Less than a decade ago, de Grey was a relatively unknown computer scientist doing his own research into aging. . .
Now, though, some scientists are beginning to view his approach -- looking at aging as a disease and bringing in more disciplines into gerontology -- as worthwhile, even if they still look askance at his claims of permanent reversible aging within a lifespan.
The Methuselah Foundation now has an annual research funding budget of several million dollars, de Grey says, and it's beginning to show lab results that he thinks will turn scientists' heads.
A female police officer aims with her pistol in a shooting range during a graduation ceremony in Karbala, Iraq.
One of the main messages I had hoped to impart in Saudi Arabia -- and which I did impart during my talk yesterday at the Issues Management Conference in Washington, DC -- is that the world is changing fast.
A week ago, I boarded an overnight flight from New York's JFK airport to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with a planned change of planes in Cairo, Egypt.
Everything was fine until I got to the transfer gate in Cairo about noon the next day, where I was informed that there was a problem with my visa. It seems I'd received incomplete information on visa requirements from my contacts in Jeddah, and had failed to acquire the necessary processing in Washington, DC, before departing.
The Egyptian gate agents did their best to help me resolve the problem, making calls and sending faxes to Saudi Arabia, but try as they might, they were unable to obtain permission for me to board the continuing flight. They said they'd keep working at it and see if they could resolve the issues in time for me to catch the next flight, but failing that, I'd have to spend the night in Cairo and go to the Saudi Arabian embassy the following day to seek assistance there.
Well, that's what happened, and although I spent a whole exhausting day going from building to building and window to window in a struggle with an appalling bureaucracy worthy of Brazil (the movie not the country), I had zero luck. I ended up staying two more days in Cairo, still trying to work things out so I could get to Jeddah and deliver my talk, but to no avail.
But I did make lemonade from lemons, and took the opportunity of being in Cairo to spend at least half a day seeing a few of the sights. It's an amazing place, and I hope to return sometime for a longer visit under better circumstances.
I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with a short stopover in Cairo, Egypt. It's not clear how much online access I'll have during the next week, or how much time I'll have for blogging. But I'll try to give updates when I can and perhaps also post some photos.
Meantime, I'd like to address a comment posted yesterday by Dan S, in which he said:
Should CRN be renamed as “Center for Responsible Climate Policy”? I noted that MNT-related post are heavily outnumbered by climate-change related posts. Over past few years CRN focus clearly shifted from advanced nano to climate and ecology problems. This trend is extremely disappointing since there are a lot of organizations concerned with climate change issues and only one “Center for Responsible Nanotechnology”…
I can understand why you'd feel that way, Dan, and you're not the only one. We've heard from others who expressed similar complaints or concerns.
Perhaps it will help if I explain some of our internal thinking and discussions over the last several months and years.
When CRN was founded in December 2002, our intent was: a) to assist in establishing the technical feasibility of exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing; b) to mount a convincing argument that it would be a disruptive, transformative technology; and c) to raise awareness of the potential imminence of its arrival -- it could be soon, and it might appear rather suddenly.
In the "CRN at Five Years Old" status report that we published in January, we related that it appears we have been mostly successful in achieving the first two points above: a) feasibility and b) disruption. We're proud of what we have accomplished there.
But where we've been less successful is in garnering agreement about the imminence of the technology's likely arrival, and the consequent urgency for preparation. We think, however, that this may not be so much a failure on our part as a recognition that technical work toward achieving molecular manufacturing is not progressing as fast as we were originally concerned that it might. And since the purpose of CRN is not prediction, but preparation, we're quite happy to say that the initial part of our work is done, and the time for hitting hard on the imminence/urgency message is not yet here. This doesn't mean that we won't continue writing and talking about the technology and its implications, because we will.
However, as we sit back and look at this big picture, we can also see how vital it is to understand that technological change does not occur in a vacuum, nor is it immune to the social, political, and economic conditions within which it develops. That's why we think it's so important to project the impacts of evolving changes in societies, cultures, other emerging technologies, and major environmental trends.
If, for example, global warming continues at its present alarming rate and causes greater and greater ecological catastrophes, eventually throwing the world economy totally out of whack -- well, that's something that could affect how soon and how safely molecular manufacturing is developed and deployed. Or, if China's unprecedented growth rate shifts the balance of power either economically or militarily too quickly and makes the geopolitical situation dangerously unstable, that's something that could have a big impact on where, when, and how nanofactory technology comes into being. This, by the way, is a good explanation for why we went to such trouble to prepare eight future scenarios about the potential development of advanced nanotechnology.
So, we don't think that paying attention to these issues is beyond the scope of our mission. In fact, we believe that if we ignored such preeminent factors, we'd not be doing justice to the purposes for which we were founded.
Until recently, the United States was the #1 carbon polluting nation in the world. Now it appears that China, with its rampant industrial and commercial growth, has grabbed the top spot. Of course, on a per capita basis, the U.S. is still far and away the leader -- the average American contributes more than four times as much CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than does the average Chinese.
It's about time, then, that the United States took leadership on the issue and showed responsibility in reducing carbon output. It looked like that might happen this year, but the first major bill to seriously tackle the issue failed in the Senate last week.
