There is an interesting talk about the elimination of ageing and death. Yes that’s true! Aubrey de Grey has devoted his career to understanding what ageing and death are and now firmly believes that in a short time we will eliminate ageing and death. This post is based on a TED talk by de Grey.
Why I’m writing about this here is that in my view one of the main causes of ageing is trauma. In a very simple way I am going to explain why, with any apologies necessary to de Grey.
de Grey talks about the process of metabolism, which starts when our life starts, and through wear and tear causes damage to the body systems throughout our life. How we live our life, the type of food we eat, the exercise we do, the stress we manage, is what mediates whether and/or how quickly this metabolic damage becomes pathological illness. According to de Grey:
Metabolism ongoingly causes damage
damage eventually causes pathology
So if you eat healthily and live well and manage stress well the rate at which metabolic damage becomes an actual illness (causes pathology) is less than if we eat junk, never exercise and are permanently under high stress. Metabolic damage and deterioration is a natural bi-product of living, but living well slows it down, whereas not living well must accelerate it. Once this deterioration has become pathology (illness) there must be a feedback where the illness further accelerates the metabolic damage and deterioration… apart from the natural stress on the body of the illness, think of the mass consumption of medications with serious side effects.
Technology now is moving at such a rate that the possibility of intervention at the ongoing damage stage is likely to increase exponentially over the next 40 to 50 years whereby, according to de Grey, someone living today will be able to defeat ageing and death. So for example if a person who is aged 50 now continues to ‘live well’, in the next 20 to 30 years of their life technology will increasingly find interventions to rejuvenate their body by, for example, implants, replacements and supporting those systems that naturally rejuvenate given the best circumstances. So this person is likely to extend their life by, let’s say, another 20 to 30 years so they might look at living until 120. But during that extra 20 to 30 years technology won’t stand still and is likely to come up with further interventions and strategies for increasing that person’s life another 10 to 20 years, and during that 10 to 20 years… and so on.
de Grey talks about us living in what he calls ‘a global trance’, which is our adherence to ideas as to why living forever would be bad. These ideas include for example:
- wouldn’t it be boring?
- how would we pay the pensions?
- how would we manage over-population?
and so on. However de Grey challenges these strategies as strategies that help us manage the fact that we think death inevitable, that we are going to die… strategies to avoid our fear of dying. What they also do is limit our willingness to think about not dying. In terms of Ruppert’s trauma theory these are similar to survival strategies that help us avoid facing trauma, strategies of avoidance and control.
de Grey has much to say about these issues to the extent that he believes they aren’t real issues… that as we find increasingly effective ways of eliminating ageing (which he considers a disease in itself) we would also find ways of managing these seeming contentious problems.
However, my reason for writing this post is that in my view the ‘damage to pathology’ part of the equation is primarily due to trauma. The ‘not living well’, eating junk, not exercising, living under high stress, not looking after ourselves, self-damaging behaviours, are due to traumatisation. They are the result of psychological splitting as a result of trauma. They are the myriad of survival mechanisms we develop to avoid our trauma. Living with stress to the level that it doesn’t fall back to a homeostatic relaxed level is the result of trauma.
All behaviours that are detrimental to our health, that don’t maintain the ‘metabolism to damage’ level or limit the ‘damage to pathology’ are the result of psychological splits, where one part of the self, the survival part, becomes a threat to the healthy part. At this level we can see the survival self as the perpetrator to the healthy and trauma selves which are the ongoing victims. The paradox of the survival self is that, even though it helped us survive in the time of the trauma, over time it acts against our healthy aspirations.
So trauma must become a primary part of de Grey’s ideas it seems to me, to the business of understanding illness, degeneration, decay, and death.