LONGEVITY MEME NEWSLETTER
February 24 2003
The Longevity Meme Newsletter is an infrequent e-mail containing news, opinions and happenings for people interested in life extension: making use of diet, lifestyle choices, technology and proven medical advances to live healthy, longer lives.
I have put up some new articles in the past few weeks for you to read, enjoy and think about.
This Wonderful Lengthening of Lifespan
Bruce J. Klein
Pieces of the Puzzle: Aging Research Today and Tomorrow
Dr. Leonid A. Gavrilov
Bruce Klein is the founder and driving force behind the Immortality Institute:
The Institute has many of the same concerns and goals as the Longevity Meme: advocacy of practical future methods of life extension and current anti-aging research. As is the Longevity Meme, the Instititute is very interested in propagating of the ideas and culture of life extension. The Institute is home to an active and engaging community of futurists, life extensionists and technophiles. It is well worth a visit.
Dr. Leonid A. Gavrilov is one of the researchers putting in long hours year after year on basic aging and anti-aging research. His article is very interesting, in that it contains a view of the trenches (as it were) that we are not normally exposed to. We may see articles in the press and the Longevity Meme news section every week, but that does not mean that all is well or well funded in the scientific community.
This topic leads in nicely to my next item for today, in fact.
THE ROLE OF ACTIVISM IN LIFE EXTENSION
I spoke briefly in the last newsletter on how persistent publicity for a cause (such as fighting AIDS or cancer research) directly influences the amount of money flowing into that cause. In a nutshell: framing, placing and keeping a problem front and center in mainstream culture is hard work, but it unlocks purses far and wide. Government money is usually the least of this; far more funding comes from venture and corporate concerns. They see mainstream culture explicitly in terms of needs and markets for future products. If a need is shouted loudly enough, money will be directed to answer that need.
AIDS funding in the 80s and 90s is the obvious crowning example of a victory of activism. In a comparatively short few years, AIDS moved from obscure disease to the center of media attention. The floodgates of research funding opened and AIDS progressed from death sentence to manageable condition for those with access to treatment.
In 1992, when I was in the UK, the mother of my girlfriend at the time was an academic AIDS researcher (one of the few). Activists and prominent members of the local gay community would constantly call on her at home; there was a very close relationship between the activists and the researchers by that time.
The point of this all is that, of course, we should be trying to do the same thing for aging and anti-aging research. This branch of science is woefully under-funded (largely by the government) and the major corporate concerns do not yet see a potential market worth sinking funds into. Why is this? I believe that it is because we don't see the loud clamor and noise of people demanding a real cure for aging. There is no ACT UP (one of the loudest early AIDS activism groups) to cultivate, shape, channel and present the nascent demand for anti-aging research, medicine and technology.
Active advocacy groups are the sharp tools that can only result from the actions of a large supporting community. They don't exist in a vacuum. The Longevity Meme, The Immortality Institute, Betterhumans (http://www.betterhumans.com), the CR Society (http://www.crsociety.org), KurzweilAI (http://www.kurzweilai.net), the Extropy Institute (http://www.extropy.org), the World Transhumanist Association (http://www.transhumanism.org), and other diverse pro-life-extension organizations, commentators, and online communities didn't spring into existence from nothing. They interact with and are encouraged and supported by diverse, overlapping communities of people who are interested in life extension: in living healthily for longer. This includes all of you reading this newsletter today, of course.
There has been a real growth in size and sophistication of communities interested in life extension in the past few years, largely thanks to the power of the Internet and the actions of a core of motivated individuals (kudos to you all). I think that we, as a community, have come to the point of being able to say: "Ok. Real, meaningful life extension is what we want. What do we do to make it happen?"
Which is an interesting question. What do we do? I point you to the "Take Action" page at the Immortality Institute, for example:
This page essentially advocates expanding the life extension community (in this case, the radical life extension community). This is one of the worthy and necessary goals of any activist. A larger life extension community can have a larger impact on mainstream culture, and thereby on funding for research, medicine and technology. A larger community produces more leaders and activists.
There has to be more than this, however. I would be the first to admit that this is where those of us who seem to have become voices, leaders and activists are falling down. We are talking up a storm, building online communities and acting as focal points for the ideas and discussions of a growing community. We have yet to provide the community with meaningful suggestions and channels for activity that go beyond internal talk and recruitment. As I pointed out above, there is no ACT UP for life extension at the present time.
I think I have talked long enough on this topic for one newsletter. Next time, I can examine some practical ways for us to move beyond talk and growing the community.
For a final thought, let's come back to growing the community. If you stop to think about it, every extra person contributing to the life extension community directly increases all our chances of living a much longer, healthier life. Everyone can help, and it doesn't take much effort.
Every wall is built one brick at a time. Have you mentioned life extension to your friends today? Show the Longevity Meme to a neighbor. Introduce someone to the Immortality Institute. Mention Betterhumans around the office. Post these URLs or clips of Longevity Meme articles to bulletin boards, online or on the wall of the office. Forward this newsletter to everyone you think would like it. After all, this is no different from sharing the normal run-of-the-mill health advice. Go ahead! You'll be helping people.
We're not a niche community anymore, and we haven't been for a while. So let's stop behaving like one.
And that's all for this newsletter. See you next time.
Have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter?
