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Want to live to 1000? What about 5000?
February 16, 2005 3:28 PM   Subscribe

What is SENS? It stands for Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. Confused? Aubrey de Grey believes that it is possible. His research has been in the news recently. De Grey is the co-founder of the The Methuselah Foundation, and they are offering a prize to anyone who can demonstrate healthy life extension in mice. More information at The Longevity Meme and Better Humans, among others. He recently spoke in Edmonton. Is it just me, or does he remind anyone else of a cult leader? There is something that strikes me about the way his writing sounds. The idea of anti-ageing treatment was convincingly suggested by Kim Stanley Robinson in his Mars Trilogy, which also addressed its potential social consequences, such as overpopulation and longevity as an option exclusively for the wealthy elite.
posted by dazedandconfused (12 comments total)

 
I heard Aubrey speak at a cryonics conference. He is not a cult leader. He is someone with the intellectual approach of an engineer, spending more time on practical advances than philosophical musings about life extension. He likes a pint and has a good sense of humor, and he answers his email.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:37 PM on February 16, 2005


See also: Fantastic Voyage : Live Long Enough to Live Forever by Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman

I find "engineered negligible senescence", transhumanism, immortality, living a really friggin' long time, whatever you want to call it fascinating. In biblical times Methuselah purportedly lived to be 969 years old (the Bible purports lots of things :). The fact that smart people who are alive today think that there is a chance that I might someday look back on my youthful years as 120 year old boy sends my imagination flying.

I actually blogged about it recently. As By The Grace of God points out, de Grey isn't a philosopher, and neither am I, but I have to question whether I like this place long enough to stay here forever. I mean, there is no empirical evidence that Christianity is the real deal, and I find it generally unsatisfying. But what if they're right? Do you really like planet Earth, the Milky Way galaxy, and the big fat empty macrocosmos as we know it long enough to stay here forever? And lets not forget that you can never escape the risk of death. So when I think about this, I also think about my Christian friends who might be sitting up in heaven on a beach with God. Or maybe their consciousnesses blink out of existence, i don't know.

If there is any single pressing question of today's day and age, it is, IMO, if you are offered one of either a red or a blue pill, and the red pill is to stay here forever and never die, and the blue pill is to die, which would you take?

I'm not trying to be scientifically or philisophically accurate or anything...that's how i'd talk about it over a beer. So don't bother :)
posted by reflection at 5:06 PM on February 16, 2005


But what if they're right? Do you really like planet Earth, the Milky Way galaxy, and the big fat empty macrocosmos as we know it long enough to stay here forever? And lets not forget that you can never escape the risk of death. So when I think about this, I also think about my Christian friends who might be sitting up in heaven on a beach with God. Or maybe their consciousnesses blink out of existence, i don't know.

I asked a rabbi about this once. Jews believe in tikkun olam, the healing of the world, and life extension is an opportunity to do just that. The continued inescapability of death actually makes life extension far more appealing to some of us believers, because God's will is always present. (It's a lot harder to thwart God's will than you think. It's just about impossible, actually. ;))
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:23 PM on February 16, 2005


What seems most obvious but little spoken of is that, in a world where a large percentage of people can't afford even the rudimentary health care necessary to live out their normal span, if this sort of technology is developed (and that's a big if) it will almost certainly only be available to the very rich. And they would have every reason to keep it that way. I can't wait for the future where the wealthy bastards who already run the world (badly) can also cheat death for hundreds of years.
posted by nanojath at 5:32 PM on February 16, 2005


You have to remember, a professional facing an unlimited lifetime of productivity is a very good credit risk. Would you buy immortality if it took you a hunded years to pay it off? Well, why not.
posted by kindall at 5:36 PM on February 16, 2005


Nanojath: That's why we have to popularize this set of concepts (and the science under it, and the very practice of thinking scientifically) as broadly as possible. I'm thoroughly skeptical of the time lines presented by Aubrey and others, but these advances are very likely to happen.

Consider the debate on stem cell research. We have every reason to believe that the elites resisting this research would use it to extend their lives or the lives of their children, but they encourage the masses to resist it. Hell, they don't even want us to believe in evolution.

I believe that another world is possible, and that the way for all of us to get it is for all of us to be aware of its possibilities in detail. How can we do that?
posted by By The Grace of God at 5:40 PM on February 16, 2005


If you prefer the blue pill, you may join:
Quitters United in the Establishment of a Society for the Enjoyment of Resigned Acquiescence to Senility, Extinction, Ruination, and Antiquity.

aka: QUE SERA SERA
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:46 PM on February 16, 2005


pandemonium wins
posted by mek at 6:36 PM on February 16, 2005


Anyone who's interested in this should check out a speech given by scientist Michael West at the November 02004 (hey, if that's how they want me to write it...) seminar meeting of the Long Now Foundation. He talks about the current work on stem cell lines, and theraputic cloning and how it might work to make human beings immortal. You can download an mp3 of the speech.
posted by Inkoate at 7:55 PM on February 16, 2005


I don't care what color the pill is; if I get to healthily live another 20, 30 or 40 years (or more...), I'll take it. Even if it costs a lot. Or it tastes like crap.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:16 PM on February 16, 2005


See, now all this time I thought SNES stood for Super Nintendo Entertainment System...
posted by Thoth at 8:58 PM on February 16, 2005


Oh... SENS. Right.

*smack*
posted by Thoth at 8:58 PM on February 16, 2005


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