Reducing Future Existential Risks Versus First Things First

At the tail end of an Accelerating Future post on just how easy it will be to cause mayhem with a future molecular manufacturing technology base to hand, you'll find this:

Life extensionists: realize that the greatest risk to living longer is not actually aging, which we will eventually defeat cleanly, but existential risks of the type I frequently discuss, including superintelligence and nanotech arms races. You can extend your expected future life more by lowering the probability of these disasters than through any other means.

I think this falls well inside the "too damn optimistic" zone. We - even the younger ones amongst us - won't make it to the stage of being unthreatened by age-related suffering, disability and death unless an all-out effort to tackle the root causes of aging begins soon. We're getting somewhere at some pace today, but it's a trickle that needs to be a flood:

I'd be optimistic myself if a scientific healthy life extension infrastructure as dedicated, large and advanced as that for cancer or Alzheimer's research actually existed. But it doesn't, and the scientific and advocacy communities have barely even started on the long road to building such a thing. The process could have been started a generation ago, but it wasn't. It may not get off the ground this generation.

First things first is what I say to discussions of this ilk. There is a generation of healthy life extension technology to be developed before the very earliest commercial molecular manufacturing arrives. There is a generation of groundwork to be done so as to take advantage of advanced nanotechnology for longevity medicine. None of this is happening today in any sort of volume; even the lengthy process of creating the necessary infrastructure is not yet meaningfully underway. We need to set out and change this sorry state of affairs if any of us are to have the luxury of focusing exclusively on the new existential risks of decades ahead.

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