The discussion ahead
(This content is part of the introductory material of the book “The Abolition of Aging”.)
Chapter by chapter, here’s how this book will unfold.
Chapter 1, “A shocking possibility”, provides a fuller introduction to the subject of abolishing aging. To set the scene, it draws upon contributions of great men of letters: the wartime poet Wilfred Owen, the mid-century poet Dylan Thomas, and the Scottish novelist Iain Banks. All three of these writers suffered premature deaths. Their examples help make the case that all deaths are premature.
Chapter 2, “Rejuveneering 101”, poses and pre-emptively answers 25 questions that frequently interrupt any longer discussion of the possibility of human rejuvenation. This discussion is a necessary prerequisite to clear the way for the material in later chapters.
Chapter 3, “From flight to rejuvenation”, looks at some aspects of human existence which were for centuries accepted as “natural”– much the same as aging is often regarded nowadays. For example, it was long held that powered flight through the air was unnatural and impossible, and any attempt at it would be bound to fail. These opinions were eventually overturned, faster than almost anyone expected. These reversals of opinion provide important learnings for the debate over human rejuvenation.
Chapter 4, “Rejuveneering starting points”, advances arguments against any claim that rejuvenation is inherently impossible. Nature is the best mentor here: nature is full of rejuvenation mechanisms, which human intervention has the potential to magnify and extend.
Chapter 5, “Scaling up”, takes that analysis one stage further. Suppose it turns out to be one million times harder to solve the engineering problems of human rejuvenation than it was to solve the engineering problems of powered flight. Would that mean it will take one million times as long to complete the first project, compared to the second? The nature of exponential progress suggests otherwise. Provided suitable forms of collaboration can be arranged, the task can be completed in decades, rather than millennia.
Chapter 6, “Collaborative rejuveneering”, reviews how that kind of productive cooperation is possible, via changes in systems, tools, and processes, as well as changes in technology. In other words, larger numbers of contributors can fuel the arena of rejuvenation with exponential growth, rather than a cacophony of disorganised low-quality noise.
Chapter 7, “Runners and riders”, looks at different approaches favoured by different rejuveneers, and highlights what seem to be the most promising lines of research.
Chapter 8, “Changing minds”, explores the topic of clashing paradigms. Medical orthodoxy at different times has fiercely resisted change, for social and cultural reasons, as much as for intellectual ones. Examples include opposition to improved hospital cleanliness, and a continuing fondness for bloodletting. In these cases, it took painstaking efforts, often by comparative outsiders, to persuade mainstream medical practitioners to adopt a new paradigm.
Chapter 9, “Money matters”, continues the theme of paradigm change, by providing a different kind of argument in favour of accelerating the rejuvenation project. This is an economic argument, featuring the concept of the longevity dividend.
Chapter 10, “Adverse psychology”, digs further into the factors behind objections to human rejuvenation. Once these factors are made clear, there’s greater hope for everyone to take a more measured, reflective decision on whether the project deserves our collective support.
Chapter 11, “Towards Humanity+” describes in more detail how a world without human aging could operate. It’s a world with many differences from our present one. The advent of that world will cause us to revise many aspects of our lifestyle. It will challenge some of our treasured thoughts and values. But it’s a world where we can be profoundly happy to make our new homes. The positive changes will far outweigh the negative ones. As such, it’s a world well worth fighting to bring into being, as soon as possible.
Chapter 12, “Radical alternatives”, looks at some alternatives that may be considered by people who face the prospect of significant aging and death before comprehensive therapies for human rejuvenation become widely available.
Chapter 13, “Future uncertain”, takes stock: it lists key unknowns that still remain unanswered. It also proposes a course of action to resolve these unknowns in the most effective manner.
When rejuveneering is tabled for discussion, many emotions come to the surface. Feelings that have long been suppressed may swell up, with surprising force. Nevertheless, I’ll do what I can to maintain an even keel in the chapters that follow.
The pages ahead mix detail with context. The context includes analogies and comparisons. Alongside the details of specific medical topics, I discuss various non-medical engineering problems which were, at one time, viewed as equally intractable and unsolvable as aging. The fact that these other problems have been – or are being – solved, adds extra weight to the idea that rejuvenation likewise lies within our grasp.
Analogical reasoning has, of course, its own limitations. History is more likely to rhyme than to repeat. But analogies can also be the catalyst for important new insight. I’ll leave it to readers to determine whether the analogies in this book live up to that potential.
Enhancing the conversation
One of the themes that run throughout this book is the importance of better systems to enable more sophisticated collaborations between diverse supporters of rejuveneering. We need systems that allow the best ideas and the best techniques to become widely appreciated, regardless of their origin.
As part of a commitment to a better conversation among writers who have important things to say on the subject of rejuveneering – and who say it well – I frequently quote sentences and paragraphs from different writers in the pages that follow.
These paragraphs are recognisable by being formatted with distinctive background shading and inset margins (like this one).
In all such cases, I have provided links to the original articles, in text that precedes the quotation, so that interested readers can look in more detail at the work of these writers and their publications.
Any writers who I have quoted, but who think I have misrepresented or misunderstood their ideas, are welcome to get in touch with me, so I can make amends, and the conversation can improve.
The website https://theabolitionofaging.com/ contains additional pointers to the fast-evolving online discussion of topics raised in these conversations. After all, I could only include in this book a small fraction of the material that I originally thought should be covered. And if I am right that the whole field of rejuveneering is undergoing an exponential increase, the online discussion is poised to grow and grow. Please let me know, via that website, your own thoughts about which areas deserve greater attention.
(Next, consider reading “Acceptance and change”.)