Posted: Mon, February 06, 2017 | By: Indefinite Life Extension
The Big Picture on Strategies for Defeating Death
“[...] the most promising ways to postpone aging are by disrupting the pathways underlying it, just as we do for specific diseases.” (de Grey, p.22)
That line sums up an important element of strategies for engineering negligible senescence (SENS) in Aubrey de Grey’s book Ending Aging, published in 2007. The book outlines the straightforward sense in disrupting the pathways that cause us to age: by engineering the damage of aging out of our biology after the body has experienced the damage, but before the damage accumulates to deadly levels.
In the various sections here, I’ll be going over why we should think this can work, why we should think this is thorough, what the big picture looks like, and what we should be doing because of it. These are exceptionally key life-and-death concepts that we all need to help turn into common knowledge.
When I was in high school in the 1990s, as I recall, a segment of one of our classes focused on aging and lasted for a few weeks. Our teacher left us with the impression that aging was impossibly mysterious and probably always would be. He seemed to take a somber tone when talking about it. Maybe I sensed that he was acting a bit differently because he merely had the flu, was distracted, or I was reading him wrong – I don’t know. It seemed to me that he didn’t really want to go over it much. I could have sworn that I sensed an air of anxiety from him over the issue, as though, perhaps, he didn’t know how wise it was to paint this bleak futility into the heads of these youth. Or maybe the trauma that death has already caused him in his life and his own terror in the face of it had crippled his intellect on the matter. Maybe it was that he knew that students tended to become extra cocky and flippant about this issue that he was so sure was a futile waste of time, and a closed case.
The devil’s-advocacy reflexes among us youthful sprites inevitably did kick in. We tried to argue around it, and our best shots seemed to be dismissively batted away.
‘No, no you can’t do that, telomeres will always end us, there’s no way around it. The havoc wreaked by metabolism, mutations, and things throughout the aging process is just too much. Solving it is an untenable paradox. There’s no reason to think that tools can become that specialized. That’s how it works, it’s dirty, too complex, and unfixable.’
I thought that there must be a way. I was betting from what I knew of him and could see of the subject that he was going to end with some interesting insight that left us all metaphorically applauding with optimism and determination to consider tackling this kind of field, but he didn’t. My teacher didn’t seem to be a Columbus or a Spartacus, a Newton or a Pasteur.
I wish I would have kept thinking about it then. I wish my science teacher, and science teachers around the world, had possessed more scientific and critical-thinking courage to instill more of a drive in us students to take the challenge on, daunting though they were convinced it was in those days.
The way forward to stopping aging is clear, yet people still treat it like it’s not.
That was only 20 years ago. Since then the reality of what humanity knows about aging and its surrounding issues has been changed through a multitude of scientific insights, from a variety of researchers and organizations around the world. Some of these insights are harder to grasp, but potentially no less tenable than others. Some of them help bolster hypotheses of aging that have other complications and holes.
There is a simplified roadmap that sums up most every path that can be taken to indefinitely extend life, which we will go over a bit later. The clearest of the ways forward, leading the charge, is the concept of eradicating the damage that is building up in our bodies and killing us, as outlined and taken on by SENS.
Regardless of which path(s) we take, one way or another we have to go through, around, over, under, or some other way to obviate the effects of this damage. And yes, we do have to do it. Life is far too mysterious and incredible to coddle the grave and yawn at the future.
If there were semi-understandable reasons to excuse away potential paths and hypotheses to defeating aging in the 1990s and before, the first decade of the 21st century has been the herald of a new age in understanding of aging. It has been over a decade now since there was an excuse for teachers to discourage students from thinking about cures for aging. We can’t accept procrastination as an answer. Most teachers haven’t researched the field well enough or thought it through yet, as exemplified by people like Professor Bret Weinstein who, in 2006, stated that
“[There is] the very real possibility that no solution to the senescence problem exists at all. Indeed, that scenario seems highly likely, as any intervention massive enough to do the job would naturally tend to create bigger problems than it solves.”
That kind of mentality fell especially behind the times after 2007, when the clear reasoning for taking on the forms of damage outlined by SENS was meticulously spelled out in sociological and scientific detail, and published in layman’s terms, in Ending Aging.
