The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant, and the Courage to Speak Out in Opposition to Aging

It has been thirteen years since Nick Bostrom published The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant, a clear call to action regarding our relationship with aging and medical technology. The world has come to treat aging and the vast tide of death and suffering it causes as something set in stone, and so it was, for in past generations even the best of medicine could do little to influence the course of aging. Yet today we stand in the midst of revolutionary progress in biotechnology, and all of the old limits and incurable conditions might be addressed given sufficient funding and will. Unfortunately, a majority of people continue to hold that old belief that aging cannot be changed, even as we move into an era in which it is possible to create real, working rejuvenation therapies.

Our community is one of patient advocacy, philanthropic support of science, research into aging, and medical development, aimed squarely at the defeat of aging and the deployment of means of human rejuvenation in the clinic. Over the years, philanthropic funding and research programs have produced results, and the first rejuvenation therapies, those based on clearance of senescent cells, are entering clinical trials. Our numbers have grown considerably since the Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant was first written, and many of the newer faces might not even know of this important work. So is pleasant to see the sizable audience and effort put into this adaptation by the same YouTube creators who produced the excellent Why Age? Should We End Aging Forever? last year. Take a look and see what you think.

The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

Once upon a time, the planet was tyrannized by a giant dragon. The dragon stood taller than the largest cathedral, and it was covered with thick black scales. Its red eyes glowed with hate, and from its terrible jaws flowed an incessant stream of evil-smelling yellowish-green slime. It demanded from humankind a blood-curdling tribute: to satisfy its enormous appetite, ten thousand men and women had to be delivered every evening at the onset of dark to the foot of the mountain where the dragon-tyrant lived. Sometimes the dragon would devour these unfortunate souls upon arrival; sometimes again it would lock them up in the mountain where they would wither away for months or years before eventually being consumed...

Stories about aging have traditionally focused on the need for graceful accommodation. The recommended solution to diminishing vigor and impending death was resignation coupled with an effort to achieve closure in practical affairs and personal relationships. Given that nothing could be done to prevent or retard aging, this focus made sense. Rather than fretting about the inevitable, one could aim for peace of mind. Today we face a different situation. While we still lack effective and acceptable means for slowing the aging process, we can identify research directions that might lead to the development of such means in the foreseeable future. "Deathist" stories and ideologies, which counsel passive acceptance, are no longer harmless sources of consolation. They are fatal barriers to urgently needed action.

The quality and length of the rest of our lives depends on the degree to which the world at large - its research and development institutions, its public voices, its funding institutions - choose to bring an end to aging. It can be accomplished, but it will only be accomplished if a sufficiently large number of people first desire that goal, and then act on that desire. In an environment of widespread passive acceptance of a terrible status quo, persuasion is just as important as scientific progress.


As always with topics like this, beware the comments section.

Posted by: Ham at April 27th, 2018 4:36 PM

It is preaching to the choir but it is a nice and powerful story.

Ironically, when watching Dr. Strange there was a moment where the evil guy excused a bunch of Kings as rounding errors compared to bringing immorality to everyone. And ironically a few premature deaths get dwarfed by the potential numbers of man years saved. And the moral of the story was to make peace with the inevitable death... At least three movie brought the notion a the thought that the death and aging might be avoidable by using "forbidden" practices and techniques. Still better than slaughtering young people to drying their blood and youth.

Still the mainstream psyche tells is that our is not futile to fight aging but even somehow immoral to do so. However, Audrey's popularization efforts over the last 15 years have seeded the new generation of researches with the concept that reversing aging is not impossible just very hard asking to fly a man to Mars.

I am surprised that the tech billionaires are not financing much the longevity research and very often invest in the riskiest and absurd enterprises.

Posted by: Cuberat at April 27th, 2018 9:50 PM

It's a pity that CGP Grey didn't sticky a link to to try and drive some donations their way.

Posted by: Jim at April 28th, 2018 2:11 PM

It would be easier to persuade people to accept anti-ageing if there were visible examples of rejuvenated individuals who would make personal appearences to large crowds. Life extension is hard to prove and takes a very long time.
unfortunately, persuasion by words and logic doesn't work on most people.

TECH BILLIONAIRES ARE NOT FINANCING LONGEVITY RESEARCH BECAUSE THERE IS LITTLE OR NO PROFIT IN IT. they ARE MOTIVATED BY quick profit and pleasure in their short lives more than by anything else.

Posted by: nick D. at April 28th, 2018 2:23 PM

Hi Nick,
A self made billionaire in his early sixties has a good v chance to live up to 90 with dedicated medical care (you cannot become a billionaire of you have a poor health and you cannot work 80-100 hours a week even if you are young. Smart, luck, talent, business skills are a all prerequisite but the stamina is extremely important). So investing a billion now child but you a decade in 10-20 years and could give a good ROI cash Wise. Even without the profits only to be able to buy a decade of relativity healthy live for a billion dollars seems like a good deal for the likes of Jeff Besides or Bill Gates. They will easily make more during the "new lease on live"

And not every expensive project is that promising. Look at space X or Tesla. While both are very impressive they don't turn profit or even breakeven and both took a nice piece of cash as venture capital. Of course, aging cannot be beaten by a bunch of automation tricks. Or is an excellent collared problem. And the medical industry is very regulated. On the other hand we see Bill Gates pitting billions to charity (fighting malaria, for example). So why not anti aging?

Personally, If I were to win the Powerball jackpot I would , of course, say a side a nice amount but I would invest the majority of the win towards SENS and related fields

Posted by: Cuberat at April 28th, 2018 9:14 PM

Yes, the wealthy would do well to remember that the moment their heart stops, their personal net worth immediately reverts to zero. They need to donate whatever they can right now to SENS and other anti-aging scientists - their lives depend upon it.

Posted by: John S. at April 29th, 2018 1:56 AM

Great video

Posted by: JohnD at April 29th, 2018 2:36 PM

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