On the Inevitability of Radical Life Extension

The choice of living a healthy, youthful life of centuries and more is inevitable - it will come to pass. That much is obvious, written in the present breadth of human civilization, knowledge of what is possible under the laws of physics, and pace of progress in biotechnology. Replacement biological organs are a decade away, and commercial efforts to develop sophisticated repairs to age-damaged cells and vital biomechanisms will be rife in the 2020s. Computational power will be so great and so cheap that tens of thousands and then millions of research programs will be accomplished in simulation for a tiny fraction of their cost today; the priesthood of bioscience will dissolve and progress will be as diverse, energetic and imaginative as it is for open source software today. Redesigning human biochemistry and (greatly) augmenting our biology with nanomachinery will be hot areas for venture funding in the 2030s and 2040s.

"All" we need to do is to repair ourselves. The new bio- and nanotechnologies of the 2040s will be massive overkill for the "simple" task of repairing the damage of aging. The only thing stopping us from being able to do the job with the projected technologies of 2020 is that (a) we haven't yet proven our vision for success is accurate in its details, (b) support for the task at hand has yet to rise to the levels needed for success on a short timeframe.

The technology to enable youthful life spans of centuries is inevitable in the fullness of time - as the cost of developing an application of medical technology falls, the level of support required to complete the task falls with it. Sooner or later, a determined group will gather to get the job done.

So, to the point: the technology base required for the repair of aging is inevitable in the next few decades. Its application to this end, however, is not. That means that radical life extension is not inevitable for you and I; we're going to have to work on making it happen.

As is usually the case, achieving great goals across mere decades is far more a matter of persuasion than endeavor. The path is very clear and very plausible - if we can just convince a great many people to see things the same way and help out.

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I agree that scientific progress is accelerating to an incredible pace,but how do we deal with the FDA who (1)dont see aging as a disease or group of diseases and (2) appear to serve the vested interests of the major drug companies whose profits are predicated not on cures but the continuance of the illness' we suffer from today

Posted by: Mike at September 25th, 2007 10:30 PM

I think your pessimism underestimates the proabability of life extension arriving sooner rather than later. The second a new treatment emerges that has life-extending capabilities, Medical Doctors will be all over it. Once Lipitor came on the market a great many Physicians began to take it to lower cholesterol without explciitly recognizing that it was essentially a treatment to slow aging. The minute an anti-AGE compounjd appears for Diabetics, a large cohort of MDs and Biotech investors and cognoscenti over the age of 65 will start taking it, well before its anti-aging efficacy will have been established. I expect the first anti-AGE drug to become a top ten seller within a year; most of the people taking it will not have diabetes. Once friends and other Physicians see real changes, the idea of anti-aging treatments will begin to insinuate itself and a critical mass will not be long in forming. Just consider all the hype and the very large market for Resveratrol.
All the venture capitalists need is some proof of concept and the money will start to pour in.

Posted by: ShrinkWrapped at September 26th, 2007 11:20 AM

This is definately about the immediacy. While I love the idea of helping humanity (and indeed, this is what keeps us from succumbing to despair that we may not benefit) helping ourselves is even better.

Posted by: Tyciol at January 31st, 2008 5:51 PM
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