Let’s get SENS on SciShow

I’ve been thinking for a while about how supporters of SENS and rejuvenation science can help beyond donating money and talking to friends and family about our cause to end ageing. Even persuading one person to join the cause is great, but getting the message to millions of people would be much better.There’s a tiny chance we could make it.

Have you heard of the YouTube channels SciShow and VSauce? If not, you should really check them out. SciShow focuses on bringing science to the masses through extremely informative and fun videos where a host (usually, but not exclusively, Hank Green) talks about a certain scientific topic, either because they’re interested in the topic themselves or because their fans asked for it. VSauce isn’t strictly about science, but rather about what its host, Michael Stevens, finds interesting—i.e. pretty much anything in the universe. I think they’re both awesome channels, definitely among my favourite ones on YouTube. Do you know how many subscribers they have? 3.5 and 10 millions, respectively. If they did a video about SENS, or even better, if they interviewed Aubrey, the exposure the rejuvenation cause could get would be enormous.

I’m quite sure Hank would be interested; as shown in this video, he’d appreciate the extra nerd time he’d get thanks to rejuvenation biotechnologies. I’m not super sure VSauce has made any videos about ageing, but I think Michael may very well be interested in the subject. It’s the kind of stuff whose implications, twists, and details he could go on about for days, probably. Additionally, both channels interview scientists in some of their episodes, and I’d love to see Aubrey on one of those.

I’m not the only one to think this could be a good idea; Keith Comito of Lifespan.io talks about it in this video, and apparently he’s in touch with the host of VSauce 3 (there’s more than one VSauce channel), who seems to be very interested.

I talked about this with Jerri Barrett, SENS’s vice president of outreach, and she seems to agree as well. She said she’ll look into it, but also that these channels pay a lot of attention to their fan base, and she’s right. If enough people emailed or tweeted to SciShow, VSauce, and/or their hosts suggesting to interview Aubrey or talk about SENS/rejuvenation biotechnologies on one of their episodes, they might just listen to us.

You can get in touch with SciShow and/or its hosts through their YouTube channel, their website, their Twitter, Tumblr, and their Facebook page; Hank Green can be reached via Twitter or Facebook. Same goes for host Michael Aranda; you’ll find him on Twitter and Facebook.

Similarly, you’ll find VSauce of course on Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.

By all means, if you want to help, do not stop at these two channels; there are many others that may be interested in talking about rejuvenation. I’m giving a few more suggestions here, but feel free to get in touch with any channels or websites you deem appropriate. You can also leave your suggestions in the comments below.

DNews: Another science-related YouTube channel. You’ll find them also on Facebook and Twitter; here you’ll find information to get in touch with individual hosts, if you like.

Singularity 1 on 1: These chaps like to interview prominent scientists and thinkers for their podcasts. You’ll find them on their website, and on Twitter and Facebook among others. (UPDATE: They’ve actually interviewed Aubrey twice already.)

Wait but why: WBW is a very popular technology blog dealing with a variety of different topics. You can get in touch with them via their website, their Facebook, and their Twitter.

TED talks: TED hosts speakers with ‘ideas worth spreading.’ Aubrey was there quite some time ago, and it is perhaps time we suggested him for another talk.

The skeptic’s guide to the universe: They’re into science-related podcasts, and I’m sure their million followers could use one about rejuvenation. Find them on their website, on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

In order for this to work, though, we need to gain some momentum. If just a couple of people tweet to Hank Green, it probably won’t work. What we need is many people getting in touch with them and let them know their fan base would really like to see a video about SENS, rejuvenation, Lifespan.io, Aubrey de Grey, and all that is going on in the rejuvenation world.

I’m sharing this post on relevant subreddits, facebook groups, and all supporters of the cause I know; if you do the same, it might just work. Thanks!

Surprise! OncoSENS continues

The exciting announcement regarding the OncoSENS campaign I was talking about a few posts ago is that it got a 31-day extension, plus a matching fund of 15.000$. In other words, every dollar donated in the next 31 days will unlock an extra dollar from the fund, up to the first 15.000$. Right now the campaign is 58% funded, so there’s plenty of time to reach the goal and beyond. Pretty cool, eh? We’re counting on your help.