In these skeptics’ defense, though, everybody can’t be expected to catch on to new truths and revelations all at once. The Romans brought the world an architectural revolution, building with concrete and new frameworks for hundreds of years before much of the rest of Europe caught on. Copernicus knew that it was hard to change prevailing mindsets: his new heliocentrism wasn’t taken up more widely for decades.
Now every person that has come to understand the importance of the insights and ways forward outlined in Ending Aging has to become a teacher. Every person that understands this groundbreaking way forward is now responsible for teaching it to those that don’t.
As de Grey writes, and as the rest of the book explains,
“I couldn’t think of any more categories of damage! Try as I might, I really couldn’t. There were a couple of other examples of molecular changes that accumulated throughout life, but I had reasons to believe that they were in the same boat as non-cancer-causing chromosomal mutations: they might be harmful if we lived hundreds of years, but they very probably weren’t harmful in a normal lifetime. Other than that, everything I had learnt about during my five years of study and conference-hopping seemed to be covered.” (41)
The following table is from “The seven parts of SENS” (43).
“As I mentioned […], there may well be other problems that will emerge if we succeed in solving all of these and thereby live a great deal longer. I felt, however, that my list might very well be comprehensive enough to give a few decades of extra life to people who are already in middle age before we start the treatments.” (42)
I and growing communities of people like me are firmly convinced that we must embrace this way forward and help get it done without delay.
I think that taking the fallibilist approach is the best way to go. That is, you can be passionate, active, and dedicated to a concept and still be prepared to be wrong about it if the data change down the line. We can’t afford to be meek about it just because SENS might be wrong. We must do what it takes to execute its components like our lives depend on it.
Proofs of principle
So, what reasoning do we have to believe that we can even humor the notion that it might be possible to remove or reverse these forms of damage? There are multiple, straightforward, convincing reasons that are clear to see.
As noted in the above table, one of the forms of damage that accumulates in our biology and ages us to death is junk inside cells, the buildup of lipofuscin. Lipofuscin particles are bits of material that, for various reasons, cannot be easily digested by our cellular recycling centers, the lysosomes.
As noted in Ending Aging,
“After a few decades of work, victims of three of the most common [lysosomal storage diseases (LSDs)] are now being successfully treated with such therapies. There are, for instance, about four thousand people now living normal lives despite having Gaucher’s disease, thanks to regular injections of the lysosomal enzyme that their cells are unable to produce for themselves. The drug development process has been reasonably clear, although technically challenging. In one disease after another, scientists have identified the enzyme whose absence cause the disorder; modified it in various ways to allow it to be injected, taken up by cells, and delivered to the patient’s lysosome, where they function exactly like the same enzyme does in the rest of us when it is produced by our own cells; and watched as symptoms have disappeared, lives have been extended, and victims have been enabled to live the life that the rest of us take for granted.” (126)
“Again, one potential solution is already in use in the LSDs: the use of molecules of the sugar mannose 6-phosphate, which is recognized and taken up – along with its cargo – by the lysosome.” (131)
Researchers at SENS and others continue to move this work forward.
When it comes to another of these seven types of damage, junk outside of cells, extra-cellular damage accumulation like the amyloid plaques involved in slowly killing us through dementia, Ending Aging explains the following:
“Through careful sifting of the data, scientists managed to collect some preliminary information suggesting that, despite the horrors of inflamed brains in a few patients, immunization with beta-amyloid fundamentally does work as a therapy in humans.” (153)
“[...] old Caribbean green monkeys given beta-amyloid vaccination exhibited huge (66 percent) reductions in beta-amyloid levels in the brain, and a complete absence of plaques, and that the dense tangling-up of neurons’ supporting glial cells usually seen in human Alzheimer’s patients was considerably reduced. This is an important piece of supporting evidence, because these monkeys develop some Alzheimer’s-type pathology naturally as they age, and are much closer relatives to us than any mouse.” (155)
Work on this continues.
As recently as January of 2014, with the help of visionary Dietmar Hopp,
“[A] new injection of cash is specifically earmarked for the clinical development of another antibody that AC Immune has discovered and successfully tested in animals. This new therapy targets tau, the other tangle in the brain that has also been implicated as a trigger for Alzheimer’s.”
