Grey Skies Ahead for Life Extension

The Woke “Canceling” of Aubrey de Grey Portends Nothing Good either for Life Extension, or for Women in Science

The field of Radical Life Extension has been going from strength. Over the past two years, timelines have moved sharply up, after having stagnated for the first decade and a half since Aubrey de Grey introduced his comprehensive anti-aging theoretical framework Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), which later become an institution of the same name.

This was both confirmed and reinforced by a flood of venture capital into gerontology and senolytics startups; as of 2018-19, smart money is finally interested. Even more recently, the crypto boom has massively enriched its early adopters, who tend to be highly heterodox and contrarian in their views and skew towards libertarianism and transhumanism. This has translated into massive donations towards longevity research. After years of subsisting on $5M/year, a single crypto airdrop from Richard Heart ($HEX) has netted a cool $28M for SENS. Vitalik Buterin personally donated some of his dogcoins. Another group of people in the field created VitaDAO ($VITA), a decentralized autonomous organization to fund anti-aging research through decentralized voting while making money for its hodlers through the patents and IP it accumulates. Its current market cap is $20M.

In short, this space is suddenly and unexpected swimming in a lot of money. And with new money comes drama and hubris.

(h/t Roko for the meme).

Several days ago, a couple of female researchers – namely, Celine Halioua and Laura Deming – made sexual harassment accusations against Aubrey de Grey.

More specifically, Deming says that he send her an inappropriate work email when she was 17 (“told me in writing that he had an ‘adventurous love life’ and that it had ‘always felt quite jarring’ not to let conversations with me stray in that direction given that ‘[he] could treat [me] as an equal on every other level’”), while Halioua made the even more serious allegation that Aubrey hit on her all night at a SENS dinner while plying her with alcohol and suggesting that she should sleep with attending SENS donors so that they would give Aubrey de Grey more money.

On his part, Aubrey de Grey denies the allegations apart from the email, which he has admitted was “ill-advised.”

For what it’s worth, I don’t know de Grey personally, only having ever met him once and fleetingly at that, but he always struck me as an eccentric but endearing English nerd who likes his cider and proving obscure mathematical theorems in his spare time away from seeking the Philosopher’s Stone. One of the most endearing Anglo archetypes, completed by the Gandalf-like beard. Based on the “evidence” – a single quote from an email nine years ago that was mildly inappropriate and certainly ill-advised, but one which can’t even be unambiguously interpreted as a come on – I think it’s much likelier that de Grey simply tends to be awkward in interactions with women as opposed to being a “sexual predator” and/or a rambunctious lothario like Cuomo. But it is precisely the former whom women despise at the hindbrain level. In this case, so much so as to level hyperbolic, near Epstein-tier insinuations against de Grey (“sexual harassment & abuse, including against minors”). In light of this, I hope it’s not too imprudent to note that Halioua has previously blogged about an anonymous harasser who she claims ended her academic career at Oxford, saying that “I see pieces of my harasser in other men.”

Now I’m not saying their accusations are false. However, as I have pointed out in my previous commentary, I would guess that there is less sexual harassment in the Rationalism/H+/Radical Life Extension community – a high IQ community overwhelmingly concentrated in high IQ, civilized countries – than almost anywhere else across time, space, and class. Ironically, it’s those very same features that make this community some of the most obsessed with the topic. That, together with the specifics of this case, suggest to me that it is very likely  that the accusations are substantially and perhaps entirely ungrounded.

Nor is this just my take as a representative of toxic masculinity. At least two women in the life extension community who have frequently interacted with de Grey in a professional setting – incidentally, and perhaps tellingly, both from Russia – have expressed skepticism over Halioua’s claims. Daria Khaltourina, a polymath cliodynamicist and anti-aging researcher, said that Aubrey de Grey never behaved in an appropriate fashion either to her nor to other women that she could observe in comments to a public Russian transhumanist group. In a lengthier comment on Facebook, she said she found the sex-for-SENS-cash allegations particularly incredible: “Also, I find it very hard to believe this particular piece of Celine Halioua “He told me that I was a ‘glorious woman’ and that as a glorious woman I had a responsibility to have sex with the SENS donors in attendance so they would give money to him”. Like really? Recollecting the donors of SENS, they are mostly not this type of people at all. This must have been misunderstanding. I heard no rumor like this particular claim from the Russian H+ community, and we contact with SENS a lot, a lot of H+ women too.”

