The more time you spend thinking about aging, longevity science, and a future in which aging can be repaired, the further you move away from the mindset shared by most people in the world. At times it can be a challenge to recall that, yes, you lived in a "pro-aging trance" back in the day, accepting that growing old and dying was just the way of things. It's a part of the very human tendency to see the world as it is, continuing forever: at some level, we're hardwired to reject all prospects for change as being somewhat ridiculous. So we grow up in the world that is, and comparatively few people spend much time looking beyond that to the world that could be.
Anyway, this line of thinking is prompted by an interesting post over at In Search of Enlightenment:
Those who have read some of my academic work, or past entries on this blog, will know I am an advocate of longevity science. I am very interested in hearing the arguments and reactions people have to the aspiration to slow human aging, for I myself shared some of these reservations when I first began thinking about these issues. But over time I realized that many of my initial reactions or concerns to longevity science where either misinformed or focused on concerns that are, in the big picture of things, minor when compared to the enormous benefits of extending healthy life.
So here I want to reflect a bit on some of the issues that arose in our class discussion and debate concerning tackling human aging.
It's a long post. Setting aside the redistributive economic viewpoint, it covers a lot of useful ground in the ongoing discussion about aging and extending the healthy human life span.
From the long term perspective, longevity science is still in the earliest stages of building a foundation of support. The handful of multi-million dollar philanthropic initiatives presently taking place are a few seedlings in the middle of an empty field: the final engineered longevity research community will be - must be - vast by comparison. It will look very much like the cancer research or regenerative medicine communities today.
When talking about progress over decades, the most important part of that progress is not the year in which scientific progress reaches a tipping point - although that helps - but it is the year in which advocacy and education reaches a tipping point. Significant progress occurs when a large number of people want it to occur: up until that point matters tends to move slowly. This means that we should pay more attention to the way we used to think, back in the day. How did we wake from our pro-aging trances? That event has to be repeated many millions of times over the next decade if a large community and effective community of supporters, researchers, and fundraisers is to arise.