Monday, 30 June 2014

Here's a very entertaining TED talk by Aubrey de Grey of the SENS foundation that covers among other things, reasons why we should work towards defeating aging.
So I'm going to start with why we should. Now, I want to ask a question. Hands up: anyone in the audience who is in favor of malaria? That was easy. OK. ... So we all think malaria is a bad thing. That's very good news, because I thought that was what the answer would be. Now the thing is, I would like to put it to you that the main reason why we think that malaria is a bad thing is because of a characteristic of malaria that it shares with aging. And here is that characteristic. The only real difference is that aging kills considerably more people than malaria does.
Aubrey de Grey: A roadmap to end aging

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The lyrics to this song bring tears to my eyes every time

People say that we'll die someday, but we just don't believe it 
Long before we are old and gray, we'll find a way to beat it 
Fight against physical decay, keep our bodies breathing 
By the next quarter century we won't even need them 

"The Singularity" by Miracles of Modern Science

Saturday, 28 June 2014

"The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant" is a wonderful allegory by FHI's Nick Bostrom. Sometimes moving a situation (e.g. our acceptance of death) to a different setting is illuminating.
Once upon a time, the planet was tyrannized by a giant dragon. The dragon stood taller than the largest cathedral, and it was covered with thick black scales. Its red eyes glowed with hate, and from its terrible jaws flowed an incessant stream of evil-smelling yellowish-green slime. It demanded from humankind a blood-curdling tribute: to satisfy its enormous appetite, ten thousand men and women had to be delivered every evening at the onset of dark to the foot of the mountain where the dragon-tyrant lived. Sometimes the dragon would devour these unfortunate souls upon arrival; sometimes again it would lock them up in the mountain where they would wither away for months or years before eventually being consumed.

The misery inflicted by the dragon-tyrant was incalculable. In addition to the ten thousand who were gruesomely slaughtered each day, there were the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, and friends that were left behind to grieve the loss of their departed loved ones.

Some people tried to fight the dragon, but whether they were brave or foolish was difficult to say. Priests and magicians called down curses, to no avail. Warriors, armed with roaring courage and the best weapons the smiths could produce, attacked it, but were incinerated by its fire before coming close enough to strike. Chemists concocted toxic brews and tricked the dragon into swallowing them, but the only apparent effect was to further stimulate its appetite. The dragon’s claws, jaws, and fire were so effective, its scaly armor so impregnable, and its whole nature so robust, as to make it invincible to any human assault.

Seeing that defeating the tyrant was impossible, humans had no choice but to obey its commands and pay the grisly tribute. The fatalities selected were always elders...
The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant