Welcome in the middle of nowhere

For all the wandering hobbits of the middle earth…

Author: raphyduck Page 1 of 2

How to be a Stoic – Massimo Pigliucci – 2017

How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern LifeHow to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life by Massimo Pigliucci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very enjoyable and practical book on Stoicism. It strucks a very good balance between historical context, theory, anecdotes and examples, and practical exercices.

It would have been a perfect read if not for what I think is a rather poor way of handling the fear of death. One of the important point of the Stoic philosophy is to allow its students to learn to accept death has inevitable and natural, as indifferent.

With that said, nowadays, we are slowly coming to an understanding of the process of aging, and it is reasonable to think that we might engineer an end to it. Of course, some people get a little to excited by the prospect of technological solution to aging and makes some quite outrageous predictions (I’m thinking about high profile transhumanists who contend that any day now we’ll be able to upload ourselves in machines).
And here the author uses these extreme examples to make a rather nasty strawman attack on the will to cure aging. And I think a rational and Stoic evaluation of the topic can show he is wrong:

Does a Stoic denies that we should cure any disease, or for that matter, try to prevent any suffering, whatever its cause, that befall on other human beings? I think not, I think the author would agree that it is a good thing (a preferred indifferent) that modern medicine reduced child mortality, put an end to ugly disease like smallpox,… And why should aging be any different? Anyone that knows of an aged person (that is anyone) can see the immense suffering it causes. In fact, thanks to the material progress enjoyed in the recent centuries, I contend that the suffering and deaths caused by aging surpass that of any other single causes in the world, being malnutrition, malaria, famine,… I don’t think Stoics would agree that they are kind of sufferings that should never be alleviated, or that some people deserves to suffer because of simply their circumstances.

I’ll pass on the poorly thoughts and usual arguments against bringing an end to aging. It is not immortality (you still die of all the other causes), it does not cause runaway overpopulation (the growth rate of a population is actually inversely proportional to the lifespan of its constituents), and finally it is no more hubris that any endeavor undertaken since humans are humans, from leaving Africa for the unknown, crossing the Pacific on rafts, building shelters against the elements,… In short it is not hubris, it is using what is our Nature, Reason, to solve a problem causing so much human sufferings.

Of course, as Massimo Pigliucci writes himself elsewhere in this book, you have to put the words of a person in the context of the society he grew up with. So I will not hold too much of a grudge for him for reflecting the still mainstream view of the “naturalness” of aging.

I know this last paragraph make me sound arrogant but it is not my intention nor how I feel. We all have our biasis, and reason and discussions is how we can try to overcome them. I may be wrong and blinded by my own hubris, who knows.

Apart from this huge rant on a very specific chapter of this book, this is a very useful and enjoyable book, which I will carry dearly with me to help me become a better person.

View all my reviews

Two Cheers for Anarchism – James C. Scott – 2012

Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity and Meaningful Work and PlayTwo Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity and Meaningful Work and Play by James C. Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This little book aims to challenge our preconceived notion and bring a little more anarchy in our society. No in fast, as the author says in the introduction, most of our daily social interactions are anarchic in that they are spontaneous and not regulated/controlled by a third party (think your friends, family, the way you walk on sidewalks,…). The point is just to remember this, to remember that sometimes, often, decentralization, emergent order (from chaos), in short Anarchy, works better than hierarchical static(st) order.

I didn’t find all the arguments equally strong, but my statist biais could be working here. I am thinking about the arguments against quantitative measures which I found beside the point though important points in themselves.

All in all, this was a thought provoking read which helped rewrite my world-view a bit.

View all my reviews

Becoming the Iceman: Pushing Past Perceived Limits – Wim Hof, Justin Rosales – 2012

My review on Goodreads.com:

Becoming the Iceman: Pushing Past Perceived LimitsBecoming the Iceman: Pushing Past Perceived Limits by Wim Hof
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The writing is really really bad, as the other reviewers have already pointed out. I almost turned down the book after the first few chapters, but kept on…. and I’m glad I did. As poor as the writing is, the stories of Wim Hof and Justin are inspiring, really inspiring. I motivated me to incorporate cold showers in my daily routine and enjoy the numerous health benefits that Wim Hof is an extreme example of (I mean, 39 bpm resting heart rate at more than 50? Controlling the autonomic nervous system consciously? That’s something everyone should strive for).