Anastasia Egorova, who is a co-founder of Open Longevity, laughed it off more boisterously: “Going back to talking about sex with a person you work with. Or even work for. You know how many times I was openly invited to a threesome by a sponsor? Well, not that many, just two. You know what I did? I giggled and was flattered and had an awesome story to tell to my friends.” On a separate note, this is a big part of what I like about Russia, and Eastern Europe generally – this kind of humane, light-hearted liberalism without sexual complexes still exists there, as it did in the US during the 2000s, before it was airbrushed out of existence by that weird neo-Puritan cult that some call the Great Awokening. Egorova also doesn’t pull her punches in questioning the pair’s motives: “Am I ok with sexual harassment? Of course not! But was this the case? Were they harassed or just felt harassed? Or conveniently remembered these stories just after SENS raised $28M to ride this trend? “Hey girl, you know what, I think we forgot to be offended”. And please, let’s not forget the girls are competing for the same funding.

Again, these are not my words. They are the words of two women, in a country where Wokeism has made fewer inroads than in the West, who know Aubrey de Grey quite well and have interacted with hundreds of men and women in that community. (There may be more testimonies, I wasn’t looking actively). Now even if we categorically accept the #MeToo directive to always and unquestioningly “believe women”, why exactly privilege Halioua and Deming over Khaltourina and Egorova? That said, I consider it very good that it is prominent women in H+ who have taken the lead in raising questions over Halioua’s and Deming’s claims, cutting the ground from actual misogynists who are more interested in stirring up hate and conflict between men and women as opposed to human progress. (I would further note the irony that those misogynists would find good situational allies with Western SJWs who would dismiss their voices as the “internalized misogyny” of Putin’s Russia).

Another point that some commenters have made is that it is not impossible that there are really baser motives at play here. From VitaDAO’s Discord:

Hours after the scandal broke, VitaDAO had removed Aubrey de Grey from its list of Contributors and Partners. Controversially, it was an internal team decision without a vote on the matter on either the blockchain or even its own forum/Discord. This would seem to sort of nullify the entire point of a DAO, with its utopian promise of decentralized decision-making (a cynic might say that it just revealed itself as yet another centralized institution in crypto wrappings). Although the decision was almost certainly primarily driven by the desire to avoid a PR backlash, the timing will mean that residual suspicions about more “pecuniary” motives will remain (indeed, they are widely discussed in the Russian H+ community).

Moreover, as I pointed out to them on Twitter, investors will now be warier of investing long-term into something that folds so quickly to mob pressure. Personally speaking, $VITA is my one coin where I’m unironically “in it for the tech.” Said tech involves not dying this century. It doesn’t listening to Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s future lectures on how life extension will immortalize white supremacy and perpetuate systems of oppression against women and POC. To the extent that DAOs are meant to guard against this, it is not the most auspicious start.

One final point. Aubrey de Grey is a polymath genius who has provisioned original mathematical proofs in graph theory in his spare time from making fundamental contributions to the life sciences. Although he is 58 years old, and people tend to become less productive with age, his inventiveness is such that he might still have many productive results ahead of him – at least if he doesn’t have to waste his time, energy, and emotions on the fallout from his “canceling”. Halioua’s academic pedigree is… somewhat less impressive. Her company specializes in rapamycin trials with dogs, something that is neither new nor particularly innovative. Now certainly no reasonable and fair-minded person would claim that this entitles men such as de Grey to sexually harass women, nor to automatically dismiss claims of such against them. But given the context of the context of the accusations (why after 9 years? conveniently when this sphere is finally flush with money); given that at least two women have stated that Aubrey never even hinted at such behavior in their interactions with them or with other women that they observed; given that the one piece of evidence that has been provided – an email from nearly a decade ago that is a bit edgy but far too ambiguous to even tell if it was flirtatious – is being weaponized to insinuate that de Grey harassed not just women, but minors at that; most of all, given that Halioua has made the truly remarkable and blatantly self-serving claim that “every dollar that goes to Aubrey holds back the field” and actually makes them “complacent in the sexual harassment of minors”:

… why, exactly, are these accusations being taken at face value against not just any man, but the one man who has probably done more than any other to increase the chances that those who live to 2050, also live to 2150?

It’s certainly not a good sign, that’s for sure.

I have previously pointed out that SJWs have already largely destroyed Effective Altruism, up to the point that one of its intellectual fathers, Robin Hanson, was “canceled” from a German EA event in 2020 (whereas four years earlier I did not receive trouble for trollishly parading about in a MAGA hat at one of their conferences in Berkeley). Unfortunately, I think this vulnerability to SJW subversion is highly acute and indeed innate to the Rationalism spehere. Most of them are highly virtuous people, which makes them unusually susceptible to psychopathic virtue maximizers. As a friend wrote to me in an email sometime in the late 2010s, “I think this is how movements like EA die – not with a bang, or with a whimper, but with a sloshing sound from all the cash and normie status being poured into the feeding trough. Still, it makes for entertaining reading.” From a utilitarian perspective, it will be a tragedy of truly unfathomable proportions if rent-seeking entryists, smelling cash and sinecures, are allowed to repeat their hit on the Radical Life Extension community.

The upside, such as it is, is that it will at least make for entertaining reading on your deathbed.


  1. Joshua Erwin says

    I’m a Christian and not really “into” life extension (na mean?), but I still respect de Grey’s autism. The dude is definitely not a sexer like Cuomo (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Indeed, last I check on him, which was like 12 years ago, he was married to a much older woman who was missing teeth. In my opinion, de Grey is similar to Richard Stallman, or even Robbin Hanson in that he’s such a rare type of ultra high IQ visionary, that exceptions should be made for him. These guys simply can’t be expected to keep up with the latest longhouse bullsh*t, they get a pass, and I would argue this, even under my official cover identity of a good boy, no thought crimes, office worker. Leave this man to his work!

    • Mark Miller says

      I have found an isle in the tempest with this substack (and its commenters).

      Thank you AK et al!

