A discussion is presently ongoing at the Immortality Institute, kicked off by thoughts on the frustrations and vicissitudes inherent in persuading people that healthy life extension to the degree of decades and centuries is plausible and desirable. Perhaps more importantly, that the process of developing the needed technology merits material support today.
Some time ago I decided to try and see how the concept of radical life extension would be accepted with some students from my university. So I introduced the idea to some of my acquaintances.
Well, I was faced with some religious arguments, which was to be expected, but the most overwhelmingly popular response was that of ridicule and unwillingness to accept that anything like this would EVER be possible.
Well, I said not to take my word for it and promised I would provide some material to prove that I am not completely gone crazy and some agreed (with a smirk). So I provided them with [biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey's] presentation, [the Immortality Institute website], [the Exploring Life Extension film], Aubrey's site, [the Mprize for longevity research] and some others, all tied into a neat little package.
And the response to that: nothing, propably just assured them that I was insane. And the most obvious thing was that even though many of them weren't religious, it seemed that no-one cared. It was as if the whole matter couldn't be anymore insignificant.
We've all seen something of this response, I imagine. Just look at how long it takes any concept to overcome the resistance folk have to change; most people are slow to identify in public with any position not reinforced by their peers. It doesn't matter how obvious the new position is in hindsight, or how ridiculous and evil the present state of affairs is, the weight of opinions held by others is very important to most.
We are creatures built upon a foundation of ape instinct; normalization of expressed opinion and action within a hierarchy is second nature to us, and embracing the new on its merits as a leader, ahead of the curve, is not the human default. Facts are never as important as what others say about the conclusions supported by those facts - sad but true. Thus evangelizing the new takes time and effort. Yes, it is frustrating - but the frustration of the moment is really a matter of expectations. What are your expections with regard to the practical and possible rates of progress? What are your expections with regard to goals you might attain in the course of your activity?
That said, there is little worse than failing to try. The fellow quoted above made the effort - more effort than many do - to change the future for the better by bringing more people to think about living longer, healthier lives, and about the research that must be accomplished to make it happen. All of us can play a part in making support for healthy life extension research an accepted mindset. All it takes is the effort to talk to people about it; if we keep at it, if we persist, these ideas will gain the foothold needed to win out, blossom and spread on their merits in the mainstream of our culture.