I was invited to a modest gathering today; folk had come together to discuss materials and micro-strategy relating to soon-to-commence Methuselah Foundation efforts to raise larger amounts of philanthropic funding for SENS research - research to repair and reverse aging, in other words. Foundation chair Aubrey de Grey presented, and the usual suspects were in attendance to critique content and exchange ideas: a couple of the other Foundation volunteers (including Anne C.), some of the more insightful local venture investors and business owners, general artificial intelligence researchers, a couple of scientists in the medical field, and folk from the Immortality Institute, Singularity Institute and Foresight Institute were in the mix. Very eclectic; quite the interesting crowd.
While the distribution of interests is on my mind, I should say that I've probably mentioned the numerous overlaps between general artificial intelligence, advanced nanotechnology and healthy life extension communities in the past. There are a number of common funding aspirations, funding sources, supporters and advocates - it's very much a shared space in many ways. The growth, fundraising and advocacy challenges faced in these fields are similar enough to make it worth pooling knowledge, resources and networks to make greater progress; this is happening today, and will continue in the years ahead. So many of the people of note move in the same circles now that I can't imagine it going any other way.
In any case; it's no big secret that the Methuselah Foundation has until the end of 2009 to make the best of Peter Thiel's generous pledge of a $3 million matching fund. This means the clock is ticking on raising $6 million for SENS research: the combined sum of $9 million will be enough to fund a range of modest research programs, larger versions of those already underway and funded by the Foundation. That would be a good start, but the Foundation could be in a much better financial state than that three years from now if matters are well managed - expansion can be rapid indeed once you've established your credentials and potential for success. The path to growth is there, it just has to be executed on - this is also no big secret.
Resources for research must come from somewhere if we are to escape our fate of suffering and death by aging. We must explain our goal; educate the public; raise widespread support; motivate the scientific community. We have made good, strong progress in the past few years - but a long road lies ahead. As a community, we have yet to successfully engage and persuade the wealthiest and most conservative of philanthropists, seeking support for modern, aggressive bioengineering approaches to the problem of age-related degeneration.
We can do this. We must do this. Too many lives, too much suffering is at stake to fail.
The meeting today was an early step in bringing Methuselah Foundation fundraising firmly into the big ticket realm: reviewing the raw materials and identifying how to craft a new and effective strategy for the year ahead. What are the best approaches? What resources are needed? Who best to help? What are the well-defined strategies of successful fundraising? How does this all apply to aging and medical research in particular?
As is always the case for early meetings of this nature, it was more of an exercise in raising questions than answering them - suggestions rather than resolutions, feedback on the raw materials rather than the polished result - but it's clear that the process is determinedly underway. It's also clear that a bunch of smart, experienced people are vested in making it work, and the necessary networking and building of connections is taking place energetically behind the scenes. The Methuselah Foundation of a year from now will be a quite different beast from that of today in terms of presentation and focus - a wealthier beast, too, with much more to disburse to longevity research, judging by the potential for progress I saw today.
Do you want to help make this happen? You can, you know. Just make your voice heard.