A Transcript of "Elixir of Life"

An Australian program featuring researchers Aubrey de Grey and David Sinclair: "It feels like science fiction, but it's actually true. And we're really at the cutting edge, it's a really exciting time in the field right now. ... There's no such thing as ageing gracefully. I don't meet people who want to get Alzheimer's disease, or who want to get cancer or arthritis or any of the other things that afflict the elderly. Ageing is bad for you, and we better just actually accept that. As far as I'm concerned, ageing is humanity's worst problem, by some serious distance. ... Now if you think that's an overstatement, consider this: world-wide, a hundred and fifty thousand people die each day, two-thirds of them from ageing. That means potentially one hundred thousand people could be saved every day with therapies that combat ageing. ... Ageing is simply and clearly, the accumulation of damage in the body. That's all that ageing is. What it's going to take is development of thoroughly comprehensive regenerative medicine for ageing. That means medicine which can repair the molecular and cellular damage that accumulates in our bodies throughout life, as side effects of our normal metabolic processes. ... We do not know what humanity of the future is going to want to do. If thirty or fifty years from now people don't have the problems that we thought they might have, but we didn't develop those therapies, so those people have to die anyway, after a long period of decrepitude and disease, then they're not going to be terribly happy are they? That's why we have a moral obligation to develop these technologies as soon as possible."

Link: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3465499.htm


I see the typical spate of anti-human sentiment over in the comment section below the linked transcript. The first poster there expresses that he would like Aubrey to be murdered, then continues that he would like billions of people to be murdered. Not only is nobody bothered by this, but he gets a polite response from the moderator without any hint of condemnation. I think such examples illustrate a defect in public discourse and morality.

Posted by: Jose at March 30th, 2012 11:34 PM

I see the typical spate of anti-human sentiment over in the comment section below the linked transcript.

Having lived in Asia for 10 years, with lots of opportunities to discuss life extension in bars with other expats, I can tell you that the "deathist" attitudes are a lot more entrenched in the other Western countries than the U.S. The Australians were mixed. I think the reason for this disparity of attitude between the U.S. and the rest of the Western world (with Australian being in the middle) is because the U.S. was founded by pioneers. The pioneering spirit is the basis for the U.S. society. Australia has this to some extent, but not as much as the U.S. Europe does not have the pioneering spirit at all. It is still based on feudalism (in actuality, socialism is a form of feudalism). Canada is more like Europe than the U.S. in such attitudes (remember, they were the Loyalists).

In many discussions in expat bars, I have found the above generalization to be true about any advanced technology/cause (curing aging, space settlement, etc.). The exceptions were the expats themselves, who are often open to ideas that their countrymen reject (they ARE expats, after all).

I consider this as evidence of the "end of the Ming Dynasty moment" for much of the Western world. That's why I don't expect much out of the rest of the Western world for the development of life extension (and for technology development, in general).

It is worth noting that in its heyday, almost all of the local chapters of the L5-Society were in the U.S. Americans are pioneers. The rest of the world is not.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at March 31st, 2012 9:01 AM

Thanks for the comments Abelard. I try to hope for the best, but most of the evidence supports your Ming Dynasty thesis. The Western world, for lack of a more elegant turn of phrase, has lost its nerve.

Few predicted this would happen. It seemed like the scientific method, once discovered, would in free societies inevitably mean an upward spiral of progress. Even those who foresaw the dangers of bureaucratization did not fully realize the cultural shift that would occur, whereby medieval Chinese levels of risk adversion and lack of vision for the future would take over the West.

But I don't have much hope for Asia, unfortunately. East Asia has shown a talent for rapidly joining the West on the technological frontier, but once it reaches that frontier, as Japan and then South Korea did, it encounters the same crisis that the West is experiencing.

Posted by: Ranjit Suresh at April 2nd, 2012 12:47 AM

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