The Road to a Cure for Aging Lies Straight Ahead

I am far from the only person out there who sees the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) research programs as the best and most clear path to lengthening healthy human life spans - including our own, by reversing the course of aging should these new medical technologies be developed rapidly enough.

A great deal has changed over the past twenty years when it comes to the prospects for longevity-enhancing therapies. The topic wasn't even discussed openly in the mainstream research community back then, and to talk about extending life was a usually a quick ticket to losing your funding for the study of aging. Those days are gone, thankfully, due to a combination of activism and demonstrations of extended lifespans in a range of laboratory species.

Still, time is ticking, and it remains the case that there is no massive program underway to treat, prevent, and reverse human aging. SENS offers the possibility of rejuvenation biotechnologies arriving twenty years from the point at which it becomes that massive program, but as of today it is only funded with a few million dollars in philanthropic donations each year. That is more than zero, which is where we were ten years ago, but it is a long way from what is needed for best possible speed.

When I was in high school in the 1990s, as I recall, a segment of one of our classes focused on aging and lasted for a few weeks. Our teacher left us with the impression that aging was impossibly mysterious and probably always would be. He seemed to take a somber tone when talking about it. I wish I would have kept thinking about it then. I wish my science teacher, and science teachers around the world, had possessed more scientific and critical-thinking courage to instill more of a drive in us students to take the challenge on, daunting though they were convinced it was in those days.

[Over the past two decades] the reality of what humanity knows about aging and its surrounding issues has been changed through a multitude of scientific insights, from a variety of researchers and organizations around the world. The clearest of the ways forward, leading the charge, is the concept of eradicating the damage that is building up in our bodies and killing us, as outlined and taken on by SENS.

Regardless of which paths we take, one way or another we have to go through, around, over, under, or some other way to obviate the effects of this damage. And yes, we do have to do it. Life is far too mysterious and incredible to coddle the grave and yawn at the future. If there were semi-understandable reasons to excuse away potential paths and hypotheses to defeating aging in the 1990s and before, the first decade of the 21st century has been the herald of a new age in understanding of aging. It has been over a decade now since there was an excuse for teachers to discourage students from thinking about cures for aging. We can't accept procrastination as an answer.



The New York Times today has yet another op/ed piece celebrating death and exhorting us to accept our mortality:

Ashes to Ashes, but First a Nice Pine Box
Building my own coffin was a way to accept death and celebrate life."

I'm not even going to link to it, but it's easy enough to find.

I've been tracking the Times on this issue, and basically every month and more like every couple of weeks the paper has a new piece in its opinion section condemning efforts to extent human longevity and instead extending the good news that death is alright. In fact, the Times' former executive editor Bill Keller recently trashed a terminal cancer patient for writing too much about their physical descent. His view, which is the consensus position at the Times apparently, is that we need to stop resisting death altogether.

Why is the New York Times so pro-death? Whose interest does this serve? I confess it seems more insidious than the typical pro-death trance.

Posted by: Therapsid at February 3rd, 2014 5:34 PM


"I have incurable Stage 4 prostate cancer, which I learned I had at age 54. I’ve been living with it for 11 years, and in that time I’ve tried every conventional treatment and many trial ones."

"And although I did have to give up my surgical practice, the extra time has let me become much closer to my family and friends."

"What we all agree on, though, is that my journey is coming to an end relatively soon. The remaining treatment options are mostly minor modifications of previous failures. My bones are riddled with metastatic disease, and I’m starting to need pain medications."

The author is a sick man who is unfortunately going to pass away soon. If anything one could argue that he recognizes the importance of life by prolonging his suffering for the sake of spending time with his family.

Regardless, the New York Times is a "left-wing" paper that represents a "left-wing" city. Every single pro-death article I have ever read originated from a left-wing news source. Left-wing ideology is rooted in pessimism and selfishness. They are, by their very nature, bitter people who view life through a bitter lens. There is no incentive for them to live longer.

Posted by: Johnathan at February 3rd, 2014 7:17 PM

Re: NYTimes. Once again I'm reminded never to underestimate the stupidity of people. :(

Posted by: Ian at February 3rd, 2014 9:26 PM

Jonathan - The reason I wonder about it is that I originally came from a left-wing background.

Actually, leftists always used life expectancy and infant mortality statistics as evidence in favor of socialist and communist countries.

Most notably, Cuba's dicatorship was pointed to as a Marxist success story for having a relatively high life expectancy and low mortality rate.

So, I naively supposed the left would support efforts to use science to extend human longevity beyond our natural lifespan. No such luck. The radical left is suspicious of biotech and in particular genetic engineering. But radical life extension isn't even on their radar, as far as I can tell.

Having said all that, I don't associate the NY Times with the far-left. The Times and mainstream media outlets are aware of SENS and radical life extension. They're not ignorant or misguided. They are simply militantly opposed to extending human life, period.

Posted by: Therapsid at February 3rd, 2014 9:37 PM

"Left-wing ideology is rooted in pessimism and selfishness. They are, by their very nature, bitter people who view life through a bitter lens. There is no incentive for them to live longer."

I consider myself to be left wing. As far as I am concerned, the term means that you desire some degree of equality within society.
Perhaps you have a different definition?

Anyway, I don't think there are many people, whatever their political persuasion, who are in favour of ill-health. However, there are a lot of people who are jealous of their status and who won't jeopardise their position by making statements or supporting movements which don't already have widespread social acceptance. You can't really be surprised that leaders tend to reflect the conventional wisdom.

If you want the resources of society focused on radical life extension, you have to work out how best to shift the conventional wisdom.

Posted by: Mark at February 3rd, 2014 10:39 PM

In left-wing ideology you achieve "equality" by forcing individuals to sacrifice for the "greater good".

Sacrifice is the key word here and is ultimately the point I'm trying to make:

The majority of pro-death articles are derived from left leaning publications because the people feel they must sacrifice themselves for whatever they perceive as being for the greater good (overpopulation, lack of resources, more important world issues, "extending my life is selfish", etc).

I DO NOT think every left-wing person is in favor of ill health. I'm explaining why I think pro-death articles come from the same sources, like the NYT.

Posted by: Johnathan at February 4th, 2014 10:12 AM

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