The Skeptics and the Peripherally Interested

An unfortunate fact of life for anyone engaged in trying to persuade the world to adopt a new point of view - that crash development of rejuvenation biotechnology is a good and plausible idea, for example - is that people who are skeptical or only vaguely interested in your ideas don't tend to be vocal or engaged. So it's hard to assess their views in comparison to those people who have already been won over. This is simply a matter of priorities: when people take the time to publish their thoughts and lucid arguments, they tend to do so for their own causes, for the ideas they agree with. Time is, after all, fleeting - there are only so many blog posts and essays that can be written in any one life.

So as an advocate or activist, one has to pay attention to this hole in awareness; it's one of the things that makes advocacy a challenge. You're often none the wiser as to exactly how or why vast swathes of the population manage to be unresponsive to your message and outreach efforts. They know, but getting them to tell you is like blood from a stone.

On this topic, I see that Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Foundation recently gave a talk in Baltimore on SENS and the path to rejuvenation biotechnology. One of those attending was Kavan Peterson, a writer from ChangingAging, which is something of a pro-aging organization - both in the sense of empowerment and opposition to ageism, which are noble causes, but also in the less desirable sense of apologism for aging. There are already far too many talking heads trying to persuade the world that progressively accumulating pain, suffering, and loss of function are just fine and dandy. In any case Peterson, unlike most skeptics, took the time to write. So we should take the time to learn from that:

The Immortal Life? An Evening With Aubrey de Grey

I am skeptical of de Grey's work and I'll use his own introduction to explain why: "It may seem premature to be discussing the elimination of human aging as a cause of death, when so little progress has been made in even postponing it says Aubrey de Grey." That's right - despite all the marvels of modern medical science, there is absolutely zero evidence that any known treatment has ever extended human life by a single day. Immortality is as fantastical an idea today as it was in ancient times.

My Evening With Aubrey de Grey

I'd like to think of as the preeminent pro-aging blog so it was a great opportunity to talk to the world's leading anti-aging advocate. And surprisingly I came away with the impression that although our rhetoric is wildly divergent - as divergent as anti- vs pro-aging rhetoric can be - we share similar goals.

First, where we diverge - as our masthead says, we look at human aging "as a strength, rich in developmental potential and growth." De Grey argues aging is "obviously, unequivocally humanity's worst problem."

That's a big difference. But lets look at our goals.

You should read the rest of it; this is an example of the type of person we'd like to persuade to support SENS and the broader field of work on repair-based strategies to reverse aging. Separately, I noticed another blog post from a different attendee, one who falls into the category of peripherally interested, I believe. She made this remark:

I asked the question: "There are assumptions in your theory, that the patient will get to the doctor on time, that the doctor is well trained in this new technology, and that the insurance companies will pay for these services." His answer was that his main focus is on the biological aspect and that these issues will come up and will need to be addressed at some point.

Also worth learning from.


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