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Aubrey de Grey
A reader figured out one of the anagrams:” The phrase “Read by eye rug” is an anagram of Aubrey de Grey, one of the world’s authorities on life extension.Now this all makes sense.
De Grey is an advocate of a set of methods that, taken together, are called “Strategies for Negligible Senescence,” or SENS. It was this last that gave away the meaning to our reader Lylllee.
(Interestingly, she is not at all sympathetic to the program, and knows about it via conflict with another person whom, apparently she once dated. It seems that she believes that focusing on physical immortality is escapist, and that supporters of the SENS project are emotionally shallow. We do not agree. )
Dr. De Grey is a complex figure. He received a PhD at Cambridge without having been enrolled in post graduate studies. Within academia, he is a controversial figure, but the quality of his work and the intensity of his intelligence have made it impossible for his ideas to be dismissed outright, as some of his opponents would desire.
According to de Grey, technologies already exist, or are on the immediate horizon, that could extend life considerably. Such extension could achieve what he has dubbed “actuarial escape velocity,” in which those alive now are kept alive by today’s imperfect methods until more definitive future technologies appear. (This idea overlaps with, but is distinct from that of “the singularity,” in which technology and artificial intelligence are seen as the ultimate route past physical death.)
De Grey’s approach involves, among other methods, the use of stem cells for tissue regeneration, and a truly unique concept of moving mitochondrial DNA into cell nuclei. I can see why Glenn would be interested. He has admitted to becoming desperate in recent years. It seems quite believable that he recently suffered a considerable setback in his ongoing and difficult battle with brittle diabetes, and covertly set off on a trip that would be dangerous to him in his condition. The danger would have caused his friends to try to talk him out of it, which explains the use of encoded messages to delay our discovery long enough so we could not interfere with his attempt, and at the same time reassure us that nothing terrible had happened. (continued in the next post.) — Stephen
Continuing on the subject of Glenn’s whereabouts, and his interest in Aubrey de Grey.
If we hypothesize that Glenn has gone in search of life extension for himself via de Grey’s methods, we still must explain why he was seen in Sacramento, since Aubrey de Grey lives in Cambridge, England. Furthermore, de Grey himself certainly does not engage in unauthorized experiments on human beings — he’s a serious, responsible researcher looking to establish life extension in mice before trying it on people!
There is also still the question of the photo of the mirrored room, in which one individual is reflected three times, and indistinct drawings can be seen on the walls. ( This link takes you straight to the full sized photo.)
Some of our readers have suggested that the drawings on the back wal represent famous Illuminati, but it is difficult to know for sure. I am attempting to enhance the photo for further information.
I am just speculating here, but perhaps Glenn is combining two quests into one: seeking his own life extension, and also following a privately held clue he hopes might lead him into the realm of the secret societies of immortals and hafeems, which he sees as the true Illuminati. (To be continued.) — Stephen
Got it! “Iced his lips” anagrams to “His disciple.” Putting this together with the ideas I discussed in my recent posts on Aubrey de Grey, I think it’s safe to assume that that Glenn was on his way to one of de Grey’s disciples or students and that individual isn’t far from Sacramento.
It would still be exceedingly helpful for us if we could identify the whereabouts of the room shown in the photo on the USB stick, as it is very likely the room and the “disciple” aren’t far from each other. Please, if you know anything, get in touch! — Stephen
We need to find students of Aubrey de Grey, the life extension expert, located in the “Sacramento” area? Strattera and I are on it.
And we definitely would accept help from readers, whether posted as comments or through private email.– Flyss
As I continue to research Aubrey de Grey, I am struck by the one significant difference between his quest and ours: Dr. de Grey is looking for something incremental, whereas we are in search of a single definitive step.
No doubt, his approach is the more practical. In the ordinary course of things, medicine will take progressive steps toward immortality. Organs will be replaced by machines, or by artificially grown organs. Degenerative diseases will be slowed. The aging process in general will be analyzed and disrupted. It’s inevitable that, eventually, what de Grey calls “actuarial escape velocity” will be achieved. Whomever survives until that point will live forever.
However, many of us will not survive until that point, as we are already too ill or too old. It is for this reason that our discovery of actual, real life immortal human beings is so exciting. It seems likely that such people possess a mutation or a set of mutations that slows or stops the aging clock. If we could obtain even a small sample of his or her tissue, we could identify the altered genes, and proceed via genetic engineering to alter our own genomes to match. This would bring back the moment of permanent escape from death into the near present.
It is out of desire to pass through this “singularity” that we undertake the many risks involved in publishing this site.
