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Endnotes for Chapter 1: “The World’s Most Dangerous Idea”

Page 11

…ninety year olds take parachute jumps…

“Birthday Skydive for 90-year-old,” BBC News, 8 Aug. 2006.

Page 12

The UK Office for National Statistics states that average life expectancy at birth for a man born in Great Britain in 1971 (that’s me) was just over sixty-nine years.

Office for National Statistics, “Social Trends No.40 – 2010 edition,” 6 July 2010. Data set to support Figure 7.1: ‘Expectation of life at birth: by sex’ – table 07_01.xls Full report:

It also informs me that, as a thirty-nine-year-old male in 2010, I can now expect to live ten years longer.

Office for National Statistics, “United Kingdom Interim Life Tables, 180-82 to 2006-08”

Some say … that centenarians will soon become commonplace.

“Life Expectancy to Soar,” BBC News, 9 May 2002.

Others argue that the rise in statistical life expectancy is due more to rescuing the young (by fighting infant tuberculosis, for example). Hinting at a natural limit to our longevity, Stuart Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois School of Public Health points out, ‘You can’t save the young twice.’

S. Gottlieb, “Increases in Life Expectancy Likely to Be Smaller in the Future,” British Medical Journal (322):512. Note: subscription needed.

Page 13

Bostrom is an advocate for transhumanism. Described as ‘the world’s most dangerous idea,’…

Francis Fukuyama, “Transhumanism,” Foreign Policy, Sept./Oct. 2004. Note: subscription needed.

…the concept got its modern name in Religion Without Revelation, written in 1927 by Julian Huxley…

Julian Huxley, Religion without Revelation (Greenwood Press, reprint, 1979)

Page 14

Aubrey de Grey, a biogerontologist … declares, ‘I think the first person to live to a thousand might be sixty already.’

Dr. Aubrey de Grey, “We Will Be Able to Live to 1,000,” BBC News, 3 Dec. 2004.

De Grey proceeds to compare ageing to fox hunting, claiming they are both ‘traditional,’ ‘keep the numbers down’ and, his punch line, ‘fundamentally barbaric.’

“Aubrey de Grey says we can avoid aging,” TEDGlobal website, 2005. Full talk available at

Nick Bostrom later stated, ‘Death is a big problem. If you look at the statistics the odds are not very favourable. So far most people who have lived have also died.’

“Nick Bostrom on our biggest problems,” TEDGlobal website, 2005. Full talk available at

Page 15

Chinese alchemist Ge Hong (born in 283 CE) believed immortality was achieved by cultivating everlasting union with yourself…

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Ge Hong.”

Two early cryonics firms went bankrupt and their customers defrosted as a result, but I suspect none of them asked for a refund.

Nick Bostrom, “A history of Transhumanist Thought.” (Page 12)

…pioneer corpses like psychology professor James Bedford (the first man to be suspended in 1967)…

Mike Perry, “A Freezing Before Bedford’s” Physical Immortality 2(2) 7 (2nd Q 2004)

Page 16

Jason Pontin, the Technology Review editor had previously written a stinging profile of de Grey, characterising him as a shabby, beer-addicted troll

Jason Pontin, “Against Transcendence—When technology appropriates the transcendental it becomes science fiction,” MIT Technology Review, February 2005. Note: subscription needed.

The full quote by Pontin is: “But what struck me is that De Grey is a troll. For all de Grey’s vaulting ambitions, what Sherwin Nuland saw from the outside was pathetically circumscribed. In his waking life, de Grey is the computer support to a research team; he dresses like a shabby graduate student and affects Rip Van Winkle’s beard; he has no children; he has few interests outside the science of biogerontology; he drinks too much beer.”

The submission that attracted the most praise (written by Preston Estep and colleagues) claimed that de Grey’s work enjoys notoriety ‘due almost entirely to its emotional appeal’ and dismissed much of it as ‘pseudoscience’.

Preston W. Estep III, Ph.D. et al, “Life Extension Pseudoscience and the SENS Plan” – submission to the technology review.

But the judges (who included world experts in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, pathology and genetics) didn’t think Estep and his colleagues had done enough. While de Grey’s ideas exist ‘in a kind of antechamber of science, where they wait (possibly in vain) for independent verification’ they were ‘not demonstrably wrong’.

Jason Pontin, “Is Defeating Aging Only a Dream?” MIT Technology Review, July 2006.

Page 17

James McConnell and Georges Ungar … believed that memories were encoded in molecules and could therefore be transferred from one animal to another – giving rise to the possibility that you could take a pill and go on to recall the complete works of Shakespeare.

Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch, The Golem: What You Should Know about Science (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993), “Ch. 1: Edible Knowledge, the Chemical Transfer of Memory.”

Page 18

…scientists at the Spanish National Cancer Centre in Madrid … have been breeding mice which live, on average, thirty per cent longer than their ‘normal’ brethren.

Maria Blasco et al, “Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase Delays Aging in Cancer-Resistant Mice,” Cell 135(4):609–22.

