The success of Aubrey de Grey baffles me


Rasputin, or de Grey? You be the judge.

Aubrey de Grey has been on my crank radar for many years as an amorphous fuzzy electronic blob meandering about in the distance. He’s an immortality “researcher” who makes extravagant claims that newspapers love and promote. For instance, he says that the first person who will live to be 1,000 years old has already been born. Cool. Except that he has no evidence for this, it’s based entirely on unwarranted extrapolation of his exceedingly optimistic view of scientific progress.

For instance, his big idea is that aging is caused by free radical damage by the activity of mitochondria. His solution is to move mitochondrial genes from the organelle to the nucleus, which makes no sense — those reactions are essential to the metabolism of the cell, they have to occur no matter where in the cell that it happens, and we have mitochondria as distributed ‘power plants’ with increased surface area (most of these reactions occur on membranes), so how does centralizing everything limit the deleterious effects of essential energy-producing reactions? The virtue of this scheme seems to be entirely about enhancing his ability to babble sciencey sounding words to venture capitalists like Peter Thiel. I am all for bilking Thiel out of every penny he owns, but the rest of us should be smarter than that.

Furthermore, it’s one thing to make grand promises with technobabble, but has he done anything with the idea? He made a bet over 20 years ago that someone (not him, he wouldn’t know how) would translocate 13 mitochondrial genes to the nucleus, with all the imaginary benefits that would bestow, by 2005. Didn’t happen. Isn’t going to happen. Every cell and molecular biologist is going to look askance at such a silly idea. It’s just more empty, hypothetical promises.

Did you know he was going to cure cancer? This is from an old article in 2005 — I guess he was leaping from his mitochondrial hypothesis, which didn’t pan out, to a new hypothesis about telomeres. The telomere hypothesis has also not panned out; I wonder what new flaky idea he’s telling audiences of rich old people, but unfortunately I don’t care enough to try and find out, although I do know for sure that people are still getting cancer.

…he tells us of his plan to combat cancer, perhaps the most pernicious of the Seven Deadly Sins. The chink in cancer’s armor, de Grey believes, is the telomeres, strands of DNA at the ends of our chromosomes that must be maintained in order for a cell to continue to divide. When scientists started intensively investigating telomeres in the 1990s, the buzz went as follows: If we could turn on the enzyme telomerase, which maintains the telomeres, thereby keeping them, and cell division, going indefinitely, was this not the molecular fountain of youth? It was not. Researchers have since concluded that short, unrepaired telomeres don’t impose an absolute limit on human life. Our bodies have considerable cell reserves, and some of the most crucial types of cells, in the brain and heart, divide rarely or not at all. Cancer cells, however, do require well-
maintained telomeres if they are to keep lethally multiplying, which is why cancer is most commonly found in the oft-dividing cells of the gut, the reproductive system, the skin and the blood, cells that are actively producing telomerase. (It’s also why Mike West and others are pursuing anti-cancer drugs based on telomerase.)

De Grey, as is his wont, takes the strategy a few steps further, even if the end result bears little resemblance to medical reality as we know it. He has devised a plan to make people essentially immune to cancer. Stem cells from the cancer-prone organ systems would be removed and, in a process not yet developed, reproduced in the lab after they had been genetically modified to turn off their production of telomerase. The stem cells would then be reintroduced into the body, but not before they had been genetically modified a second time to make them more resistant to cancer-fighting chemotherapy drugs. So now people could be bombarded with ultrapowerful doses of chemo to kill any potential cancers, and their newly modified stem cells would shake off the insult. Over time, as people returned to the doctor for periodic stem cell “reseedings” (necessary because without telomerase, cells won’t divide normally), their cells would become progressively less capable of letting cancers grow.