  2. Junk Email Provider says

    Criticism of SJW disruption of institutions and organizations tends to occlude a fundamental fact: we are speaking of female power. Women, of whom it is said possess higher ’emotional intelligence’, apparently use this intelligence to disrupt organizations. We are observing it everywhere, and in many guises, not only of the #metoo sexual harassment variety. A week or so ago, Current Affairs, a socialist magazine, imploded when an effort to take over the company with a worker’s co-op was rebuffed by the founder and editor in chief. Who was behind the effort? 5 women. The efforts to convert every company into a rainbow, giving preference to LGBTQ and BIPOC as much as possible, and hounding out sexist, racist, and homophobic white men, is a feminist insurgency, not just an SJW insurgency. Women are not only taking over and loading organizations with their allies, they are transforming the atmosphere of these organizations. Such a widespread (nearly exhaustive at this point) takeover of existing institutions and conversion to feminized power has never been attempted in world history. It’s consequences are unknown. But I’ve noticed that it doesn’t seem to be all that good. Very quickly we learn that the visionaries, the founders, the top performers, the top investors, the leaders–usually all men–are surrounded by petty mobs of women and their allies who insinuate that these people are “not altogether good people” and on the basis of vague “shade throwing” and “tea spilling” systematically destroy the support networks of these people, many of whom, like AdG, possess little ammunition for the catty innuendos of feminine power plays, and thus soon enough hit the iceberg of social media and sink like a stone. We are witnessing this happen over and over and over. And for every objectively terrible person who gets kicked out of the club, it seems to me at least 10 have been destroyed for no good reason, and probably 20 have been damaged or subdued and made to bend the knee, while 100s of male onlookers observe the new rules of the game, which is feminine power. Because women are viewed as eternal victims, this power can never be articulated by men as a danger to themselves. After all, it’s just talking. How can that compare to rape and violence that men perpetuate? This is entirely the wrong calculation I’m afraid, because it is just this maneuver that enables women to deploy their weapons and blast the top performers in our institutions, only to replace them with diversity hires. It is absolutely unclear whether women can rule the world. What is becoming clearer is that female power disrupts organizations, turning cold masculine efficiency into a heated middle school cauldron of bitter acrimony. Will American institutions survive this insurgency? Will feminine power prove to be more efficient and humane than masculine power? I don’t think so. I think most women, especially when they group up, are not suitable for creating or maintaining large scale institutions. Women have had the right to create all-female businesses, and women have been working in the general workforce for generations now. Neither innovation has revealed new or more efficient organizational structures, even though the hypothesis has had decades to prove itself. Instead, it appears the opposite has been proven: adding women disrupts institutions and organizations and makes them less efficient, and robs them of their leadership, visionaries, and most productive members, all so that women can “feel safe,” an utterly meaningless metric whose goal posts can be perpetually shifted in service of feminist political aims. LGBTQ, BIPOC, and women are not going to vote against this emerging state of affairs, because it is biased in their favor. And white men are no longer permitted to speak. This is a recipe for disaster. Men have to disentangle their professional lives from their personal lives, which means in many cases, keeping women at a distance. Do not hire or mentor women. If you have to hire or mentor women, do so on a “work to rule” basis. Until women wise up and begin having the hard conversations about their style of leadership, men have to look out for themselves. Clearly nobody else is.

    • Women are nice to men who believe in honor killing.

    • Chairman_Meow says

      Women, of whom it is said possess higher ’emotional intelligence’, apparently use this intelligence to disrupt organizations.

      Ancient wisdom (Ancient in the sense of before WW2), knew that women are very cunning and dangerous. To quote Nietzsche, “The true man wants danger and play, with women as his most dangerous plaything”. Authors of renaissance era literature recognized women as being cunning, vindicative, petty and capable of using their feminine wiles to destroy men. This is also supported by numerous stories in human history.

      For some reason, after WW2 this fact was forgotten and women began to be viewed as “innocent victims that can do no wrong in the face of white male oppression”. The truth of the matter is while men do more damage physically (rape, beatings, etc), women are known to be very emotionally abusive and often will use that to their advantage to get what they want. However, because physical harm leaves more signs it is easier to observe than emotional trauma caused by women’s emotional attacks.

      These emotional attacks have been turned from the home (driving their husbands and sons miserable) to a society wide affair – where they use emotional manipulation to gain power. It is essentially an industrializing of femininity.

  3. Alex Power says

    Aubrey de Grey is no “great man of history” and was never going to find the elixir of immortality. Being unfairly removed from his noble quest by accusations of sexual misconduct will only improve his reputation.

    • de Grey never claimed he would. He built the presence in the scientific community that provided a breathing space for longevity research to come out of the closet. His job was to take the risk and facilitate the discussions that needed to happen, and to lessen the stigma around aging that needs to go away.

      For that reason alone, he’ll have been considered to play a key role in facilitating longevity research.

  4. I have personal experience with the SF Bay Area startup crowd, admittedly none of the ones I know are at an absolutely elite level, but one thing I did notice is that group skews heavily Aspie, and once they get a bit older and have some success, they become much more confident in themselves and in their Aspieness, and become complete assholes. A very special kind of Aspie asshole, but very unlikeable nonetheless. I see these woke takedowns as essentially just personal payback by the women involved for having to deal with these autistic idiots for so many years. If you notice, there are a lot less of these cancellations in finance, where the men have a lot more social skills, but are arguably even worse people on a personal level. As these takedowns continue, the alpha males in the American startup ecosystem will just have to learn to control their autism like they had to do previous to their success