SENS: Defeating Aging and the Avenues Ahead
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Earlier this week I pointed out the first part of a three part series by Eric Schulke of the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension. Taken as a whole it's a point by point examination and defense of SENS, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, as the best path forward towards extending human life. Moreover it is a defense of getting up and actually doing something about degenerative aging - and these days that has more need of defense than the viability of rejuvenation research after the SENS model.

We live in a bizarre mirror world in which the populace sleepwalk towards decrepitude and death, and in which the vast majority of the public have no interest in supporting efforts to extend healthy life spans. Instead they lavish their attention and dollars on fake "anti-aging" products, ways to create a pretense of youth, while talking heads tell us how terrible it would be if we actually lived longer. Yet at the same time the possibility of actually treating and reversing degenerative aging is right there in front of us, a realistic near-term goal for the research community. Further, we already live longer, on average, than our ancestors, and life expectancy for adults has slowly risen for more than a century - something taken for granted and then forgotten. It's a madhouse.

I like to see enthusiasm for longevity science of the sort exhibited in the articles quoted below: people have to speak out to illustrate the madness of the common culture and the importance of work on human rejuvenation therapies. It is helpful and encouraging that sentiments of this nature continue to emerge from the community. This is what is needed to move the needle, to continue the progress in research and advocacy that in the past decade or two has brought us from nothing to the point at which we can talk at all about SENS and tangible progress towards rejuvenation of the old.

Defeating aging, and the avenues ahead of us: Part 1

"[...] the most promising ways to postpone aging are by disrupting the pathways underlying it, just as we do for specific diseases." That line sums up an important element of strategies for engineering negligible senescence (SENS) in Aubrey de Grey's book Ending Aging, published in 2007. The book outlines the straightforward sense in disrupting the pathways that cause us to age: by engineering the damage of aging out of our biology after the body has experienced the damage, but before the damage accumulates to deadly levels.

Defeating aging, and the avenues ahead of us: Part 2

There seem to be only those seven forms of damage that age us to death by accumulating in and around our cells. These forms of damage have been discovered by science over the years, the last one being found in the 1980s. It's not "seven plus all the ones we can't get a grip on or figure out yet." It's not "seven just because these are Aubrey's or some group's favorite seven", and it's not "seven but we have absolutely no idea how we could even begin to think about tackling any of them." This isn't a widely disputed list of items. It has accumulated and been independently peer-reviewed through all of science over time.

As written in Ending Aging, "You could stop thinking of aging as a hopelessly complex theoretical problem to solve, and get on with attacking it head-on, as an engineering challenge that needed to be overcome." You can, and you must. At the very least, this engineering approach is one of the main avenues that needs full support of as many people from around the world as possible, and as soon as possible.

Defeating aging, and the avenues ahead of us: Part 3

Act like you've seen the growing graveyards in your area, and face the reality that you, too, will be dead soon if the world, which includes you, doesn't rise to the challenge and do something about it.

Almost everything you do can and should involve this cause. Going on vacation? Bring some books or literature about this to give away. Socializing? Talk to them about it a bit and hang out with the ones that are amicable to this cause when you can. Going on the Internet? Be sure to share or comment on a related topic or three when you can. Looking for a career to get into or ways to spend your free time? Get involved with this cause. I and the people I know do these things and more.

Pick up the proverbial shovel and help with SENS. Help spread awareness, bring more people into the related conferences, write books, work with the media, talk to politicians, etc. Go into research if you have the aptitude for it. You can pick any lead that you find to be viable. Research existing methods to combat the damage, create your own methods, or do an exhaustive study to try to make the case for forms of damage in addition to the seven generally accepted types. Get in where you fit in.

If you need help with it, then ask in just about any of the communities involved in this. Help us get these mountains moved. Through exhausting more and more avenues and pathways, the picture will continue getting clearer. Answers to achieving negligible senescence and extending our happy, healthy life spans, will materialize. There is no "well, it can't work", "they aren't sure if we should yet", "it's too speculative", etc. It's not. We are dying, we have options, we get moving.

Comments

"We live in a bizarre mirror world in which the populace sleepwalk towards decrepitude and death, and in which the vast majority of the public have no interest in supporting efforts to extend healthy life spans. Instead they lavish their attention and dollars on fake "anti-aging" products, ways to create a pretense of youth, while talking heads tell us how terrible it would be if we actually lived longer."