Got that? Once upon a time, people speculated that the key to immortality was switching on telomerase, which is normally inactive in all somatic cells. Then it was pointed out that switching on telomerase is a common mutation in cancers, a prerequisite to indulging in wild, frantic reproduction unchecked (hmm, maybe there’s a reason telomerase genes are inactive in healthy cells). So de Grey proposes deleting telomerase genes altogether from somatic cells, which seems to me a counter-intuitive idea from a guy who wants to keep healthy cells reproducing forever, because cells would eventually lose telomeres and die, but he has a magic solution. We should 1) extract all the stem cells from cancer-prone tissues (basically, everything), a process we can’t do. Then we should 2) delete telomerase from all those cells, which is something we can sort of do, and then 3) load them up with shiny new genes that make them resistant to chemotherapy (it’s OK, these telomerase-deficient cells couldn’t possibly go cancerous, he thinks, while Ian Malcolm mutters “life finds a way” over in the corner), and 4) repopulate the patient’s organs with the stem cells (how? I don’t know), and 5) have the patients all come in periodically to repeat the process as their stem cells die off (dollar signs appear in the eyeballs of the venture capitalists).

This is ridiculous. Gene knock-outs are feasible and done fairly routinely on small sets of cells, but the rest is a pie-in-the-sky fantasy which almost certainly wouldn’t work, and which de Grey himself can’t do, and which isn’t being done by the institutes he is associated with, and which receive all that money from wealthy donors. It’s a spectacular con, pure high tech snake oil with an ever-shifting magic formula that he conjures up with the latest scientific buzzwords. He’s ready-made for TED talks.

Oh, yeah, he’s also a cryonics proponent.

I haven’t paid much attention to him, though, because he mainly seems to be bleeding rich vampires like Peter Thiel, who would be wasting their millions and billions anyway. He also has a seemingly harmless, idiosyncratic manner, again making him a perfect poster boy for TED talks, and who cares what those twits think? Except now he seems to have crossed the wrong entrepreneurs, who revealed some of the seediness of his personal attitudes, and he’s been put on indefinite leave for his behavior.

On Tuesday night, Laura Deming, the 27-year-old founder of the Longevity Fund, and Celine Halioua, the 26-year-old founder and CEO of Loyal, a biotech startup developing drugs to help dogs live longer, posted accounts on their blogs and to Twitter of experiences they had with de Grey as young scientists trying to gain a foothold in the field.

Ugh. Sorry, I already dislike these two for their petty silicon-valley-style startups and for being young and rich. I only say that to remove any idea that I’m prejudiced in their favor, because I’m not, but they didn’t deserve the treatment they got.

Here are the stories that are demolishing de Grey’s reputation.

Halioua, who had been an intern at SENS Research Foundation in 2016 and whose research as an undergraduate and graduate student had been funded by the organization, alleged that SENS executives exploited her youth and attractiveness to solicit funds from donors. Halioua described a dinner in which de Grey allegedly told her that she had a responsibility to have sex with the SENS donors in attendance so they would give money to the organization.

“I left that dinner sobbing,” she wrote. “It has taken me years to shake the deep-seated belief that I only got to where I am due to older men wanting to have sex with me.”

Do I believe her? I sure do. The entirety of de Grey’s career has been about milking money from donors, so the idea that he’d think pimping out his employees was a good plan fits my impression of his character. That is a deeply demeaning way to regard students.

Aubrey de Grey is 58. Leave the young women alone.

In her own post, Deming described an encounter she had a decade ago with de Grey, in which he told her over email that he had an “adventurous love life,” and expressed a suppressed desire to talk about it with her. Deming was 17 at the time, and had known de Grey since she was 14 and a precocious freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Deming said she dismissed the experience as a mistake on de Grey’s part. But in recent months, conversations with Halioua and others had convinced her the behavior was part of a serial pattern of predation on younger women. “I’m angry to realize that Aubrey inappropriately propositioned more than one woman over whom he was in a position of power, many in the community knew about it, and no one did anything,” she wrote.

Ick. Do not talk about your love life with 14-17 year old girls. Just don’t. Not ever.

But, the skeptical among you are saying, these are just two stories. De Grey denies them. Aren’t we just going on hearsay? I’d be more cautious about the allegations, but de Grey just had to open his big fat mouth and sound exactly like every other abuser.

Early Wednesday morning, de Grey addressed the allegations in a Facebook post. “Unsurprisingly, I deny these allegations,” he wrote. “What may be more surprising to you is this: my belief is that both Laura and Celine have been deceived into the view that I have done many things that I have in fact not done.”