…a discovery for which the three shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine…

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009, “For the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase,” Nobel

Page 19

Several studies have shown that people who live healthy lifestyles (and therefore tend to live longer) have higher levels of telomerase in certain cell lines, supporting a direct link between longevity and telomerase

D. Ornish et al., “Increased Telomerase Activity and Comprehensive Lifestyle Changes: A Pilot Study,” The Lancet Oncology 9(12):1124.; and also Christian Werner, M.D., et al. “Physical Exercise Prevents Cellular Senescence in Circulating Leukocytes and in the Vessel Wall, Circulation (20):2438–47, © 2009 American Heart Association, Inc.

Instead, aged thirty, Castillo became a pioneer for ‘stem cell’ therapy – one of the most rapidly advancing area of medical science.

Sarah Boseley, “ ‘My unique chance’: How Claudia Castillo’s Landmark Operation Changed Her Life,” Guardian, 19 Nov. 2008.

Page 20

Stem cells are cells that are yet to pick a career – or to put it another way they are ‘blank’ cells, which can ultimately be ‘programmed to perform particular tasks.’

“Stem Cell Facts. The Next Frontier?” International Society for Stem Cell Research.

It’s now possible, however, to take ordinary cells (say, from the skin on your hand) and ‘re-boot’ them back to their earlier stem cell selves

“Stem Cells Made to Mimic Disease,” BBC News, 7 April 2008.

Early in 2010, scientists at Stanford University in California announced they had managed to convert mouse skin cells directly into mouse brain cells (with no intermediate stem cell phase).

Krista Conger, “Dramatic Transformation: Researchers Directly Turn Mouse Skin Cells into Neurons, Skipping IPS Stage,” Stanford School of Medicine website, 27 Jan. 2010.

A few months later a team from Harvard declared they could convert human blood cells to stem cells that may have the ability to grow into any kind of tissue.

Yuin-Han Loh et al, “Reprogramming of T Cells from Human Peripheral Blood,” Cell:Stem Cell, 2 July 2010, volume 7, issue 1.

Page 21

Kaitlyne McNamara’s doctors isolated healthy adult stem cells from the diseased bladder she was born with and used them to grow an entire, fully functioning (and healthy) replacement, which they then implanted.

“U.S. Doctors Use Stem Cells to Replace Organs,” SBS 6.30pm TV World News Transcripts?, April 4, 2006

The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winton-Salem, North Carolina are working on more than twenty different organs and tissues.

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Doris Taylor, Harold Ott and colleagues at the Centre for Cardiovascular Repair at the University of Minnesota took the collagen shell of a rat’s heart, sprayed it with stem cells and it started beating.

Deane Morrison, “Researchers Create a New Heart in the Lab, UM News, 14 Jan. 2008.

In February 2010 the technology was licensed to a company called Miromatrix Medical, which hopes to revolutionise organ transplants with the technique

“University of Minnesota Finalizes License Agreement to Form Start-up Company Based on Doris Taylor Research,” University of Minnesota press release, 16 Feb. 2010.

Page 22

Ray talks of a ‘merger of our biological thinking and the existence of our technology, resulting in a world that is still human but transcends our biological roots.’

Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near (New York: Viking Press,2005)

This is his [Nick Bostrom’s] self-penned biography

Page 27

In a paper entitled ‘Protecting the Endangered Human’…

George J. Annas, Lori B. Andrews, Rosario M. Isasi, “Protecting the Endangered Human: Toward an International Treaty Prohibiting Cloning and Inheritable Alterations,” American Journal of Law and Medicine 28(2 & 3):151–78.344

Page 28

Or to put it another way, Burundians are enjoying the same life expectancies of people who were nearly fifteen times richer than they are. statistics website:

In fact Italian researchers have been using stem cells to cure corneal blindness for over ten years.

Paolo Rama, M.D., et al, “Limbal Stem-Cell Therapy and Long-Term Corneal Regeneration,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 8 July 2010.

Page 29

Hugh Herr, himself a double amputee and bionics researcher at MIT, says, ‘It certainly will be possible in the future to build a limb that outperforms an intact limb, especially for running.’

Julian Smith, “We Have the Technology,” New Scientist, 3 Jan. 2009.

Page 31

Dr Sarah Rankin, who led the research, likens the process to sending a fire engine to every street corner…

“Interview with Dr. Sarah Rankin,” Today, BBC Radio 4, 9 Jan. 2009

Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York have already demonstrated just such a technique in rabbits, using the animals’ own stem cells to regrow joints.

Lee CH, Cook JL, Mendelson A et al. Regeneration of the articular surface of the rabbit synovial joint by cell homing: a proof of concept study. The Lancet, Early Online Publication, July 29 2010.

Dr Thomas Einhorn at Boston Medical Center has helped over fifty patients with degenerative hip disease by using their own stem cells injected into the hip, to help generate new bone

Page 33

Juan Enriquez, founding director of Harvard Business School’s Life Sciences Project argues that our change as a species will involve the ‘accumulation of small, useful improvements that eventually turn homo sapiens into a new hominid … a new species, one with extraordinary capabilities, a homo evolutis.’

Juan Enriquez, “Homo Evolutis,” in What are you Optimistic About? (London: Simon & Schuster). Also available online at

Page 34

Aubrey de Grey has said his work isn’t about keeping people alive longer per se but ‘to stop people getting sick.’

Sander Olson, “Interview with Aubrey de Grey,” Next Big Future, 17 July 2009.

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