Sunday Times: Science gets serious about elixir of life

An article on the top national broadsheet about the 10th Congress of the International Association of Biomedical Gerontology to be held from the 19th to the 23rd of September in Cambridge (see 29/07/03 message, below).

A very positive article and yet another step in the right direction in bringing life-extension research into the mainstream. Aubrey de Grey is quoted on the feasibility of practical life-extension for humans: "Researchers have already succeeded in dramatically prolonging the lives of some animal species, including mammals, and there is every reason to think the same can eventually be done for humans."

Note, however, the bone-chilling quote at the end of the article: according to a Francis Fernandes, head of research at actuaries Lane Clark & Peacock, clearly brought in to provide a pessimistic counterpoint: "Society might dictate that life has to finish at a certain age regardless of health - or that fertility must be strictly regulated."


Closing in on the Cure for Death

Time is on your side if you're under 30, suggests biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey in an optimistic discussion of life extension.

A long and insightful interview with the host of our September meeting (see below, message of the 17/08/03) is available here courtesy of the BetterHumans site.

The topics discussed: Life extension is coming soon; Should we extend our lifespan?; Pursuing the end of aging; Achieving the "impossible"; Going against the grain; Seven-point plan; Scientific and technological challenges; Social and political obstacles; Antiaging prize; Prospect of immortality; Getting involved.

Any questions? Ask de Grey in person on the 6th of September, in Cambridge!


Cryonics on ITV: "Don't Drop the Coffin"

A rare chance to see cryonics discussed on tv, even if only as part of a real-life ITV documentary. The series is a show featuring the day to day activities of funeral director Barry Albin of FA Albins & Sons. In the last episode, showing on Tuesday the 26th of August at 8,30 pm, Albins, the only undertaker to provide cryonic services in the UK, visits father-of-cryonics Robert Ettinger at the Cryonics Institute in Michigan, where his "clients" are shipped for storage after treatment.


FA Albins & Sons

The cryonics page at Albins

ITV have produced a Press Pack, available here in PDF format.


ExtroBritannia's September meeting: "The engineering approach to life-extension", with Aubrey de Grey

The next ExtroBritannia meeting is scheduled for Saturday the 6th of September 2003, in Cambridge. The theme of the get-together is "The engineering approach to life-extension". Life-extension researcher and promoter Aubrey de Grey will give a presentation on the subject, followed by an informal Q&A/discussion session.


We will meet at 12,00 noon at the Salisbury Arms, 76 Tenison Road, Cambridge CB4 1PA, not far from the train station, and will order lunch at about 12,30. If this is your first time at an ExtroBritannia meeting, look out for a copy of Ray Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines" being displayed at the table we'll be sitting at.

If you cannot make it for lunch, you can still reach us at the Salisbury Arms until about 2pm, when we'll decamp for the university's department of genetics, for the presentation.


For further info on Aubrey de Grey and his work:


Engineered Negligible Senescence


A new article by Oxford University research fellow, transhumanist philosopher and WTA founder, Nick Bostrom.

Transhumanists vs. bioconservatives

"Transhumanism is a loosely defined movement that has developed gradually over the past two decades, and can be viewed as an outgrowth of secular humanism and the Enlightenment. It holds that current human nature is improvable through the use of applied science and other rational methods, which may make it possible to increase human health-span, extend our intellectual and physical capacities, and give us increased control over our own mental states and moods. Technologies of concern include not only current ones, like genetic engineering and information technology, but also anticipated future developments such as fully immersive virtual reality, machine-phase nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence."

"In opposition to this transhumanist view stand a bioconservative camp that argues against the use of technology to modify human nature. Prominent bioconservative writers include Leon Kass, Francis Fukuyama, George Annas, Wesley Smith, Jeremy Rifkin, and Bill McKibben. One of the central concerns of the bioconservatives is that human enhancement technologies might be "dehumanizing". The concern, which has been variously expressed, is that these technologies might undermine our human dignity or inadvertently erode something that is deeply valuable about being human but that is difficult to put into words or to factor into a cost-benefit analysis."

The full article on Nick Bostrom's site: In defense of posthuman dignity


Extropians and transhumanism get the UK tabloid treatment.

It's not quite the Sun, but the on-line computer magazine The Register certainly gives a good tabloid-like performance in this article on the recent "Pentagon Terror Casino" fiasco.

The picture painted by Register journalist Andrew Orlowski is not a pretty one: extropians are members of a "freakish" hi-tech cult. They are rich white males that spend their time plotting agaist those that are not like them: "such dunderheads will be left behind as [they] all lift off into space, making giddy whooping noises as [they] ascend. "

A few more quotes from the article, ranging from the misinformed to the patently absurd:

"A few years ago a bunch of extremely wealthy Californians met, liked the look of each other a lot, and formed a group called Extropians."

"[...] the Extropians devoted much of their disposable income (of which, there was much to dispose) to cryogenic research - deciding how to freeze themselves for eternal life, and deciding who amongst them Shall Be First."

"[…] the Extropian ideology [is] now blessed with Pentagon dollars"

A recent message on the extropian bulletin board, and the following thread, make a good first rebuttal and correct the most glaring misrappresentations.

What attracted the hack's attention to the extropians, was the fact that at the core of the ill-fated PAM (Policy Analysis Market) is "idea futures", the brainchild of known transhumanist Robin Hanson. The concept of idea futures, in a nutshell, is to harvest the market's ability to predict future events by allowing punters to "bet" on future events. The strenght of this approach is, quite simply, that it seems to work, but the idea was misunderstood and attacked as tasteless. Confronted with the bad publicity, the Pentagon abandoned the project. The fact that the whole point of the operation was to predict and prevent future terrorist attacks was conveniently forgotten by its detractors.

The background on PAM in a Reason article:
Betting On Terror: why futures markets in terror and assassinations are a good idea
by Ronald Bailey