There's a lot more going on out there these days in terms of advocacy for longevity science. People are finding it easier to raise funds from the broader community for acts of pure persuasion, which I think is a good sign on the whole. It is one metric by which we can measure support for the cause. Here I'll point out a couple of recent and ongoing projects, the Longevity Cookbook by Maria Konovalenko and allies, and Zoltan Istvan's use of the US presidential election as a platform for raising awareness of long-standing futurist and transhumanist goals such as the defeat of aging.
While you're looking through the materials below, here is something to consider: is it better to fund research or is it better to fund publicity? I suspect that both are needed, striking some sort of balance between (a) science that is within striking distance but effectively invisible to the world and large funding sources, which has been the state for SENS rejuvenation research for quite some time, and (b) advocacy that is so far ahead of technological plausibility that the snake-oil salesmen sneak in and corrupt an entire generation with their nonsense, which is the story of the last quarter of the last century. An argument for the "fund research" side is that meaningful progress in medical science tends to generate its own news. An argument for the "more publicity efforts" side is that there are plenty of historical examples of important scientific progress languishing at the verge of completion for a lifetime or longer. Personally, I'm in favor of funding the research at this time, and one of my main reasons for that is that early stage research has become very cheap over the course of the modern biotechnology revolution, while publicity remains stubbornly expensive. Yes, it is far easier to send your message out into the world, but there is now such a sea of content that making yourself heard is harder than ever.
The Longevity Cookbook managed to raise more than $50,000 via crowdfunding last month, and congratulations to those involved: that certainly surprised me given how much of a challenge it is to pull in that much money for research over at this end of the pool. So far as I can see this will produce a book analogous to Kurzweil and Grossman's Fantastic Voyage from a decade ago: a mix of old school thoughts on diet and health, which will have very little to no determination on the future of your health and longevity, but which are ever popular with the public, merging into discussions of the latest life science research that may lead to therapies to treat aging as a medical condition. I wasn't all that happy with the way in which Fantastic Voyage dwelled upon diet and supplements, things that won't matter in the slightest in comparison to the consequences of success or failure in building SENS rejuvenation therapies or something very similar, and I expect I'll have similar complaints about the Longevity Cookbook. But then I'm not the audience, and there is always an argument for steering people into the topic of a cure for aging softly and by degrees.
Aging steals away your most valuable resource: time. The Longevity Cookbook is a strategy guide to help you get more time to experience the joy from everything that you like in life. Take yourself on a journey starting with nutrients and exercise regimes that goes on to explore the usage of genetically modified symbiotic organisms and using gene therapy to boost your own longevity.
Most importantly, we want to draw attention to an overlooked problem whose time has come: aging. In recent decades, we have begun to understand how to use changes in nutrition and lifestyle to extend the healthiest years of life. At the same time, findings in the lab have shown that it may someday be possible to greatly extend our maximum lifespan, and our quality of life as we age. This could happen sooner than you might think!
Any ambition to live longer than the historical human maximum lifespan of ~120 years will require a complex approach, that is not yet fully understood. It's possible that by modestly improving our health, and rolling back the clock using improvements to nutrition and lifestyle, such as those to be outlined in the Longevity Cookbook, we may live long enough to reap the benefits of revolutionary interventions that are currently still in the lab. With this thinking in mind, in the book we'll outline some of the most promising experiments that are currently underway or being proposed.
Zoltan Istvan is a character, and an outspoken transhumanist in a time when it is becoming perhaps a trifle unfashionable to refer to oneself as a transhumanist. Of course we are all transhumanists together here, reading this post while hoping and planning for a future in which fundamental limits of the human condition will be overcome through technological progress, such as this business of aging, suffering, and dying. Istvan has been publishing and speaking relentlessly on the topic of transhumanism for years now, and of late has settled upon the forthcoming presidential race as one of the few opportunities for an activist to make use of the US political system to promote a cause. In Europe starting single issue parties is a viable approach, but not in the US. So Istvan plans a tour and is already attracting attention and giving interviews:
This US presidential candidate doesn't want to be president - he wants to live forever
Zoltan Istvan was among the earliest candidates to declare his bid for the 2016 US presidential elections. But most Americans still won't know about this writer and Transhumanist philosopher by the time they head to the polls. Istvan knows that. Yet, his platform is refreshing: put science first. His ideas are radical, which is not uncommon for third-party candidates, but they are also appealing: make college education mandatory and free; create policies so that everyone can have designer babies, not just the rich; and discover immortality in the next 15-20 years.
Istvan represents the Transhumanist Party, which claims to have its root in philosophical thoughts going back centuries, and has the core aim of building technologies that will give us superhuman powers. The total number of members of Humanity+, the biggest such membership organization, is only 10,000. His campaign - which includes a bus shaped to represent a coffin - is run with help of a group of volunteers in California.
"The reception in the media has been better than anticipated. I think that's because people are really interested in the kinds of questions we ask, such as those about designer babies, artificial intelligence, exoskeleton suits. The big disappointment so far has been the funding."
I have just donated $10,000 to the Immortality Bus, which was the most rational decision of my life
I have non-zero probability to die next year. In my age of 42 it is not less than 1 per cent, and probably more. I could do many investment which will slightly lower my chance of dying - from healthy life style to cryonics contract. And I did many of them. Me and Exponential Technologies Institute donated $10,000 for Immortality bus project. This bus will be the start of Presidential campaign for the writer of "Transhumanist wager". 7 film crews agreed to cover the event. It will create high publicity and cover all topics of immortality, aging research, Friendly AI and extinction risks prevention. It will help to raise more funds for such type of research.