So thanks to the authors for the inspiring book.

View all my reviews

Starship Century: Toward the Grandest Horizon – James Benford, Gregory Benford – 2013

Starship Century: Toward the Grandest HorizonStarship Century: Toward the Grandest Horizon by James Benford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating read. The mix of science and science fiction really stirs our imagination and allow us to dream a bit about a possible

The only issue, and it is a serious, are the numerous typos. There really was a spellchecking work that has not be done.

View all my reviews

Le fabuleux pouvoir de votre cerveaux – Deepak Chopra – 2014

My review on Goodread.com:

Le fabuleux pouvoir de votre cerveauxLe fabuleux pouvoir de votre cerveaux by Deepak Chopra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book presents some fascinating ideas. However it’s too bad the authors don’t argue more for some of their core precepts. One of the central thesis of this book is that we have a “mental”, a conscious self that has a free will. And yet never anywhere is it argumented for. There is nothing in our conscious experience that proves that we have free will. All we can be sure is that there is light, that we are a witness to what happens in our brain.

In fact, I would argue that if their conclusion is true, that we are all part of a unified consciousness, it makes more sense that the will and the sense of self is “simply” a product of the brain, with the conscousness being merely a silent observer of this particular process, rather than each of us being individual conscious agent, with free will, that may at the same time be part of a unified consciousness.

But overall really exciting and thought-provoking book

View all my reviews

Les Furtifs – Alain Damasio – 2019

Note: french version is below.

It is the first time I read the author, et I liked his style a lot, his numerous wordplays, the beauty of the text. The story of the Furtifs (Stealth) is very original and well thought out, it is thrilling, inspiring, and touching.

There is one thing that bothered me though; the political message.

It is screamed out, violently, all through the book. In a hateful, negatif way, totally irrational way. Alain Damasio is fighting Evil, called interchangeably money, capital, capitalism, liberalism. For him, all these words are synonymous, they represent absolute evil. But the thing is, they are not synonymous. Capitalism is not liberalism which is not the dystopia described here, a neo-feudal society, mix of big business and the State, a crony capitalism that has little to do with classical liberalism. Damasio’s understanding of economy can be sum up by: commerce is predation, private property is theft and wealth is “economic brutality”. Win-win exchange, positive sum game, that doesn’t exist in his world. You get rich only when someone else get poorer. Here Alain Damasio is a perfect product of the huge echo chamber that the french speaking media world is. And yet, it is true that there are problems to solve. That an elite of wealthy people and business use political power to keep or increase their privileges at the expense of the people. That the financial system is a mad vampire. That the idea Damasio suggests, extreme decentralisation of power in myriad of small “communes”, myriad of (competing?) models to try out, is very challenging and interesting. But all that is hidden under a mass of hate, jealousy which weight on the story and prevents any rational thinking. And also darken the poesy of the text.

Furthermore, I have to react to the other themes of the book. To start with, the demonization of technology.

His intuition is that technology dehumanizes and “devitalizes” us. Here the author is very conservative: the idea of human and machine blending, the idea of technological enhancement is out of the question: human beings are perfect as they are, let’s not change anything. Yes we have, right here and now, everything we need to be happy. But life is impermanence. No species is frozen in time, and for Homo Sapiens, technology is part of our evolution. Technology is the daughter of biology. An eye or legs are machines “invented” by Nature. A silex or a smartphone are organs evolved by humans. A car, a washing machine, a computer, they are just organs created to enhance us. Crude, imperfect, but less so with time. More integrated in us, more efficient, less polluting.

