Factor Magazine on SENS Rejuvenation Biotechnology

Here is a short article from earlier this month in a popular science magazine. SENS, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, is a research and development program that aims to repair aging by reverting the known root causes. These are forms of cellular and molecular damage cataloged by the research community over the past century; it has been three decades since the last was discovered, so there is a fair degree of confidence that the list is completely enough for now. For each of these types of damage there is a clear path towards the production of treatments:

Aubrey de Grey wants to save lives. He wants to save as many as he possibly can, as soon as he can, and to do it he is going to fix ageing. The prominent scientist and futurologist is on a crusade to beat ageing and when he does it will mean that we stay healthy and live longer - possibly for up to hundreds of years. But, as de Grey emphasises, his primary goal is not just making people live longer; he wants us to live healthily, he wants to restore us to a state of health that is "fully functional in every way". The ability to live for hundreds of years is just a side effect. The work carried out by de Grey and his colleagues at the SENS Research Foundation will ultimately raise new challenges that need to be tackled, both in medicine and society, but there is no scientific reasoning why the body, with the right treatment, cannot be healthy for much longer.

The idea of treating disease and the disabilities of old age will not be treated by one breakthrough de Grey says. It has to be broken down into a series of manageable tasks. "We don't really think there is going to be one particular technique that will do the job. We believe that the process of ageing has to be recognised as a chaotic somewhat uncoordinated set of processes such that a truly effective treatment of it is going to involve a divide and conquer approach, essentially sub-dividing the problem into a variety of types of damage that accumulate and figuring out therapies that can address each of them."

In a world where getting old is no longer an issue, concerns will arise about population levels and resources that the planet can provide. But this view does not give credit to other technologies that are developing at a faster implementation rate than anti-ageing, and people can have a blinkered view about this. "They just don't look at the problem properly, so for example one thing that people hardly ever acknowledge is that the other new technology is going to be around a great deal sooner than [SENS rejuvenation biotechnology], or at least sooner than [SENS] will have any demographic impact. For example we will have [a much lower] carbon footprint because we will have things like better renewable energy and nuclear fusion and so on, so that it will actually be increasing the carrying capacity of the planet far faster than the defeat of ageing could increase the number of people on the planet."

Link: http://www.factor-tech.com/health-augmentation/8475-aubrey-de-grey-longer-lives-wont-mean-overpopulation/

Comments

The good thing with this short article is that it made it clear, in the very title, that getting to control aging doesn't equate losing control over demographics.

Posted by: Nico at October 17th, 2014 6:04 PM

Too many people seem to think that if we cure aging and have more people on Earth, everything else is static.

With knowledge increasing expotentially, it is easy to see we will have resolved all the problems that overcrowding could cause such as food and energy shortage.

Explaining it would resolve peoples anxiety over these issues. And, I am sure in the decades ahead, we will be (slowlly at first) putting humans on other planets.

Posted by: Robert Church at October 18th, 2014 1:02 AM

@Robert Church:

Yet it is true that humans cannot increase their number indefinitely on a single planet. Before we can colonise other planets, we will probably have to use birth control policies of some form. The issue is that, much like overpopulation, population limitation is also feared and stigmatised.

When it comes to this, there are people who tend to fall back P.R.C.'s mixed results as a point of reference, and thus refuse to consider the general concept of limiting births.

While such a fallacy is easy to dismiss, there will be harder-to-crack ethical matters.

Posted by: Nico at October 18th, 2014 5:20 AM

Using reasons such as population control as a reason for fearing halting age is a pretty primitive form of thinking. Your already using a "population control" it's called letting people slowly die in a depressing fashion aka getting old. Saying you fear something that already exist but rather then being a controlled factor a "natural" factor is just a sign that most people do not question anything. They only accept what people in mass population already agree is a good thing. You don't need to convince every individual it's good, you only need to convince influential people. As sad as it is, most people are sheep.

Posted by: thatoneperson at October 18th, 2014 1:39 PM

@thatoneperson: As sad as it is, most people are sheep.

Very true.

Posted by: Robert Church at October 18th, 2014 1:55 PM

@thatoneperson:

Efforts should be focused on decision-makers and "early adopters", however it would be a mistake not to lay a clear groundwork for a larger and less specialised audience.

The reason is twofold:
1) A gradual push towards ever-larger and ever-conservative groups will have to happen, and these groups will have to be won for SENS and its implications (including man-engineered population control) to happen.
2) Ultimately the whole population is concerned - and can make or break it through bottom-up pressure.

The larger the group, the lesser its focus. And the lesser its focus, the lesser its tolerance to ambivalence.
The masses (to which I belong) need a simple yet relatively complete statement of what an increased longevity will entail; what's at stake, what will interplay, and what is proposed to deal with these forces.

Posted by: Nico at October 18th, 2014 9:35 PM

Life will not become static because people will still die from accidents e.g.getting hit by a car. Also, some people will not want to live indefinitely and therefore the population will be stable.

Posted by: tom smith at October 27th, 2014 7:29 AM

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