Those Who Reject Rejuvenation Research and Longer Lives Do Little More than Repeat Old, Worn Objections

As Aubrey de Grey notes in this policy-focused interview, advocates for the significant extension of healthy human life spans through rejuvenation research after the SENS model are not exactly faced with high-quality opposition. Much of the time, we might as well be talking to a recording, one that continually repeats the same tired, well-refuted objections. The opposition doesn't engage with any of our arguments, its members just say the same things over and again. In some ways that makes this easy. In others ways that makes this hard: a very large number of people are out there repeating variants on the few broken record objections to living longer in youthful health and vigor. That crowd seems to soak up any amount of rational argument in favor of an end to aging with little apparent change in the short term. Nonetheless, our community of researchers, advocates, and investors has clearly made considerable progress over the past twenty years. Attitudes are changing, alongside progress towards the clinic for the first rejuvenation therapies. It is still a battle at every step of the way, but one that we are slowly winning.

Erich: I'll ask you a question here,s inspired by a piece authored by political scientists Francis Fukuyama, a member of George W. Bush's Council on Bioethics between 2001 and 2004. He's getting at this idea that in his mind and maybe in the minds of some other people, if life extension technologies are limited: A. Who gets them? B. Is it possible that, in a world where some people have access to these technologies and others do not, there might become a two-tier hierarchy between the haves and have nots?

Aubrey: Yeah this is one of the standard objections or concerns that are raised about these things, and they've been raised since the dawn of time. I've been answering them since the dawn of time. To be honest, I'm getting frustrated that people - and I'm not talking about people like you, I know you have to ask these questions - but that people like Fukuyama continue to insist on repeating these concerns despite the fact that they have never actually provided any kind of rebuttal to the rebuttals that I provide.

They never say, "Oh no, this answer to my concern is actually not going to work." They just repeat the concern, which of course is intellectually dishonest. The actual answer is very simple. There is no chance whatsoever that we will actually have this divide. The reason there is no chance is because in contrast to medicine that we have today, high-tech medicine for the elderly, that costs a lot and really is limited by ability to pay - in contrast to that medicine, the medicine we're talking about will actually work. In other words, it will genuinely keep people truly youthful and able-bodied for as long as they live, and that will be a lot longer.

And that means that those medicines, unlike today's medicines, will pay for themselves. This is because they will allow the people who get the medicines to continue to contribute wealth to society. Now that, of course, is over and above all the other savings we will have. For example, kids will be more productive since they will no longer have to look after their sick parents, and so on. But the fact is that any way you do the arithmetic, even if you make pessimistic presumptions as to what the therapies will actually cost to deliver, and of course, those numbers will inevitably come down over time anyway, it is still perfectly clear that it will be economically suicidal for any country not to make these therapies available to everybody who is old enough to need them.

Erich: For our last question, what are some of the general shifts you'd like to see politically in order to make the national climate more receptive to technologies such as the ones you're pioneering?

Aubrey: I honestly don't think that that's quite the right question. I don't think that we need changes to government and so on with regard to new technologies. I think what we need is a little bit of long-term anticipation because the fact is that we're going to get these technologies one way or another. It's just a question of how soon. But the second question is how ready we will be to implement them and to disseminate them and generally to introduce them in a smooth manner. We all know that the industrial revolution was a bit turbulent, and that was kind of like it was bound to be that way. We suddenly had these new machines, and we suddenly had a lot of people without jobs. Nobody really saw it coming; they couldn't have seen it coming.

But this we can see coming because we've got all this work going on at the laboratory, and it's publicized, a lot. That means, that there will come a point when we get these therapies, and people will have seen them coming. In particular, it means that it will come at a point much sooner, maybe even five years from now, as little as that. Then, results in the laboratory, just on life, are sufficiently impressive that the general public begins to believe that, yes, this whole "rejuvenation thing," this whole "longevity escape velocity" thing really is probably going to happen soon.

Now, at that point, it doesn't really matter who's right and who's wrong and who's optimistic and who's pessimistic. What matters is: it's going to be complete pandemonium. Everyone's going to change how they make their life choices, how they spend their money and so on because of the change that will have occurred in how long they expect to live. And it's governments that have been putting their heads in the sand right up until that point, not listening to people like me who are telling them it's coming. It's going to be much more chaotic and turbulent than it will be if governments starting today start to pay attention to the wave that is coming and to how it's going to roll out.

Link: http://merionwest.com/2018/01/08/an-interview-with-anti-agings-pioneer/

Comments

anyone who rejects rejuvenation, i would love to see what they say when we can demonstrate it in a human being.

