Future Tense Conference: Never Say Die

The Future Tense event on engineering human longevity was held today:

This week, Slate, the New American Foundation, and Arizona State University are sponsoring a conference on the future of life extension and its global ramifications: economic, social, and political. ... Will 250 be the new 100 in the foreseeable future? Human life expectancy has made steady gains over the last two centuries, and anti-aging scientists seeking to spare human cells and DNA from the corrosion once deemed inevitable are eager to trigger a radical extension in our life spans. How likely is such a spike? And how desirable is it to live to be a quarter of a millennium? Will life-extending scientific breakthroughs translate into an interminable twilight for many, or will they also postpone aging?

If you were alert and awake, you might have caught the live streaming video, which included a presentation by biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, as well as panel discussions between other scientists in the field of aging research. There is video up at the site for latecomers.

There's a post up at Futurisms that gives a general outline of events for the first half of the conference, though as usual you'll have to filter for the opposing viewpoint - despite the name, Futurisms is really more of a despairing grip upon the safely known and cataloged past than any sort of view ahead. One has to wonder when those folk will tire of playing the sour Canute facing down a rising tide of technological progress. Perhaps just in time for the next generation to take up the refrain, one step further up the ladder: grumbling about change is scarcely a novel activity, nor one I see ending any time soon.

You'll also find an outline at the IEET blog:

Dan Perry, from the Alliance for Aging Research, asks when the political tipping point is coming when the public and policy makers catch up with the growing conviction among biogerontologists that radical life extension therapies are possible. Stephen Johnston makes the Longevity Dividend point: policy makers will wake up and fund anti-aging research when they are convinced it is the solution to health care cost containment. When he argued for a more applied focus for NIH research funding he really got Cynthia Kenyon’s back up. She leaped to defend basic research, and Johnston dismissively noted that that was the typcal NIH response.

As you might gather, everything is politics when the government controls so much of the flow of money through research fields. Amongst other consequences - such as tremendous waste, an open door for ever-increasing regulation of medicine, and much funding of work that has little value - it drives a wedge between real world goals, real world results, and funding outcomes. If it is possible to gain funding to perform work that has little application, then you will see a great deal of work that has little application.

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