Founder, Longevity Meme
The Immortality Institute Call to Action (February 23 2003)
The number of people who die of old age and age-related conditions is staggering. So staggering that, as balanced humans, we find it easy to put out of our minds. The Immortality Institute has added a counter and call to action to their site. Looking at that counter is another sobering reminder of what is lost every second of every day. This constant toll, each life individual and precious, must be fought.
Starting in on Calorie Restriction (February 22 2003)
I've posted a lot of articles on calorie restriction recently. Some of you may find this short piece from the CR Society useful. How to easily get started down the calorie restriction road to a healthier, thinner, longer-lived you.
At the Future of Life Conference (February 21 2003)
Time is carrying a number of articles on their Future of Life event. This short piece gives a summary of some items of interest to life extensionists: future medicine, and when we are likely to get it.
Look At It This Way (February 20 2003)
"Look At It This Way" is the latest article on culture and aging over at the Immortality Institute. As usual, the follow-on commentary is at least as interesting and informative as the article itself.
Eat Less, Stay Sharp (February 20 2003)
As reported by the BBC, a study suggests that a calorie restriction diet will help preserve your brain cells from aging damage. This is in addition to the many other documented health benefits of calorie restriction. The article is certainly wrong about low-calorie diets being impractical, however. Visit the CR Society for more information.
Sideswipe at Alcor (February 19 2003)
The uglier side of the Ted Williams cryopreservation hasn't quite died down yet, it seems. ESPN is carrying a nasty little character assassination piece today. More balanced coverage can be found here and here, amongst others. It's worth noting the obnoxious behavior of some of the Williams heirs; most unseemly.
Reminder: Research Takes Time (February 19 2003)
An article from InfoAging reminds us that medical research (breakthrough cancer prevention in this case) takes time to come to fruitition. We see wonderful announcements in the press a lot these days, but it's important to remember that it takes years of hard work for treatments to be made available.
Human Body, v2.0 (February 19 2003)
A wide range of radical life extension thoughts from Ray Kurzweil on KurzweilAI.net. Provocative stuff that surveys the effects of anticipated medical and material technologies over the next three decades. We live in interesting times indeed.
CR Society Conference in June (February 19 2003)
I've been waiting for the CR Society to post information online for the conference this year. Calorie restriction is the only proven way to extend healthy life in mammals, and is something that you should all look into. Really! Explore the CR Society site once you've looked at the conference information. I think you'll find it compelling and interesting.
More Physician-Scientists Needed (February 18 2003)
From ScienceBlog: there is a real shortage of the scientists who can best help to advance the state of medical technology. This is the first I've heard of this particular problem. Given the sad state of funding in many vital medical research areas, I'm prepared to take it at face value.
Closer to a Cancer Vaccine (February 18 2003)
It's amazing how much progress has been made in the past decade towards curing or even preventing cancer. Here's another promising early research result in the field from EurekAlert.
India Favors Stem Cell Research (February 17 2003)
Betterhumans is carrying this short, positive article. While France, the United States and other countries seem to be rushing to criminalize stem cell research, the Indian president has good things to say about it. Stem cell research may lead to regenerative medicine able to cure many currently untreatable conditions, including perhaps the aging process itself.
20 Years Until Nanotech Anti-Aging (February 14 2003)
Betterhumans examines comments by the CEO of Zyvex. He makes a reasonable argument for medical anti-aging nanotech to be in its prime in 20 years time. Bring it on, I say.
Successful Nerve Regeneration Research (February 14 2003)
(From ScienceDaily). According to Dr. Gavrilov (see his article here, "Pieces of the Puzzle"), life extension will result from a long series of small advances in regenerative medicine. Here is one of them: successful and very impressive nerve regeneration in rats. Bring on the human trials!
Centenarians Share Mitochondrial Mutation (February 13 2003)
Some research on Italian centenarians is up on Betterhumans. It's interesting stuff, and indicative of a wider search for a genetic basis to natural longevity, but far to early to say much about.
Politechbot on Theraputic Cloning Legislation (February 12 2003)
A wealth of information on the current attempts to restrict, criminalize or ban theraputic cloning over at Politechbot. The CAMR organization website is also worth a visit; they clearly outline the human cost of this luddite legislative nonsense.
Caution and Online Medical Advice (February 12 2003)
This news item at InfoAging gives good advice regarding online medical information. More of us are looking, but quality is often lacking. Be careful when you research (especially true for supplements!) Always look for second and third reputable references. Ask your physician if in doubt.
Calorie Restriction Protects Mice (February 11 2003)
Betterhumans notes a study showing the specific protective benefits of calorie restriction on mice with Huntington's disease. This would seem to tie in nicely with the general health and life-extension benefits ascribed to calorie restriction in healthy mice and humans.
The Future of Genetic Medicine (February 10 2003)
Time is running an issue on DNA and genetics. Amongst the articles of interest is this one containing opinions and comments on the future of genetic, personalized, regenerative, anti-aging medicine. These predicted medical technologies will greatly lengthen our healthy lives if they are allowed to come to pass.
Anti-Aging Confusion (February 10 2003)
A brief article from Eurekalert testifies to the continuing fight over the term "anti-aging." Scientists feel -- with justification -- that the term has been stolen out from under them by fraudulent practitioners and entrepreneurs hawking miracle skin cremes and the like. This confusion is certainly a hinderance to promoting and obtaining funding for valuable scientific anti-aging, regenerative medicine and life extension research.
Do you have comments for us, or want to discuss the newsletter?