As I mentioned over at the Longevity Meme, SAGE Crossroads seems to be putting forth new material on policy and longevity science once more. Looking at some of the podcasts uploaded this year, I notice one on the Longevity Dividend initiative with Daniel Perry of political advocacy groups Alliance for Aging Research and CAMR, amongst others.
All you have to do is go into any bookstore in this country and go to the health section and you’ll see lots of titles about ending aging or immortality or stopping aging in its tracks. I think there is a lot of debate over whether that’s conceivable, but I think there is an emerging belief that we can slow down the processes of aging and make real achievements within a reasonable period of time, the next 10-15 years, that could buy back for people now living 5-7 years of healthy, productive life. As one gerontologist said, it ought to take 80 years to get to 60. Now that may be a bit more ambitious that what I’m talking about. I’m talking about seven years not 20 years, but there is a growing feeling among leading scientific authorities that based upon what we know works in laboratory animals, including apparently based on recent data, rhesus monkeys, a very close cousin to human beings. It could be possible that we could engineer healthier, more vital, more satisfying life for people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s in our lifetime.
Institutional outlooks are usually incrementalist, aiming for the smallest set of changes possible under present circumstances, as the incentives within institutions discourage any other course. In that respect, the Longevity Dividend is the output of institutional thinkers. What you see above this is more or less the view from inside the government funding monolith, where suggesting even a modest target for increasing healthy life span is a major advance, hurdle and negotiation.
Meanwhile, outside the institutional gates is where you'll find the serious attempts to create revolutionary change in the aging research community and develop disruptive technologies from the latest longevity science. As I said at the time the Longevity Dividend was first put forward:
this proposal is late to the party, fails to acknowledge those who have been advocating similar approaches for some years, and touts a target for gains in healthy life span that is somewhat less than the actuaries and system biologists think will be attained in the next 10 to 20 years by present trends and research directions.
The Longevity Dividend proposal is primarily a political position - which should instantly explain most of its deficiencies to those who follow the way in which funding politics works. It's the first step in a long engagement with large-scale government funding sources (such as the National Institute on Aging) in an attempt to steer future funds into the sorts of moderate programs supported by its authors. That Miller, et al, are doing this at all illustrates, amongst many other things, a concern that future funding will dry up in favor of groups presently moving to advocate healthy life extension - such as those system biologists, or supporters of the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence.
My prediction for the next decade: the trail to radical life extension, and to increasing public understanding and support for medicines to repair aging, will be blazed by philanthropic and private venture funding.