recent handling of the equation is that termed quarter power scaling.  The major proponents of this version of the law (West, Enquist, Savage, Brown, etc.) suggest that within it are held perhaps the secret to aging.  Data from metabolic energy measurement across hundreds of species do not support the relevance of the equation.  The eponymous Max Kleiber arrived at the equation in the early 30's upon consideration of heat generation of an assortment of species.  The term for metabolic rate is in calories/sec.  As I said above, techniques of measurement have changed, though thermogenesis is still considered part of metabolism.
In a recently published paper of mine, "The terrestrial evolution of metabolism and life - by the numbers" (Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, an on-line journal) the term for efficiency was introduced, where efficiency was measured against loss to heat.  Thermogenesis was ruled out as a metabolic consideration except to the extent that it affected the term for efficiency.  Efficiency was a redox coupling ratio of amperes to amperes.  Metabolic rate was expressed in watts.  Unlike the standard approach to metabolism presumed by quarter power scaling, in which efficiency is assumed to be 100%, an approach that rules out thermogenesis as part of metabolism suggests efficiency is lower than 35% for most creatures.
Thermogenesis was not a consideration in the origins of life at submarine volcanic vents.  Thermogenesis is not a consideration for phytoplankton multiplying on the submerged surface of antarctic icebergs.  What is important in both cases is the generation of the covalent bonds of organic molecules necessary for growth and reproduction.  Consider now the predominant metaphor of the cell as a battery.  The understanding of life's origins, and its longevity, must be viewed in these terms, where the battery is an organic battery.  Metabolic rate becomes recharge rate.  In the paper mentioned above, Kleiber's Law is considered in these terms.  These terms deal solely with the essentials of life: water, energy, organic molecules, and salt.  The organic molecules, and their aggregations, expressed in grams, are then considered in terms of their electrical properties, expressed in the term metabolic efficiency.
What the paper then deals with is an examination of the morphogenetic influences of the thermodynamic pressures for equilibrium, given fluctuations in energy availability, and in the electrical properties of the biomass that capture and expend that energy in growth and replication.  And it is in the graph and table of numbers for this equation [Metabolic rate = grams biomass (4x efficiency - 1)/4x efficiency] that the secrets to the aging process and the energetic nature of all biological organization can be plumbed.  The equation models the effects of caloric restriction on longevity.  It models the energetic conditions present at the start of life at submarine volcanic vents, and how life had to change to survive and flourish on the ascent to the surface.
The paper deals with these issues.  In the conclusion are presented some inferences based upon the math and the idea the same forces and pressures there at the start of life, are still what drives it and determines its phases today.  These inferences deal with the use of battery discharge into the body to alter the exponent of biomass so that metabolic recharge rate increases, thereby increasing the endurance of the organic battery that is a human being.  The numbers behind the inference suggest fit human life span can be extended easily.  The key inference is muscle cell mass can be maintained and increased through this discharge, overcoming debilitation from disuse following prolonged bed-rest, stroke, concussion, immobilization, and the degeneration of aging.  It is cheap.  It is easy.  It is here now.  And there is historical evidence supporting this claim.  In this regard I direct you to the essay on electrotherapy at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Gregory_O%27Kelly/Sandbox .
I have already attempted several times over the years to interest Aubrey de Grey in this.  The man, being a traditionally trained geneticist (as you can see in his presentation in your video) is ignorant of the details of metabolism.  And, no doubt, he is ignorant of the physics of batteries and covalent bonds.  Yet I am sure he, or you, have people who are capable of understanding the mathematics.  Currently I am awaiting peer review upon a follow-up paper, "Parsing the numbers - lessons from the allometric scaling of metabolism," that goes into a more involved mathematical analysis, pointing out the relevance of the numbers for a variety of things from weight regain after dieting, to mutation, fermentation, and the relation between food and reproduction for creatures large and small.  And how, again, battery discharge into the body can aid in weight loss, prevent mutation, and restore the integrity and functionality of somatic and nervous structures.
I encourage you to investigate the first paper at the site for Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling.  Hidden within it is the justification for the investigation of a regenerative and revivifying protocol that is here today, and available even for the poor and downtrodden.

Posted by: Gregory O'Kelly at November 19th, 2009 5:46 PM

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