In discussions with many of the thousands of people that I’ve talked to about this life-and-death cause over the years, I like to say things like,
“And one of the seven forms of damage is the accumulation of lipofuscin in our lysosomes, the cells’ recycling centers. Lipofuscin is a material that our lysosomes can’t break down, and so it accumulates. It’s like how when you vacuum your carpeting, many times, it won’t pick up things like pennies and bread ties. If you never picked those things up, then after 20 years of vacuuming, your floor would be crowded with them, making it harder to live. If we can get that lipofuscin out, then our cells can be healthier and help us live longer. Good news in that way is that there are conditions such as rare lysosomal storage diseases, that have already been worked on with success in laboratories around the world, and places like SENS are already working on the aging aspects of it.”
Another of the things that I’ll often say to convey this kind of crucial insight is,
“For example – and I can understand how this might be hard to believe, but listen to this – they have already found a way to clear the amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s disease out of the brains of monkeys with a vaccine; it’s just that it caused some people to die in clinical trials, and so it was pulled until further research is conducted. With more people going into educational outreach and research, and helping to fund these kinds of things, this kind of research could take our progress to the next levels much sooner. The work going into this is all supported by and reported on through the movement for indefinite life extension (MILE) – a Facebook gathering that is building support for people and projects working directly or indirectly toward these goals. Find us there and help us spread the word.”
You can use approaches like these or use the data to craft ones that work best for you and the people you talk to. If you need help, find a related life-extension community and ask away. Find me if you want; I’m around, and I will be happy to help you.
You’ll find plenty of rebuttals like these in related topics and discussions. For example, in a response to Dr. Charles Mobbs talking about how there isn’t even one proposed SENS modification that could be carried out by science , Aubrey de Grey points out that
“immune-mediated removal of neural amyloid (extracellular junk) and pharmacological un-stiffening of the artery wall (extracellular crosslinks) were demonstrated in rodents several years ago and are in clinical trials.” 
I like this excerpt from Ending Aging:
“The difficult thing about designing an AGE-breaker drug is not that there’s any lack of chemicals that can break apart a given cross-link; the problem is to come up with something that won’t also tear normal, healthy proteins to shreds in the process.” (193)
It alludes to the notion that we are not plagued by complete and utter ignorance on how to even begin to imagine ways through with these various damage challenges. Rather, the solution is in the fine-tuning. The solutions are probably already there. Now let’s tease them out of the chemistry.
For another of the seven challenges, using allotopic expression to combat mitochondrial mutations, a 2010 study reported that
“Two important pathways that direct proteins into the mitochondrial inner membrane and matrix have been known for many years. The identification of numerous new transport components in recent proteomic studies has led to novel mechanistic insight into these pathways and the discovery of new import pathways into the outer membrane and intermembrane space.” 
Ending Aging devotes two entire chapters to the subject instead of one like the rest. Read it, learn it, open your reticular activating system to it, and get these kinds of insights flowing around in your head so they can come out through your mouth and your aptitudes.
Regarding another of the seven forms of damage, Dr. de Grey proposes that we replenish cancer-prone areas with stem cells that lack telomeres. Impossible? Too hard? How would we scrape the cells out of so many of the parts of our bodies and restock them with stem cells? Well, read the book. It gives you an excellent look at the issues, and leaves you with a big bibliography, your imagination, and the current forward march of science and technology to work with. The mind-blowing mysteries of the universe need you to read this book as they await your arrival.
Here are some excerpts of examples of how it can be done, which are not hard to find and which the book points out for us.
“Bone marrow transplantations are, of course, already a common and nearly routine procedure, not only for DKC sufferers, but also for patients with a range of blood disorders, cancer patients who have lost their bone marrow to radiation therapy, and many others.” (303)
“[Dr. F. Charles Campbell’s] team extracted stem cells from mouse intestinal tissue, wiped out the cells from small stretches of the colon, and then repopulated the tissue with stem cells, which differentiated into all the appropriate cell types and made fully functional new tissue.” (305)
These are just a few of the examples. Who really thinks that humanity won’t eventually be able to figure out and control every form of damage? Even if we do find out that there are more than seven types, we’ll accept those challenges, too.