No doubt, but I wonder: do even well informed SENS supporters and anti-aging advocates openly promote this issue to their friends and family?

We have the highly visible case of Peter Thiel, who was admonished by his mother for giving to Aubrey and SENS. It seems like he learned his lesson and has decreased his support since.

I'm not accusing you because you've clearly made this your life's passion, but I suspect many readers are keyboard warriors in the war on aging but don't speak up about it much in regular conversation. If I'm right, the problem is that we're still locked in the closet.

Posted by: Therapsid at February 6, 2014 10:22 PM

Very well said Therapsid. I am a long time follower of the longevity advocacy movement online, I study the science and I donate to SENS and not a day goes by that I don't feel the immensity of the stakes involved. Yet I confess that just as I feel insecurities in my day to day life in workplace, relationships etc., I also feel insecurities about bringing my interest in longevity in to my social world. Every time I have tried to have a conversation about it with a friend or colleague it has either resulted in a cooling of the relationship, an argument or both. Even by posting this comment online, I wonder will I be chastised by the long term advocate for not participating enough, will I be berated by the person threatened by these issues, etc. What I like about Therapsid's comments is that they acknowledge the missing link in Reason's post - how many of us out there are keyboard warriors - we are interested in longevity but for some reason we are in the closet. Yes, someone could easily argue about the irrationality of this but it is in fact likely true - so how can this likely truth be addressed? More work needs to be done about why we are in the closet and how to get us out - my view is that it might have to do with a person's worry about the emotional toll that they may have to face for coming out of the closet and exposing their interest in longevity to the world. Therapsid's intuition that there are many of us out there is no doubt correct. Further, it is a strong possibility that all of us in this closeted category (in the gap between the public advocate and the person "sleep-walking through life") are the most obvious candidates to move public consciousness forward since we are in fact educated and "awake" yet our closeted status gives us the false impression of passivity. How do we break this passivity while recognizing the fear (and potential emotional backlash) that keeps us in the closet? Don't get me wrong, I am aware that my personal issues are mine to deal with and that I am the one who has to step forward but there is a reality that must be faced about the number of people in my position and this is a key piece of the puzzle that Therapsid has identified.

Posted by: Corrman at February 7, 2014 7:07 AM

We have the highly visible case of Peter Thiel, who was admonished by his mother for giving to Aubrey and SENS. It seems like he learned his lesson and has decreased his support since.

Really? I never heard this story.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at February 7, 2014 12:19 PM

I have never heard that story either, so I searched and found nothing. I seriously doubt the comment is valid (until proven otherwise).

In defense of Peter Thiel I think most overestimate how rich he is. Wikipedia has his worth at $1.8 billion and most of it probably isn't liquid. SENS needs around $500 million to achieve robust mouse rejuvenation. He can't do it alone (for reasons that that extend beyond money as well). Guys like him need to see more public support before they start dumping cash.

Posted by: johnathan at February 7, 2014 4:17 PM

This kind of banter is frustrating because people don't appreciate arithmetic. What SENS research foundation needs is lots of small donations. A monthly contribution of about 20 dollars and 50,000 donors. If 50,000 is too many, try for 5000. 5000 people x 20 dollars a month is $1,200,000 a year. Last year the organization only received $160,000 dollars from the public and it's over all budget was around $4.5 million.

If you want the things in SENS to be real you will have to pay for them YOURSELF! It's as simple as that. I donate x amount per month and that's how I know something will happen. Don't hope for Peter Thiel or Google or whoever else because it's ultimately your responsibility to fund it. If you don't then nothing will happen.

It also doesn't matter if most people don't support SENS (for example, the vast majority of people on earth). In 2012 Aubrey had a "debate" with Colin Blakemore on SENS which the moderator ruled Aubrey do have lost. What was lost in that outcome is if the same number of people were indicative of the general population (who in turn fund it) then the debate becomes redundant and the SENS agenda is funded and pursued regardless.

Posted by: Michael at February 9, 2014 6:53 AM

The world is run and largely populated by idiots. Positive changes have to be forced on them, not asked for permission, because otherwise the sheep will simply keep the status quo, even if it's not in their best interest.

Posted by: Ian at February 9, 2014 8:19 PM
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