Rejuvenation Research, Volume 10, Number 4

The latest Rejuvenation Research is available online. I've pointed out a couple of the more interesting papers already in the past weeks, as they appeared on PubMed:

The theme for today is the way in which reality eventually starts to impinge upon unrealistic viewpoints. That is a point for hope, as there are a great many unrealistic viewpoints in the world that would hinder or halt longevity research, either directly or indirectly. Viewpoints like "the more regulation the better", "prove that you will do no harm at all before we'll let you move forward," or "let us redistribute all property and remove incentives for success and progress, for inequality for any is worse than death for all" spring to mind. In this latter context, "social justice" is a particularly pernicious phrase, being a shorthand for forceful redistribution of wealth by government fiat - institutionalized theft, aimed exactly at the point at which it will do the greatest damage to progress by removing incentives for success.

The world works this way: we can labor and trade to move everyone ahead, benefits for all and inequalities for all, or we can redistribute what presently exists - which at best leads to stagnation and no progress, and at worst becomes a repetition of Soviet era Russia and Eastern Europe. In both cases, inequality will be there - you can't kill it. The choice is whether it's inequality in comparative wealth or inequality in poverty, disease and rubble. Progress is absolutely dependent on freedom and the incentives of wealth earned through hard work and invention.

Fortunately, some folk are starting to realize that the stakes are much higher now than in the past. At one time you could be a parasite upon the body politic, propagating theories of no worth or that would cause great harm if enacted, without damaging your own prospects significantly. Now, however, we're talking about the difference between living to see the technologies of radical life extension - and thus living for a long, long time in good health - or dying because the development of those technologies is delayed. So we start to see papers like this:

Sufficiency, Justice, and the Pursuit of Health Extension:

According to one account of distributive justice, called the Sufficiency View, justice only requires that we bring everyone above some critical threshold of well-being and nothing more. This account of justice no doubt explains why some people believe it is unfair to invest scarce public funds into combating aging. In this paper I show why the sufficiency view is wrong. Furthermore, I argue that the real injustice occurs when we disparage or ignore all potential avenues of extending healthy living. We must be both ambitious and imaginative in our attitudes towards health extension.

You'll find analogous issues - and unhelpful, unrealistic viewpoints - within the scientific community. The most important of those have been set out at length in the past, such as in the essay "The Curious Case of the Catatonic Biogerontologists", or some of my past comments here at Fight Aging!:

The road to a cure for aging, like the road to a cure for cancer, has many waystations - each representating some level of treatment, some level of extended healthy life spans. Conservative gerontology ignores the existence of those waystations. Can you imagine a world in which cancer research proceeded that way, pure research with no funding invested in application and the development of therapies?

Fortunately, that state of affairs is somewhat on the way out - and not before time too. There's only so many years it could continue whilst watching vastly extended healthy life spans engineered in animals and work on calorie restriction science in humans. Sooner or later the same calculus applies: the personal risk of slowing down progress in healthy life extension is too great to hold onto unrealistic or unhelpful viewpoints.

Understanding and Tackling Aging: Two Fields Communicating (A Little) At Last:

A string of recent and forthcoming conferences, organized not only by those at the forefront of life-extension research but also by highly influential mainstream groups, have publicly endorsed the Methuselah Foundation's goal of defeating aging. The field of biomedical gerontology - the interface between biogerontology and geriatrics, where biological knowledge is focused on developing the geriatrics of tomorrow - is not a traditional component of gerontology, having been poorly appreciated by biogerontologists and geriatricians alike, but these developments show that it is rapidly taking its place at that table.

Speaking of Aubrey de Grey: There's a brandnew video of him at YouTube with his recent Google talk, entitled "Aging of the Other Genome". It's about possible solutions to mutations of mitochondrial DNA.

Posted by: FrF at December 26th, 2007 8:18 AM

Alas the views in this item belie the American views of this author. While there is a place for research into life extension, quality of life issues are equally important. Here from across the pond there are two key changes that would help to increase life expectancy (as opposed to life extension):

* Abolishion of the death penalty. Europe-wide this has now happened, and indeed is enshrined in European human rights law.
* Creation of a nation health system, again another European success story.

Arguably the former will release more funds for health provision, as less is needed for legal fees. And the latter will naturally improve the health of millions, thus improving the life expectancy of so many people. Research into life extension is of course a part of this but surely the immediate health needs of the entire population must be the first concern of any civilised nation.

Posted by: Julian Symth at December 27th, 2007 12:37 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.