With a clear way forward, what are we waiting for? If we get this done, then we can probably live indefinitely. Can humans be so mentally slothful and negligent that they would be able to do all kinds of things on microscopic scales and yet not be able to clear damage out of biology? Does anybody really think that most mitochondrial proteins can make it through the TIM/TOM complex, but that it’s out of the question for the rest of them?
If you haven’t been paying attention, control of our world through science has been bursting at the seams now for a while. Watch this video here about color coding for surgery, this video here about targeting specific brain cells to turn them on and off, this video here demonstrating a kidney being printed live on stage, and any of the many others.
If we want it and put our minds to it, then we could get it done. I would write “can” instead of “could”, but I know that there are critics that would whine about that. But really, why in the world can’t we? I don’t think there is any question that we can. Maybe we do find out that some of these things are utterly impossible for whatever reasons, but we don’t operate by excuse. We move forward, as we have done, conquering the elements again and again.
The seven stand tall and strong.
As de Grey explains, and as anyone is dared to refute, there seem to be only those seven forms of damage that age us to death by accumulating in and around our cells. These forms of damage have been discovered by science over the years, the last one being found in the 1980s. De Grey reminds us that science and technology have come a long ways since the 1980s, and no new forms of damage that directly contribute to aging people to death have been found.
It’s not “seven plus all the ones we can’t get a grip on or figure out yet.” It’s not “seven just because these are Aubrey’s or some group’s favorite seven”, and it’s not “seven but we have absolutely no idea how we could even begin to think about tackling any of them.” This isn’t a widely disputed list of items. It has accumulated and been independently peer-reviewed through all of science over time.
As written in Ending Aging,
“You could stop thinking of aging as a hopelessly complex theoretical problem to solve, and get on with attacking it head-on, as an engineering challenge that needed to be overcome.” (44)
You can, and you must. At the very least, this engineering approach is one of the main avenues that needs full support of as many people from around the world as possible, and as soon as possible.
So why isn’t SENS being discussed more widely yet? Some people refuse to accept any conclusion that isn’t arrived at through time-honored formal channels. Many others are hell-bent on putting style ahead of substance.
Like Albert Einstein once said,
“It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”
For others, it’s hard to say. People don’t come to the right conclusions for a lot of reasons. I guess that’s why we need determined visionaries to pry the doors of new-found truths open.
As another scientist has written,
“and my inability to get it discussed in gerontological circles implies, if nothing else, that blind spots large enough to hide new [aging insights] exist.”
The Wright brothers were publishers and bicycle repairmen, yet we don’t say that their invention of controlled flight was wrong because of it. Once penicillin was invented, people were not expected to scoff and impede the work with petty distractions because they didn’t like the way Alexander Fleming trimmed his eyebrows or kept his office.
If you think that we have to wait to march forward to potential extended life because these seven aren’t correct, then bring forth convincing, relevant reasoning that there are more or fewer of these forms of damage that are directly aging us to death within our current maximum lifespan.
If there are more than seven, then an open $20,000 invitation to demonstrate that SENS is “so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate” might be expected to illuminate one or more of them. As many know, that’s precisely what happened in 2006. Technology Review along with Aubrey de Grey put together a $20,000 reward for exactly that.
Here is what the scientists that responded said about the seven forms of damage.
Bret Weinstein, who at that time was a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Michigan, challenged SENS with the following:
“False tenet 1: The list of senescence causes is short and probably complete.”
(A) The brain is certain to have informational limits not on the list
(B) Histological entropy is also unaddressed
(C) Each significant increase in maximum lifespan will reveal new problems we have never seen”
“But even if by some miracle—and that’s what it would have to be—there were not a cluster of problems characteristic of people within, let’s say, a century or two of their 500th birthday, there is another reason to doubt the claim that an absence of newly discovered causes says anything about what remains to be found. I have myself tried and failed—by the normal and expected means—to add one probable cause of senescence to the list. I termed the idea ‘histological entropy,’ and my inability to get it discussed in gerontological circles implies, if nothing else, that blind spots large enough to hide new causes exist.” 
You might recognize that last quote from above, where it was purposefully placed to expose this double standard.
That’s great: if you can make the case, then do it. Again, the seven causes in question are not decided upon by de Grey, but by the acceptance of science over time. All the years between now and 1982 haven’t changed the minds of scientists on them.
If the brain has informational limits, then let’s research it and/or get to that point and find out.