Again on the excuse of procrastination

In a recent talk, Keith Comito explained the need for the life extension movement to make friends, not enemies. He’s right, and I am a tad guilty. I get extremely annoyed and snappy at people when they raise silly objections to rejuvenation, and sarcasm isn’t really the best way to get people to listen to, understand, and eventually support your arguments. However silly certain objections can be, it’s to be expected they’ll be made. They’re a product of gut reactions, the same kind of reaction that makes you answer “ten cents” to the question: “A bat and a baseball cost 1.10$ together. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. What’s the price of the ball?”, when the correct answer is in fact 5 cents. The gut-reaction-driven answer (or objection) seems perfectly sensible, to the point one assumes no thinking is required. However, it does take some thinking to see why 10 cents is the wrong answer, and so it does to see why objections to rejuvenation are equally wrong.

I’m not the only one who gets annoyed at this problem, though. In fact, I’m in excellent company, since Aubrey de Grey himself complains about it in his talks every now and again. More specifically, he often points out how people can make two contradicting objections within the same sentence, for example ‘rejuvenation would cause overpopulation’ and ‘rejuvenation would be only for the rich.’ Given that there are very few people in the set of rich people, if you assume rejuvenation would be only for the rich you can expect it to have an extremely minor effect on the population; conversely, if rejuvenation caused significant overpopulation, it would follow that very many people must have used it, certainly not only ‘the rich’.

The above is one example of contradicting objections people bring up in a single breath, but it is not the only one. Another similar pair is “Living indefinitely would be boring” – “If people lived indefinitely, they would procrastinate a lot”. The first objection relies on the assumption that you’d run out of things to do, while the second objection assumes that, since you’d have eons at your disposal, you would postpone everything and consequently get nothing done—which, for all intents and purposes, equals never running out of things to do. Of course, one may argue, the two apparently contradicting objections may in fact marry well together: People might end up having an awful lot of things to do, but never doing any of them!

I have already addressed the two objections above before they even started dating (here and here), but let me address them now that they’ve been pronounced husband and wife. Whether you live indefinitely long or for just a ‘normal’ length of time, stuff to do has this unfortunate tendency to pile up if you don’t take care of it. Yep, that’s right. Stuff doesn’t get done by itself. And what’s more, there comes a point beyond which the length of your backlog doesn’t matter any more: If you have 100.000 or 100.000.000 things to do on your list, the situation is pretty much equally hopeless. If you were completely stuck in a room with a temperature of 300°C, would it matter if it were raised to 800°C? Exactly. The bottom line is, if you suck at time management, it’s your fault; the lenght of your lifespan is irrelevant. Regardless of how long you’ll live, procrastinating is a terrible habit which you should never pick up.

It’s quite far-fetched to assume that indefinite lifespans would turn everyone into a professional procrastinator. (Quite possibily, those who make the assumption already are professionals of this field.) Even disregarding this fact, using the spectre of procrastination as an argument against rejuvenation would be ridiculous. That’d be like saying, ‘If I lived indefinitely, I’d end up postponing everything and I wouldn’t do anything any more! Better to leave around some age-related diseases, so that I’ll die at some point and I won’t run into this thorny problem. Yep. That’s so much better than having to learn not to procrastinate.’

So much for not being sarcastic, I suppose. Sorry about that.

Short update

As I was saying elsewhere, the past month or so has been rather busy, and I haven’t had time to write a line anywhere. Now that that’s dealt with, let me give you a short update on what’s new with the rejuvenation world before I move on to some more meaty post.

You probably already know about Michael Greve’s lavish donation to ageing research, for which humanity as a whole should be grateful. That’s very good news. Still on the subject of money, the OncoSENS crowfunding campaign will end in about a day, and last time I checked it had reached around 56% of its 60.000$ goal. You still have time to make your contribution—they’re all welcome, big and small ones alike. I hear from Keith Comito of Lifespan.io that an “exciting announcement” about the campaign will be made during the RB2016 live streaming—because yes, they’re doing streaming it this year—and I’m looking forward to know what it is.

Cha-ching!

I’m a slow poster, you know that. Sometimes I’ve posted about ‘news’ that were a month old. That’s because life comes often in between.

However, this time around life can stuff it. I don’t want to be late for this news.