Damasio is quite vocal on technology in other public appearances. For him, technologie today gives us more power (what we can delegate) but shrinks our potency (what we can do ourselves). He often takes the example of GPS, which reduces our brain’s ability to move in space. But in fact that’s not true. Our ability to move in space hasn’t shrunk, it changed form. GPS is, for now, badly integrated in us, so badly so that we don’t feel its abilities as ours. But that’s an artificial distinction. Do you know how to walk? No. You learned it one day, how to balance yourself on 2 legs, but you forgot how to do it consciously a long time ago. There is a circuit in your brain that knows how to walk. If it is damaged (localized brain damaged), you won’t walk. True, there’s more chance for you to lose your GPS or that it stops working. But that not a fundamental difference. GPS abilities are as yours as the speech center in your brain. The writer recognizes it also, since he calls these smart sensors and trackers as a “second skin”. Yes, these are our new organs. Do we need them to be happy? No. So does they make us less happy? No. We can make use of our judgement with technology. Purposefully filter all the ads, messages and notifications we receive from machine. Keep mindful of the way we perceive the world (for example, not letting algorithms curate our news feed). Since the birth of agriculture, we kept modifying our environment, ever faster, much too fast for our genes to follow. Our evolution mode changed, it is no longer only genetic, but also cultural and technological. But we never ceased evolving. Luckily. Life is change.

And to finish, the symbolism of the Furtif. The Furtif represents the ideal we should aim at for the author. It is a being in perpetual metamorphosis, a synthesis of vegetal, animal, mineral,… and totally anonymous, escaping any tracking. Anonymity as an ideal of society. Individualism taken to the extreme, where society has no control over the individual, who is totally free and can disappear forever in the darkness of anonymity. The anonymity of the Furtifs is opposed in the book to the dystopia of a panoptic society in which all humans are endlessly watched by myriad of trackers and sensors (it is not clear if elites are also watched). It is another theme of predilection of Damasion; the idea that technology makes easier horizontal control between humans thanks to surveillance, and that it is a bad thing. And this is quite surprising from him. Indeed, anonymity allows all sort of anti/a-social behaviors to flourish. It allows the rich to hide their gain and avoid taxes. It allows elites to conspire against the people. And even in the “utopia” he describes, anonymity is the enemy: In the isle of Javeau-Doux for example, comrades that do not do their part are expelled. This is a good old social control, and it works only as long as what you do can be seen by others. Transparency is a bad thing only when it flows one-way. When light shines only on the people and elites stay in the dark. However the remedy is not complete darkness, but pervasive light. Light on everyone’s bank accounts. Lights on the chambers where laws are written. Lights on the meeting between businessmen and politician. Etc… A community exists only by the ties between its members, and those links only exist by a mutual understanding, a mutual control, a mutual trust born in the light.

To conclude, it is a thrilling adventure and a good anticipation, but it is darken by the ideological aprioris of the author. It is entirely possible that in fact, my own aprioris are spoiling this read. And maybe, probably even, this violence was a way to push the reader out of his numbness, a reader who often comes from the same ideological mold as the author, and thus will more easily resonate with his rage. But whatever the reason, this negativity spoiled my read.

And the french translation

Je découvre l’auteur, et j’ai bien aimé son style, ses jeux de mots incessants, la beauté de ses textes, il joue a fond son rôle d’écrivain. L’histoire des furtifs est très originale et très bien vue, et elle nous tient en haleine (presque) jusqu’à la fin, elle est émouvante, inspirante parfois.

Il y a une chose qui m’a gêné dans ce livre, c’est le message politique.

