On Aubrey de Grey

By Stephen. July 15th, 2010

In my last post, I continued my discussion of the SENSF (the leading scientific force for physical immortality), in particular my disappointment with the level of discourse present in their community. In that post, I mentioned that Aubrey de Grey, the moving force of SENS, is somewhat different.

But his difference may be as much of a problem as it is a benefit. It is this subject that I will begin to discuss here.

Aubrey de Grey is clearly a genius.  But he also plays the genius, and at least allows if not actively encourages guru-worship among his followers. Cults of person like these are inherently problematic.  One adverse consequence is that his ideas, such as the seven elements of SENS, are taken as doctrinal truths. While such fixation on the words of the master is de rigueur for religions and cults, it is only an obstacle to scientific progress.

It also typically damages the master a swell, swelling his ego and making him think of himself as universal rather than a particular genius.  Something of the kind seems to have happened to Aubrey de Grey, for has he turned to pronouncing on subjects where he is not only markedly less than a genius, he is little more than a talker.

For example: I have recently been thinking about one particular consequence of life extension, that it will inevitably lead to the end of children (or, at least, their conversion to rarities in a world of immortal adults.) To me, this has huge emotional consequences for humanity. (I hope to explore these consequences in a piece of fiction.) When I mentioned this subject on the SENSF site, I received such edifying responses as, “Nonsense, the world can support a hundred billion people easily, but anyway we’ll go to other planets or dimensions,” or, conversely, “Countries that still have children will just starve, and it will serve them right.”

As it happens, when it comes to this subject de Grey operates at a somewhat  higher level than his community. In this published article, he bluntly admits the premise. I quote:

The choice that humanity will face once aging has become optional is, therefore, every bit as stark as those who raise overpopulation as an objection to curing aging claim it is. We will have to choose between a high death rate or a low birth rate – it’s as simple as that.

This is bracingly forthcoming!

However, from there, his argument takes a downward turn, culminating in a conclusion that, while grand in tone, is pure sophistry in content. (continued in my next post) — Stephen


  1. ImmortalisRX says:

    With the total death rate at about .1% when aging is an option, the average life span could be about 1000 years limited on average by accidents, diseases , war etc; so in the end the birth rates will have to be dropped but, not as much as we think. First a large portion of our effort and resources goes to raising children to adulthood and a even larger percentage of your resources is devoted to the aging. Prolonging the youthful years reduces cost per person.
    The reduced cost per individual should translate into a larger yet more efficient population requiring less resources per person.

  2. Flyss says:

    Yeah, but that’s assuming people behave rationally, which is maybe not a rational assumption.

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