The Documentary "How to Live Forever"

Biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey is one of the figures appearing in the documentary film "How to Live Forever." It's played straight but isn't a serious piece, as this review notes:

It's a huge subject, vital to every living person in the world - what it means to grow old and how one can cheat or at least postpone mortality. Fortunately, Mark S. Wexler eschews ponderousness in favor of a wry, observant, open-minded approach in his most informative and often quite funny documentary How to Live Forever. ... The film opens May 13 in New York followed by a national expansion May 22.

Still, there you have Aubrey de Grey in theater distribution (again) - and the more folk to hear his message, the better. It's still the case that the vast majority of people are not aware of the state of the art in longevity science, the near term potential for progress towards the repair of aging, and how to help make it all happen. For all the work of advocates over the years, this message remains insufficiently repeated and too quiet.

Another commentary is entitled "A Little More Fear of Death, Please?":

The title is something of a misnomer: with his mother gone, and himself on the downslope of 50, Mark Wexler makes a general study of life-extension experts, self-proclaimed and otherwise. ... Wexler's "wisest" friend, Pico Iyer, tells him that death's finality makes sense of life (for who?), but the director barely addresses the fear of death [and] his grief over the loss of a parent is neither as intense nor as personal as, say, Ross McElwee's in Time Indefinite. ... Wexler settles on the lasting resonance of art as mortality's consolation prize. ... His film, though, is a cutesy binder of folk remedies offering inadequate balm.

A little more fear of death indeed - a sentiment I endorse. What's not to fear about the downward slope of degeneration, increasing frailty, pain, suffering, and the calm madness of a world that accepts all this and does next to nothing about it?

Comments

Next to nothing? A quick Google search shows that the number is clearly in the hundreds of billions, yearly, just in the US and that's just the recorded amount. But I get your point. Probably should be trillions.

Posted by: david at May 16th, 2011 11:54 AM

I have found that the best way to live forever is not to die.
Other than that, I've got nothing.

Posted by: PacRim Jim at May 16th, 2011 11:58 AM

the calm madness of a world that accepts all this and does next to nothing about it?

For all of human history, death has been completely, universally normal. It still is.

That we might perhaps have something to do about it now in no way changes the fact that death has been universally normal for all of human history - those who could not accept that fact, at least up to now, simply went insane.

To think that people should be freaking out about death, when it has always been utterly impossible to avoid, is really rather... um, well, stupid. And that's putting it politely.

Posted by: Deoxy at May 16th, 2011 12:18 PM

@david: next to nothing meaningful, I should say. The "anti-aging" industry that makes up much those billions is a madhouse of lies and self-delusion. See:

https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2006/12/magical-thinking-abounds-in-the-antiaging-marketplace.php

Serious research aimed at slowing down aging through the manipulation of our metabolism is a drop in the bucket in comparison, and will do little for us, as any results better than plain old calorie restriction won't be available until we are old. See:

https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2008/09/the-scientific-debate-that-will-determine-how-long-we-all-live.php

The only meaningful way forward is the development of repair based strategies such SENS, and the funding for that is a drop in the bucket compared to funding for slowing aging:

https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2011/05/sens-foundation-year-end-report-for-2010-now-available.php

Then, the worst of it, really, is that we really could be storing the brains of all those dying people. It's technically possible (and economically feasible at scale), using either cryonics or plastination, to save the vast majority of the dying from true oblivion. So billions are extinguished because an industry never came into being:

https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2009/04/plastinate-everyone.php

Posted by: Reason at May 16th, 2011 12:55 PM

@Deoxy:

>To think that people should be freaking out about death, when it has always been utterly impossible to avoid, is really rather... um, well, stupid. And that's putting it politely.

We do freak out about death as our normal state. According to Terror Management Theory in psychology, we suffer from a chronic traumatic stress disorder caused the knowledge of our mortality:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_management_theory

Posted by: Mark Plus at May 16th, 2011 1:04 PM

@Deoxy:

> To think that people should be freaking out about death, when
> it has always been utterly impossible to avoid, is really
> rather... um, well, stupid. And that's putting it politely.

First: while there may be some grand sense in which we would all be better off as nonattached Buddhas, accepting the inevitable with calm equanimity, we routinely freak out about all kinds of terrible things about which nothing can be done. The fact that e death that is coming immediately from natural disaster rouses the most incredible fear, and desperate action, while the ongoing slide of all of humanity into disease, disability, dementia, and culminating in death due to gradually-accumulating cellular and molecular damage is studiously ignored or cosmically justified.

Second, and more importantly: your statement contains mixed tenses, which is the major problem here. It might well be wise to accept death when it really IS inevitable. But there are many deaths which WERE "impossible to avoid" in the past, but aren't now, and it would be absurd and immoral to discount and accept those deaths when we can do something about them, from malaria in the developing world to diet-induced cardiovascular disease in the developed. Instead, we mount development programs, fund charities, and create public health nutrition education efforts.

And, in the present context, it is equally repugnant and foolish for us to not seize the opportunity today to aggressively fund the research that will prevent needless suffering and death from the biological aging process in the near future, whether our own or our children's.

Posted by: Michael at May 18th, 2011 5:04 AM

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