Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Aubrey de Grey, Technological Immortalism, and the Idea of a Longevity Singularity

There is a saying that nothing is inevitable but death and taxes, but it is beginning to look to some people, strangely enough, as if taxes will end up being the more inevitable of the two. In fact, reading the press-releases of folks involved in "longevity" and "rejuvenation" medicine these days sometimes suggests that if we just put our tax dollars to work in the right places we might have the whole death thing licked in no time at all.

For a readable account of the more radical sort of discourse I am talking about here, have a look at this piece by Aubrey de Grey (a figure who has acquired a wide pop-tech readership and no small amount of notoriety for his futurological "SENS" proposal, sketching -- and sketchily so -- what he calls Strategies for Engineering Negligible Senescence), or for a more modest variation, a bioethical policy piece on "social dividends" likely to compensate large public investments in emerging longevity medicine (on the mostly stealthed assumption that highly optimistic gerontological proposals like de Grey's are more legitimate than not).

Once upon a time, aging meant a shriveling of features, a creeping infirmity of frame, a diminution of countless capacities, the loss of memory and energy, a disastrously rising susceptibility to disease. While it is a commonplace to cynically observe that face lifts and Viagra have not in fact conferred eternal youth and immortality upon the foolish and superficial Boomer Generation (to which many of the reporters and writers of these stories belong, many exhibiting all too conspicuously both the narcissism and the very procedures they seem to be deriding) I think we sometimes overlook just how profound these interventions have altered, rightly or wrongly, the sense of what especially the most privileged people in the most privileged places in the world expect from a "healthy" human life. Consider the readiness with which comfortable contemporary Senators well past retirement age are willing to contemplate the deferral of the age for Social Security and Medicare eligibility, attributing their sense of healthy well-being to advances in medicine available to all rather than to the privilege of their class postion -- after all, ancient Roman Senators who escaped assassination often lived just as long, and for much the same reason of privilege and ease.

Still, with each passing year, medical science offers up to swelling ranks of would-be gerontocrats in the "developed" world therapeutic interventions into cardiovascular and cognitive conditions that have long been considered "diseases of aging." Although it is obviously quite foolish to leap off the deep end and start talking in an alarmist or ecstatic fashion about the immanent arrival of human "immortality" when one surveys the scene of such techniques is it likewise outlandish to envision, say, a relatively proximate arrival of a "longevity singularity," a threshold date after which average life expectancy begins to increase one year per year in a sustained (and sustainable?) fashion, simply in consequence of continued serial contributions to medical knowledge and therapeutic technique? (I encountered this terminology in the writing of Bruce Sterling.)

Even granting that the arrival of such a therapeutic threshold moment has become sensibly conceivable is far from proposing that its arrival is sensibly taken for inevitable, it is also important to stress that even at its most proximate and most efficacious the notion of such a longevity singularity isn't the same thing as a promise of techno-immortality. A rise in average life expectancy is not a promise made to any one actual person, and outside of that statistical ideal of a lengthening therapized healthy lifespan would be, no doubt, any number of mortal complexities, suicides, accidents, crimes of violence, dangerous social instabilities, new medical conditions, newly virulent diseases, unexpected combinatorial treatment effects, novel conditions we can scarcely conceive of that might stymie the longevity gains achieved by advanced techniques however splendid.

The question remains, nevertheless, just what remains of what we have customarily meant when we have thought of "aging" hitherto when we discover just how many of "its" underlying processes and customary outward forms become at least somewhat susceptible to therapeutic intervention and hence proliferate into a rich tableau of multiple and competing descriptions, each one of which then, in turn, becomes a field for prosthetic self-determination rather than a "natural" limit to contemplate?

Pop-tech journalism is beginning to speak not just of "diseases of aging," but of "aging as a disease." And inspired by this new confidence, some techno-immortalists are beginning to call for a "War on Aging." But is it really right to think of "aging" as a singular enemy we soon hope to be equal to, or is it that we are discovering that "aging" is another artifact of ignorance, a shorthand label for complex realities we never before could get a handle on?

