Before getting to the latest mainstream articles, I should point out this excellent post from April. Highlights from a discussion of the Methuselah Mouse Prize at the recent Calorie Restriction (CR) Society conference:
We need a large amount of money, directed only at the actual prevention/reversal of aging. The problem with this is that nobody wants to fund it with venture capital because guess what... it takes a long time to see if people will die! As soon as a CR mimetic drug looks promising, for example if it looks like it can also be a cancer drug or some such thing, then all the capital goes into that, since a profit can be made right now, and the studies are shorter term.
So now we come to one of my favorites of de Grey's points: people are so convinced that stopping aging is impossible, that they don't even want to try. They're willing to put massive resources into searching for the cure for diseases, but when you start to talk about curing aging itself, people look at you like you just stepped out of a science fiction movie.
Questioner 1: "We all agree that we need to fund the research. I think we might be able to fund the real anti-aging research by generating interest in a normal, mainstream sounding foundation that will help people be healthy. We obviously need large, huge amounts of money. How can this be raised without appealing to a broader audience than life-extensionists like ourselves?"
Michael: "What we need to do is convince more people to believe that curing aging is possible, then get them to do something about it."
Questioner 2: "But Michael, what if you can't get normal people to believe that?"
Michael: "That's the whole point of getting people involved who know how to change other people's minds. It's going to take more than just scientists to cure aging... we have to mobilize the political will to fund the project. I believe we can do it... and April, people like you can play an important role. You have great skills at organizing, persuading, and supporting people in the formation of mass movements, even in the face of peoples' aquired defeatism and false consciousness. Not to make you personally responsible for changing the world or anything..."
There's lots more good stuff there for those of us who are advocacy-minded. Go read it all.
But on to the mainstream media. The BBC is collecting articles on aging science at a fair rate. Aubrey de Grey makes his case in the latest piece, facing off against the opinions of S. Jay Olshansky. Both have commented here on Fight Aging! before - in essence, their principle differences lie in the timescale of serious anti-aging research and the way in which science can and should interact with the media, new and old. This public discussion (and the less public discussion that goes on within the scientific community) has a great deal of influence on funding decisions.
Glenn Reynolds sums up a common, sensible response:
I don't know who's right, but I know who I hope is right.
What do we have to lose in a serious, go-for-broke medical Manhattan Project - private, public, or philanthropic - to understand and cure aging? Aside from money, that is ... and you know what they say about taking that with you.
The BBC feature was also mentioned in a Slashdot posting. Examining the comments made there and to a previous post featuring Aubrey de Grey is certainly an educational exercise for those of us who want to extend public support and understanding of healthy life extension. Aging and life span really are a strange sort of sacred cow in our societies - but we can't let that hold back or divert the possibility of creating technology to enable greatly extended healthy life spans in our lifetimes.
Lastly for the moment, here is a report at Samizdata of a talk given by Aubrey de Grey at a recent meeting of a UK transhumanist society. It focuses on the Methuselah Mouse Prize, perhaps the most interesting of Aubrey de Grey's current projects - at least from the perspective of those of us outside the scientific community. The Prize gives each and every one of us a way to contribute directly to the process of invigorating and expanding serious anti-aging research - that's a big deal, because that opportunity was not previously available to average folks like you and I.
You may recall that the Methuselah Foundation recently inaugurated its Rejuvenation Prize - this is a worthy effort that is continuing to grow.