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June 10, 2011

Aubrey de Grey interviewed on Aging and AI at HPlus Magazine

Ben Goertzel (Artificial Intelligence Researcher) interviews Aubrey de Grey about aging, life extension and Artificial Intelligence Aubrey was an AI researcher before he embarked on his current phase of focus on life extension.

Accumulation of damage and antagonistic pleiotropy (AP) are not alternative theories — they are answers to different questions. Damage accumulation is a mechanistic hypothesis for how aging occurs, and AP is an evolutionary hypothesis for why it occurs. There are certainly some types of damage accumulation with aging that are caused as side-effects of machinery that is useful in early life — an example would be the accumulation of potentially toxic senescent cells that have arrested as a way to stop them from becoming cancerous – and that’s basically all that the AP concept proposes. I don’t think Michael thinks that aging is a maladaptive continuation of development, or some other “programmed” process — I think he agrees with me and most other gerontologists that aging is caused by damage accumulation. The only question is how that damage accumulation changes with age.


Aubrey's definition of aging damage-

* side-effect of metabolism
* accumulates
* once abundant enough, may contribute to age-related ill-health

I don’t agree that we need to know for sure which accumulating side-effects of metabolism contribute to age-related ill-health and which do not. I think we should just go after repairing all those that might so contribute. If we fix a few things we didn’t need to fix, no big deal, whereas if we waste time on further analysis of which things to pursue and which not to, we delay the overall outcome.

Aubrey - I think it’s highly unlikely that such an AGI could solve aging that fast just by analysing existing knowledge really well; I think it would need to be able to do experiments, to find things out that nobody knows yet. For example, it’s pretty clear that we will need much more effective somatic gene therapy than currently exists, and I think that will need a lot of trial and error. However, I’m all for development of such an AGI system to help with life extension research: firstly I might be wrong about the above, and secondly, even if it only hastens the Methuselarity by a small amount, that’s still a lot of lives saved.

AGI research is much cheaper, so there’s really no reason to prioritise one over the other (AGI research versus life extension research or vice versa).

Current rough cost estimate for achieving Methuselarity? Definitely multi-billion, yes — probably trillions, if we include all the medical delivery infrastructure and manpower. But the question then arises of whether AGI will cut the cost of those later stages as well as of the early stages. I don’t really see why it shouldn’t

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