Wouldn't it remain true, for example, that the post-senescent healthcare provision of actually living human beings will involve significantly different sorts of treatments and concerns than did their pre-senescent healthcare, just as pre-adolescent and post-adolescent healthcare differ in some significant respects? To render much or even all (surely a dubious hope) the damage hitherto associated with statistically typical experiences of senescent processes negligible through medicine is not the same thing as eliminating senescence as such through medicine, is it? Not even our most cherished and well-understood artifacts are imagined to have been rendered eternal through our devotions, not even our most meticulously well-maintained machines have managed perpetual motion through our ministrations.

Treating "aging" as a natural monolithic thing too easily misleads us into imagining that our interventions into its many forms amount to a comparable intervention into the other mysterious monoliths with which "aging" has been associated historically –- mortality, finitude, and so on. Quite apart from questions about whether or not any kind of narrative coherence for a legible "self" could be prolonged to the timescales celebrated by some enthusiasts of longevity and rejuvination medicine, there is nothing to suggest that increasing healthy post-senescent longevity would confer even bodily "immortality" on beings still prone at all to disease, mischief, or mischance. Nor should we imagine that tweaking our biology will confer on us some kind of godhood.

Techno-Immortalists -- in the quintessential gesture of superlative futurology -- handwave away the gap between an essentially theological concept exhibited as a trait by nothing on earth and a presumably proximately engineerable outcome, in their particular case an overcoming of organismic aging and death. Since even most techno-immortalists themselves will grant that were we to achieve a postulated "superlongevity" through therapeutic intervention we (and this is a "we," one should add, that can only denote those lucky few likely to have access to such hypothesized techniques in the first place, with all that this implies) will no doubt remain vulnerable to some illnesses, or to violent, accidental death nonetheless, it is clarifying to our understanding of Superlative Technology Discourse more generally to think what on earth it is that makes it attractive for some to figure the desired therapeutic accomplishment of human longevity gains through the rhetoric of "immortality" in the first place.

One of the patron saints of the techno-immortalists, Aubrey de Grey, for example, relies incessantly on a theological archive to frame his project, speaking of targeting "Seven Deadly Things" with SENS, and sponsoring a contest to provide an existence proof he calls the "Methuselah Mouse." While de Grey insists on the consummate pragmatism of his "engineering approach," and seems to want to imply that skepticism toward his program from the vast majority of gerontologists and geneticists and other legitimate researchers, practicing professions, credentialed experts, and relevant theorists is a matter of incumbent resistance to a promising paradigm shift in the Kuhnian sense, it is worth noting that de Grey's focus seems mostly to be a matter of promotion and polemic, and his training (as so often in sub(cult)ural futurology) in computers.

Paradoxically, de Grey's formulation of an "engineering perspective" on aging is entirely a rhetorical rather than an engineering accomplishment. Presumably, by refiguring a human being from aging mortal organism into damaged reparable artifact de Grey is effecting a conceptual transformation that will facilitate the very repairs his new figure assumes (but does not show). While techno-immortalists enthralled by de Grey's hard-boiled engineering frame like to talk about hobbyists tinkering with century-old automobiles and taking them our for a spin, or about monks continually refurbishing wooden temples so they look brand new after centuries of use, there is a real question whether the gerontological reassurance provided by reference to these quotidian examples is really more apt than that provided by reference to the supernatural examples of Methuselah I mentioned a moment ago. Consider the premise, "Either humans are like angels or we're like red wagons."

Since angels aren't real but red wagons and humans are, we must be more like red wagons than angels then. Since we can build red wagons that can last thousands of years -- at least in principle -- then medicine can make people who can live thousands of years, too. But of course we haven't actually ever made any red wagons that last thousands of years, which seems like more than a problem of mere detail for this "viewpoint." And the fact remains that even red wagons that might last for thousands of years aren't exactly living for thousands of years, which makes one wonder if saying humans are more "like" red wagons than angels is really quite so useful as all that when everything is said and done, even if it is quite true.

