A Question of Timing: When to Give Away 90% of Your Net Worth?

Healthy life extension technology that can grant extra years or even reverse aging is on the horizon. Aging is no more than biochemical damage, and damage can be repaired. We can visualize the necessary science today, and directed work on the fundamentals is taking place at low levels of funding.

We are a fair way from the goal, standing on the ground where the ramp has yet to be built, the workers yet to be gathered, the crowds yet to arrive. Everything accomplished, every dollar given by those of us active today will snowball over the years ahead - now is the fulcrum time for growth in the research community and public support for serious longevity research. Every person to step forward catches the notice of more eager helpers, and success attracts success - witness the growth of the Methuselah Foundation from a gleam in Dave Gobel's eye to more than $8 million pledged, accomplished by the early volunteers here where the ramp is to be built.

Here is another slope, running in the opposite direction: the cost of biomedical research. Biotechnology is tied to advances in computational hardware - and what a slope that is! It is a slope that leads to sequencing genomes for a handful of dollars apiece, simulations of laboratory animals and biochemical interventions at a fraction of the cost of real world research, more data on our biochemistry than all the present stored data in the world combined, and much more. Everything of note in medicine will be faster, cheaper and better, riding on the engine of ever faster computers.

Switching back to growth trends, let's think about your net worth. If you're sensible and look ahead, live within your means and diversify your investments, then the passage of time will be kind to your wealth. Compounded gains are the path to riches - but only if you don't tap into your saved capital along the way.

Here's another trend: the decline in your remaining life expectancy and quality of life with advancing age. Aging is an ugly reality. Would you rather stick your head in the sand, or do something to help make the situation better?

The obvious action when it comes to making the situation better is to devote some of your resources to support plausible longevity research, or those groups working to encourage plausible longevity research through advocacy and engagement with the scientific community. But when and how much would you give? Look at all those crossing curves and trendlines:

  • a dollar given today is not saved, and so cannot be two dollars given ten years from now
  • a dollar given a decade from now will result in more research accomplished than a dollar given today
  • a dollar given today will advance the cause today, rather than a decade from now

But on to the deliberately provocative question from the title: when would you donate 90% of your net worth to advance longevity and rejuvenation research? If you care more about posterity than your own survival, would you wait as late as possible? Or does this critical time for the present nascent longevity research community mean that 1% of that same "late as possible" investment in research and support would better serve the future if donated now? If you care deeply about your own survival, where do the curves and trends cross for greatest effect in your opinion?

There is no right answer in consideration of personal economic choices, but these are all questions we should ask ourselves. Wealth at any level is worthless to the dead, and being alive and healthy allows you to generate more wealth: logically we should all be willing to devote most of our net worth to longevity research at the most effective time. If we can buy time with money - and we can begin to now in earnest, for the first time in history, by supporting the research that will lead to the first healthy life extension medicine - then we should all be in that market.

That all said, and as I'm sure you're all aware, it's hard to be right and optimal in financial matters. Life is uncertainty, and risk is everywhere. What is the risk of being wrong in your estimations, and how can you hedge that risk? No-one wants to devote their wealth to a vital cause, only to see later that it was the wrong time for best effect. One way to reduce the risk is to spread out your support for research across time; you won't be absolutely efficient, but then it would probably require a great deal of luck or knowledge to be so. Another is to do the research necessary to satisfy your own economic calculations - that now, for the now that interests you, is the right time.

A final thought: if we all hold back for later, there won't be a longevity research community of any size and accomplishment later. People have to get the ball rolling if we're to see construction of the ramp underway.

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