The goal of the more activist end of the healthy life extension community is nothing less than to engineer the defeat of degenerative aging: to develop medical technologies that make it possible to live in good health with no ticking clock driving you ever closer to suffering and death. This has been the case across decades of the modern community, from pre-internet years through to present day Methuselah Foundation initiatives, online collaborations and cryonics industry. Over at Depressed Metabolism, Aschwin de Wolf has republished a fine discovery from the late 1960s:
Aging is a biologic phenomenon. It involves basic changes that occur within living cells. The key to halting or reversing the aging process is our understanding of the life processes. It is most encouraging, therefore, to discover that we are beginning to understand the precise manner in which our bodies function.
The most spectacular advances in the past decade [the 1960s] have been in biology. With the use of equipment like the electron microscope and techniques such as X-ray crystallography, scientists have been able to examine the structure and workings of living cells on a molecular level. Light has been shed upon the mechanism by which genetic information is transferred from cell to cell, and simple types of DNA & RNA, the master chemicals involved in the process, have been duplicated in the laboratory.
As our understanding of the life processes increases, it is reasonable to assume that it will become possible to devise bio-engineering techniques to modify the aging process.
But this is all in the future. How far in the future depends upon us. It is common to hear people say that they believe that someday it will become possible to extend the human life span. This kind of prediction is misleading.
The problems involved in conquering aging have not been solved. They will never be solved unless people decide that they want to conquer aging - that they want to extend their lives. History has shown that man is capable of solving monumental problems once he sets his mind to it. At the turn of the century heavier-than-air flight was believed to be impossible, but the Wright brothers wanted to fly; just a few years ago rocket travel to the moon was looked upon as a fantasy, but scientists such as Werner Von Braun wanted to go to the moon. If we truly want to extend our lives - to maintain youth, vigor, and vitality indefinitely, we must become emotionally involved in the project.
This is just as true today, and it will continue to be true in the years ahead, right up until ongoing Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) and related research mature into a grand scientific community and the first working technologies of rejuvenation. That will happen when enough people want it to happen, and are willing to devote their time and resources to the quest. The gathering of those people is going very well today, but many more are needed, and a road of decades lies ahead.
We know far, far more today about the aging process than the biologists of the 60s; specifically we have a good idea as to what aging is at the cellular and molecular level, and how we can repair it. The tools of biotechnology are many magnitudes more effective; a single laboratory can accomplish far more than the entire research community of four decades past. The initial era of basic discovery in aging biochemistry is done: now is the time to work hard to produce the first rejuvenation therapies and round out the gaps in knowledge.