Posted by: scott emptage at January 10th, 2018 5:50 AM

Aubrey is great, but I don't like the politico-economic side of his oft-repeated answer to the accessibility question. The scenario he sets up hardly requires action by the State. There should be no shortage of private money to pay for the therapies if they do indeed "pay for themselves" as he describes. To begin with, health insurance companies would be eager to provide them, just as fire insurance companies are eager for people to install fire alarms.

If we look deeper, however, the entire concept of health insurance would be up for revision. After all, why can people not just take out loans in order to meet their health-care needs? Why can a person not go to the bank and say "Look, I need a major procedure and I don't have the money up front, how's about a bank loan?" The answer is that people who don't have a lot of assets and who may in fact die are a bad risk. The debtor could kick off and the bank could be left unable to recover its principal from the estate. Clearly these considerations are quite different in the case of preventative maintenance therapies expected to be able to provide indefinite longevity. Those circumstances highly favor issuance of health-care loans. Even if the therapies are quite expensive up front and the applicants of modest means, a lengthy schedule of repayment becomes tenable in a world of indefinite productive lifespan.

Posted by: José at January 10th, 2018 9:45 AM

Surveying the general population, it seems about 40-50% of the masses reject anything scientific, such as evolution, global warming, environmental protection, life extension, you name it, they reject it because it is foreign to them. In my opinion, there is a discernment gene that a large percentage of people do not have the discernment allele for. Therefore they always base their decisions on something that does not have a scientific basis. They cannot help it, they simply do not have the genetic factor that would enable them to understand something with a scientific basis. This is why they can so easily dismiss the Paris Accords and other issues that have a scientific basis.

Posted by: Biotechy at January 10th, 2018 10:10 AM

Hey Jose,

Both are good points, and they provide solutions to this tired question. These are the kinds of solutions we should be looking at. We should be pushing the financial world into taking interest in these therapies as soon as possible. That being said, something popped up on my radar yesterday.

https://www.ssa.gov/oact/TR/2017/tr2017.pdf

We now have what I call "The Wall".

The trustees of Social Security have come out and said it flatly. In 2035, Social Security will be no more. They just proposed Social Security make "immediate and permanent reduction" in SS benefits. Truth, its going to hit sooner. Think 2028-2030. We should start feeling it now. Every G20 country is facing the same problem. Too many old and sick, and too few young, healthy and most importantly, gainfully employed. Right now, we have 3 workers for every retiree. In 2030, we're down to 2:1. That's simply not doable.

We have until this date to make serious changes to the way we age or its over on multiple fronts.

1) Health Care will go bankrupt very soon. Even if you have socialized medicine, its going to be rationed.

2) More and more of the countries budget is going to be paying for people who can't contribute to the economy.

3) It will force the Elderly to fight for the same dwindling minimum-wage jobs that their children and grandchildren will be fighting for.

We have some bleak choices ahead of us.

Without rejuvenation technology, I'm not seeing a happy ending for any age bracket.

Jose, I like your ideas MUCH better.

Posted by: Mark Borbely at January 10th, 2018 10:19 AM

@Biotechy: You conflate science, technology and policy. The overall program of SENS is not supported by "science" because that would require that it has already been implemented and tested, but its implementation and testing is exactly what we seek! Therefore, our goal is compatible with science and we aspire to scientific demonstration, but it is a *technological* program. There is no "science" to support pursuing SENS as opposed to some other program, or even abandoning technological development and becoming neo-Luddites. The evaluation of technological programs requires technological know-how and a visionary outlook, not a narrowly scientific one, and the choice to pursue a program involves a value judgment, which comes from ethics, again at a further remove from "science" proper.

Of course I could make the same criticism of "environmental protection" or "the Paris Accords" or other blatantly prescriptive things you say are "science." Your elitist and contemptuous view of the public and their priorities comes not from your appreciation of "science" through your "science" gene, but is instead an example of "scientism."

Posted by: José at January 10th, 2018 10:34 AM

No, not at all. I am talking about the genetic ability to distinguish truth from untruth. Many people simply don't have the genetic ability to discern truth from untruth. I am not looking down on those people from an elitist standpoint, I am just saying, they have great difficulty distinguishing truth from untruth, and it is not their fault, but just a genetic fact that they don't possess an allele for red hair or whatever other trait you wan to throw out there to discuss.