Il est crié, violemment, tout au long du bouquin. De façon caricaturale, de façon enragée, haineuse, bref assez négative et pas du tout rationnelle. Alain Damasio se bat contre le Mal, qu’il nomme interchangeablement l’argent, le capital, la capitalisme, le libéralisme. Pour lui tous ces mots sont synonymes, ils représentent le mal absolu. Mais synonymes, il ne le sont pas. Le capitalisme n’est pas le libéralisme qui n’est pas la dystopie qu’il décrit, qui est un modèle néo-féodale, une alliance de big business et du pouvoir politique, du capitalisme de connivence, qui n’a rien que peu à voir avec la philosophie libérale. Sa compréhension de l’économie se résume à considérer le commerce comme la prédation, la propriété comme le vol et le luxe comme de la “brutalité économique”. Les échanges gagnant-gagnant, les jeux à somme positive, ça n’existe pas, tu ne t’enrichis que parce qu’un autre s’appauvrit. Bref, en cela, Alain Damasio est parfaitement représentatif de la chambre à écho qu’est le monde médiatique francophone.  Et pourtant oui il y a des problèmes à régler, oui il y a une clique de riches et d’entreprises qui utilisent le pouvoir pour conserver et augmenter leurs privilèges au dépens du peuple. Le système financier est un vampire fou. Et oui l’idée que Damasio propose, la décentralisation extrême en millions de petites “communes”, de modèles à expérimenter en parallèle (en competition?) est très intéressante. Mais tout cela est noyé sous une couche de haine, de jalousie rageuse qui plombe la lecture et empêche tout réflexion. Et qui assombrit du même coup la poésie du texte.

Par ailleurs, je ne peux m’empêcher de réagir aux autres thèmes centraux du livre: Pour commencer, la diabolisation de la technologie.

Son intuition est que la technologie nous déshumanise et “dévitalise”.Sur ce point, l’auteur est finalement très conservateur: l’idée d’une fusion homme-machine, l’idée d’une “augmentation” par la machine est mal, l’être humain est parfait comme il est, il n’a pas besoin de changer, ne touchons a rien. Oui nous avons tout ce qu’il nous faut pour être heureux. Mais la vie est impermanence. Aucune espèce n’est figée, et pour l’homo sapiens, la technologie fait partie de notre evolution. La technologie comme continuité de la biologie. Un oeil ou des jambes, c’est des machine “inventée” par la nature. Un silex ou un smartphone , c’est un organe créé par l’Homme. Une voiture, une machine a laver, un ordinateur, tout ça ce ne sont que des organes qu’on se crée pour nous augmenter. Encore très grossier, très imparfait, mais de moins en moins. De plus en plus intégrées en nous, de plus en plus efficaces et moins polluants. La technologie est née avec l’Homme, avec le premier silex. En cela elle est tout autant naturelle que la biologie.

Cette présentation de la technologie dans ce livre renvoie à ses prises de position publiques sur le sujet: pour lui, la technologie aujourd’hui nous donne plus de pouvoir (la possibilité de faire faire) mais réduit notre puissance (la possibilité de faire). Il aime à prendre l’exemple du GPS, qui réduit la capacité de notre cerveau à s’orienter sur une carte et dans l’espace. Oui, mais non. Notre capacité à nous orienter n’a pas ete reduite, elle a change d'”organes”. Le GPS est suffisamment, pour le moment, mal et peu intégré en nous que nous ne percevons pas ses capacités comme faisant partie intégrante de nous. Mais c’est une distinction artificielle. Est-ce que vous savez comment marcher? Non. Vous avez un jour appris à marcher, a balancer votre corps sur deux jambes sans tomber, mais vous ne savez pas consciemment comment vous faites. Il y a un circuit de votre cerveau qui sait le faire. Si ce circuit grille (un dommage localisé dans votre cerveau), vous ne marcherez plus. Il y a surement plus de chances que votre GPS tombe en panne, que vous le perdiez,… mais ca reste une difference de degre, pas de nature. D’ailleurs l’auteur le reconnaît implicitement en parlant de “seconde peau” pour ces capteurs et traqueurs intelligents. Oui ce sont de nouveau organes pour nous. Est-ce qu’on en a besoin pour être heureux? Non. Est-ce que ca nous rend plus malheureux pour autant? Non plus. Cela n’empêche pas de faire usage de discernement. De filtrer intelligemment les sollicitations de la technologie, les publicites, les messages et autres notifications. En restant attentif à la façon dont nous percevons le monde (en clair, en ne laissant pas des algorithmes choisir pour nous les informations qu’on reçoit du monde). Depuis l’avènement de l’agriculture, nous n’avons cessé de modifier l’environnement dans lequel nous vivons, de plus en plus rapidement, bien trop vite pour que nos gènes suivent. Notre mode d’evolution a changé, il n’est pas seulement génétique mais également culturel et technologique. Mais d’evoluer, nous n’avons jamais cesser. Heureusement. Le vivant est changement.

