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?
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.