CNet is running an interview with Ray Kurzweil on the topic of his approach to healthy life extension.
His regimen for longevity is not everyone's cup of tea (preferably green tea, Kurzweil advises, which contains extra antioxidants to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer). And most people would scoff at his notion that emerging trends in medicine, biotechnology and nanotechnology open a realistic path to immortality--the central claim of a new book by Kurzweil and Dr. Terry Grossman, a physician and founder of a longevity clinic in Denver. "I am serious about it," said Kurzweil, a wiry man with few lines on his face for a 56-year-old. "I think death is a tragedy. I think aging is a tragedy. And going beyond our limitations is what our species is all about."
The scoffing is something that we advocates must continue to work on - the science behind the path to much, much longer lives (if not immortality in the traditional meaning of the word) is very sound. Still, having serious people talk seriously about immortality is, I think, very good for the wider healthy life extension movement. It provides a much better outrageous extreme, a topic I explored a while back:
The middle of the road, "reasonable" position in public or political debate tends to gravitate to midway between what are perceived to be the two opposite outrageous extremes, regardless of the actual merits of any of these positions.
With this in mind, it is occurring to me that part of the ongoing problem in the modern political debate over healthy life extension is that our "outrageous extreme" has always been a tentative, reasonable proposal that medical research carry on and that near-term technology would seem to allow us all to live a little longer - say, to 150. When the outrageous extreme from the other side - from the Bush administration, Leon Kass of the President's Council on Bioethics, and others - is that no-one should be permitted to research ways of extending healthy life span, we can see that the average between these two positions is not very favorable to our future health and life span. We wind up where we are right now: anti-research factions in governments worldwide are restricting and legislating against all of the most promising fields of medicine, while attempting to force through complete bans on stem cell research, theraputic cloning and other promising technologies.
We need a better outrageous extreme.
When immortality is on the table for respectable discussion, proposals to significantly fund research into rejuvenation therapies and a cure for aging will be more successful.
You can read an illustrative excerpt from Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman's "Fantastic Voyage" over at the Longevity Meme.