What is especially curious to me, however, is that even at the level of rhetoric it seems to me were one to embrace the more "bioconservative" Hayfleckian ideal of a medical practice that would confer on everybody on earth a healthy three-score and ten years or even the 120-years some lucky few humans may have enjoyed this motivational exercise would be little distinguishable in the therapeutic effects it would likely facilitate (as a spur to funding, research, improvement of tools and techniques, theoretical publications, and so on) from those facilitated by the more "transhumanist" ideal of technological immortality in the first place.

Either way, the advocate for better healthcare outcomes for aging populations seeks to encourage and fund promising research and development into therapeutic interventions into the mechanisms and diseases of aging that are likely, eventually, to transform customary expectations about human health later in life, but neither way does one find one's way to anything remotely like immortality, invulnerability, or all the rest of the theological paraphernalia of superlongevity discourse.

Certainly, looking at the concrete costs, risks, and benefits of particular therapeutic interventions through an immortalist lens confers no clarity or practical guidance whatsoever here and now in the world of actually ill and vulnerable human beings seeking better health, wellbeing, and an amelioration of actually-existing suffering (including such suffering that may be caused by the seven conditions of "damage" with which de Grey is most concerned himself). The "transhumanist" or "bioconservative" variations of superlative futurology that would gauge a stem-cell therapy either against a dream of immortality or a nightmare of clone armies or Designer Baby genocide seem to me, once again, to leap a gap between the logically possible as against proximately possible that seems far more likely to activate deep psychic resources of unreasoning dread and wish-fulfillment than to clarify our understanding of actual stakeholder risks and benefits that now and may soon confront us.

I leave to the side here for now the still more coo-coo bananas digital camp of techno-immortalism with which de Grey is cheerfully allied, the partisans of which metaphorically "spiritualize" digital information and then seem not to notice that this actually figurative leap isn't exactly a scientific move, and then conjoin their already poetic fancy of an organismically-materialized consciousness somehow "migrating" via "Uploading" onto to a different material substrate without loss, to the (always ridiculously reductive always absurdly overconfident never the least bit successful nor the least bit daunted by its non-success) faith in good old-fashioned AI, and deploy this rather wooly discursive cocktail -- which they seem to imagine to constitute exemplary or even superior science somehow -- to overcome what often looks like a plain common or garden variety hysterical fear and denial of death.

Saying this so baldly more or less ensures, I'm afraid, that all the nuances that have preceded this statement will be altogether discarded now, the better for the Futurological Congress among my readership to bray about my "Deathism" in the Moot. Not that a calming hand can hope to have any effect on this likely eventually, but I will repeat yet again, as I have done interminably here at Amor Mundi, in anticipation of the many sputtering objections occurring in the outraged sensibilities of my techno-immortalist readers in this moment that, no, your denial of the unavoidable fact of death is not at all the same thing as loving life nor is the admission of this fact the same thing as loving death, no, proposing to fund a "war on death" on those terms is not at all the same thing as championing actual healthcare that saves lives (lives that are not rendered "unsaved" by the fact that they remain mortal once their hurts are healed), no, the perfectly commonplace and indeed well-nigh universal desire to live as long and as well as one can manage isn't some kind of stealthy "closeted" adherence to the techno-immortalist Cause and, no, I am not a "Deathist" zealot just because I do indeed fully expect to die and yet somehow still think life is worth living and coming to meaningful terms with in a way that registers this expectation.

Whether in faith, in love, in work, in community, in activism, in poetry, in wine, we must all of us find our way to dealing with this fact of life, unsusceptible as it is to instrumental solution, and then, having come to terms with it, we may turn our needed attentions to helping ensure research and universal access to life-saving and life-extending healthcare practices -- including informed, nonduressed consensual recourse to desired non-normativizing therapies -- to all.