I’m reminded of the real-life story of a group of hikers lost in the Grand Canyon. Dying of thirst, three of the young men in the group went off in search of water. At one point, on their first-ever experience with it, they had to free-climb down a tall vertical cliff face. I don’t know how, but in their weakened, dehydrated state, all three of them made it down, and after more arduous hiking at the bottom, they did find water.
I can imagine Weinstein standing at the top of that cliff with them before they went, telling them that they shouldn’t go because there might be more daunting obstacles ahead.
If there are informational limits down the road, or 500-year-old people begin to experience new and unforeseen causes of aging, then let’s go there and see. First things first: we find a way to get past the obstacles that we do confirm are blocking the way right now. Let’s get down this set of seven cliffs.
Regarding histological entropy, Weinstein thinks it’s likely that the parts of our cells and biology don’t retain enough of a mysterious force that allows things like genes that produce kidney enzymes, lymphocytes produced by the thymus, and so on, to function with their surroundings over time because they lose their memory of how to do so. However, as de Grey points out, the world routinely performs tasks like functional skin grafts, organ transplants, and bone-marrow transplants which don’t all seem to be at a loss as to how to “remember” how to interact with their surrounding environments.
Not to mention, if there is disorder in a machine, take out its damage and then see how it performs. If your oil change is past due, don’t speculate that your car might have a mysterious force causing it to break down, and forgo changing the oil. Let’s get the seven confirmed and seemingly only foreseeable forms of damage out of there, and then see what kind of potential entropy may or may not take place.
Let’s say that it ends up that we do need to find a way to refresh positional information – then prove it so we can know. Anybody can ask the life-extension communities for help if they need it. Do you need your papers and conferences spread? Do you need more debate on the matter? The scientists, activists, advocates, marketers, and all the rest in the overall movement of people that want the end of aging, that want extended health, and indefinite life extension, are eager to help. You can even pick the ones with the most intimidating-looking degrees and the starchiest-looking suits if you want.
Charles V. Mobbs, Ph.D., Professor in Neuroscience and Geriatrics from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine wrote that,
“The practical rationale for the SENS approach is that correction of the seven forms of damage can be accomplished ‘by techniques that… can (with adequate funding) probably be implemented in mice within a decade or so (1).’ However, the major categories of damage each entail a multitude of specific impairments. Furthermore, it is not known which of these age-related changes actually predispose to functional impairments and which may be benign. Therefore SENS would require an impractically large number of interventions. Finally, even if it were possible in some way to target the vast number of changes that occur during aging, at the moment, and indeed for the foreseeable future, the available technologies do not allow even one such modification to be carried out, much less the vast number necessary.” 
Bone-marrow transplants, repopulating intestines with cells, lysosomal storage disease successes, recombinant DNA engineering, success with moving mitochondrial genes around already… come now. Mobbs even admits that at least one of the SENS components, replacement of beta cells involved in type I diabetes, “will be developed”. Of course current methods aren’t developed yet in many cases, and aren’t perfect in others. If they were, then there wouldn’t be a need for a plan to take the group of them on and make them work fully: we could just prescribe an end to aging rather than put in the hard, morally imperative work to find it. De Grey developed a variety of methods to take on these forms of damage. If you don’t like them, then support other methods, but don’t try to dissuade people from taking this important plan seriously.
Sending a rocket into space might not have worked either. The materials might have reacted in unknown ways. There may have been uncalculated or even incalculable forces, or even an impractically large list of things to work out, etc. Humanity has long been in the business of putting together a viable picture of the given way forward to go and see.
As John F. Kennedy said about using rocket science to take people to a foreign celestial body,
“if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun – almost as hot as it is here today – and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out –then we must be bold.”
The following twenty-thousand-dollar rebuttal-hopeful was from Preston W. Estep III, Ph.D., President and CEO, Longenity Inc., Matt Kaeberlein, Ph.D., Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Pankaj Kapahi, Ph.D., Buck Institute for Age Research, Brian K. Kennedy, Ph.D., Department of Biochemistry, University of Washington, Gordon J. Lithgow Ph.D., Buck Institute for Age Research, George M. Martin, M.D., Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Simon Melov, Ph.D., Buck Institute for Age Research, R. Wilson Powers III, Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Heidi A. Tissenbaum, Ph.D., Program in Gene Function and Expression, Program in Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School.
