The name of the Immortality Institute is a bold statement - part and parcel of a strategy of shifting the debate about longevity science by planting a flag as far out as possible. It is one and the same with talking about the 1000 or so years an ageless person could expect to live under reasonable assumptions of accident-based mortality rates, or arguing the plausible science behind the complete elimination of aging through ongoing repair strategies. If there is no effort made to plant flags far out in the field and shift the debate, then all that is left are the cautious, institution-bound people whose idea of ambition is to talk about extending life expectancy by seven years - at some fuzzy future date - through working to gently slow down aging.
I, personally, am very much on the side of bold statements and bounds shifting. We won't get more than one chance to build an entirely new research community and see the results it produces in our lifetimes. This is the work of decades. If we don't try to shoot for the moon, then we may as well resign ourselves to those seven extra years and little more, because no-one will be trying to do any better.
But on the other side of the table are those folk who argue that stepping far beyond the present debate in an attempt to shift the playing field will inevitably alienate many people who would otherwise have contributed in some way. That way of looking at things asks whether you'd prefer many people working towards modest goals or a few people working towards ambitious goals.
Over at the Immortality Institute, the members are once again debating the name, this time looking for a compromise position between a name change or no name change. It's one facet of the broader discussion over strategies for advocacy and progress:
ImmInst has always struggled with its name. For some it is a bold, visionary missions statement that sets it apart from the tame mainstream, for others it is a real barrier to engagement and to be taken seriously. Last year, we were on the verge of changing the name in a referendum, but the motion was defeated in the end. We promised those who were disappointed by the outcome that we would revisit the issue this year.
I don’t want to rehearse the same arguments and rerun the same votes - there is a real risk that this would sap all attention and energy from other activities. Instead, the proposal is to acknowledge that each side has a point, that it would be useful if we could use one or the other framework as suitable. So the suggestion is: ImmInst continues to exist and to operate publicly as Immortality institute, but it ALSO trades under other names. This ‘new’ face could be one of the names that people have been using (if those behind those initiatives agree to a merger), or a new name entirely.
The way this could work is that different sub forums have a different banner heading, not the ImmInst banner, certain content pages could have a different heading etc. This is to canvass opinions for a week or so. We are aiming for a final conclusion after the SENS conference.
Head on over and have your say.