If anything I would hope that the promise of the ongoing therapeutic amelioration of key processes and effects we have historically associated with "aging" will mean that we will cease to freight these processes with such enormous metaphysical and superlative baggage in the first place. Since even modest increases in average life expectancy, however healthy, will introduce unprecedented problems and promises for global stability, social justice, welfare provision, environmental sustainability among other things it seems best not to get too distracted from these urgent eventualities by dwelling on what looks to me like little more than confused vestigial theological meditations on eternity.

As human beings grasp that there is not just one way that "aging" threatens to claim our lives, we set out upon the road along which ever more of our lives are our own to claim. Perhaps the point will not be so much to defeat "aging" as to proliferate its forms and so replace "it" simply with the many separate stories of our lives as lived in our freedom and in our finitude.

This post contains material I have adapted from a couple of earlier pieces published here on Amor Mundi, here and here, and anybody interested in following the development (some would no doubt discern devolution) of my thinking on these questions can observe the changes I've made in taking them up again here.

13 comments:

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> Whether in faith, in love, in community, in activism,
> in poetry, in wine, or in what have you, you should find
> your way to dealing with this fact of life. . .

I don't claim to be literarily sophisticated enough to be
a first-hand aficionado of Baudelaire; I first came upon this
through its being quoted in Eugene O'Neill's
_A Long Day's Journey into Night_:

_Be Drunken_

Be Drunken, Always.

That is the point; nothing else matters.
If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time
weigh you down and crush you to the earth,
be drunken continually.

Drunken with what?
With wine, with poetry or with virtue,
as you please.

But be drunken.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace,
or on the green grass in a ditch,
or in the dreary solitude of your own room,
you should awaken and find the drunkenness
half or entirely gone,
ask of the wind, of the wave, of the star,
of the bird, of the clock,
of all that flies, of all that speaks,
ask what hour it is;
and wind, wave, star, bird, or clock will answer you:

"It is the hour to be drunken!

Be Drunken,
if you would not be the martyred slaves of Time;
be drunken continually!

With wine, with poetry or with virtue,
as you please."

-- (Prose) Poem by Charles Baudelaire

Dale Carrico said...

Dag, Jim, nothing gets past you! That very textual reference was in my mind when I made the point.

jfehlinger said...

You know, there's a new way to die these days -- a very,
very gradual way to slip away. Something for the Baby
Boomer generation to look forward to.

I had a maiden aunt, my father's eldest sister, who died in
such a manner last September at the age of 99 (she would have turned
100 next month). She was living with her sister (15 years younger,
old enough herself at 84, whose own husband had died a
dozen years ago). The plan had always been to keep the
two-sister household going as long as possible, since it was generally
acknowledged that the shock of a transplant (into a nursing
home, say) would probably be too much for the elder sister to
bear.

The older sister had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, oh, 5 or
6 or 7 years ago, and was taking aspirin and Aricept. Other than
that, she was in pretty good shape for her age -- strong heart, etc.
There was a crisis a couple of years ago resulting from her
overmedicating herself with cough medicine, but once she came
off that she brightened up considerably.

So during most of her 10th decade she was in a gentle, gentle
decline. She ended up having to sit a couple of feet from the
TV set in order to hear it, or see it (she was blind in one
eye as the result of a failed cataract-removal procedure).
Sometimes, most times, she recognized me when I visited --
a few times she thought I was my father -- and occasionally
she reminded me of incidents that had taken place when I was
a child that even I had forgotten.

The final crisis came last summer when she finally couldn't
summon up the strength and/or coordination to dress and undress
herself properly anymore. She slept in her clothes, and her
personal hygiene suffered as a result. She got a low-grade
infection from this, which (according to the doctor) brought
on a psychotic episode. She became paranoid, wouldn't let the
visiting nurse bathe her anymore, and had to be taken to the
hospital (quite a scene, as it was later recounted -- "You're
not getting me into **that**" she is alleged to have shouted,
when the ambulance arrived.

