Dear Wealthy Individual, I Have This Great Idea Regarding How to Spend Your Money in a Better Way Than You Seem to Be Managing To Date

Why undertake advocacy aimed at persuading wealthy individuals to support your cause? Well, for one, that's where most of the money is. There is the thought that if you have to go to a certain amount of work to persuade a given individual, then why not aim to persuade the individuals who can afford give more as supporters? Why spend a hundred times the effort to persuade a hundred people if you can obtain a thousand times more in the way of resources and publicity by persuading one?

A Letter to Sergey Brin

Dear Mr. Brin,

I've heard you are interested in the topics of aging and longevity. This is very cool, because fighting for radical life extension is the wisest and most humanitarian strategy. I would like to tell you what needs to be done, but, unfortunately, I haven't got your email address, or any other way to be heard. 100,000 people die from aging-related causes every day, but what makes the situation even worse is that the scientists know how to tackle this problem, but don't have clue how to convey their message to those people, who could change the situation and make the creation of human life extension technologies possible. Therefore, I am simply writing in my blog, hoping, that maybe somehow you will read this letter, or that maybe my friends will give me some advice on how it could be delivered to you, or that maybe someone would send it to you.

I think there's a little broken logic in there somewhere, however. Convincing a millionaire to meaningfully support a cause is a long way distant from talking to the average fellow in the street. Moving up another few levels of wealth, convincing a billionaire is more like holding a significant business negotiation with a company: people who have risen to that level are no longer really sovereign individuals with a bank account, but more akin to tribal leaders, with obligations, councils of advisors, processes to follow, and fiefdoms to defend. Even gaining a moment of attention is a tremendous effort.

From a psychological point of view, there is also the hurdle alluded to in the title of this post. No-one really likes to be told to their face that they need to sort themselves out and devote funds to a specific cause. It creates an instinctively defensive reaction. Further, no wealthy person is without a full slate of obligations, long-term plans, and petitioners already. They have put a great deal of thought and energy into maintaining the processes of their wealth. Why listen to random talking heads who haven't the faintest idea of what it is to take on that work and that responsibility, and why bother to pick out talking head A from talking head B when the likelihood is that they're all full of it? To be wealthy is to have innumerable would-be parasites attracted by the possibility of nibbling away at the edges, and picking out the legitimate causes and honest individuals from the masses is a real challenge. Wealth is a cloud that blinds you in many ways.

This is why I think that while it is certainly tempting to adopt a strategy that consists entirely of persuading high net worth individuals, it's actually far better in the long run to carry though the hard work of persuading as many people as possible, regardless of their wealth and ability to materially support the cause. There is a method to this: what best persuades wealthy individuals and the leaders of funds and companies is (a) social proof and (b) plain old success. The way to open the door to be considered seriously by people who conservatively manage large amounts of money is to already have widespread support: be talked about, have thousands of supporters, have raised millions from the community, have books and films published on the cause, and so on.

Wealth and the wealthy really only follow success on the large scale. They arrive at the point at which they would have been really helpful a few years back, turning up after the long and painful bootstrapping has been accomplished. It is the rare individual, such as Peter Thiel, who makes a serious effort to buck this trend and create greater progress by taking greater risks, by being less conservative, by not following the herd.

I think that knowledge of and support for radical life extension are on the curve that leads to widespread adoption. It's still very early, though: we haven't even really reached the 10% tipping point at which persuasion becomes an avalanche heading into the cultural mainstream. These are the years in which we keep plugging away at persuasion, fundraising, and education - in the knowledge that we are many millions of dollars further ahead of the game, with far more of the most important rejuvenation research underway, albeit on a small scale, than was the case a decade ago. Keep up the work and ten years from now we'll be even further ahead.


It seems to me, that if the longevity community is trying to get the Google boys to invest into the SENS environment, AND, since Ray Kurzweil is very strong on longevity plus he works to Google, it would only makes sense to also persuade him to work with the founders.

I understand trying to get as many famous and rich people into this movement is the goal and getting someone who is well known (plus have a gazillion Franklins)would add fuel to the fire.

Robert C.