Pour finir, le symbolisme du furtif. Le Furtif représente l’idéal vers lequel nous devrions tendre selon l’écrivain. Un être en perpétuelle métamorphose, synthese du vegetal, de l’animal, du mineral,… et completement anonyme, echappant a tout traquage. L’anonymat comme ideal de societe. Un individualisme poussé a l’extreme, chaque individu pouvant échapper totalement au contrôle de la société, libre de tout, libre de se retrancher dans les pénombres de l’anonymat a jamais.  Un anonymat des furtifs mis en opposition dans ce livre avec la dystopie d’une société panoptique, dans laquelle chaque humain est sans cesse observé par des milliers de capteurs et autres traqueurs (il n’est pas clair à quel point le pouvoir échappe à cette surveillance). C’est un autre thème privilégié de Damasio, l’idée que la technologie rend de plus en plus possible le contrôle horizontal entre les humains par la surveillance, ce qui serait un mal. Et c’est quelque part surprenant de sa part. En effet l’anonymat permet l’épanouissement de toutes sortes de comportements anti/a-sociaux. Il permet aux riches de cacher leurs gains, d’echapper aux impots. Il permet la conspiration des élites contre le peuple. Et même dans les utopies qu’il décrit, l’anonymat est l’ennemi: Dans l’île de Javeau-Doux par exemple, les camarades qui ne font pas leur due sont expulsés. C’est un bon moyen de contrôle sociale, qui ne fonctionne que parce que ce que tu fais peut être observé par les autres. La transparence n’est un mal que lorsqu’elle est à sens unique. Lorsque la lumière ne brille que sur le peuple et que les élites restent dans le noir. La solution n’est pas le noir totale, mais la lumière partout. Éclairer les comptes bancaires de tout le monde. Éclairer les chambres où sont décidées les loies qui vont gouverner les hommes. Eclairer les rencontrer entre politiciens et hommes d’affaires. Etc… Une communauté ne vit que par les liens entre ses membres, et ces liens n’existe que par une connaissance mutuelle, un controle reciproque, une confiance née dans la lumiere.

En conclusion, une belle aventure et une belle réflexion d’anticipation sont gâchées les aprioris idéologiques de l’auteur. Il est possible qu’en réalité ce soit mes propres aprioris qui m’est gâche la lecture. Et peut-etre, probablement meme, que cette violence était une manière de pousser le lecteur à sortir de sa torpeur, un lecteur qui bien souvent aura baignée dans un moule idéologique similaire à celui dans lequel a grandi l’auteur et donc entrera plus facilement en resonnance avec sa rage. Mais quoiqu’il en soit cette négativité m’a pour ma part pesé.

LASIK Eyes operation in Lyon

On July 12, 2019, I had an operation for my hyperopia. I decided because I am just a mess with my glasses, they always end up broken some way or another, and in the long run it costs. Plus, the idea of getting rid of glasses is appealing.

To be honest, I initially came to see Dr Donate because I wanted to get implants. Implants fixes hyperopia and add a UV protection feature which appealed to my biohacker side. But after a full eyes check up, I learned that my cornea is too thin for implants. Oh well, LASIK will have to do.

Anyway, so the first step of the operation is to take an anxiolytic pill. Non negotiable, even if like me you were not stressed out by the operation. The idea was to make you less restless during the operation. Indeed, as you’ll see in the video below, you are not put to sleep during the operation. You have to be awake to direct your eyes to help the doctor work on the eyes.