She was successfully treated in the hospital -- the infection
was cleared up, and she regained her normal state of mind.
But the hospital refused to release her into the care of
her younger sister -- they claimed that the younger sister
was herself no longer in any condition to deal with the
situation. So the medical bureaucracy ended up making the
decision that the family had wished to postpone indefinitely --
the decision to put the elder sister into a nursing home.

And the prognosis that the family itself had made years
before indeed came to pass -- without a familiar environment
and routine to anchor what was left of her mind, she simply lost
her moorings. She became unresponsive, and died within a few weeks
of being admitted to the home.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, de Grey isn't at all happy about immortalism:

Everything, of course, that is published about this sort of work, [life extension] uses the word “immortality” or “living forever” in the title as a sort of way of selling papers, of course. Why does it sell papers? Because it makes the thing look faintly ridiculous, and therefore it reinforces the pro-aging trance.

Source: Arguing the Scientific Feasibility of Anti-Aging

Aubrey's so likable -- I follow his video and audio appearances religiously -- that he's become a figure who's able to integrate very diverse (political) strands from Amor Mundi to staunch Libertarians like the Fight Aging weblog. Btw, this particular blog entry ("Sparkling, Distracting Trinkets of the Now") will surely not be liked by Dale.

FrF

Richard Jones said...

Dale, your comment that "It seems to me that the resistance to de Grey's SENS research program ... looks to be pretty well described in the classical Kuhnian terms of incumbent resistance to a possibly promising scientific paradigm shift." could be taken as simply a better-read formulation of "they laughed at the Wright brothers".

It seems to me that de Gray's contributions to ageing science are largely conducted through rhetoric and metaphor. Nothing wrong with that per se, these are valid tools for advancing science as long as one recognizes that someone's still got to do the actual work that positively intervening in the physical world requires. But I think the rhetoric he uses is actually rather misleading and unhelpful. In particular, his insistence that "curing ageing" is "just an engineering problem" takes us entirely in the wrong direction.

The de Grey piece you link to illustrates this nicely, with its opening metaphor as the body as a house that one needs to protect from weather damage by making sure the damaged slates are replaced on time (it's a nice touch of Englishness to refer to our obsession with old houses!) I think this is a profoundly wrong image in two ways. Firstly, a building is a static structure in a state of local equilibrium - if you don't push it, it won't fall down. But living systems are quite a different kind of organised matter; they are driven systems, far out of equilibrium, whose maintenance isn't a question of preventing damage to an essentially stable structure, but of guiding their constant and dynamic evolution.

The second problem arises from the whole thorny issue of design and teleology. The engineering metaphor appeals to the insight that, if a good car mechanic is given a car of unfamiliar make to repair, this is something they could do even without having any manuals or instructions, given enough time. They'd be able to recognise the function of the unfamiliar parts essentially by understanding the intention of the designer, they'd recognise what those parts are for and how they were intended to operate properly. But biology wasn't designed by anybody, and it isn't "for" anything, and any implicit or explicit assumptions about the supposed machine-like nature of an organism, and the design intentions underlying its operation, need ruthless scrutiny.

De Grey's rhetorical insistence on the "can-do" mentality of the engineer, which doesn't insist on understanding something before trying to fix it, strongly resonates with his intended audience, but I think it's a view with profound limitations.

For a concrete illustration of all these points, consider the problem of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Each of us who manages to survive beyond 85 or so has a very high risk of developing one of these incurable and very distressing diseases, yet the SENS proposal dismisses them lightly as the result of the accumulation of extracellular junk and proposes a couple of glib remedies. The fact is, though, no-one knows for certain the cause of these diseases. It's probably connected with the propensity of certain proteins to misfold, but whether its the very visible amyloid plaques that cause the damage, or some precursor, simply isn't known yet. It's not a question of engineering a solution to an obvious problem, it isn't even known what the problem is.

