Clueless Enthusiasm

There is a widespread sense of enthusiasm for healthy life extension out there - but it is largely clueless enthusiasm, focused on things that don't matter in the grand scheme, are unproven, ineffective, or pushed by the health demagogue of the moment (who often happens to be selling you a product).

There are two sorts of clueless enthusiasm for healthy life extension; type 1 is focused on the now, the cricket who wants answers immediately, searches where the light is shining, and has no willingness to look to the future. People affected with this sort of clueless enthusiasm are actively engaged in deluding themselves - or allowing themselves to be deluded by others. Reality is harsh: while there are many simple things you can do for your health, all require work and sacrifice. There is no silver bullet, and there is no presently available way to greatly extend your maximum life span. There are any number of people willing to claim otherwise while taking your money, however.

In short, there is primary aging and there is secondary aging: there are methods of ameliorating the latter, and very little that affects the former. We're all on a clock, and burying your head in the sand of willful self-delusion isn't going to prevent your suffering and death in the decades ahead.

Primary aging is the gradual - and presently inevitable - process of bodily deterioration that takes place throughout life: the accumulation of biochemical damage that leads to slowed movements, fading vision, impaired hearing, reduced ability to adapt to stress, decreased resistance to infections, and so forth. Secondary aging processes result from disease and poor health practices (e.g. no exercise, smoking, excess fat and other forms of self-damage) and are often preventable, whether through lifestyle choice or modern medicine. The two categories are somewhat fuzzy at the borders by these definitions; we hope that advancing medical and biotechnology will move the known and understood aspects of primary aging into the secondary aging category as rapidly as possible.

Type 2 clueless enthusiasm is potentially more useful to those of us seeking support for scientific anti-aging research. The type 2 enthusiast does look to the future, but is just as ill-informed as the type 1 enthusiast when it comes to science, what will work and the best path forward. I stumbled over a recent column that I believe to be illustrative of the type:

"Fifty percent of Baby Boomers can live up to 100 and beyond."

He received a standing ovation when he boldly predicted genetic research on stem cells and cloning "will take us to 120 and beyond. Soon, we will be the Ageless Society."

While arguably over the top, such optimism is consistent with the Boomers' ever-present desire for youth and health. They eat better, exercise more and hope to benefit from furthur scientific breakthroughs.

The enthusiasm is there, but there is no substance nor understanding when it comes to the details. Enthusiasm without meaningful direction is just like investment without meaningful management - it doesn't matter how much support there is, because it's all being wasted. Like water poured on the ground, it soaks away without effect. You can put a waterwheel under a stream of water, however; this is what advocates for scientific, directed anti-aging research seek to do. We can harness the support of type 2 clueless enthusiasm - and turn it into clueful enthusiasm - by providing a plausible path forward to a future of longer, healthier lives. It all comes down to education, spreading the message and having the science to back it up.

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