Aubrey de Grey on the Harvard Mouse News

On Facebook, Aubrey de Grey said:

Stari is right. Spectacularly oversold. The mice are broken in one very well-understood way (no telomerase, so eventually over-short telomeres), and they have been constructed so that that problem can be fixed with a drug, and lo, lots of the downstream consequences of the problem are also fixed. Duh.

Michael: the cancer issue is not really relevant here, no, because mice have lots of telomerase normally and don’t use telomerase thrift as an anti-cancer tactic.

Prior to that, I had said:

I’m surprised this happened so soon. Nothing like this has been achieved before. The lack of increased cancer risk is the key point.

Again, even if this is fixing something deliberately broken, I wasn’t aware of rejuvenation like this being achieved before. I must admit that in this field I generally just follow the popular science material and don’t delve too much into the literature, though. The only blog I really read that goes into the science is Fight Aging. Still, I’m waiting to hear of a prior example of rejuvenation …

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Taking Short-Lived Mice and Making Them Live Average Lives — Not News?

Reason at Fight Aging is not impressed by the recent Harvard news.

Reason said:

You might look back into the Fight Aging! archives for a primer on the intersection of telomeres, telomerase, and aging. It’s interesting stuff, but unfortunately this present research is being headlined as “scientists reverse aging in mice” – which is absolutely not what was accomplished. Reversing an artificially created accelerating aging condition by removing its cause is not the same thing as intervening in normal aging, and it will rarely have any relevance to normal aging. The study results are teaching us something about the way in which telomerase works in mouse metabolism, but I – and other, more qualified folk – are dubious as to the relevance to human aging:

Even if it was reversing an artificially accelerated aging condition, has whole-body rejuvenation of this sort been demonstrated before? Not that I had heard of.

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Partial Reversal of Aging Achieved in Mice

Here’s the big news from yesterday. Wow! Regeneration of cells, no higher incidence of cancer. Rejuvenation of the brain and testes was achieved as well:

“When we flipped the telomerase switch on and looked a month later, the brains had largely returned to normal,” said DePinho. More newborn nerve cells were observed, and the fatty myelin sheaths around nerve cells — which had become thinned in the aged animals — increased in diameter. In addition, the increase in telomerase revitalized slumbering brain stem cells so they could produce new neurons.

To show that all this new activity actually caused functional improvements, the scientists tested the mice’s ability to avoid a certain area where they detected unpleasant odors that they associated with danger, such as scents of predators or rotten food. They had lost that survival skill as their olfactory nerve cells atrophied, but after the telomerase boost, those nerves regenerated and the mice regained their crucial sense of smell.

“One of the most amazing changes was in the animals’ testes, which were essentially barren as aging caused the …

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2013 Solar Maximum Resources

2008 report from US National Academies of Sciences’ Space Studies Board:

Severe Space Weather Events — Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report

NASA Science News, June 4, 2010, “As the Sun Awakens, NASA Keeps a Wary Eye on Space Weather”

Richard Fisher, head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, explains what it’s all about:

“The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity. At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms. The intersection of these two issues is what we’re getting together to discuss.”

The National Academy of Sciences framed the problem two years ago in a landmark report entitled “Severe Space Weather Events—Societal and Economic Impacts.” It noted how people of the 21st-century rely on high-tech systems for the basics of daily life. Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity. A century-class solar storm, the Academy warned, …

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Contrasting Views on the Stability of the US Power Grid

“Why it’s hard to crash the electric grid” from Eurekalert:

Last March, the U.S. Congress heard testimony about a scientific study in the journal Safety Science. A military analyst worried that the paper presented a model of how an attack on a small, unimportant part of the U.S. power grid might, like dominoes, bring the whole grid down.

Members of Congress were, of course, concerned. Then, a similar paper came out in the journal Nature the next month that presented a model of how a cascade of failing interconnected networks led to a blackout that covered Italy in 2003.

These two papers are part of a growing reliance on a particular kind of mathematical model — a so-called topological model — for understanding complex systems, including the power grid.

And this has University of Vermont power-system expert Paul Hines concerned.

“Some modelers have gotten so fascinated with these abstract networks that they’ve ignored the physics of how things actually work — like electricity infrastructure,” Hines says, “and this can lead you grossly astray.”

