One of Aubrey de Grey’s common tactics is to say that critics haven’t read enough of his work to understand him. But how much is enough? I get the impression that he expects anyone "serious" about criticizing him to have read absolutely all of his work. That’s clearly nonsense — it’s untrue that competent criticism requires it, and if all academics were forced to follow this rule then papers and grants would never get reviewed and approved.
How much would you have to read anyway? I count 68 items in Aubrey de Grey’s publication list, and all but a few are dated 2000 and later. That’s an amazing publication rate. Of course it’s true that he started his own journal, in which about a dozen of these were published. Closer inspection might reveal other curiosities. Being prolific isn’t necessarily a bad thing — I’m sure many of us envy that kind of productivity — but some people really do need an editor.
Here is some text from Aubrey de Grey’s contact page that I find rather amusing:
The only reliable way to contact me quickly is by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am a very reliable email correspondent; in particular, I read my email every day even when I’m travelling (which is a lot of the time). Conversely, if you try to reach me on the telephone you will be very likely to waste a lot of time. I realise that sometimes a telephone conversation is necessary; the way to reach me by phone is to email me and arrange a mutually convenient time and number.
You’re probably wondering why I don’t publicise a cellphone number. Simple: I have never owned a cellphone and I doubt I ever will. The cellphone is an uncivilised abomination that deprives busy people of the rare periods of solitude that they so desperately need in order to maintain peak efficiency. Don’t even think about arguing with me about this.
And another thing. I have created this page not only for your benefit and mine, but also for my poor benighted coworkers who have to field cold calls trying to reach me when I’m in a different continent. Please respect these instructions.
Link: SENS: how to contact Aubrey de Grey, and how not to.
Wow! Someone needs a copy of Strunk & White.
Yes, I realize this is just a throwaway web page. I’m not seriously
proposing anyone use this to judge his academic writing skills. And besides, there’s nothing wrong with it — it’s just an amazing example of verbosity.
Given the high standards he applies to his critics, you have to wonder how de Grey finds the time to do his own reading. It must be a huge task to keep up with all the published material in all the fields he’s active in, given that he spends so much time writing and speaking. Presumably he does what everyone else does — samples publications through abstracts or other filters.
By the way, his anti-cell phone rant is kind of strange. I mean, it’s a fine point, but who cares? It’s hardly a unique sentiment, and writing about it seems wasteful for someone so concerned with "peak efficiency."