“The SENS plan addresses seven pathologies that increase in severity with advancing age and proposes a solution for each [2, 3, 8, 9]. We agree that the some of the pathologies grouped together by SENS are causes of death in some individuals (this is obviously true of cancer, for example). In fact, all of these pathologies were discovered in the routine performance of science and medicine, and have been previously suggested to cause progressive dysfunction or death. Beyond grouping these pathologies together—and unscientifically excluding others—SENS is simply a collection of prospective therapies, some simple and mundane (e.g. exercise) and some best described as fantasy.” 
It’s often aggravating to many scientists when people misinterpret science. It’s at least equally aggravating to many sociologists when scientists misinterpret sociology.
Many specialists, from any field, are compartmentalized and are prone to lacking in other skills, from either having devoted so much of their brain power to fewer pursuits, from lack of aptitude, or both. That’s alright, though; we don’t fault people for that. Practical discourse is not some people’s thing in the same way that raw science is not others’.
For those of you familiar with the television show The Big Bang Theory, this kind of interaction is represented brilliantly between the characters of Sheldon and Penny. Those are the two extremes, whereas most people fall in the middle. It’s the interaction between those extremes that seems often to characterize the whole field.
The reader of the Estep et al. communications snafu can only be left to guess that they must be pretty good at writing empirical publications to get to where they are; I have no doubt that many or all of them make fine contributions to the health and longevity of humanity.
Let’s take this rebuttal a line or two at a time.
“In fact, all of these pathologies were discovered in the routine performance of science and medicine, and have been previously suggested to cause progressive dysfunction or death.”
This is written as though SENS and supporters, and even non-supporters who have looked into probably any given three sources on SENS information – be it the book, some videos, some articles, etc. – didn’t already understand that as put forth by SENS. This would be like saying, before the Wrights flew, that “in fact, all of the calculations and measurements they used to get going are things found by various people over the years.” No kidding… and not only that, but the accusatory tone of it, even if the content of it were true, wouldn’t even be relevant. Instead what we are left with is an irrelevant anecdote delivered through an irrelevant tone. In fact, hordes of Johannes Kepler’s data came from Tycho Brahe. But Kepler, like de Grey with previous science, worked with and sorted it into ways forward.
“Beyond grouping these pathologies together—and unscientifically excluding others—SENS is simply a collection of prospective therapies […]”
A statement like that is best repudiated. The reasoning is plotted out, and the reasoning for exclusions and why this list is probably complete is plotted out. None of the seven types of damage are contested, and nobody can name an eighth that isn’t contested, yet. Of course, the specific methods that de Grey puts forth might not work, and we might find that there are more or fewer than seven at some point, but that’s not a reason to denounce the plan.
Bring an eighth if you can, but don’t try to pretend that SENS is wrong because of the initial methods put forward to get the project going. Regardless of what method one takes in trying to eradicate the damage, be it de Grey’s method, other existing methods, some synthesis, or completely new ones, the damage must be a main focus, if not the main focus.
These puzzle pieces have come together and spell out a clear picture. We fittingly give de Grey due credit, but like I heard the character in an old movie playing Thomas Edison say, he didn’t so much invent as discover what had been waiting there to be stumbled upon by a discerning mind all along. Aging has finally shown its face. We can now take it head on in working to tear it down. Now, knowing better, there are no excuses left to hide behind for not doing better.
The teachers that already know about this need to get with the program, or rather, help get it into schools’ programs. Spread the word, tell others, impress the importance of this upon your school boards, and make it the issue that it needs to be. The classes on the politics of the 1800s are useful, economics can be good to know, chemical bonds are an important topic, but they are nothing when you’re dead. Taking on this damage and ending aging is a keystone curricular issue, and it will be front and center on the primary and secondary school stage, and most everywhere, at some point. For the love of life, help take it there faster. Cap those segments in school about aging off, not with the kind of conclusion of teachers like mine and well-meaning but short-sighted critics, but with the answer that I was expecting, the critical 21st-century thinkers’ answer.
All prospective paths leading into this new frontier
There is a nice, succinct Roadmap to Immortality that is great for visualizing the big picture of the pathways that could take us to indefinite life extension. Teachers like mine have been telling students that there is probably no way forward to defeating aging. I like to think of this roadmap as the totality of the response that rose to meet that challenge.
