Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Technology Review: Is Defeating Aging Only a Dream?

Technology Review: Is Defeating Aging Only a Dream?: "Last year, Technology Review announced a $20,000 prize for any molecular biologist who could demonstrate that biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey's 'Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence' (SENS) -- a much publicized prescription for defeating aging -- was 'so wrong that it was unworthy of learned debate.' The purpose of the challenge was to determine whether de Grey's proposals were science or fantasy.
The judges of the 'SENS Challenge' were Rodney Brooks, the director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the chief technology officer of iRobot; Anita Goel, the founder and chief executive of Nanobiosym; Vikram Kumar, the cofounder and chief executive of Dimagi and a pathologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston; Nathan Myhrvold, the cofounder and chief executive of Intellectual Ventures and the former chief technology officer of Microsoft; and J. Craig Venter, the founder and president of the Venter Institute, whose computational methods hastened the completion of the Human Genome Project.
We received five submissions, of which only three met the terms of the challenge. De Grey wrote a rebuttal to each qualifying submission, and the challengers wrote responses to those rebuttals. The judges considered all these documents.
In the end, the judges felt that no submission met the criterion of the challenge and disproved SENS, although they unanimously agreed that one submission, by Preston W. Estep and his colleagues, was the most eloquent. The judges also noted, however, that de Grey had not convincingly defended SENS and that many of his ideas seemed somewhat fanciful."