On Changing the Name of the Longevity Meme

Across the near-decade of running the Longevity Meme as a resource for folk interested in healthy life extension and the science of engineering greater human longevity, a great many people have suggested that I change the name. A good name for any sort of non-profit, service-oriented, or advocacy initiative is distinctive, unambiguous, and points directly towards the initiative's goals and associations. By those standards, "Fight Aging!" is a good name. "The Longevity Meme," not so good.

The main problem with the name, as I am continually reminded, is that 95% of the populace are unfamiliar with the word "meme."

longevity: a long duration of individual life; length of life; long continuance

meme: an idea, viewpoint, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture; an information pattern, held in an individual's memory, which is capable of being copied to another individual's memory

the longevity meme: the collection of ideas, viewpoints and behaviors that will enable people to lead long, healthy and extended lives

Which is all fine and well as definitions go, but if your business is a mix of information provision and persuasion then it's probably not a good thing that you have to explain the meaning of your name to everyone.

The flip side of this coin is that a meaningless name can be given meaning in the course of doing business. What does "Yahoo!" mean, or better yet, "Google?" These companies define the meaning of their own name insofar as it relates to their operations and initiatives. The Longevity Meme is a tiny minnow in the great sea of websites, but it has been around for nearly a decade. The community of readers and newsletter subscribers know what they're signed up for by now.

This stage of advocacy for engineered longevity is really all about growth, however. The present cluster of young research-funding organizations - such as the Methuselah Foundation and SENS Foundation - have come as far as they can with the resources of the initial community of supporters. Those people who were already 110% for longevity science, or were easy to reach and persuade, are now on board and giving what they are prepared to give. In order to reach the next stage in organization growth, the supporting community must grow.

Advocacy for longevity research is a balancing act informed by ongoing developments in raising funds, actual progress in the fields of interest, and the growth of the community of supporters. In an ideal world, these three factors will all advance steadily: an upward curve of success. In practice things are never that easy. A supportive community of a given size will only contribute so much in the way of resources: are those resources assigned to research, which tends to produce newsworthy results at irregular intervals in addition to actual progress, or to outreach and education? What will best grow the community so as to grow the resource pool of donations, and in turn help to achieve research goals more rapidly

Which means that the people who already know what the Longevity Meme is all about are not the people who matter when it comes to making choices about the name. It's all about outreach, and making that outreach easier.

None of which is to say that I have a new name in mind, a timeline for making this change, or that I am expecting any great bolt of inspiration to strike from the blue. But there are plenty of options regardless. I could, for example, roll the Longevity Meme into the Fight Aging! brand as "Fight Aging! News." Or keep "Longevity" - for search engine optimization and continuity reasons - and find some new longevity-related title that captures the meaning of the old but is more straightforward.

Suggestions are welcome.


Personally I never look at LM, just this one. This one is great, and are there so many daily developments that two are needed? Especially with your sidebars, there's more here than a typical person can digest in a day already.

Posted by: Will Nelson at September 23rd, 2010 4:31 PM

Keep the word 'longevity" and if you decide to change the title let it be "longevity for humans"

Anyone who can read can look up the word "meme" in the dictionary, but it's better if one can read without a dictionary or other reference books.

Posted by: nikki at September 23rd, 2010 4:35 PM

May I suggest 'Fight Aging'? As you said it's a good name, and most of the content is the same. The Longevity Meme is really the Fight Aging newsletter.

Posted by: Ben at September 23rd, 2010 7:07 PM

You used the term "engineered longevity" in your post, why not that?

Posted by: Hervé Musseau at September 24th, 2010 2:01 AM

I might consider merging LM and FightAging.. into FightAging... it's action oriented and is exactly what is in people's minds as they face the deterioration of their own or others biological integrity.

Posted by: Kevin Perrott at September 24th, 2010 1:09 PM

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