David Chambers on Tomorrow's People

David Chambers, one of the upstanding Methuselah Foundation folk doing good work behind the scenes, attended the Tomorrow's People event earlier this month. He had the following comments:

A few notes:

It was an interesting few days, and the conference attracted an impressive roster of the "Great and the Good", but I found the whole thing a bit perplexing. My 2c: Europeans don't look forward to a better future - but rather a managed version of the present. There's a distrust of revolutionary ideas, and the usual ritual genuflection towards equal opportunities, both societal and international. In such a conservative environment there's no place for transhuman optimism. And quite a lot of noodling on about pensions crises.

The session "Longer" clearly attracted the most interest. Speakers were [Aubrey de Grey], and three others: Kirkwood, Miller and Oshlansky. Kirkwood was urbanely dismissive of SENS and Miller displayed undisguised animus (which did him no favours). But Oshlansky unveiled his plan for US$3Bn p.a. federal research funding on aging, with the target of shifting the debilitation and death curve to the right by seven years. In the face of audience scepticism he was confident of success, suggesting that things may be progressing behind the scenes.

The magnitude of [de Grey]'s achievement really came home to me. In just a few years, and without any institutional backing, he has earned himself a seat on the sofa alongside these scientific luminaries.

While Euros and Americans might have their various hang-ups about the ethics and implications of the new biology, China doesn't. Pei Xuetao, of the Beijing Institute of Transfusion Medicine, made it very clear that China is open for business.

Miller has written an interesting paper identifying the obstacles to life extension research. He suggests that the political/scientific obstacle split is 85/15.

Miller is an interesting character; clearly very anti-SENS - as illustrated in a recent BBC article on this same event - but equally quite pro-healthy life extension insofar as he sees the realm of the possible. You can see that side in a Longevity Meme article excerpted from the Genomics Age, in his support of the Longevity Dividend proposal, and in the paper that David Chambers points out above.

So it is that debate within the gerontology community and related areas of biomedical research has progressed into the realm of "how much, how soon, how" - factions are forming and making their cases. That working technologies capable of extending the healthy human life span will come into being is a foregone conclusion, and that's a big improvement over past decades.

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