Yesterday, I pointed out that advocates for healthy life extension research have made great progress in the past few years, both within and beyond the scientific community. This is undoubtably a good thing - we'll be seeing more discussion, more scientific work on repairing the damage of aging, and more funding for more ambitious research in the years ahead.
This is a huge improvement over the state of affairs even as recently as ten years ago. Those in the audience who were involved in past efforts in longevity research and advocacy in the 1980s and 1990s will recognize just how amazing it is that today we can see a well-known and vocal organization aiming squarely for the defeat of aging through advanced biotechnology attract more than $8.5 million from supporters. More to the point, just how much ten years of progress in biotechnology has increased supports the plausibility of rapid progress towards longer healthy lives!
But let's pull back to the big picture, since successful, rewarding work always looks like a great deal of progress when you're up close to the pedals and machinery. At the grand scale, serious efforts to greatly extend the healthy human life span are just getting geared up to begin to start. Similary, the efforts to raise sufficient awareness, understanding and support in the public at large - to change the culture of aging, educate away the present poor understanding of prospects for rejuvenation through future biotechnology, and challenge the acceptance of death and suffering that result from aging - are nascent at best.
The past few years of success and progress - raising some millions of dollars, changing the balance of viewpoints and support within gerontology, plugging away at broadening the conversation and growing the interconnected base of active supporters of healthy life extension - are "just" a ticket to the next level. At this next level, the real work has yet to begin in earnest.
In the world at large, most people still think of living longer through medicine as being older for longer, not being younger for longer - and they knee jerk in rejection. Most people believe that "anti-aging science" is supplements, hucksters and flashy nonsense from cosmetics companies, and that real rejuvenation is impossible - or so far away as to be unworthy of consideration. Many people believe that overpopulation is a serious threat, that pollution will outrun technology, that the future is one of rust and poverty, rather than a golden age of technology; they see not worth in living into such a future. Many people believe that cannot affect or change the way the future unfolds. Many people have so armored themselves with a mindset of acceptance against the ugly realities of age-related suffering that they are unwilling to even talk about the subject, or consider any form of change, even for the better.
This is essentially no different today than it was ten years ago. The changes for the better made in a few years of work are small compared to the whole; a stream feeding into a sea. But it's a start, and it's growing.
For all intents and purposes, the same can be said for funding for research into slowing, reversing or meaningfully understanding aging. It has gone nowhere in the past ten years, when seen from the highest level and largest scale of funding, and certainly nowhere near the many billions of dollars and directed, crystal-clear target of the defeat of aging that would be required for results within a few decades of work. Those advances that have been made are small - but significant and growing.
There is much work to be done in the years ahead to reach the goals of rapid progress and large-scale funding in the repair and prevention of aging, but it is eminently achievable - which is more than can be said of the promises of those who offer silver bullets that work today.
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