1000 Years of Healthy Life Extension, Resurrected

The evolving dynamics of online publishing and information-seeking communities have become quite interesting. In the past few years the traditional print world focus on new, fresh content has come to overwhelmingly dominate the online spaces, thanks to the popularity of sequential publishing models; RSS, blogs, aggregation and default searches orded by date. That said, popular link sites or pseudo-news sites (Slashot, Digg, Metafilter, so forth) can cheerfully buck this trend and point out older content that might be fresh for a given audience. That audience will then respond by reading, reprinting, discussing and linking to the older content for a while. An article at Slate from the past week looks at just this topic:

For obvious reasons, staffers are as interested in the "most" lists as readers, and so on Wednesday (June 28) our copy chief Rachael Larimore sent around e-mail asking if anybody had an idea why a two-year-old piece by tech writer Paul Boutin ("So Tired," July 13, 2004) had cracked the daily top five. ... Josh Levin, Boutin's editor, quickly determined the origin of the story's new popularity: Digg.com, the husky and growing people-powered news aggregator.

Read the article if you'd like an introduction to a little of the mechanics and economics of directing attention on the web these days. Funnily enough, the very same thing happened recently for a two-year-old interview with biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey on the topic of radical life extension - 1,000 years of healthy life extension, to be exact. The Digg audience found this compelling, and I don't blame them; it is pretty damn compelling. As I pointed out yesterday, while the concepts of radical life extension are old hat for transhumanists and other healthy life extension advocates, they remains uncharted territory and new news for the vast majority of people.

So fire up your browser and refresh your memory - there is indeed a plausible argument that we could live to see millennia-long healthy life spans:

I think the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already.

Once the biotechnology ball is well and truly rolling, 1,000 years should be well below the average, given sensible predications on the rate of fatal accidents:

An ageless man] who has lived 500 years has a 50% chance of living another 500 years. And should [he] survive that to reach 1000 years of age, he still has a 50% chance of living another 500 years. This is always true: no matter what [his age], he has a 50% chance of surviving another half-life.

We all have opinions on the plausibility of various timescales for the development and deployment of the first meaningful longevity-enhancing medicine - technology capable of adding a couple of healthy decades at a reasonable cost, and able to be widely commercialized. To me at least, it seems that we'll need another ten to twenty years just to persuade and build a research infrastructure and community capable of the task - but the technology is plausible. It just won't come fast enough to save as many people now living as we would want. This is a tragedy that will be counted in hundreds of millions of deaths, only overshadowed by the prospect allowing the ongoing daily toll of 100,000 lives to continue unabated.

People find radical life extension compelling, and rightly so. The mini-wave of interest in this BBC interview was accompanied by a mini-wave of donations and inquiries to the MPrize for anti-aging research and Methuselah Foundation - that is a hopeful sign.

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