I can only imagine that Glenn has similar intentions in undertaking the great risks of his current quest. — Stephen
In a comment on my last post, “C” points out that Dr. de Grey is a proponent of stem cell treatment for life extension, and that, also, stem cells are being studied as a possible treatment for type I diabetes — the disease that Glenn’s been struggling with his whole life.
As I understand it, they’re not yet using stem cells in people, just in rats, etc. Stephen, could someone in de Grey’s organization offered to break the law and experiment on him? — Flyss
Would anyone in de Grey’s group offer to treat Glenn with stem cells for his type 1 diabetes?
I would be willing to bet anything that the answer is “no.”
It doesn’t fit their modus operandi. De Grey is futurist in the best sense: he thinks strategically and looks ahead. He’s said repeatedly that there’s nothing that could pose a greater problem for the goals of his organization than a premature experiment that goes awry. For that matter, Dr. de Grey has expressed concerns about succeeding too quickly because he fears that if public isn’t first made ready for life extension the consequences could be harmful.
But could it have been an impostor pretending to have access to stem cells via Dr. de Grey? “C” says points out that Glenn should be far too smart to be tricked by an impostor, and in general I agree.
But he’s been getting desperate, and that can change everything. — Stephen
Continuing from my last post.
Among the purely biological, non-supernatural approaches to attaining indefinite life extension, the best known and most worked out is that of Aubrey de Grey. The name of his approach captures its flavor: Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS)
These are “strategies,” or lines of research, not guaranteed methods. The technique involved engineering, that least idealized of all branches of science. The aim is not immortality but greatly reduced aging.
One can take issue with certain of these strategies, and I intend to. But, broadly speaking, this is clearly the approach most likely to succeed. It will be incremental, not sudden, and come in pieces not as a whole. As a thought experiment, imagine this scenario:
(1) It becomes possible via stem cells, to maintain the elastin in skin, thus eliminating the laxity that leads to wrinkles. This is combined with methods for reversing sun damage leading to eternally youthful appearance.
(2) Similar methods (stem cells to restore joint fluid and cartilage) are used to reverse osteoarthritis, eliminating the joint pain that cripples so many and irritates most. Bone thinning is also stopped. (This is possible with currently available medications.)
(3) Age related mental decline is stopped by preventing the mini-strokes that lead to the most common cause of memory and cognitive deficits in seniors; Alzheimer’s disease is successfully overcome via an approach yet to be determined.
(4) Vision loss is entirely stopped through a combination of biological and technological fixes; hearing loss is reversed via cochlear implants (possible today, though expensive)
These together would lead to seniors who look young, have no joint pain, maintain full mental function, and can see and hear clearly. All of these are within reach. This is most likely the first step in the revolution.
Note that these “cosmetic changes” will have life extension consequences, as much of aging involves the sequellae of mental confusion, loss of hearing and vision, and difficulty in maintaining physical activity. But, in general, this is an anti-aging strategy, not a life extension one. For that, we need to consider some more dramatic methods. (Continued in my next post) — Stephen
Continued from my last post.
I had mentioned Aubrey de Grey’s Strategies for Delayed Senescence, or SENS. These consist of a set of seven research approaches, about which the SENS foundation says the following:
“It is important to understand that these seven ‘planks’ are a description of SENS, rather than a definition, and could, in theory, change or grow as we progress in our research efforts and deepen our understanding of the challenges which face us, and their solutions.”
I would prefer to address SENS on these terms. However, one must deal with the fact that within the SENS foundation there is a strong tendency to fall into habits of guru worship and doctrinal certainty. This is a natural human temptation, but it is unfortunate as it weakens a very strong underlying argument.
Keeping this in mind, the seven planks of SENS may be summarized and critiqued in very simplified form as follows:
(1) OncoSens: To delay death, cancer must be prevented. This is probably the most difficult aspect of the program. The specific techniques of interest to the SENSF may or may not be the most fruitful for dealing with cancer. Ultimately, this set of diseases involved mistakes in the copying of information when cells divide, and, as such, is a hard problem to solve from scratch. The body itself uses a variety of ad hoc methods to address the problem; we may need to augment them.
(2) MitoSens: This component of SENS is truly staggering and original. The mitochondria are, in a sense, cells within our cells, the remnants of ancient more primeval life forms that our own single-celled ancestors gobbled up and kept alive. (This is not controversial in mainstream science.) However, the DNA in the mitochondria is less protected from damage than the DNA in the cell nucleus. Since gradual decay of mitochondria may play a major role in aging, why not move mitochondrial DNA to the cell nucleus? This could be accomplished via therapeutic retroviruses, for example.
(3) LysoSens: This approach is based on the notion that many problems come from accumulated “junk: within cells. Some planks of this theory may be currently falling apart, but there is no doubt some truth to it. It may be possible to introduce external processes to remove this junk.
