If You Want the Job Done, Then Help to Get the Job Done

Sage words from Anne C.:

However, there do seem to be some in the life-extensionist population specifically who have rather surprising amounts of confidence in their own future assured survival, and though there is a chance they know something I don't which somehow justifies this confidence, I have yet to see evidence of this knowledge. I do think there is a chance that some alive today will manage to prolong their lives indefinitely, but by no means do I think that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, aging is going to be "solved" by the time I turn fifty or anything like that. Progress is dependent on many variables, and there are too many "ifs" to make any kind of confident estimates of one's chances of "escaping" age-related death at this point. Quibbling about probabilities, placing bets, and arguing over whether one will or will not get to celebrate their 1000th birthday probably isn't worth a whole lot of time or energy. If enough people can agree that age-related decline deserves attention, then the proper course of action is to give it that proper attention -- directly, in the laboratory, in computers, in hospitals, in our homes, in doctor's offices.

All any of us can do is look to see which of those "ifs" we can influence, and perhaps support efforts like SENS, the MPrize and the development of AGI, or even become scientists ourselves, or come up with something we think is more likely to yield results than any existing organized effort. We can all help to author the yet-unwritten future so that, at the very least, it is more likely to yield longer, healthier lives for all who seek them.

Which ties nicely into my ruminations and exhortations on the subject of personal responsibility for the future. You have to think directly, action to result, if you want to change the world - and we all have that power, when we act in concert.

It is now the case that the right scientific programs backed by the right levels of funding could greatly extend the healthy human life span rapidly enough for us to benefit. We know enough to get started - this is not a time for modest goals and conservatism. This is a time to unleash the full potential of the biotechnology revolution on the cause of more death and misery than anything else in this world: age-related degeneration.

Folk like you and I don't have to stand on the sidelines and hope for more results, or for more scientists to get to work. Organizations like the Methuselah Foundation offer powerful ways for us to band together and fund or encourage effective research into defeating aging. The MPrize for longevity research is the best present way for you to place a dollar in the pot to inspire many more dollars of aging research funding. People like you and I have already pledged millions to this cause, and in doing so are changing the world.

The first step on the road to radical life extension is a big leap forward: to develop and make widely available technologies capable of extending healthy life span in the old by a good 20-30 years. Perhaps this will be some combination of SENS-like therapies for mitochondrial repair, immune system repair and regenerative medicine, plus a really good set of cancer therapies and a better handle on the aging brain. It will have to be some form of repairing the damage or replacing worn parts, unless the metabolic manipulators pull something amazing out of their hat - which I think is unlikely in the case of reversing aging or adding many years for the already old.

There's only so much you can do with slowing aging through metabolic manipulation - the elderly wouldn't benefit, for example - but a working repair mechanism for the cellular damage associated with aging could be used to restore the aged and hold off aging over and over again. It's more efficient and effective.

Twenty to thirty years of additional healthy life is, more or less, the minimum necessary for a new technology base to emerge from the laboratory into widespread use; the technology of interest here is whatever comes after SENS, the new medicine that will give the SENS-using old another 20-30 years or more.

But as I said, that first step is a big one. Once we are past it, we will already have widespread support, a self-sustaining infrastructure, massive funding, and a new and eager generation of researchers entering the field. The move from SENS to post-SENS will be much like the move in the cancer research community from chemo- and radiotherapy to the new biotechnology - an organic, ongoing change in focus and the quality of results, not the creation of a multi-billion dollar infrastructure from scratch. But today, we have no multi-billion dollar infrastructure dedicated to the defeat of aging - and if we don't band together to build it, who will?

Which comes back to the title of this post. If you have the slightest interest in living a long, healthy life, you must get up out of your chair and do something about it. It is not enough to assume that things will work out; if everyone makes that assumption, then, most assuredly, things will not work out. If everyone stays to the sidelines, nothing will happen. If a small group of workers continue in absence of widespread support, then their progress will be slow or negligible.

You are in part responsible for the future; your actions and inactions help to shape it, just as those of everyone else. So step up and do your part to make the years to come a place you would like to live in.

Technorati tags: ,

Comments

"Twenty to thirty years of additional healthy life is, more or less, the minimum necessary for a new technology base to emerge from the laboratory into widespread use"

Why? Many new medical technologies have obtained widespread use offering no healthy life extension.

Posted by: Mike Linksvayer at December 26th, 2006 5:57 PM

I think you missed the point; it takes that long for a new technology to mature into widespread usage. So if you're old by the time Life Extension Technology Phase 1 and want to still be alive for Phase 2, then Phase 1 had better have given you 20-30 years of extra time. Otherwise you're out of luck; there is little point in throwing ourselves into the development of a Phase 1 that will perform worse than that, so long as there is a better option.

Posted by: Reason at December 26th, 2006 7:03 PM

Reason is exactly right. We are basically operating within Life Extension Technology 0.0 to 0.5 at best, which currently adds about 3 months every year or so, via a combination of prevention (clean water/food, macro tests such as colonoscopy, micro tests such as PAP smear) and intervention (surgery and other therapies).

To get to the point where we can add 1 year for every 1 year that passes (Aubry de Grey's goal) we need to at the very least go beyond the current LE technology, which tends to be macro-intervention (heart bypass operations for one example) and move to the micro-prevention level. AGE breakers are one obvious candidate, and as Reason has noted there are those working to find better ones than "ALT-711". Mitochrondia "fixers" are another one, although protection of the mitochondria has to help.

The only paths we have now are such things as the Methuselah Mouse and SENS. Therefore we should get behind them and *push*!

Posted by: an observer at December 27th, 2006 7:51 PM

I am close to giving up. I talked casually with Anne on this subject - and I agree with her accusative stare... but most of us reading this are relegated to the sidelines and have been taught a lifelong lesson that trying to interfere or make a difference will quickly lead to a hard slap on the wrist.

Posted by: Khannea Suntzu at December 29th, 2006 2:49 PM

Khannea: a person can be inconvenienced by others, but only relegated by agreeing, themselves, with their own relegation.

Equally, a lesson, no matter how long, only matters if you accept it.

Posted by: Reason at December 29th, 2006 3:32 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.