In the post, De Grey said that the women’s descriptions of their personal experiences were “decidedly incomplete.” Deming “references an email I wrote — inadvisedly, for sure, and which I unreservedly regret — to her when she was 17, but she explicitly states that ‘I wrote it off as a mistake’ and that she only resurfaced it in the past few months at the instigation of others,” he wrote. “Celine references a dinner where she and I sat together, and accuses me of saying certain things that I utterly deny ever saying and that she implies I said when she was drunk. … It is instructive that the very next day she wrote to me without the faintest hint of ambivalence, asking for additional feedback on her presentation, and that every one of our exchanges, of which the most recent was less than a year ago, has been of similarly untarnished character.”

Oh god, what a crappy alibi. He’s accusing unnamed malignant individuals of brainwashing these women into saying things to do him harm. That sounds like projection to me. Of course he’s the center of the conspiracy against him, it’s not possible that these women could have independently decided to ruin him.

Then he dismisses his sexual email to an underage girl because she “wrote it off as a mistake”. Right. That’s what people do when they learn of things that make them uncomfortable, they try to rationalize it. This is mundane human behavior, it is not exculpatory at all — a 17 year old girl tried to make excuses for a man she admired doing a bad thing. It does not mean he didn’t do that bad thing. Calling Harvey Weinstein!

Most tone-deaf of all and so common there must be a psychological phenomenon named after it, he dismisses the other accusation because the woman was friendly afterwards. Sound familiar? Powerful influencer simply can’t believe that he could possibly have so much clout in his field that the people he oppresses might continue to ingratiate themselves with him. He can’t believe that the women he harasses would pull themselves together and try to cope with their harasser because he’s essential to their careers, therefore he thinks he must not have really harassed them.

Before, I would have said we should believe the women and investigate further, and in particular, we should see if there are other similar incidents in his history. After reading his rather arrogant reply, though, I’m just saying “fuck it, he’s guilty.” I don’t care what happens to another pseudo-scientific parasite and quack.


Uh-oh. I just read some of the comments by his defenders on Facebook.

I’ve known Aubrey for over a decade now and during all those times that we met I’ve never seen him behave inappropriately, says a man named Sven. That’s convincing: so an old man who hits on young women has never, ever been improper in the presence of his bros? Calling Lawrence Krauss to the witness stand.

This is just a couple of SJW’s trying to cancel a mid-aged well educated well earning white male, says Rudy, who goes on to say Contemporary feminazi’s nowadays reduce any unsuccessful approach attempt or even a simple compliment, simply if unwanted, to sexual harrassment, or at least sexism. Wokistry judges quickly, on the spot, without process,goes public in stead of to court, and makes intention processes. I guess I’ll have to judge de Grey by the company he keeps, as well.

Says Stefano, How comes 17 years old are not entitled to be solicited, but should instead be discriminated as a matter of principle?! This sounds pretty ageist to my ears. By the way, age of consent is civilised countries is 14. I could almost hear the phrase It’s not pedophilia, it’s ephebophilia! quivering on his lips.

Looks like a witch hunt to me, says Kurt. Yeah, “witch hunt” gets thrown around a lot over there.

I once groped a girl in a nightclub without permission around 45 years ago, says Dirk. Two wrongs do make a right!

Does it really matter what one said or wrote many years ago? complains Valerija, one of the few women defending him. This was ten years ago, not that long, when the girl was 17 and de Grey was 48. I guess the rule is you can pursue under-age girls until you are 50, then you have to slow down.

This is a more typical response from one of the few women commenting:

I have never in my life read more automatic misogynistic responses to a post. You all are upchucking a huge, untapped (until now) volcano of hatred towards women in the worlds of science and finance. It doesn’t even matter now whether the women are telling the truth or not. The tone of the original post and the comments are revealing enough. I know this is not the popular response but that has not stopped me from being the voice of truth ever, so here I am. Pile it on, men (and a few women). That’s what you do best. #deplorable

The general consensus is that how dare these women hinder Aubrey de Grey’s progress towards eliminating aging. One problem with that perspective is that no, Aubrey de Grey has never and will never make a significant contribution in gerontology. He’s a hype train that has finally been derailed.

Comments

  1. says

    Someone (it may have been Orac) once pointed out that immortality of that model doesn’t work because our bodies consist of different components with different service cycles and different failure modes. You can’t just fix one part – let’s say the heart – and live forever; the kidneys will fail. And you can’t fix all the parts because they are too different and each has problems. Making the cartilage in a knee self-repair seems great but it would have to be carefully applied only to knees because if you made the cartilage in the spinal column grow you might die sooner than you expect. And, of course, you have to cure cancer and autoimmune disorders – autoimmune disorders are problems with the body’s self-repair and regeneration systems and again they are all different.