SENS is the heavy artillery pushing the front lines, and there is a whole army of positions behind them, on the flanks, doing reconnaissance and so forth, for advocates, activists, students, and researchers to consider.
In brief, they are as follows:
- Anti-aging therapies and studying aging – SENS and the seven forms of damage are in this category. Within potential anti-aging paths, the two main ones are damage theory and programmed theory. Within those are various hypotheses and numerous near-hypotheses, many of which have been made sense of through the context of SENS. Endocrine work, immune system research, genetic manipulation, calorie restriction, free radicals, telomeres and more, are interesting potential-filled subjects that may hold answers to aging that are greater than many can yet conceive and that many others already do. They are all worth a look, and any one of them could have key answers hidden within them to be brought out by discerning minds. Most of them, however, at this time, cannot be demonstrated to be as comprehensive or straightforward as strategies focused on damage are.
- Cryonics – Cryonics fills the deceased with a human-safe anti-freeze of sorts and turns them into glass by slowly cooling them in liquid nitrogen to super low temperatures. This is done so that they can have the glimmer of a hope that future science may be able to unthaw them and fix the maladies that (nearly) killed them.
- Victory over infections – Besides aging, there are a lot of diseases and afflictions that we need to work on as well, and we support most all of this work, present and future.
- Brain transplantations – The brain is the most complex component of working to reach indefinite life extension. Work in the field of transplantation can yield critical results.
- Social changes – Reform is a big part of this. For example, we need aging reclassified as a disease, we need politicians to take this seriously and put this issue on their platforms, we need the media to pay due attention to this, we need primary and secondary school curriculum to incorporate this, etc.
- Cloning – Cloning has opened up options and potentials for increasing pools of stem cells, making copies of patient-specific organs, and much more.
- Genome and cell regulation – Because of the field, we can already splice genes, and have had success in beating back some diseases through rearrangement of genes already. New machines have figured out how to read entire genomes more rapidly, and the potentials are vast.
- Bioinformatics – Bioinformatics helps us to record and analyze the human genome, work with bio-hacking, and achieve a variety of other things. Programs like Stanford University’s Folding@Home protein-analyzing program help to understand the structures of proteins in fractions of the previously required time, which helps researchers to move much faster.
- Digital immortality – There are many that believe we might be able to do things like load our minds, intact, largely or wholly as they are, into digital format. They work on a variety of other promising techniques as well, including advancing toward the Singularity.
- Regeneration and artificial organs – 3D organ printing through places like Organovo are on the rise, with things like functional livers predicted for availability in 2014. Stem-cell therapy for repairing damaged heart tissue recently entered potentially paradigm-shifting clinical trials.
- Nanomedicine – Nanomedicine holds all kinds of potentials, for specialized delivery, diagnosis, cheap and new drug creation, and more.
- Reducing the exogenous causes of death – There will probably always be risk of dying from a car crash, drowning, etc., but we aim to decrease the external world’s ability to kill us, and allow people to choose how much risk they may or may not want to engage in.
- Artificial intelligence – Super-smart problem-solving machines can help us solve the riddles of aging, disease, and everything else, a lot faster, and time is of the essence. Nobody wants to be the last to die before these potential cures and therapies for indefinite life extension arrive.
- Cyborgization – Instead of cleaning the damage out of our biology or any of the other options, what if we could just, so to speak, “clip” on a new body made of the finest precision technology? The field already shows increasing capacities for controlling bionic limbs through the work of pioneers like Dean Kamen, and the organization and expedition of the whole field is now underway through the work of people like Dmitry Itskov of the 2045 initiative.
The necessity of activism on the issues
Act like you’ve seen the growing graveyards in your area, and face the reality that you, too, will be dead soon if the world, which includes you, doesn’t rise to the challenge and do something about it.
Almost everything you do can and should involve this cause. Going on vacation? Bring some books or literature about this to give away. Socializing? Talk to them about it a bit and hang out with the ones that are amicable to this cause when you can. Going on the Internet? Be sure to share or comment on a related topic or three when you can. Looking for a career to get into or ways to spend your free time? Get involved with this cause. I and the people I know do these things and more.