On July 12, 2016, SENS Research Foundation announced that Internet entrepreneur Michael Greve, who runs the Forever Healthy Foundation and KIZOO Technology Ventures, has committed a whopping 10.000.000$ (let me spell that for you: ten fucking million dollars) to SENS research and to startups focused on bringing rejuvenation therapies to the market.

In the words of Greve himself, “My goal is to provide support for the critical research of the SENS Research Foundation and to facilitate the development of the rejuvenation biotech industry and ecosystem. I think we should have more people contribute to the step-by-step creation of cures for the root causes of all age-related diseases. And we should have a whole rejuvenation industry based on the SENS treatment model including the self-accelerating feedback-loop of success stories and amazing opportunities for scientist [sic], entrepreneurs and VC investors. This will truly accelerate both research and therapies. I have decided to lead by example and make this $10 million commitment.”

Five of the 10 millions will be donated directly to SENS over the course of the next five years, while the other five, as said, will be donated to other startups of the field. The 5mln to SENS constitute 10% of the goal of SENS’s new initiative Project|21, meant to make the first human trials of rejuvenation biotechnologies happen by 2021.

That’s the kind of news that make my day. It’s the kind of news that makes you think rejuvenation biotechnologies just got a lot closer to being a reality.

However, don’t think that our job as rejuvenation supporters is over: We still need to keep spreading the word and donating what we can. Speaking of which, Lifespan.io’s OncoSENS campaign has been feeling terribly lonely as of late. It has reached a mere 19% of the goal, much less than other campaigns have reached in the same timespan. Why don’t you pay it a visit and bring in some friends?

Thoughts and updates on recent crowdfunding campaigns

Times really are changing.

Five years ago, when I discovered there were people trying to defeat ageing, I had a distinct feeling it would be a really slow process. I don’t mean just in terms of getting the science done, but also of getting people on board, i.e. getting through people’s skull the simple fact that biological ageing is as bad for you as is any disease. (It’s actually worse, since ageing comes with a nice bundle of all sorts of diseases.) However, things are moving faster than I expected.

The number of companies and researchers joining the fight is increasing, and unlike ten years ago, saying you work on delaying or even eliminating ageing doesn’t automatically make you an object of ridicule and earn you isolation from the rest of the scientific community. In fact, in the scientific community, the idea that ageing can and will be defeated is slowly becoming mainstream.

The amount of online articles about the quest to put an end to ageing is also multiplying, and the tone of these articles is much different from what it used to be. A few years ago, the idea of ending ageing was seen as a quixotic, groundless fantasy, the science behind it was dismissed and belittled, and the scientists working on it were seen as nothing more than delusional, arrogant eccentrics. Today, articles tell a completely different story, and rather than making fun of anti-ageing science, they worry about the potential consequences of defeating ageing. Critics are starting to realise that, far from being a delusion, the defeat of ageing is just a matter of when, not if.

That’s not all. The opinion of the general public seems to be changing as well. To see how this is true, it’s enough to have a look at the result of the crowdfunding campaigns on Lifespan.io. The MitoSENS campaign was a huge success and reached 154% of the goal. The MMTP campaign, which is still running for a few more days, is currently more than 100% percent funded, and the original goal of 45.000$ has been extended to 60.000$. The OncoSENS campaign was launched on June 14, 2016, and as of today (June 19, 2016, i.e. five days later), it is already funded to 9%. (On a less bright note, the DRACO IndieGoGo campaign isn’t doing very well—only 14 days are left, and only a mere 28% of the goal has been reached.)

I think part of this success is due to how people change their minds about things. More often than not, people don’t actively oppose new ideas in themselves. Simply put, if there isn’t enough buzz around a new idea, people just ignore it; if you don’t hear about it often enough, you probably won’t consider it worth your time. More importantly, if most people disapprove of a new idea, then you’re likely to feel subconsciously pressured to disapprove of it too, regardless of its actual merit. This happens for three reasons.

The first is that the illusion of being right, coming from the logical fallacy ‘if most people think it’s wrong, then it must be’, is comforting. The second is that it always feels safer to belong to a majority group. The third and final reason is that being one of the many fuckwits who were wrong feels much better than being one of the few fuckwits who were wrong. In other words, if a lot of people think ageing can’t be defeated and turn out to be wrong about it, they can blame it on the issue itself; if so many people were wrong about it, it must have been particularly hard to grasp or deceptive. However, if just a handful of people thinks ageing can be defeated and they turn out to be mistaken, they’ll come across as a bunch of twits who couldn’t realise the obvious.