Of course, none of this is saying that we should just patiently accept our fate of senile dementia and death - it does mean, though, that making progress on problems like this is hard work with no guarantee of a successful outcome. I don't see how going around glibly assuring people it's all going to be straightforward and if people stopped worrying deeply about causes and just fixed the problems it would all be solved in short order really moves us on.

giulio said...

"his insistence that "curing ageing" is "just an engineering problem" takes us entirely in the wrong direction"

What is it then? An aesthetic problem? A metaphysical problem? Artistic? Spiritual? Political?

"De Grey's rhetorical insistence on the "can-do" mentality of the engineer, which doesn't insist on understanding something before trying to fix it"

De Grey never said that, and no competent engineer would think that understanding a problem is not a prerequisite for finding a workable and optimal solution.

Dale Carrico said...

Richard, there is a lot in what you say. The point in raising the specter of Kuhn was not to imply that de Grey's research program was going to prevail because I think he is on to something, but just to say that many of the critiques of de Grey that claim to be scientific really appear to me to be more political than scientific in ways that bespeak the sociological factors Kuhn highlighted. Kuhn's account describes the dynamics of failed paradigm shifts as well as successful ones, after all.

But I share your concern especially with the glibness that seems to characterize at least some of simplifications of The Seven Deadly Things formulation, which, as I tried to evoke in the piece above, seem to me very likely to explode, upon closer scrutiny, into a daunting dynamic complexity of inter-implicated mortal dangers.

Your critique that de Grey's intervention is almost entirely rhetorical is one for which I have an immediate sympathy, because it aligns with so many of the tendencies I subsume under Superlativity in other instances.

I still wonder if there isn't something useful in de Grey's worry that gerontology risks becoming a mode of appreciating senescence more than intervening in it, but your lampooning of that as another instance of "can-do" promotional activity designed to whomp up enthusiasm among the rubes is one that can't help but give me serious pause, since, again, it connects up so seamlessly with moves familiar in Superlative discourses more generally.

You may be showing me a place where I am being too generous with a Superlative account, simply because I don't know enough of the science to know better. This wouldn't surprise me in the least, although it should be surprising to the transhumanists and others who are forever whining that I fail to give them the benefit of the doubt!

Anyway, thanks very much for the intervention. I'll try to look into these matters more deeply still.

Richard Jones said...

Giulio, I have only heard de Grey speak in person once, at the Foresight vision weekend in 2005, but I have a very strong impression that that is what he said. Maybe my memory fails me.

As for what kind of problem ageing is, first and foremost, it isn't "just" anything. Addressing even one aspect of it involves a huge effort of uncertain outcome involving elements of science, engineering and medicine, together with politics and economics and other social factors.

Dale, it's quite possible that de Grey's intervention has had benefits for the gerontology community (it isn't a field I know at all). Similarly, in my own field of nanotechnology, I'm very willing (much more willing than most of my academic colleagues, as it happens) to admit that Drexler's contributions have been important and useful. That doesn't mean, in either case, that they are right! The history of science is full of people who have been interestingly and usefully wrong. Didn't Feyerabend say something along the lines that there was no idea in science so dumb that something useful couldn't come out of it?

But, to return to my more concrete point, it seems very odd to me to be proclaiming that the conquest of aging is in sight, when a very significant fraction of old people will certainly fall victim to a disease which not only has no cure, but for which we don't even know the origin.

Dale Carrico said...

Dale, it's quite possible that de Grey's intervention has had benefits for the gerontology community (it isn't a field I know at all). Similarly, in my own field of nanotechnology, I'm very willing (much more willing than most of my academic colleagues, as it happens) to admit that Drexler's contributions have been important and useful. That doesn't mean, in either case, that they are right! The history of science is full of people who have been interestingly and usefully wrong. Didn't Feyerabend say something along the lines that there was no idea in science so dumb that something useful couldn't come out of it?