Posted by: Robert Church at August 14th, 2013 5:26 PM

I think the real short term issue is more a question as to why the super rich have not joined in on single effort to eliminate aging. I am sure that a of them have a desire not to die. Is that enough ? It would seem that it isn't. So what's missing ?
Clearly the opportunity isn't resonating very well. There is minimal history of collaboration on large projects that do not directly involve a significant benefit to the individual vs the group. The message must have been sending a message that was missing the point visa vi the ability to get the super rich to act as a collective vs as an individual . We see many fantastic examples of the singular person investing in medical charities, yet there remains only minimal examples of group behavior in that select group. Why ? . The problem is not the ability or desire to fund such mega projects but rather on of the psychological interpretation of the problem by the target market.
It's spike to see why the uber rich give to the arts and to singular medical ventures, as they will achieve virtual immortality, which clearly has huge personal value to them. So, how do we make that a collective behavior?
Clearly there are financial opportunities that dwarf all others when you look at the upside of immortality yet it is never mentioned in literature. I find it hard to believe that the flood gates of funds would not open if the opportunity was presented properly for the target audience.
The message must resonate with the rich not the poor or poor ish

Posted by: Tim davies at August 14th, 2013 5:52 PM

It's obvious. Most rich people are still herd-thinkers.

There's no other explanation. Life extension isn't a new concept. Any educated person should have come across Aubrey and SENS by now.

Let's exclude very old super-rich people. That still leaves us with many very affluent people in their 40's and 50's or even younger who aren't giving to anti-aging research.

Posted by: Therapsid at August 15th, 2013 12:32 AM

As to the suitability of petitioning Mr Brin, I suspect Ray is keeping him up to date on the subject. The trouble with billionaires is they like to be ahead of the curve (or they wouldn't be billionaires) and blabbing your investment plans to the world doesn't help your positioning on that curve (and encourages speculators which wouldn't help the industry). I suspect, and I'm just spit-balling here, that there are already high net worth individuals investing in longevity R&D more than we realise via pseudonyms and shell companies. Of course those of us at the lower end of the economic ladder should still ring the bell as loud as we can.

(BTW, has anyone else noticed that Aubrey doesn't have any wrinkles? I figure he's already onto something and he uses that Father Time beard as a smoke screen)

Posted by: Wayne at August 15th, 2013 3:00 AM

"Any educated person should have come across Aubrey and SENS by now."

Almost none of the educated people I have talked to ever heard of SENS or Aubrey (in Europe).

Posted by: Nicolai at August 15th, 2013 3:23 PM

There are probably a lot of those rich people from silicon valley who know about SENS. Not because advocating begins to spread that much, but because Peter Thiel is one of the early supporters. And he knows a lot of them.
After all, he founded PayPal, so his Paypal fellows like Elon Musk must know about this; he is also one of the very early investors in Facebook, so people like Mark Zuckerberg must also know about this.

All of those meet all the time, so probably they know. And sadly, they probably just decided to not doing anything. Because they do not believe it is possible or do not believe their money will make any difference.

When they give money to charity, usually they do not do it for the sake of the cause, but for public relations reasons. And, sadly, war against aging is perceived as selfish, contrary to, for example, war against hunger...

Posted by: johann at August 17th, 2013 3:17 AM

The way to convince masses that aging can be defeated is through cultural influence, which could be accomplished through a single Hollywood-produced documentary that would shock people into realization that they might be the last people to die because they never invested in aging research. Notice the impact of Al Gore's documentary on climate change, everyone knows about it now.

Posted by: Heartland at August 17th, 2013 4:12 AM

Most rich people are too old to really believe that anti-aging therapies could be available for them in their lifetimes. When I talk to intelligent people about the prospect of negligible senescence, many of them say it seems possible, maybe in the 100 to 200 years. In other words, they don't think it will come in time for them to save themselves or their kids. Some of them seem to think that the "Singularity" or whatever will make human scientific endeavor pointless for these kinds of long time horizons.

The rare supporters of anti-aging among the very rich (like Peter Thiel) are both relatively young and relatively unconcerned about seeming "weird" for supporting a technological moonshot like anti-aging.

Posted by: Kevin at August 17th, 2013 8:07 PM

Forget about the generic, know-nothing, wealthy person—what's really bizarre is that even very wealthy, well-known, hardcore life extensionists and immortalists that know about SENS in some detail don't donate much to SENS research.

Posted by: Florin Clapa at May 13th, 2016 1:00 AM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.