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This approach seems to be most promising. The technique employed by homo sapiens involved no alterations to their anatomy or genetics, only the use of large prostheses. These “machines” are essentially the same design when built to carry one organism or many; so they should be rather easy to adapt for porcine use, despite the anatomical differences between the two species. Further, homo sapiens has automated nearly all the operating procedures of these machines, so that a method for the pig passenger to express its desired destination may be all that is needed to complete the design.

This, however, brings me to perhaps the greatest challenge to either my proposal or yours – namely, item six in your list of reasons why pigs remain so obstinately ground-dwelling. Pigs are well known to be among the more intelligent mammalian species. And it is a sad fact that some of the brightest among us are inclined to presume that everyone else is stupid – so that when someone articulates an idea they do not consider obviously correct they tend to dismiss it – sometimes even ridicule it – without bothering to familiarize themselves with the details. (I once even encountered an American believed he could outdo an Englishman at sarcasm!)

As I’m sure you agree (and as I duly noted in my demolition of their piece in the same issue), your so-called coauthors in EMBO reports are conspicuous examples of this flaw. (Another case would be a learned immunologist’s presumption that the word “allotopic” is merely a careless misspelling of the immunological term “allotypic,” when, in fact, “allotopic” can be looked up in, for example, PubMed.)

These individuals are also prone to resist debate on such matters, perhaps out of a subconscious reluctance to risk the possibility of being wrong. Therefore, I fear that the intended beneficiaries of your efforts may, because of their intelligence, spurn this chance to improve their lot. They may even refuse to entertain debate on whether the “engineering solution” we offer them will work. (After all, the term “pig-headed” was not coined for nothing.)

I am confident that this can be overcome, however. The clear feasibility of adapting for porcine use a technique used to such great effect by another mammalian species can only be denied for so long. Media exposure of the absurdity of the naysayers’ position will bring the public around soon enough. Such tunnel vision cannot delude people for long, no matter how great the authority of its proponent. We all meet our match some time. In particular, your characteristic eloquence on this matter will surely suffice to sway the occasional billionaire to your cause, thereby circumventing the NIH conservatism you so rightly deplore.

Best of luck!

Aubrey de Grey

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Tagged: Biomedicine

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