The past few weeks of posts here at Fight Aging! have included discussions of strategies for large scale funding, avoiding moderation in pro-radical life extension advocacy, how to pitch a moderate healthy life extension message if you must take that path, and looking at the likely future of mainstream / moderate pro-healthy life extension engagement with existing funding sources.
In essence, scientific anti-aging advocacy of the past few years, within and without the research community, is bearing fruit. Scientists who have long supported healthy life extension research in private now feel the environment to be safe enough to speak out in public without risking status and funding. This is a huge step forward, as many in the scientific mainstream strongly support the legitimacy of research aimed directly at extending the healthy human life span. But if no-one stands up to say so, funding and legitimacy cannot be established - which is why it is such a big deal that we are now moving away from healthy life extension research as the instant death third rail of grantsmanship.
You'll find a glowing neon signpost of progress in this month's issue of the The Scientist ... which, funnily enough, has the phrase "fight aging" prominently placed on the cover. The cover article is authored by S. Jay Olshansky, Daniel Perry, Richard A. Miller, and Robert N. Butler, who collectively stand as core and representative of mainstream gerontology and aging research. These are folks who, as you may have noted in the past, are usually on the other side of a timescale or plausibility debate with biomedical gerontologist and radical life extension advocate Aubrey de Grey. Here, however, they are starting a campaign of engagement with existing funding structures intended to produce programs and resources for healthy life extension research:
Gerontology has grown beyond its historical and traditional image of disease management and palliative care for the old, to the scientific study of aging processes in humans and in other species-the latter is known as biogerontology. In recent decades biogerontologists have gained significant insight into the causes of aging. They've revolutionized our understanding of the biology of life and death. They've dispelled long-held misconceptions about aging and its effects, and offered for the first time a real scientific foundation for the feasibility of extending and improving life.
People already place a high value on both quality and length of life, which is why children are immunized against infectious diseases. In the same spirit, we suggest that a concerted effort to slow aging begin immediately - because it will save and extend lives, improve health, and create wealth.
The science of aging has the potential to produce what we refer to as a "Longevity Dividend" in the form of social, economic, and health bonuses both for individuals and entire populations-a dividend that would begin with generations currently alive and continue for all that follow.
We contend that conditions are ripe today for the aggressive pursuit of the Longevity Dividend by seeking the technical means to intervene in the biological processes of aging in our species, and by ensuring that the resulting interventions become widely available.
I'm very enthused by these signs of progress. This is not support for the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence or similar full-on engineering, damage-control approaches, but it is a large departure from the position of public silence on healthy life extension. The sea change in public opinion and awareness brought on by advocacy is creeping up on us, and factions within the scientific community are adjusting the cut of their sails in expectation of funding. As Olshansky noted over at the Immortality Institute:
We are calling for a massive national and international effort to slow aging in humans under the premise that by doing so, humanity would reap a series of "Longevity Dividends" -- a gift to humanity from our generation to most current and all future generations. What is new here is the articulation of the "dividends" and the "target". I'll present this idea formally at the World Forum meeting in Oxford on the 15th of this month, but this is just the beginning of our effort to make this happen.
The mainstream is moving. Progress!