Wasted and Sidelined Efforts That Would Be Better Spent on SENS

I note that a Life Extension Conference organized by Christine Peterson of the Foresight Insititute is coming up in a few months. In general I see this as a prime example of the disappointing direction sometimes taken by people who are nonetheless very much supporters of the best long term visions for engineered longevity. They step off the train and start focusing on what's right in front of our nose today, things that are shiny but generally useless - the syndrome of looking under the lamp-post for the lost keys because that's where the light is. So this conference is very much an "anti-aging" event, only a single step removed from those held by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).

If we want to continue developing and guiding nanotech and other advanced technologies in the decades to come, we need to apply our high-tech knowledge and judgment to keeping our own bodies and brains functioning optimally. Should we be eating and exercising differently, taking supplements, getting our DNA read and telomeres measured, using sleep-monitoring or stress-reduction devices? These are challenging questions with new information arriving continually - let's pool our efforts to come up with good answers.

The trouble with this sort of statement is that there's already one good answer with a massive weight of science behind it. That answer is that you should be practicing calorie restriction and exercising moderately on a daily basis, and everything else that people are trying to sell you as a way to meaningfully extend health and life now is a waste of time and money. No technology or technique that is presently available or in any danger of becoming presently available within the next decade can even begin to approach the demonstrated benefits of calorie restriction and regular exercise for a basically healthy individual of any age. The only practical way to do far better than this is to support and help speed research and development of the SENS program for rejuvenation biotechnology - or related repair-based technologies aimed at reversing the causes of aging. The future isn't here yet when it comes to engineered longevity, and if we want that future to happen then we have to help make it happen.

Making it happen means accepting that there are no silver bullets now and that we'll have to work hard to create those silver bullets in time to be used by our older, future selves. But that truth doesn't sell products and services here and now, so you're not likely to hear it said by too many of those involved in a conference whose purpose is to sell you on presently available products and services.

Should I be appreciative that someone is making a serious effort to produce conferences attractive to the "anti-aging" industry that are one step up from the garbage that populates A4M and similar conferences? Possibly. But as I've said a number of times in the past, if gaining the attention of the anti-aging industry actually worked as a method to advance the cause of real rejuvenation biotechnology, such as SENS, then it would have worked already - and long ago, given that the Life Extension Foundation, A4M, and others have been hoeing that row for longer than many of us have been alive. But it doesn't work: the billions of dollars that flow through the "anti-aging" marketplace do not lead to any meaningful level of support, understanding, education, or funding for real longevity science - beyond the funding for research offered by the LEF, all you'll hear is crickets. Interactions with that industry are a dead end until that fact changes.


Couldn't agree more. It's funny, the whole tenor of modern life reflects a desperate desire to stay young and healthy, and a complete rejection of aging and death...until one actually suggests some direct efforts to eliminate aging or death. Then, suddenly, the aging that someone just spent thousands of dollars to botox away becomes the indispensable "natural course of events". Denial of aging already fuels an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars...yet people treat you as toxic waste if you suggest actually solving the problem.

Posted by: Will Nelson at January 17th, 2012 9:47 AM

The following sobering fact is worth recalling:

In comparing calorie restricted Rhesus monkey with controls, the 2009 Weindruch study published in Science found no statistically significant difference in the TOTAL number of deaths -- despite the practice of calorie restriction in these primates for ~20 years.

It was only after the deaths were broken into subcategories that the authors were able to claim a death reduction.

Given these published results in primates to date, I hope you can understand why this reader is unwilling to put all his eggs in the calorie restriction basket. I imagine Christine and her conference attendees are also interested in spreading those eggs around -- for many of the same reasons.

Posted by: Louis at January 24th, 2012 4:13 PM
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