For example, the Safety Science

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Future Superintelligences Indistinguishable from Today’s Financial Markets?

It seems obvious that Singularity Institute-supporting transhumanists and other groups of transhumanists speak completely different languages when it comes to AI. Supporters of SIAI actually fear what AI can do, and other transhumanists apparently don’t. It’s as if SL3 transhumanists view smarter-than-human AI with advanced manufacturing as some kind of toy, whereas we actually take it seriously. I thought a recent post by Marcelo Rinesi at the IEET website, “The Care and Feeding of Your AI Overlord”, would provide a good illustration of the difference:

It’s 2010 — our 2010 — and an artificial intelligence is one of the most powerful entities on Earth. It manages trillions of dollars in resources, governments shape their policies according to its reactions, and, while some people revere it as literally incapable of error and others despise it as a catastrophic tyrant, everybody is keenly aware of its existence and power.

I’m talking, of course, of the financial markets.

The opening paragraph was not metaphorical. Financial markets might not match pop culture expectations of what an AI should look like …

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Alcor Receives $7 Million

Congratulations to Alcor. I am A-2458, and happy to be part of the Alcor community. My total fees to be part of cryonics are less than $1000/year, including membership fees and the cost of life insurance. My life insurance is especially cheap, something like $25/month. The payout is a full $250,000, which is $100,000 more than the minimum level of $150,000 for full body suspension. So, Alcor will actually get a windfall from my metabolic death, if that ever happens.

I find it rather interesting that Alcor received a $7 million bequest, as so few people have gone into cryostasis recently.

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500 Pictures of Singularity Summit 2010 Available

Photo by A. Jolly 2010.

My Flickr account contains almost 500 photos of Singularity Summit 2010, more than you could ever want. I mentioned this before in the Singularity Institute newsletter but not here. A special thanks to our photographers, A. Jolly and Anthony Scatchell. Please get in touch with me if you are interested in volunteering for photography next year.

Steven Mann is so cool!

The videos are currently being edited, they’ll be completed over the next few weeks. Sorry for the delay, one of our initial editors backed out of the project. Watch the Vimeo channel for updates. I’ll announce it officially on SIAI blog when some go online.

Total attendance at Singularity Summit 2010 was approximately 620.

For any new readers: the Singularity Summit is put on by the Singularity Institute, which I work for. I co-organize Singularity Summit, assisting our President, Michael Vassar. Everyone at the Singularity Institute cooperates to make the Singularity Summit happen. The Singularity Summit MC is Sean McCabe, previously a close …

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Obama’s Bioethics Panel and the Transitory Nature of Presidential Bioethics Panels

I’ve been reading some of the public material on the new President’s Council on Bioethics, because I can’t for the life of me figure out what they do. I do know that they’re called the “Presidential Council for the Study of Bioethical Issues” now. Same domain name, different panel. It seems as if Obama was so against the old commission that he had to destroy it and create a new one from scratch, which highlights the transitory and low-power nature of the body.

Checking out the background materials section of their website, I was compelled to click on the first presentation at meeting two, “Oversight of Emerging Technologies”. It outlines important overall characteristics of this panel. Their mission is as follows:

1. To monitor scientific/medical developments (“advances”) and identify the issues they will raise for society 2. To bridge divide between science and society 3. To articulate the range of views on controversial subjects, To inform the political process & policymaking 4. To provide guidance to individuals & healthcare professionals 5. To provide recommendations to …

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Superior Retinal Prosthesis Developed for Mice

From Science Daily: A new retinal prosthetic creates an image (middle) that more accurately reconstructs a baby’s face (left) than the standard approach (right).

Researchers have developed an artificial retina that has the capacity to reproduce normal vision in mice. While other prosthetic strategies mainly increase the number of electrodes in an eye to capture more information, this study concentrated on incorporating the eye’s neural “code” that converts pictures into signals the brain can understand.

Degenerative diseases of the retina — nerve cells in the eye that send visual information to the brain — have caused more than 25 million people worldwide to become partially or totally blind. Although medicine may slow degeneration, there is no known cure. Existing retinal prosthetic devices restore partial vision; however, the sight is limited. Efforts to improve the devices have so far largely focused on increasing the number of cells that are re- activated in the damaged retina.

This is a major BCI advance. Prior visual reconstruction implants had a much lower resolution. Within a couple decades it could become possible …

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