Posted by: Biotechy at January 10th, 2018 10:50 AM

I do not think access to rejuvenation technologies will be any more biased to the wealthy than our current healthcare system is. But to claim that there will be no such bias, because they will work and they will pay for themselves is disingenuous. I do not even understand what 'will pay for themselves' means, extending the life of someone with a 75 IQ is not going to make them more productive. What is wrong with just admitting that people with money will have better access, particularly in the early stages, to rejuvenation tech?

Posted by: JohnD at January 10th, 2018 12:41 PM

@johnD he means the therapies will save billions a year in healthcare costs as aging costs the majority of the health care budget of the world. Another thing to remember is that nobody will elect any government who refuses to make access to rejuvenation part of their manifesto. Any political party not offering that would loose power very quickly

Posted by: Scott emptage at January 10th, 2018 1:13 PM

I'm really amazed by people here. Do you really don't know that people expend more money in medical care in their last year of life than in the rest of their life? Do you really think that caring for their old parents has no effect in the productivity of their children? Do you really think that this person

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jeanne-Calment-1996.jpg

can be equally productive than this person?

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:JeanneCalmentaged22.jpg

Posted by: Antonio at January 10th, 2018 1:19 PM

I'm looking forward to the revolution predicted by Aubrey:

"there will come a point when we get these therapies, and people will have seen them coming. In particular, it means that it will come at a point much sooner, maybe even five years from now, as little as that. Then, results in the laboratory, just on life, are sufficiently impressive that the general public begins to believe that, yes, this whole "rejuvenation thing," this whole "longevity escape velocity" thing really is probably going to happen soon.

Now, at that point, it doesn't really matter who's right and who's wrong and who's optimistic and who's pessimistic. What matters is: it's going to be complete pandemonium. Everyone's going to change how they make their life choices, how they spend their money and so on because of the change that will have occurred in how long they expect to live."

I don't think it will come as early as 5 or 10 years from now though. You'll only then have senescent cell removal and glucosepane removal getting through clinical trials and out into the marketplace. Will the SENSRF be able to put back up copies of all the mitochondrial genes in the nucleus in mouse by then? Probably not.

Posted by: Jim at January 10th, 2018 7:59 PM

@Jim,
I don't think it will come as early as 5 or 10 years from now though. You'll only then have senescent cell removal and glucosepane removal getting through clinical trials and out into the marketplace. Will the SENSRF be able to put back up copies of all the mitochondrial genes in the nucleus in mouse by then? Probably not.

Can someone tell me what the benefits of glucosepane removal will do for the aging person? Based on reading Reason's blog, it sounds like this would be the 2nd of the 7 treatment to hitting the clinical studies soon.

Posted by: Robert at January 10th, 2018 9:43 PM

@Robert: One can't be certain, but I think the strongest effects would be against vascular and skin aging, both as a consequence of improved tissue elasticity. I'd expect reduced incidence of hemorrhagic stroke, kidney disease, wrinkles and erectile dysfunction in particular. Less specific results might include slower cognitive decline (due to fewer "microbleeds" in the brain), overall cosmetic improvement and improved female sexual function (not fertility necessarily).

It probably wouldn't increase lifespan much at all on its own, b/c it wouldn't affect atherosclerosis or cancer.

Posted by: José at January 10th, 2018 11:35 PM

@Jim: I don't think he is saying that SENS 1.0 will be ready in 5 years, but that people will realize in 5 years that aging can be cured in their lifetimes.

Posted by: Antonio at January 11th, 2018 12:03 AM

My personal favorite is: "Great, so we have to wait even longer to retire..." as though being an old age pensioner is preferable to being young and having to earn a living.

Posted by: Link at January 11th, 2018 2:20 AM

Wow Aubrey sounds more confident, strident and insistent even, in every interview he gives - that this is coming and it's coming soon. I agree - even if actual human applicable therapies are a way out, it won't be long till their approach starts affecting all long term planning.

Posted by: Mark at January 11th, 2018 4:17 AM

@Jose' Thank you for the info.

I think once the first treatment becomes available to the general public (heck, I'd be excited once it is available via medical tourism as a bonafide treatment, the 2nd one should easier. Just getting started on these treatments (rejuv) will quickly change the public's mindset, IMO.

@Link, I am quite sure that within a decade or two, robots will be taking over most jobs and we will ALL have universal income. I think it will be like Star Trek, do what you want in life (hmm, what a concept) such as hobbies, travel, arts, learn to play an instruments, meet more new people and develop new relationships, ect.

Interesting, but before I read about the idea of UI, I thought of this concept myself. Because, if there are few jobs due to robots, how can companies make money if no one has jobs? So, IMO, gov will tax companies who has put people out of work and/or emply robots to pay for this UI.

Posted by: Robert at January 11th, 2018 8:42 PM

I am always surprised that for some reason people like Reason and de Grey who are very enthusiastically promoting the idea that human aging is a highly treatable and maybe curable condition are simultaneously promoting the old non-programmed "damage" aging theories as opposed to the newer programmed aging theories that are much more amenable to the idea that aging is treatable.

See the Aging Theories Blog (Medical Implications of Aging Theories) for a brief summary as to why damage theories argue against the idea that aging is treatable. http://aging-theories.org/

Posted by: Theodore Goldsmith at January 12th, 2018 12:50 PM

@Theodore Goldsmith: You've had going on fifteen years to become accustomed to any surprise at the damage-based view on aging advanced by de Grey and agreed to by myself.

Programmed aging theories are not newer per se, but the enthusiasm for them in a minority of the research community is. I think the reckoning between these two camps will occur over the next few years as therapies based on one view win out over the other in terms of practical outcomes on health and longevity.

I have to disagree with the idea that damage-based views of aging suggest it is less treatable; if anything they suggest it is more treatable in the near term, since treatment requires little new knowledge to be obtained, and damage repair evades the need to fully understand cellular metabolism - an expensive long-term project. Though anyone advocating programmed aging should be pretty pleased with the present state of the research community, as despite the majority thinking that aging is a matter damage, they are following the research strategy that fits a programmed aging view, which is to say adjust the operation of metabolism to force restoration of youthful signaling patterns.

You can see that in mTOR research, in stem cell signaling research, etc, etc. So much effort devoted to adjusting the operation of metabolism to be more youthful without actually touching on the underlying damage that causes all this signaling to change with advancing age.

Anyway, should senolytics produce the expected major benefits in humans, as they have so far in mice, I would hope that we can start to bury programmed aging. The success of senolytics would be a major win for damage-based theories of aging, as the prediction will have been made, argued for, and then proven.

Posted by: Reason at January 12th, 2018 1:27 PM

@Theodore Goldsmith

From the blog you linked to:

"These concepts support the accepted idea that we can find different ways to treat each specific age-related disease. However, these concepts suggest that there is some ultimate age beyond which further progress in extending human lifespan would cease because eventually every aging symptom would appear at catastrophic levels. They further suggest that there is no treatable common factor behind age-related diseases and conditions. These theories therefore support the current medical paradigm of ever-increasing specialization by disease, disease sub-type, and even personal disease variety."

Whoever wrote that, clearly doesn't know the basics of damage-repair approaches, whether SENS or the Hallmarks or whathever.

Those approaches don't imply at all that there is a limit to how long you can extend lifespan. See this for an introduction: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC423155/

Also, those approaches don't treat symptoms but damage. Damage appears much before symptoms (in many cases even before birth). They also aren't specialized for each disease, but for each damage. Please educate yourself in the basics instead of trying to beat a strawman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pL3DW6-xzLc

Posted by: Anttonio at January 12th, 2018 3:44 PM

@Reason and @Antonio

I agree that programmed aging is becoming more popular and that the billions of dollars now being invested in programmed aging research should eventually end the endless programmed vs. non-programmed arguments.

I think we can agree that the many manifestations of aging have many different immediate causes that are in fact being individually treated by the long-existing medical approach. The huge question is obviously whether there is some upstream cause of many or all of the immediate causes. Does oxidation, or telomere shortening, or whatever single process or small number of processes cause the myriad individual symptoms of aging? From a non-programmed evolutionary viewpoint there are extensive arguments against this idea as mentioned in the article and elsewhere such as:
http://www.azinet.com/aging/non-programmed_aging.pdf

As also described in the Aging Theories Blog articles, the difficulty associated with a programmed aging approach depends greatly on your concept regarding the nature of the program. If the (singular) aging program involves hormone signaling, detection of external conditions, and other features typical in other biological programs, interfering with those features should be relatively easy to do as there would exist many processes that are associated with the aging program mechanism and therefore common to the aging manifestations. Adjusting hormones (for example) is certainly an established concept and procedure.

For an extensive discussion of aging program concepts and supporting evidence see:
http://www.azinet.com/aging/Goldsmith_RegulatedBM2017.pdf

Posted by: Theodore Goldsmith at January 13th, 2018 2:07 PM

"Does oxidation, or telomere shortening, or whatever single process or small number of processes cause the myriad individual symptoms of aging? From a non-programmed evolutionary viewpoint there are extensive arguments against this idea"

Nope. Both SENS and the Hallmarks propose only a few causes of aging.

Posted by: Antonio at January 13th, 2018 3:32 PM

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