2006-06-03

Aubrey de Grey, anti-aging crusader

I just read an interesting article about Aubrey de Grey, a biologist bent on stopping the process of aging. Although his ideas may seem radical, he's published in some mainstream journals, like Science.

This article
is mostly about the man himself. It portrays him as a charismatic visionary, "[impatient] with stragglers in the march toward extreme longevity." He has a "thorax-long" beard, and wears a knitted cap. He's childless, and married a biologist 19 years older than himself. Naturally, someone so eccentric could only be a computer scientist by formal training.

The article also goes into a surprising amount of detail about what specific problems de Grey sees as contributing to aging, including mutations, "accumulation of intracellular junk," etc. Reading that list makes me want to spend the rest of my life in a bubble.

The author, Sherwin Nuland, is pretty down on de Grey's philosophy of life extension. He seems to view it as unnatural and socially disruptive. However, Sherwin himself is a medical doctor, in fact a surgeon who has "cared for around 10,000 patients" according to the article. He never explains why his own contributions to "life extension" are so much more virtuous than de Grey's.

All of Nuland's arguments against de Grey can be used as arguments against modern medicine. If extending the maximum life of one man from 100 years to 1000 is a crime against nature, surely handing out penicilin makes you the equivalent of an eco-hitler. Or vaccinating people's kids against smallpox. The list goes on and on.

In fact, there's good reasons to believe that modern medicine, and modern society in general, has turned natural selection on its head. Perhaps the damage to the gene pool can only be fixed by the "gene tweakers" and other researchers Nuland claims to be so horrified by.

Of course, the advantage of being a technologist is that you don't usually have to win the hearts and minds of the populace. Once a new technology is invented, it will almost always be adopted without any public debate or discussion. So Nuland's arguments may turn out to be quite irrelevant, similar to the arguments of people who thought trains would ruin the countryside, or sewing machines would destroy the sewing industry.

As for myself, I would be happy to live to be 1000, given a certain minimum quality of life. I'm not sure if I'm up for eternity, but I certainly want more than just a century.

2 Comments:

At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Bob said...

but the sewing machine DID destroy the sewing industry! It, of course, replaced it with something else.....

 
At 11:42 PM, Blogger RareCactus said...

Right, and that's why it's an example of the kind of "progress by fiat" that I was talking about. Sorry if my phrasing was a little poor there.

 

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