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Would you pay $6,000 for advice from a doctor who claims he could help you live longer by making it up as he goes along?

cyborg blinders

Last week, I wrote about the little business empire behind the Singularity theory, which spans from pricey seminars to an expensive futurology school and a lifestyle consulting business ran by Ray Kurzweil and his doctor Terry Grossman. In an article used as a reference for Grossman’s $6,000 fee for an appointment, there was another interesting tidbit which I thought needs to be mentioned…

Though Grossman and Kurzweil respect science, their approach is necessarily improvisational. If a therapy has some scientific promise and little risk, they’ll try it. […]

‘Life is not a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study,’ Grossman explains. ‘We don’t have that luxury. We are operating with incomplete information. The best we can do is experiment with ourselves.’

Yes, life may not be a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. But clinical medicine is. Without control groups and an objective statistical analysis, there’s no way to tell whether an experimental treatment is really working. We know that placebo effects are powerful enough to make it seem as if distilled water from a homeopath is working as well as an antibiotic. However, when we start doing controlled studies, we see that the special water doesn’t do anything but make a person feel good while the antibiotic actually treats the condition. Experimenting on yourself is simply tinkering while you hope for a positive result.

So this is what you get for $6,000 per appointment with the singularitarians’ doctor of choice? A vial or injection of something that could hypothetically help you live just a little longer, with no study or research to back up that assertion? Isn’t that basically paying to become a guinea pig for doctor on the same quest as Medieval alchemists?

Although to be fair, one advice that Grossman will give his patients would be to try calorie restriction. And unlike hormone replacement and alkaline water, limiting your daily intake has been shown as an effective tactic to add years to your life under laboratory conditions. Like any other plausible life extension method, it’s been overhyped in pop culture and TV doctors have claimed that humans on an extremely low calorie diet could live into their 120s, which is rather questionable for a variety of reasons. However, it does work and if done properly, could give you as much as an extra decade.

Unfortunately, for 61 year old Kurzweil, a decade or two of extra life from peer reviewed and extensively studied techniques might not be enough to fulfill his wildest dreams of computer-aided immortality, which is why he’s in a hurry to do whatever he can to stave off death. Even if it’s paying thousands of dollars a week to be a test subject for a doctor who’s not sure what he’s doing.

# tech // aging / health / life extension / medicine


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