Pick up the proverbial shovel and help with SENS. Help spread awareness, bring more people into the related conferences, write books, work with the media, talk to politicians, etc. Go into research if you have the aptitude for it. You can pick any lead that you find to be viable. Research existing methods to combat the damage, create your own methods, or do an exhaustive study to try to make the case for forms of damage in addition to the seven generally accepted types. Get in where you fit in.
If you need help with it, then ask in just about any of the communities involved in this. Help us get these mountains moved. Through exhausting more and more avenues and pathways, the picture will continue getting clearer. Answers to achieving negligible senescence and extending our happy, healthy life spans, will materialize. There is no “well, it can’t work”, “they aren’t sure if we should yet”, ”it’s too speculative”, etc. It’s not. We are dying, we have options, we get moving.
As the movement for indefinite life extension premise states,
“We don’t have to know we can get there to go there, but we do have to go there to get there.”
I work with a variety of aspects of this cause. When it comes to SENS, the first of many research projects that I and a team of us crowdfunded back in 2009, took on the accumulation of lipofuscin, which is one of those SENS seven. We raised and put together over $18,000 to help get that sub-branch of that research underway. I personally contacted hundreds of people for 20 or so hours per week to help make that happen. We’ve also done things like argue for and vote, sometimes by a narrow margin (demonstrating that every voice counts), to give thousands of dollars to the SENS academic research initiative. I remember that I brought one of those proposals to the table and it passed.
In addition to work through a variety of committees and teams, I’ve done extensive work with help in spreading the word by talking to thousands of other people about SENS and related work. I have given away and distributed dozens of copies of Ending Aging, worked with getting SENS presented at more venues, gotten more people to donate to SENS and complementary projects like the Methuselah Mouse Prize, gotten more activists to consider helping SENS, spread SENS news and articles, helped to combat ignorance wielded against them, met with them and other life-extension advocates for planning and strategy on various related projects, and many other things.
There is no shortage of ways to get involved. There are hosts of us life-extension advocates and activists from various groups, teams, and initiatives pitching in to help move SENS forward right now, and continuing to reach growing, critical numbers of people.
As de Grey reminds us,
“SENS is undoubtedly a highly ambitious approach to combating aging. This might condemn it if aging affected only a small minority of the population; or if other, more straightforward strategies seemed likely to postpone aging similarly well if successfully implemented; or if SENS were shown to be flatly unimplementable without several major breakthroughs in our understanding of aging. Since none of these criteria obtains, however, SENS should be both discussed and pursued without delay.” 
This is what all those critical-thinking lessons and advancements were for over the years. You live with industry as your butler, technology as your tool box, science as your trail-blazing road layer, and you are immersed in the information gulf stream of nearly ubiquitous reach of all known growing mountains of knowledge.
This is our opportunity, our window in time. We have to drop this hammer now. Victory is not guaranteed; not every generation rises to the challenges of their days. The forward push of Rome died and took a thousand years to wake back up.
The goal of indefinite life extension probably cannot be reached in most of our lifetimes without world awareness. The more everybody collectively can be encouraged to think things through, the better. So think it through for yourself and come on board with helping to make the push to inform the world.
As Aubrey writes, and I concur:
“[...] once your pro-aging trance is no more, you – yes, you – can make a difference to how soon aging is defeated, and the fulfillment you will derive from that effort will far outweigh any comfort you may have found in your previous certainty that aging can never be combated.” (17)
“If you can help to change that – whether by giving money yourself, or by influencing friends, or by writing or broadcasting on the subject – you’ll be making as much difference to the speed with which aging is overcome as if you were doing the science yourself.” (14)
If you need a hand in finding fitting ways to consider getting involved, go into one of the groups or pages and raise your hand. Help us make the collective push, putting numbers behind all the people, projects, and organizations working toward this goal. Let us ALL join in on working to help get things done. Many hands make light work. Fight for your freedom of life now, or die a slave to aging.
The ancient Romans used to award a wooden sword called the Rudis to victorious gladiators whom they would set free. We don’t submit to the system, or work for personal accolades. We are led now by those like Spartacus de Grey. Rudis be damned.
Now that you’ve got the gist of it, dig in and help the world move forward.
For further information, I encourage you to look through the SENS conference material.