(4) AmyloSens: A similar problem occurs with accumulations outside cells, and similar critiques and solutions apply.
(5) RepleniSens: There is very little doubt that many aspects of aging are caused by loss of entire cell lines. Treatment for this is probably not far from the realm of currently known science, and could lead, among other things, to the benefits I described in this post.
(6) ApoptoSens: Certain cells are meant to die, to “apoptose.” When they do not, they may need help with their sepuku. There are numerous means proposed for accomplishing this.
(7) GlycoSens: Cells may become entangled with each other, leading to brittleness and other problems. This too is amenable to an engineering fix. (To be continued.) — Stephen
In my last post, I described the seven planks of Aubrey de Grey’s approach to achieving indefinite life span. I also suggested that many of the specifics in these approaches may be incorrect. It is very easy to be overconfident about what we know about the body; the entire history of medicine could be described as a narrative of such overconfidence. Thus, I do not necessarily believe that these seven planks are in fact precisely the way forward. What they are instead is a means of looking at the problem as solvable. Dr. de Grey is telling us is, “Don’t just explore. Aim at accomplishing!”
One might therefore compare him to Francis Bacon: In his Novum Organum, Bacon laid out the general direction that science would take for the next several centuries, and opened up the vistas in which it would succeed. He was writing in 1620, and got many details wrong. But his fundamental perspective was entirely right.
Thus, various specific components of SENS may include errors: e.g, telomere shortening, amyloid accumulation and mitochondrial free radical damage may all be red herrings. But the overall drive is undoubtedly correct: We can and will do this. — Stephen
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
As I mentioned in my last post, Aubrey de Grey, the public face of physical immortality, seems to be succumbing to the guru worship that he has allowed to grow up around him. Among the symptoms of this descent is a tendency to believe himself a universal genius, fit to pronounce not only on mitochondria but on moral philosophy. I have some doubts about his mitochondrial opinions, but of his moral philosophy I am certain: it is nonsense.
In my previous post, I introduced de Grey’s essay on one of the consequences of life extension: the inevitable need to reduce birth rate to near zero. The title of this essay is, “Aging, Childlessness or Overpopulation: the Future’s Right to Choose.” In its conclusion, de Grey deploys what might seem to be a virtuosic thrust. Invoking the cherished principle of autonomy, he upends the subject under discussion by claiming that we have an ethical duty not to consider these consequences of our present choices. I quote:
But is it better to have a hard choice to make, or to have it made for one? … Future humanity has just as much right to make its own choices as we do. Just as parents have a duty to give their children guidance in childhood but freedom thereafter, so we have a clear, indisputable duty to give future humanity the opportunity to choose. And the sooner we cure aging, the more people will have that opportunity. That opportunity, that choice, is their right; conversely, it is our duty to give them it.
These ringing words are purest sophistry, presenting as they do an argument brilliant on its face and nonsensical at its core. Among the many logical objections to this shimmering conclusion, I shall state just this one: Using the same reasoning, one can conclude that we have a duty to encourage birth rate to rise, since that too will give more people the opportunity to make all kinds of choices.
The reader, I am sure, can think of innumerable other ways to dissect the paragraph quoted above. However, I would like to add another critique beyond that of its sophistry.
In making his argument, de Grey betrays a fundamental lack of comprehension of human nature. For, of course, people as a whole will not simply decide not to have children, or at least they won’t so decide quickly. For, humans are not purely rational. Rather the opposite: We are driven by passion and instincts far more than by reason. And once all those children are here by the billions, we can’t just say, “whoops, made a mistake. Let’s take them back.” — Stephen
P.S. I want to reiterate: I believe that life extension is coming. I’m greatly in favor of it, too. But I believe in seeing the consequences with open eyes, rather than pretending them away.
[Thread continued by Kate here.]
The guru de Grey writes:
“We could, let us not forget, discover that there are plenty of things to do with our time that are more fun than having kids and that having hardly any children around is not so terrible after all.”*
Politicians are corrupt /and journalists seek sensation.
Priests and ministers occasionally grope young boys
And we, the public / act on impulse and instinct
A moving, aching mob.
Yet on balance, we are lucky that scientists / do not tell us how to live.
Science is a power that cannot be stopped / but scientists are not wise
We take their gifts /because we are hungry and greedy and human.
But if we take their words for wisdom / we are fools.
Aubrey de Grey may be a genius on his narrow ground,
But regarding the wider human world / he shows himself a
foolish, vain boy-man.
*To call having children “fun” is like calling the Appassionata sonata “pretty” or Picasso’s Guernica “colorful.” The word could be used only by someone who doesn’t understand, at all. – Kate
P.S. Like Flyss, I am pleased by Stephen’s new tack, except not so much the paranoid part. :-)