On Life Span and Legacies

As a general rule, human organizations and human initiatives are not very long-lived. Those that make it out of the nascent stage in which 90% fail or are abandoned don't tend to last much longer than five to ten years. They either calcify and are superseded by new, more relevant ventures, or change so radically as to be effectively a different organization. Those human organizations that have lasted for decades in a fairly consistent form - many of which are familiar to all of us, I'm sure - are outliers, and very unusual.

This line of thinking applies just as much to advocacy as any other form of endeavor. You should expect that the organizations you support today - and that did not exist five years ago - will not exist five years from now. They will use your donations to important accomplish goals, help move matters forward, and create a legacy - and will then be replaced by the next generation, who will pick up that legacy and continue to work on progress. So, I think, it behooves any organization that has made it to the five year or ten year mark to consider its legacy. Better to think that through and be working to a plan while yet strong and well supported.

Legacies in advocacy for medical research in general, and longevity science in particular, tend to be a matter of information and people. Research produces life science data that moves us closer to the goal of a cure for aging. Educational materials translate the raw science and explain it to laypeople. The act of advocacy grows the research community, persuades supporters, and cultures alumni, all of whom will long outlast the organization that first nurtured their views. These folk are the seeds and supporters of the next generation of advocacy groups.

I've been poking away at the metaphorical keyboard of longevity science advocacy for near a decade now. Where did the time go? I'm just about old enough to instinctively think of 2010 as the mysterious science-fiction future ... and yet here we are, time-travelers, the lot of us. I have no plans to stop what I'm doing here at any time in the foreseeable future, but as I point out above, there are many good reasons to sort out your legacy while you're ahead of the game.

What is the legacy of Fight Aging! and the Longevity Meme? That is a good question. We might think of the history of folk persuaded or inspired by what they read here, some of the most generous of whom will forever remain mysterious. But that is all happened and done; I need to do little but give credit where it is due, to the many people who chose to donate, volunteer, or start their own initiatives in support of longevity science. So let us turn to the other side of the coin, the data. One thing I'm still missing is a good distillation of the Fight Aging! message. Something along the lines of:

Here is all that researchers know about aging. See how it all fits together and makes sense? Now here is a practical scientific plan to stop aging in its tracks, and a few useful suggestions for long term health while we're at it. Here is how you can best help the plan to stop aging, which we could complete in our lifetimes if we all take this seriously. What are you waiting for? People are dying, more from this one cause than all others combined.

If you've been reading for a while, you'll know the score. But I think that this message needs to be better framed and centralized. That is a good legacy, because this message can never be said often enough, well enough, or in too many different ways.


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