    Joe Haldeman tackled this in buying time and I wont spoil the plot, but it’s good and thoughtful.

    Immortality would still not apply to getting shot in the head. Which is good because if immortality were practical we’d wind up with a predatory class of vampiric oligarchic immortals. Like Peter Theil wants to be. They’d need to be shot to get rid of them.

  2. numerobis says

    I’m going to push back on the concept that this hype train has been derailed. That’s an extraordinary claim that needs extraordinary evidence.

  3. bodach says

    As I’ve seen people pull chicken guts out of patients with just their hands, there’s a non zero possibility he might be correct in his medical theories.
    /snark
    But I bet he’s still going to keep pulling money out of venture capitalists.

  4. Owlmirror says

    I’m going to push back on the concept that this hype train has been derailed.

    Yeah, I’m betting that this flap will quickly turn into: “SJWs are cancelling a genius who wants to help us live forever! They’re crucifying him! Please help us fund him so he can research [sic] how to make America immortal!”

    He won’t even have to write the above himself.

  5. anat says

    Regarding cancer – we know how to prevent some cancers (eg by not smoking, and reduced exposure to some other environmental factors), we know how to detect some cancers early enough that current treatments are effective. But with regard to the rest – we have invested huge sums and ended up with sophisticated treatments, each of which is only really effective for a small subset of cases (and often the gain in survival is minimal). So what now?

    The common approach to chemo treatment is to give the highest dose the patient can tolerate. Hence a lot of suffering from side effects, as well as the need to space rounds of treatment out, and a limit to how many rounds of treatment can be done. A newer approach is using the Minimal Effective Dose – with fewer side effects and allowing for more frequent treatment over longer periods of time. This has been successful for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, and is being tried for other types. Cancer doesn’t have to be a disease one dies from, it can become a disease one lives with, comfortably, for many decades, even if it isn’t fully cured. See Whatever happened to the minimum effective dose?

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    His solution is to move mitochondrial genes from the organelle to the nucleus…

    This is in fact a thing that can happen, but I don’t see how it would address any of the problems he is trying to solve.
    * When this happens with enzymes which are essential for the interior of the mitochondria, the proteins are targeted to make their way to the mitochondria, even if they were assembled outside.
    * Reactions which have to take place inside the mitochondria will still have to occur inside the mitochondria – the compartmentalization is essential to the function of the system. So if the enzymes are not targeted, the cells – and the organism – will have a short evolutionary life.

  7. Marissa van Eck says

    What is this fascination with immortality among a certain set of wealthy white men? Have they really considered what actual immortality would entail? It would become eternal Hell at some point.

  8. says

    Marissa van Eck:
    Have they really considered what actual immortality would entail? It would become eternal Hell at some point.

    As usual, Iain Banks was ahead of that curve. His book Surface Detail describes (among many other things) a civilization in which someone decided to create parallel hells for “uploaded” consciousnesses, in which they could suffer eternal damnation.

  9. petesh says

    This Rasputin lookalike has been an obvious charlatan for two decades, since he co-founded the Methuselah Foundation. Thanks for the take-down.

  10. KG says

    It would become eternal Hell at some point. – Marissa van Eck

    Why? And if it did, what would prevent an immortal being (in the sense of non-aging, which is what is relevant here) ending their own life?

  11. says

    would translocate 13 mitochondrial genes to the nucleus
    That’s the funniest thing in this whole post. It’s like putting the tires inside the car and trying to drive to work.

  12. nomadiq says

    You can shift mitochondrial genes to the nucleus all you want, but the products of those genes need a mitochondrional space to operate. Why is this not obvious to someone with enough knowledge to know mitochondria have genes just like the nucleus of the cell? It’s like knowing a car needs brakes, so you pick up four of them, toss them onto the back seat and be shocked when they can’t stop your car. I mean, how fucking stupid is this guy? Obviously not that stupid. He is a scammer, not an idiot.

  13. consciousness razor says

    KG:

    immortal being (in the sense of non-aging, which is what is relevant here)

    But why even think that’s an appropriate sense of the term?

