Reports From Transvision 2007

In addition to the first (with a focus on radical life extension) and second articles on Transvision 2007 from Ronald Bailey at Reason Online, a few other folk have stepped up to tell us how things went:

TransVision Tuesday Keynote Presentation (Aubrey de Grey) Notes:

Too little biomedical funding (perhaps less than one percent) is going into reversing aging. Euphemisms for aging like "healthy aging" and "aging is not a disease" are being promoted. If it's not a disease, why fund fixing it? Aging is not less bad when postponed. We should admit that our goal is elimination of aging. How do we give this credibility?

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Progress is being made in longevity science, both in lysosomal enhancement and in allotopic expression. Funding is increasing. The Mprize is at 4.5 million, which is starting to encourage some research for the purpose of the prize. SENS credibility improving.

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Various groups, including theologians, are making documentaries and otherwise marketing the ideas. With enough money, the experts needed to develop therapies are ready to work on the problem. Funding is ramping up. Our action today can save many lives by accelerating the introduction of first therapies. Mealy-mouthed messaging has been tried, so now is time to be tougher. People were irrational about aging, but that is becoming decreasingly justifiable.

Crafting the practical case for life extension in Chicago:

Rather than choosing to wax philosophical about the ethical imperatives in favour of life extension, the organizers of the IEET symposium specifically geared the event around the work of Jay Olshansky and his efforts to frame the discussion in more practical terms.

In other words, money.

Indeed, the case for a longevity dividend – the idea that prolonging life will save not just lives, but oodles of cash -- is beginning to take shape. As Reason science correspondent Ronald Bailey noted, “It's a way of rebranding the quest for extending human lives in a politically palatable way.”

That piece above is from George Dvorsky, who notes in another post the realities of being in the early stages of a growth movement of futurists:

TransVision 2007: the good, the bad and the ugly

Attendance, I am quite certain, was well below expectations. The number of empty seats was disturbing. ... Even more disturbing is how some of the most important ideas and thinkers of our time are largely being ignored by the general public. Watching Aubrey de Grey explain to a small audience how he’s going to conquer death created no small amount of cognitive dissonance in my brain; the room should have been packed. Hell, the room should have had people lined-up out front pounding at the door demanding to be let in.

It is true there are comparatively few people who spend time on transhumanist goals in a serious fashion - compared to, say, the number of people willing to form local sports clubs. The process of garnering attention even for demonstrably true concepts and meritous actions is slow and arduous. We'd all like to see more progress; we'd all like to see the healthy life extension movement match the spectacular growth of AIDS patient advocacy, for example, or generate a goliath research community the size of those working on Alzheimer's or cancer. That will take work and years, but compared to the state of affairs a decade ago, we've improved a hundredfold the level of funding raised and spread of awareness for directly attacking the aging process. We can and will keep that up.

Lastly, I should note Ronald Bailey's third and final report from the conference:

Kurzweil believes that humanity will accelerate itself to utopia (immortality, ubiquitous AI, nanotech abundance) in the next 20 to 30 years. For example, he noted that average life expectancy increases by about 3 months every year. Kurzweil then claimed that longevity trends are accelerating so fast that the life expectancy will increase more than one year for each year that passes in about 15 years. In other words, if you can hang on another 15 years, your life expectancy could be indefinitely long. He projects that by 2030, AI will be ubiquitous, and most humans will be physically melded to information and other technologies. Kurzweil argued that we must reject the fundamentalist desire to define humanity by its limitations. "We are the species that goes beyond our limitations," he declared.

Which is quite true, though as I've noted before, I think Kurzweil's timelines for the next couple of decades are too optimistic, for reasons relating to the incompressibility of human interactions in business cycles. One can of course conceive of technologies (like strong artificial intelligence) that get around that limitation, we being the species that treats limits like red flags, but you have to get them through the process of development first.

I would be very pleased to see us make the advances needed to achieve indefinite life expectancy - even in the laboratory, in mice - by 2022, but color me skeptical. I think it'll take a couple of decades more unless some very big players decide to jump into rejuvenation research money-first within the next few years.

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Comments

Transvision was very well done. Thank you to the organizers of this wonderful event!

I too wish there had been a larger attendance. But someday, when the mainstream adopts our ideas, we'll miss the days without the huge crowds? And that brings me to my thought about popularity. Jesus started with just 12. (See, we embrace you, misguided whoever. Wink).

I hope that one dude gets some medication. This is all real heady stuff. Sometimes the long read adherents forget what a shock a lot of this stuff is. But therapies will change all that.

What a beautiful venue! Thanks again WTA!

John (One of the non-speaking bald guys.)

Posted by: John Thompson at July 28th, 2007 7:02 PM

I too attended Transvision 2007. I would like to add that the folks there were fun, classy, and intelligent. Go to the next one. You will not regret it!

Posted by: Jim Ledford at July 31st, 2007 8:31 PM

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