Because of the reasons outlined above, when an idea is still new and fairly controversial, people may feel that the safest option to avoid ridicule is to side with the majority and dismiss the new idea without further consideration. The new idea is not okay to talk about because almost nobody does, and of those who do, most despise it and very few praise it.

However, if one day the new idea is all over the Internet, more and more people are talking about it, and there’s a growing number of supporters, other people will start thinking that, perhaps, talking about the new idea is okay after all. It’s okay to read about it and make your own opinion rather than accepting that of the majority. Inevitably, the number of supporters will grow even more, making it easier for new people to join in. And as the number of people joining the cause grows, the cause itself gets a lot more exposure, giving rise to a virtuous circle that may eventually result in the once-despised idea being endorsed by most.

This is why I hope you won’t just read this post, nod approvingly, and move on to reading something else. I hope you’ll share it, share Lifespan.io’s crowdfunding campaigns, talk about healthy life extension to your friends and family, and help generating momentum around rejuvenation biotechnologies in any way you can. Only through advocacy can we reach the critical mass we need to turn the dream of rejuvenation into a reality.

I don’t like this one tiny bit.

I’m not a biologist, you probably know that. I’m thinking about getting a degree in biology, but presently I have no competence to say what makes sense and what does not, biologically speaking. All I say on this website about what may or may not cure ageing is the word of experts of the field, which I merely repeat in a different fashion.

However, having studied natural sciences and having been around on the planet for long enough, I’ve learned to be skeptical about solutions that seem too easy. Especially when the silver bullet seems to have been discovered much too suddenly.

As you probably remember, BioViva has recently experimented a type of gene therapy against ageing on its own CEO Liz Parrish. The aim of the treatment was to lengthen her telomeres, and according to preliminary data, it worked. I care to emphasise the fact that this experiment had a sample size of one.

Dr. Bill Andrews, founder of Sierra Sciences and discoverer of telomerase, the enzyme used by cells to lenghten their own telomeres, has always been dead set on curing ageing—a very noble goal. Thing is, Sierra Sciences and BioViva have now teamed up and apparently launched a company called BioViva Fiji, unsurprisingly located on the homonymous island. They’re building a clinic where this treatment can be administered to arguably rich clients. The reason Fiji was chosen as the location of this clinic is that the Fiji equivalent of FDA seems to have much less strict regulations.

In a video that is not so new any more (I am a slow poster), Dr. Andrews announced the creation of BioViva Fiji and made some pretty bold statements, such as a cure for ageing to be expected “really, really soon.”

You certainly know how much I wish for ageing to be brought under medical control, so you would think I should be excited at the news. I’m not. Why?

This is sketchy as fuck. Bold claims about curing ageing—something most people on the planet probably still think to be nonsense—a private, expensive clinic on the other side of the world where regulations don’t matter as much as setting up medical businesses, and a miracle treatment coming from an experiment with sample size ONE that hasn’t even been fully monitored yet. I’m betting you anything most people’s scam indicator would go through the roof, irrespective of how effective the treatment actually is. This is the kind of stuff that gives the field a bad reputation, and if BioViva were to be wrong or if nasty side effects were to arise as a consequence of the treatment, shit would hit the fan for BioViva, and I fear the shockwave would be felt throughout the entire anti-ageing research field.

It seems awfully simple. Andrews seem to think telomerase/gene therapy is the silver bullet that will fully cure ageing, and while, I repeat, I am not qualified to say he’s wrong, it seems too damn easy. All age-related diseases would boil down to your telomeres getting too short? Is he saying that other age-related damange, like the seven categories of damage that the SENS platform is supposed to fix, are not really relevant? Or can they too be fixed with a shot of telomerase? (I hope he’s not saying that about cancer, because cancer may have 99 problems, but telomerase ain’t one.)

I’m sorry, but I don’t like this. It doesn’t come across as respectable scientists pushing research foward, but rather like a group of a bit too enthusiastic people who think they’ve already solved the general case of a problem because they have got a particular case sort of maybe working. I may be a boring traditionalist, but I still prefer the SENS approach, and I’m not talking only about their approach to defeating ageing, but also to doing science.