    If the idea were to say “you can’t age,” why not come up with a different word which means precisely that? “Unageable” isn’t already taken, as far as I’m aware. You could use it.

    That’s not saying “you can’t die,” which is what not being a mortal is literally all about: you’re not capable of dying. It’s not generally understood to be an essential part of the concept that immortal beings can’t age. Indeed, gods and such are quite often depicted as very old men, sporting long white or gray white beards, like Father Time for example. If you don’t happen to endorse some very particular theological views, which are of course totally unfounded, then you just don’t have any motivation for saying “God doesn’t age, because he exists outside of time” or making other claims of that sort.

  14. DanDare says

    If there are people that can live fruitful lives over billions of years, and we ever do find a way to make that possible, then those are the people that will live for billions of years.
    Evolution will come in to play if it is a genetic trait and those people remain reproductive into ancient age.
    Lot of ifs in there but saying people definitely wont be able to stand being immortal is a testible claim in principle.

  15. jrkrideau says

    Didn’t Jonathan Swift write about this in Gulliver’s Travels back in the early 18th C

  16. says

    Given that all people who have lived up to now seem to have died, and de Gray being in his late fifties, you can probably look forward to his obituary in a couple of decades.

  17. birgerjohansson says

    I am all in favor of ‘soft’ research in these areas, without the hype these cretins are spreading.
    The trouble with cryogenics is that the human genome 1.0 is not adapted for it.
    Maybe you could insert a number of genes in the reproductive cells to make it possible for future generations.
    First, you need to keep the heart beating at low temperatures.
    Then, you need to produce substances that prevent ice formation- this could work down to ca -20°C.
    And you need the cells to get rid of some of the internal water, and give the cells the genes needed to deal with desiccation.
    At this point cryopreservation down to near -20°C might be possible, if you inherited the right set of synthetic genes.
    Useful if you need a heart transplant.
    Going further down in temperature will cause water to crystallize, so you either need to get rid of 10% of all water, or replace water molecules with some other substance that stays liquid, without being toxic.
    This part will make ‘curing cancer’ look trivial in terms of difficulty.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    There are a bunch of people that have made it past 100 while remaining in good health. (not many, but with more than 7 billion to choose from you get a few)
    This is presumably a combination of environmental factors and very, very good genes. The latter part is a matter for computers to unscramble the common genetic factors that make them reach such ages.
    Next step: create meds that emulate the effects of those genes.

  19. chrislawson says

    Jebus, but I went and looked up a few of de Grey’s published papers. Ay dios mio! The only high-quality papers are when he’s the fifteenth author of a systematic review and the core interpretative work was not left to him. Here are few of his gems:

    (a) Dismissing demographers for being skeptical of “four figure life spans” for people born in the 21st, and even 20th century. Not three-figure, four-figure, i.e. >= 1000 years! For people already at least 6 years old at the time he wrote!

    (b) “The field of biogerontology is over a century old. It began in the wake of the stupefying advances made in the nineteenth century in understanding the basis for the infectious diseases…” Stupefying?

    (c) Hijacking the current COVID pandemic for, you’ll never guess!, an appeal for more funding in the field of gerontology!…

    (d) …including this glaring untruth: “…it is an utter scandal that vaccine and antibiotic development has historically received such paltry public funding…” Does de Grey have even the faintest idea how much funding has gone to antibiotic and vaccine research around the world over history? Nope. The big scandal in vaccine and antibiotic research is not the lack of public funding, but the IP trapping of public research by private companies who make billions of dollars off discoveries and inventions made by poorly-paid public university researchers.

    (e) Generally lots of broad sweeping antagonism towards even the most reasonable skeptical appraisal.

    (f) Dramatic claims of moving “towards a unified model of aging” in a paper that actually describes multiple non-unified hypotheses (telomere shortening, mitochondrial oxidative stress, loss of embryonic regeneration, and antagonistic pleiotropy are NOT the same thing even if they have links and overlaps) — and hammering on about the potential of telomerase as an aging reversal agent in 2019 is completely blind to 20 years of available evidence.