So when we arrived at the clinic, I took an anxiolytic pill before waiting in the waiting room. In this room, a video of the explanation of the procedure was looping in a TV. Details that must be quite anxiogene for some people I imagine.

After about 15 minutes of wait came my turn. I had to put on a gown, was welcomed by the doctor in the operation room. I lied down on a bed, and the nurse put a device to keep my eyelids open. The procedure then went very quickly; first you have to fix some lights, while the doctor cut a flap in your cornea and lift it. You can feel when its happening because then your vision becomes extremely blurry. Better not have a power cut at that time! Then the laser does its magic somehow, then the flap is put back in place and that’s it. Less than 20 minutes and it’s down.

Video about the procedure

Then I was given sunglasses and eye protective cases, and with my wife we got back home. The doctor insisted that I take a taxi because I would not be able to open my eyes on the way back. Well it was actually not that bad, the eyes were hurting a little bit but I was able to see well enough to go back by foot.

The next few days were not bad, it never really hurt. You have to put drops in your eyes every hour or so, which is a pain, for about on week, then you slowly decrease the amount of drops.

The post op visit, 3 days later, showed my vision was perfect and the cornea healing correctly.

The best part in this adventure was the joy of seeing clearly without glasses. It is really an amazing feeling!

Saint-Priest is changing

So today we went visit my parents in Saint-Priest. This is the city I grew up in for most of my young life (from 5 till 20 years old). As is often the case with childhood memories, I have fond memories of it. Time tends to color everything with the rosy touch of nostalgia.

Of course not everything was great in old Saint-Priest. It is located at the south-east of Lyon. Not the nice western suburbs, but one of the impoverished “ghettos” of the east. Around its historical center with its lovely castle, it has grown lots of “HLM” (social housing) and other lifeless blocks to accommodate a huge population expansion (20,000 to 40,000 between 1950 and 1970).

My parents bought a flat on the outskirt of the city, in a newly constructed building in a neighborhood composed of houses and a few huge flats buildings. There was a lot of delinquency problems in the first years. Lots of squatters that made inhabitants uneasy. Not a lot of life there.

And now, more than 10 years after I left Porte-Joie, I am back to a different pictures. You can still see stigmata of the past: no more benches on the central square; CCTV in action. But they are new shops that opened. A lot of new neighborhood got built along the tramway linking Saint-Priest to Lyon. The forsaken fields above our neighborhood became a nicely kept park for a walk. A lot of things changed, for the better. It warmed my heart to see that.

Robopocalypse – Daniel H. Wilson – 2011

RobopocalypseRobopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Would probably make an awesome sci-fi action movie. But I guess I expect too much for a book, especially a sci-fi book. I want it to make me think, dream, imagine what the future can be like.

View all my reviews

Undoing Aging 2019

Undoing Aging 2019 is the second edition of the Undoing Aging conferences series. It is organized by the SENS Research Foundation and Forever Healthy Foundation. For those of you who don’t know the SENS Foundation, it has been founded 10 years ago by Aubrey de Grey. Aubrey his the genius who has launched the whole field of true anti-aging research for 20 years, after realizing nobody was actually working on curing aging despite the advances of science. He had to fight for legitimacy, until a few years ago when the field finally caught the eyes of some big money and start gaining traction.

