We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

SENS

Despite the miserable weather, a reasonable audience turned up at Conway Hall in Holborn to listen to Aubrey de Grey, at the monthly meeting of Extrobritannia. The speaker sounded as if his life was already ebbing away, given the fast bullets assigned to each argument. Powerpoint presentations are far less interesting.

Aubrey de Grey campaigns for practical approaches to anti-aging medicine, and uses the acronym SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence). He is one of the few people on the planet actively attempting to help the general population live longer and healthier lives. As he argues, one without the other is pointless.

One of the strategies for promoting this goal is the Methuselah Prize, a reward designed for prestige rather than money, which will (hopefully) promote philanthropic investment in these research programmes. To those familiar with this structure, this is designed to emulate the success of the X Prize.

The talk today included the recent changes in the structure of this Prize. There are two components: an award for postponing the aging process and an award for reversal. The aim is to award those resaerchers that succeed in extending the lifespan of the laboratory mouse and, even better, reversing the aging process.

The goal of capturing the imagination of the public is best achieved by a very simple prize structure, in which money is awarded simply to the producer of the world’s oldest ever mouse. This should be restricted to the species used in virtually all laboratory work, Mus musculus , but no other restrictions should be placed on the way in which the mouse’s lifespan is extended, except for ones that fail to maintain its cognitive and/or physical well-being. This is analogous to the situation with boxing, for example: the heavyweight championship is the one that gets by far the most publicity and money.

A major shortcoming of this simple structure exists, however. Our main purpose is to find interventions which are effective when initiated at a late age; it is very likely that interventions that are applied throughout life will always be ahead of those initiated late.

Hence, we are running two prize competitions:

– a “Longevity Prize” (LP) for the oldest-ever Mus musculus ;
– a “Rejuvenation Prize” (RP) for the best-ever late-onset intervention.

Although the United States and Europe have placed cultural and regulatory obstacles in the path of longevity science, cutting edge research continues to take place in the Far East. Only yesterday did South Korean researchers claim that the injection of umbilical cord stem cells had allowed a woman paralysed from the waist down to walk again. The question on concerned minds: can this result be reproduced?

These scientific goals are no longer the dreams of writers; they are the goals of academics and the content of research programmes. This is all progress. Faster please!

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