There are three parallel tracks along which the future development of longevity science must progress, and we'll reach the end goal only as rapidly as the slowest of the three tracks moves.
1) Science and Biotechnology
The most obvious of the tracks is that the technologies of rejuvenation must be developed. We can see what the form that these technologies must take: damage repaired, waning cell populations renewed, waste byproducts broken down and removed, cancer thwarted. Initiatives like SENS can describe the needed procedures in great detail, at the level of cells and molecular machinery, as we truly are within a tantalizingly close reach of their creation.
But the biotechnologies of rejuvenation don't yet exist, and the many technology demonstrations of long-lived mice, flies, and worms in laboratories around the world are nothing but a warm-up for the main event. Even the amazing pace of progress in stem cell medicine and cancer research these days is just a toe across the starting line when it comes to true rejuvenation. A great deal of work lies ahead, for all that it is very clear just what that work must be.
We are truly fortunate in comparison to the previous generation of activists and scientists in being able to state the nature of a cure for aging. We can see exactly what it is that we need to accomplish - and so our job should be that much easier than theirs in many ways.
2) Clinical Development
Taking the output of the scientific method and turning it into reliable, affordable, widely available technology is no less a challenge than scientific progress. It is fraught with risk, and the stakes are much higher: the cost of developing new science is small in comparison to the costs of building an industry. Moving from one technology demonstration and a few patients to a technology used by hundreds of thousands of patients around the world is a massive undertaken in risk, development, innovation, and cutthroat competition.
Today, we see the impersonal engines of bureaucracy engaged in crushing this track to the future of longevity science. Practical medicine lags far behind practical science, and the costs of pushing through each new development program increase every year - thanks to organizations like the FDA, whose appointees have no incentive to do anything other than make it ever harder to bring new biotechnologies to the marketplace. In the case of longevity science, matters are yet worse than in other fields, as the FDA outright forbids commercial development of therapies for aging.
That the track of development and clinical translation of research is lagging so badly is what prompted me to the vision of the Vegas Group. That in turn led to the recent launch of Open Cures - an initiative to help speed commercial development of longevity science. There are plausible, cost-effective ways in which matters can be put right, making use of the existing institutions of medical tourism, overseas research and development, the internet, and the growing community of garage biotech and open biotech developers.
People strongly enough in favor of engineered human longevity to get up and do something about it, who have a fair layman's or better grasp of the science, and thus know enough to support research like SENS rather than fall for any of the nonsense put out by the "anti-aging" industry, probably number a few thousand. There are probably tens of thousands more of a similar mindset, but not are motivated enough to contribute materially beyond conversation and hope.
You can change the world with ten thousand people who think the same way as you do, that much is true, but it will be hard and it will take a long, long time. In the end, you'll only succeed by convincing hundreds of thousands more to contribute their support. It does't require all the world to agree with you. Half a percentage point of the world's population is hundreds of millions of people. Markets with hundreds of millions of customers are worth billions of dollars, even though they gain only a tiny, tiny fraction of the attention and expenditure of those people - and billions of dollars would be more than enough to fund the first emergence of true rejuvenation biotechnology.
The form of the track that lies ahead for advocacy is well known: at the highest level, all grand campaigns of persuasion are the same, and there are many successful examples to choose from in the field of patient advocacy. But it is a long way from where we are, a core group of thousands, to where we want to be - a core group of millions. Much remains to be accomplished.