But, you may be asking, shouldn't a blog (and an organization) that promotes advanced nanotechnology put more emphasis on a scientific or technological solution to the problem, instead of calling for countries to scale back on their growth?
There are several ways to answer that question.
First, we can say that we are supporting a scientific solution to the problem, and the first step in that is to accept the verdict of the overwhelming majority of researchers who say we are courting ecological catastrophe if we continue on our present course. Virtually every respected scientific body is backing the findings of the IPCC and urging nations around the world to take urgent action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving toward renewable energy sources. That is the scientific approach.
Second, it's not accurate to describe CRN as an organization that promotes advanced nanotech. Our mission is to raise public awareness about both the benefits and the risks of molecular manufacturing, and to encourage safe development and responsible use of the technology. Certainly we'd like to see extra effort put into developing innovative solutions for sustainable growth, and we hope that scientific ingenuity might find effective ways to remove CO2 from the air and slow the rate of global warming. However, neither of those proactive approaches should be allowed to distract us from the real and urgent need to make big changes in how the U.S. and the world do business.
Third, as we said yesterday, even if emerging technologies such as nanotech, biotech, and artificial intelligence might someday be able to offer remarkable new answers to help us slow or even reverse global warning and deal with the effects of climate change, we do not have the luxury of waiting for them. There is no time to waste. Denial, debate, and delay are no longer acceptable.
The situation we find ourselves in is bleak, but it's not hopeless -- not yet. Workable solutions have been proposed that should allow us to avert the worst-case scenarios.
Here in the United States, new legislation already has been prepared that will be stronger, simpler, and fairer than the act that failed last week. The new bill most likely will not be taken up until 2009, when the next Congress is seated, but it does appear that the outlook for meaningful legislation in the U.S. is better now than it has ever been.
Of course, that alone won't be all that's required. China, India, Japan, Europe, and dozens of other developed and developing nations also will have to take strong steps. But given all that the U.S.has done to pollute the atmosphere, it's time for America to be a leader in responsible climate policy.
If there's to be a miraculous transformation of human civilization, it has to be accomplished by us, right now, before we develop our miraculous nanobots, genetically engineered carbon-sucking trees, or polywell fusion reactors. . . the point is that this upward curve of technological development rides on something: it rides on the back of humanity, and we ride (largely for free, until now) on the back of the natural system that sustains us.
Once serious environmental deterioration sets in, the curve of technological change will flatten, even if we develop 'godlike AIs,' for the simple reason that intelligence itself is not enough to sustain growth. You also need resources, externally-derived social stability, etc. Climate change threatens technological growth by threatening its fundamental drivers.
(That said, technology is a large part of the answer — and game-changing breakthroughs are possible — but until proven otherwise we have to assume we'll be using currently possible solutions such as wind power, agrichar and a global coal moratorium.)
We have the social stability, the resources and the technology now; all we need is the will. We will still need all three of these things 25 years from now, and we're likely to be seriously wanting in at least two of them if things continue as they are.
Yep. Sounds a lot like what we said, here, and here, and here.
CORRECTION: Originally we stated that Alex Steffen was the author of the referenced article. Thanks to Jim Moore for catching the mistake.
A report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency envisions an "energy revolution" that would greatly reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels while maintaining steady economic growth.
"Meeting this target of 50 percent cut in emissions represents a formidable challenge, and we would require immediate policy action and technological transition on an unprecedented scale," IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said.
Here's how much it will cost:
The world needs to invest $45 trillion in energy in coming decades, build some 1,400 nuclear power plants and vastly expand wind power in order to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to an energy study released Friday.
And here's why they say it's necessary:
A U.N.-network of scientists concluded last year that emissions have to be cut by at least half by 2050 to avoid an increase in world temperatures of between 3.6 and 4.2 degrees above pre-18th century levels.
Scientists say temperature increases beyond that could trigger devastating effects, such as widespread loss of species, famines and droughts, and swamping of heavily populated coastal areas by rising oceans.
$45 trillion sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Obviously, it is a lot of money, but when put in perspective, it seems a bit less daunting. Here's climate expert Joseph Romm:
Yes, $45 trillion sounds like an unimaginably large amount of money — but spread over more than four decades and compared to the world’s total wealth during that time, it is literally a drop in the bucket — 1.1% or one part in 90 of the world’s total wealth.
When put that way, it seems like a no-brainer. If avoiding all of the disaster scenarios we keep hearing about will cost only about a penny from every dollar, then let's go for it!
Unfortunately, it may not be that simple. It's quite possible that this is a problem we can't solve just by throwing money at it -- not even a whole lot of money.
Our industrial and commercial activities of the last 200 years may already have set in motion enormous, complex, micro/macro shifts in the global ecosystem:
Natural fisheries that we've been depleting for decades could trigger cascading declines in biodiversity.
And that's just a scant few indicators of how deep and how broad our real problems may be.
Of course, this exercise in facing tough reality should not discourage us from doing everything we can to reduce the output of carbon emissions, pursue renewable energy sources, encourage conservation and recycling, etc. -- we have to start now to do all these things.
But we also must be careful not to assume that enough money, or even enough new technology, will allow us to avert the major changes that global warming is bringing to our biosphere and to our lives.