But, to return to my more concrete point, it seems very odd to me to be proclaiming that the conquest of aging is in sight, when a very significant fraction of old people will certainly fall victim to a disease which not only has no cure, but for which we don't even know the origin.


Well, I certainly agree with everything you say here.

Seth Wagoner said...

Richard, it seems to me that there are no doubt many unexplained diseases and conditions that have not yet been proven to be a direct result of the 7 types of "damage" buildup that SENS seeks to eliminate, but it also seems highly likely that such mysteries will become easier to solve as those 7 potential causes are slowly eliminated - particularly given the simultaneous advancement of the technology available for medical data gathering, analysis, and collaboration.

Richard Jones said...

Seth, what's important about Alzheimer's is that it is not an obscure unexplained disease that can be dealt with later after the big problems have been sorted out, but that it is already so very common as a disease of old age, and that as people do survive longer it is going to get very much more common. If you survive to the age of 55, you have a 17% chance of getting Alzheimer's if you are a woman, 9% if you are a man. The gender difference essentially arises from the longevity difference; every extra decade you survive pushes that risk substantially upwards.

It's also a very telling cautionary tale about the potential problems of de Grey's philosophy of not fussing about like those stuck-in-the-mud scientists worrying about what the causes of these problems are, but instead getting stuck into fixing their visible signs. Leaving aside the fact that, even if it was the amyloid fibrils themselves that were causing the problems it's very far from obvious how practically to deal with them, we now see increasing suspicions that it isn't in fact the large aggregates that are the real problem.

Yes, we all do hope that these mysteries will be easier to solve as technology advances, but this is a very different thing to saying that indefinite lifespans are just around the corner.

Seth Wagoner said...

Richard, sorry for the delayed reply. I'm not sure whether you have understood SENS. It targets neither the causes (metabolism) nor the the "visible signs" (pathology) of human aging.

Alzheimer's is pathology. It should therefore, in theory, go away once the types of damage that cause it are no longer allowed to build up. If all 7 known types of damage built up by metabolism have been addressed and Alzheimer's still happens, then there's an 8th type of damage (this seems unlikely - it's been 30 years since they found a new type of damage) and hopefully they'll be able to find a way to deal with that as well.

None of this is at all easy, but as compared with changing metabolism to eliminate the hugely complicated *causes* of the 7 types of damage or changing pathology to eliminate the hugely complicated *effects* of the 7 types of damage, simply finding a way of *removing the damage* is at least a *tractable* problem. They already have strategies for preventing the buildup of all 7 types of damage, and supposedly if even a few of those strategies bear fruit then that might be enough for us to reach "longevity escape velocity" - in which continuing medical advances increase average lifespan by more than a year, every year. So even though we might be hundreds of years away from solving *all* the problems created by aging, from the point of view of someone under 40, that may not actually matter.

It's all explained pretty well on sens.org and by Aubrey in various videos (eg when he was at Google, or TED). I find it quite plausible, and once I'm on a firmer financial footing, I intend to donate to the project.

Ben said...

Dear God man. The content is good but it's so very hard to read! It hurts my eyes. This alone is one whole sentence:

"I leave to the side here for now the more coo-coo bananas digital camp of Technological Immortalism, the partisans of which metaphorically "spiritualize" digital information and then seem or at any rate pretend not to notice that this actually figurative leap isn't exactly a scientific move, and then conjoin their already poetic fancy of an organismically-materialized consciousness somehow "migrating" via "Uploading" onto to a different material substrate without loss, to the (always ridiculously reductive always absurdly overconfident never the least bit successful nor the least bit daunted by its nonsuccess) Strong Programmatic faith in AI, and deploy this rather wooly discursive cocktail -- which they seem to imagine to constitutes exemplary or even superior science somehow -- to overcome what often looks like a plain common or garden variety hysterical fear and denial of death."

Only one full stop in the whole dang thing!