June 18th, 2004


Escape Velocity: Why the Prospect of Extreme Human Life Extension Matters Now


Escape Velocity: Why the Prospect of Extreme Human Life Extension Matters Now

Aubrey D. N. J. de Grey

Abbreviations: AEV, actuarial escape velocity

Aubrey D. N. J. de Grey is in the Department of Genetics at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom. E-mail: ag24@gen.cam.ac.uk

Published June 15, 2004

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020187

Copyright: © 2004 Aubrey D. N. J. de Grey. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

The biogerontologist David Sinclair and the bioethicist Leon Kass recently locked horns in a radio debate (www.theconnection.org/shows/2004/01/20040106_b_main.asp) on human life extension that was remarkable for one thing: on the key issue, Kass was right and Sinclair wrong. Sinclair suggested, as have other experts, including his mentor Lenny Guarente and the National Institute on Aging advisory council member Elizabeth Blackburn, that Kass and other bioconservatives are creating a false alarm about life extension, because only a modest (say, 30%) increase in human life span is achievable by biomedical intervention, whereas Kass's apprehensions concern extreme or indefinite life extension. Kass retorted that science isn't like that: modest success tends to place the bit between our teeth and can often result in advances far exceeding our expectations.

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