    (g) Completely unwarranted assumptions: “…premature aging disorders such as Hutchinson–Gilford syndrome (progeria) and Werner syndrome…lend support to an intrinsic genome-based pacing mechanism underlying aging.” Nothing wrong with reporting the clear evidence for genetic influences on aging, but note the inappropriate use of pacing, which is most definitely NOT supported by the evidence of the known age-accelerating genetic disorders, but fits with his goal of providing simple interventions to treat aging as if there is some simple mechanistic genetic pacemaker that we can influence the way we do with heart pacemakers. (One important positive from this paper: he acknowledges the possible risk of cancer formation if we play around with the metabolism of senescence.)

    I wouldn’t call him a fraud, but he’s definitely not a robust scientific investigator nor a clear writer. And that’s before we even get into the reports of sexually abusive behaviour….

  20. chrislawson says

    As for the sexual behaviour…as usual in these cases, I find the proffered defence with its shabby rationalisations and misdirections far more persuasive of his guilt than if he’d written nothing at all.

  21. says

    Let’s say I have blood clots and hardened arteries. Or Alzheimer’s or cancer. Perhaps some traumatic braIn injury from bashing my head on my desk just now. How is reversing my telomeres going to help me? If he’s saying that people who are currently old have a good chance of living 1,000 years, they’ve all got chronic disorders by now and reversing some aspects of aging won’t help at all.

    Humans fall apart like other complex component-based systems, except swapping our components isn’t as easy as replacing a car’s alternator. Plus, the alternator wears out on a different schedule from the ball joints and brake pads. That’s why we drive them about, replacing them piece-wise until eventually we decide it’s time to replace the entire car. So what De Gray thinks he’s doing is going to magically rejuvenate, let’s say the engine – but you’ll still have that unsettling noise coming from the transmission that you had last week.

    Because of the piecewise failure modes of our bodies, rejuvenation has to be either the “get a new car” brain-swap model or the endless and very expensive component maintenance plan. The latter is what we’re already doing and it’s slow going. If you need a new heart valve you’re in luck but we can’t repair damage from a stroke.

    Is he a con man or someone so traumatized by the idea of a universe that lacks him? The universe will replace that crank without noticing he’s gone.

  22. says

    As with all people who push immortality (or, at least, extreme longevity), the real question is how does neurology work into this? It may be a reductionist claim that “you are your brain” but it’s a very, very powerful reductionist claim, it holds up against a lot of objections, so what does he propose to do to preserve the brain? Although the process is gradual and varies from person to person (and other disclaimers) even a “healthy” brain starts to get less and less reliable after about three quarters of a century. Even if you could slow that down by, let’s say, a factor of 5, we have no idea what a consciousness which “expects” to end after a century (give or take 5 decades, ho ho ho) would function if forced to keep going for 10 times that time. (And that’s a problem for the “upload your consciousness into a computer” crowd, too.)

    And as long as we’re referencing works of fiction, Howard Tayler’s comic Schlock Mercenary had aliens who achieved an end to physical aging millions of years ago — but they had to develop memory surgery because it turned out that being able to remember tens of millennia with a brain intended to function for less than 1% of that caused an eventual breakdown into violent insanity.

  23. Doubting Thomas says

    Just another religion, this time with “science”. Gulible people paying for the promise of eternal life.

  24. James Fehlinger says

    It seems that Roko (of “Roko’s Basilisk” fame) has weighed
    in on this accusation.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/SneerClub/comments/p2conp/roko_gets_all_consequentialist_about_the/

    His conclusion is that if he is forced
    to choose between A. de G., who holds out to the world so
    much promise, and Ms. Nobody, who was only there because of
    her looks, it is clearly the Nobody who must be thrown under
    the bus. It’s only Logical(TM).

    I’m reminded of a book I read some years ago about a woman who
    was a devotee of Ayn Rand’s “Objectivist” movement (into which she
    was steered by her father) — Therapist , by Ellen Plasil.
    https://www.amazon.com/Therapist-by-Ellen-Plasil-1985-06-01/dp/B01K2EQGRY/

    She began seeing a well-regarded Objectivist therapist recommended
    by none other than Objectivist psychiatrist Allan Blumenthal, a member
    of Ayn Rand’s inner circle.

    When Ms. Plasil realized that her “therapist”‘s methods were abusive
    (sexually and otherwise) and sought to expose him, she lost all
    her erstwhile Objectivist friends. One friend explained his rejection
    of her thus: I know without doubt that “A” (i.e., that the good
    doctor is a man of unimpeachable virtue). You have made claims
    that imply Not-A. By the inviolable Randian principle NOT (A AND NOT-A),
    I conclude that you are lying. Therefore I condemn you.

    Apparently this sort of formal “reasoning” counts as Rationality(TM)
    in some circles. I don’t know what it betokens — Autistic Spectrum, perhaps.
    Maybe you can get away with it if you spend your life surrounded
    by mathematicians or computer programmers. Not so much otherwise.

    An excerpt from Therapist :

    ++++++
    “‘Robert Berger’ . . . [, a] Ph.D. working as a research scientist
    at a prestigious university. . . was one of my more accomplished
    friends. We saw each other often, usually when he commuted
    into New York from out of town for his sessions with Dr. Leonard.
    He loved me as a friend, and told me so often. I felt no fear
    in approaching Robert with this information. Not only did I
    believe a man of his ability would have no problem with this
    issue, but he had told me once how a former therapist of his
    live-in girlfriend had tried to seduce her. He had been appalled
    that therapists did such things. . . Further, his professed
    care for me told me that I could expect his support and
    warmth in my time of need.

    I was mistaken.

    I called Robert and told him of the recent events. He heard what
    I had to say, responded with stunned sympathy, and then, after
    having time to think about it, answered my long-distance
    phone communication by mail [Permission to reproduce this letter
    verbatim was requested from its writer, the person herein
    called Robert Berger. Through a letter from his lawyer,
    permission was denied.]

    He began his letter by saying that he was writing because of what
    our friendship used to mean to him. I prepared myself for
    what was to follow.

    He could not disprove what I had told him, he said, nor would
    he even try. Instead, he would reach his conclusion that
    Dr. Leonard was guiltless of any improper conduct with me
    by relying on the information he already had. That information
    was everything he knew about Dr. Leonard first hand, and
    Robert’s understanding that ‘contradictions do not exist.’
    The latter was meant to refer to that part of Objectivism which
    teaches that contradictions do not exist in reality — in
    metaphysical reality. In other words, a grain of sand or
    a bead of water has a particular nature unto itself, and cannot,
    therefore, take on attributes that are contrary to its nature.
    It cannot be what it is and be what it is not, all at the same
    time. Ergo, ‘contradictions do not exist.’

    Robert had taken this axiom and extended its meaning into the
    realm of human psychology, a realm it does not legitimately claim.
    He explained his leap from the metaphysical to the psychological
    as he continued his letter. He said that Dr. Leonard was
    the finest man he had ever known, as well as the best psychiatrist
    in the world, and that what I had said about Dr. Leonard
    contradicted these facts. Since contradictions don’t exist,
    Robert explained, Dr. Leonard could not possibly be guilty of
    any impropriety. Robert said that he not only knew Dr. Leonard
    was innocent of amy misconduct, he also claimed that he knew
    Dr. Leonard’s actions with me were ethical and honorable, and
    essential for productive therapy. He hoped that I would see
    the error of my ways, but told me, regardless, to ‘go to hell.’
    He signed it simply: Robert Berger.

    The letter not only braced me for the responses I would continue to
    receive from other friends, it told me that blind devotion to
    Dr. Leonard had not been a unique phenomenon for me. I was discovering
    that I had no monopoly on having been duped by this therapist
    for so many years. What was so hard to understand was how
    it happened, why it happened, that so many people gave so
    much allegiance for so many years to one man such as him. Was its
    root in Objectivism? Was there something in between the lines of
    the philosophy that both taught independent thinking and proper
    reasoning, and dictated a result resembling the cults of religious
    leaders? Or was it something in the black and white print that
    went undetected by so many intelligent readers? Perhaps it was
    not in the philosophy, at all. Perhaps it was a coincidence, a
    fluke, that Dr. Leonard and all of his loyal patients were students
    of Objectivism. Was it, then, a charisma about the man that led
    to such blind worship of him? Was there some special skill that
    he had that made so many people either twist or ignore all
    that they professed to have learned from their philosophy?

    I received only one other letter similar to Robert’s. It came
    from Robert’s girlfriend. But I received innumerable phone calls,
    from men and women alike, who condemned me for terminating
    my own therapy and for the reason they had learned was behind
    my doing so. In one call, I was accused of ‘destroying the
    closest thing Man has ever had to a god.’ In another, I was
    threatened with retaliation for causing the closing of Dr. Leonard’s
    practice. The connection between Dr. Leonard’s sabbatical and
    the termination of my therapy had been made, and I was being
    blamed for the downfall of a hero.

    — Ellen Plasil, Therapist ,
    Chapter 12, “Taking Sides”
    ++++++

  25. anat says

    Marcus Ranum @22: Whoever is pushing extending telomeres per se is reversing cart and horse. To my understanding, lifestyle changes that improve your metabolic state tend to extend your telomeres over time, or at least delay their shortening.

  26. anat says

    In general, lifestyles that are good for one’s metabolism tend to be good for one’s brain as well, and are estimated to improve longevity and healthspan by a few percents (I think it’s about 10% in mice).

    Some of the best supported strategies:
    – Some level of calorie restriction (people taking this strategy end up being very thin and cold, and please make sure to avoid eating disorders!!!) or alternatively intermittent fasting/ time restricted eating or so called ‘fasting mimicking diets’, especially diets low in methionine and branched amino acids (which translates to diets low in animal protein, especially low in muscle meat)
    – Regular aerobic exercise, with some strength training, but don’t overdo muscle building
    – Adaptation to both high and low temperatures (think sitting in a sauna followed by rolling in the snow type of thing)
    – Avoiding assorted environmental pollutants – in air, water, soil, etc. This also includes mercury in fish and other seafoods, household molds, and assorted compounds released from plastic containers.
    – Very important: Having a sense of purpose in life!

    None of these will get you to 150 years, but being healthy into one’s 90s is doable.

  27. KG says

    consciousness razor@13,
    You really are an gobsmackingly stupid numpty at times. I used the term “immortal” @11 because Marissa van Eck used “immortality” @7. And if she thinks Thiel and his kind are after immortality in the sense of “being that cannot die”, I’d be amazed; what they want is, quite obviously, an indefinitely prolonged life, which implies (despite the myth of the Sybil, and Swift’s story of the Struldbruggs), not aging.

  28. James Fehlinger says

    . . .immortal being (in the sense of non-aging, which is what is relevant here)

    But why even think that’s an appropriate sense of the term?

    If the idea were to say “you can’t age,” why not come up with a
    different word which means precisely that? “Unageable” isn’t already taken,
    as far as I’m aware. You could use it.

    You really are an gobsmackingly stupid numpty at times. I used the
    term “immortal” because Marissa van Eck used “immortality”
    And if she thinks Thiel and his kind are after immortality in the
    sense of “being that cannot die”, I’d be amazed; what they want is,
    quite obviously, an indefinitely prolonged life. . .

    “Of course, the Elves are simply, uh, in a sense, an expression of certain,
    not really wholly legitimate desires the human race has about itself. . .
    [W]e should like of course longer time, if not indefinite time, in
    which to go on knowing more and do… making more. Well, therefore,
    we make the Elves immortal — in a sense; I had to use ‘immortal’
    but I didn’t mean that they were eternally immortal but
    merely that they’re very longeval, their longevity probably lasts
    as long as the inhabitability of the earth. . .”

    J. R. R. Tolkien, BBC interview with Denys Gueroult,
    recorded in January 1965.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p021jx7j

    ;->

  29. daugator says

    “Sorry, I already dislike these two for their petty silicon-valley-style startups and for being young and rich.”

    Young and rich? It sounds like you’re jealous.

    “Do I believe her? I sure do.”

    Have you ever heard of “innocent until proven guilty”?

    “Ick. Do not talk about your love life with 14-17 year old girls. Just don’t. Not ever.”

    There has been no claim that he has talked about his love life to a 14, 15 or 16-year-old.

    “After reading his rather arrogant reply, though, I’m just saying “fuck it, he’s guilty.” I don’t care what happens to another pseudo-scientific parasite and quack.”

    All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

    “”I once groped a girl in a nightclub without permission around 45 years ago,” says Dirk. Two wrongs do make a right!”

    Did you also read Dirk’s other comments? “She didn’t object – quite the opposite!” “To put it in context, I was at a party back then when a woman grabbed me and started kissing me without permission. I was forced to stay the night”

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