It was the first time I participated in a conference about anti-aging. I have been following this field of research since about 2011, when I turned 25 years old and realize how short life was, and panickly wondered if someone was doing something about it. I stumbled upon the excellent blog Fight Aging! , and from there Aubrey De Grey, SENS, the Methuselah foundation,… This blog was instrumental is steering me away from the snake oil industry of “anti aging marketplace”, selling miracle useless supplements to desperate people. Still, I did not act on it immediately, I continued my job as a technician, waiting for others to solve this problem. However a few years later, I am in the position of having a bit more time and money on my hands, and I figured this is a worthy goal, as aging is killing 100,000 person a day (after causing years of suffering for millions more). So my goal coming to Undoing Aging was to get the latest news of the field but more importantly try to find a way to contribute more actively to the cause of anti-aging research than giving and investing money. Ironically this comes at a time when I no longer want to hold onto my own precious little life anymore, when I came to see myself more as part of a species where death is not such a big deal. However suffering is, and no attempt to reduce suffering is vain. We are in a transition age. We might just “upgrade” the planet toward a more sapient planet, with no suffering, a global conscience and sense of direction. Or we might just crash back to mere animals. It depends on the choices we make, and preventing the meaninglessness of death and the tremendous sufferings of old age is a step in the right direction (not the only one of course). It should increase our time horizon, our sense of responsibility, hopefully our wisdom, and change the paradigm of breeding like rabbits on a finite planet for a more sensible population evolution. So, Undoing Aging, here I come.

The conference did not disappoint. It was sold out, with more than 500 persons crowded in the small building. In fact there was actually too many people, which caused some issues when trying to eat all at the same time at the cafeteria in the 1 hour break of lunch time.

You will be able to find the videos of some of the speakers here in the following months. You can find some of the speakers and topics below:

Some impressions:

Most of the talks were fascinating science, but not all seemed that relevant to aging to me. Of course what constitutes a good strategy is a matter of point of view, but some talks were really irrelevant. For example, there was a talk from a company which shall remain nameless, which presented a random approach to a “senomorphic”, which is apparently a class of drug able to modulate the Senescence Associated Secretory Phenotype to avoid its most harmful effects. This was more a less a pitch for one of the company product, without much science behind. This seems exactly the kind of “therapy” big pharma would be interested in, an incremental step toward very slight better health, while some many superior alternatives exists.

On the other side there was some gems, like a technique under investigation to “replace neurons in the aged cortex”, using microglia cells (which can migrate in the brain), and turn those into neurons once they are in place. This can prove very useful in the future, as the brain is not an organ that regenerates easily, and if we are living much more longer, replacing lost neurons might be something we want to do. I am more skeptical about using this to treat degenerative diseases like Alzheimer, I think it would be akin to pumping water out of a sinking ship. There must be better target, more upstream causes to attack.

One last example to illustrate the interesting choice made regarding the speaker: Just after the lunch break, there is a half an hour session to present some abstract of various study, 15 minutes each (as opposed to half an hour for the “regular” session. This is considered the “less important” talks. One of those was made from a new company, Turn.Bio. (Disclaimer: I am an investor in this company). They presented a newly published study showing their ability to rejuvenate a cell using epigenetic reprogramming. This impact most if not all of the hallmark of aging, and, although I may be wrong, this is in my mind the single most promising strategy against aging. Not the panacea, but potentially very close, because it uses the cells own ability to rejuvenate. And the public did not miss it, as there were a lot of questions firing, and the panel for the study was always busy after that. Seems like some people are taking notice of the real important stuff. Still, you have to wonder why Turn.Bio only had 15 minutes to talk…

Of course, one of the main purpose of the conference is actually to connect people. There was a varied crowd there, scientists, postdocs and interns, media, entrepreneurs, investors, and probably just interested people. I have heard 2 people there tell me that the atmosphere is a bit like the early days of Bitcoin, and I think I agree. There is a lot of out-of-the-box thinking here, a lot of dreamers and pioneers, those who want to live forever, those that want to change the world, those that want to make money,… It is a frontier of sort, the first wave of an upcoming revolution that will change medicine forever. And it is time to change it, though that is a topic for another day.

I haven’t had the chance to meet most of the people present, but I was able to catch a few very cool guys, very mission oriented, with whom we might just help make some progress in the right direction. There is so many things to do.

And here we are now, 2 and a half day later. It was too short, but amazing to get a foot in the field, see how fast things are progressing, despite all the obstacles, the inertia of regulations, of bureaucracy, of ego and power grabbing and quick profit making,… Still among that, a few idealists are making things move forward. 100,000 life a day. It is time to do something about it.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén