The Slowly Spreading Realization that Aging Can Be Defeated

At some point in the next ten to twenty years the public at large, consisting of people who pay little attention to the ins and outs of progress in medicine, will start to wake up to realize that much longer healthy lives have become a possibility for the near future. The preliminaries to this grand awakening have been underway for a while, gradually, and will continue that way for a while longer. A few people every day in ordinary walks of life notice that, hey, a lot of scientists are talking about greatly extending human life spans these days, and, oh look, large sums of money are floating around to back this aim. There will be a slow dawning of realization, one floating light bulb at a time, as the concept of radical life extension is shifted in another brain from the "science fiction" bucket to the "science fact" bucket.

Some folk will then go back to what they were doing. Others will catch the fever and become advocates. A tiny few will donate funds in support of research or pressure politicians to do the same. Since we live in an age of pervasive communication, we see this process as it occurs. Many people are all to happy to share their realizations on a regular basis, and in this brave new world everyone can be a publisher in their own right.

Here is an example that I stumbled over today; a fellow with a day to day focus in a completely unrelated industry took notice and thought enough of what is going on in aging research to talk about it. He is still skeptical, but not to the point of dismissing the current state and prospects for longevity science out of hand: he can see that this is actionable, important knowledge.

What if de Grey and Kurzweil are half right?

I think these guys - and the whole movement to conquer aging - is fascinating. I am highly skeptical of the claims, however. Optimism is all well and good, and I have no off-hand holes to poke in their (very) well-articulated arguments. But at the same time, biology is fiendishly complex, the expectations beyond fantastical.

Still though, I have to wonder: What if guys like de Grey and Kurzweil are half right, or even just partially right? What if, 30 years from now, it becomes physically impossible to tell a 30-year-old from a 70-year-old by physical appearance alone? It sounds nutty. But it's a lot less nuttier, and a lot closer to the realm of possibility, than living to 1,000 - which, again, some very smart people have taken into their heads as an achievable thing.

People who don't take care of themselves are insane. Ok, not actually "insane." But seriously, given the potential rewards AND the risks, not taking care of your body and mind - not treating both with the utmost respect and care - seems absolutely nuts. At the poker table I see these young kids whose bodies are already turning to mush, and a part of me just wants to grab them by the shirt collar and say "Dudes! What the hell is WRONG with you!!!"

If it is possible - just realistically possible, mind you - that I could still be kicking ass and taking names at 125 years old, then I want to be working as hard as I can to preserve and maintain my equipment here and now. No matter what miracles medical science will achieve in future, working from the strongest, healthiest base possible will always improve the potential results, perhaps by an order of magnitude. Individuals who go into old age with fit, healthy bodies and sound minds, and longstanding habits to maintain both, may find potential for extended performance at truly high quality of life that was never before imaginable.

As the foundations of rejuvenation biotechnology are assembled and institutions like the SENS Research Foundation continue to win allies in the research community and beyond, the number of people experiencing this sort of epiphany will grow. The more the better and the sooner the better, as widespread support for the cause of defeating aging through medical science is necessary for more rapid progress: large scale funding always arrives late to the game, attracted by popular sentiment. The faster we get to that point the greater our chances of living to benefit from the first working rejuvenation treatments.


Along the same lines of going mainstream, I wonder what is going on with Google's Calico? We have not heard anything from them for months. I was really hoping they would shake things up. I am proud to be living in the bay area where we have alot of movers and shakers and having Calico here is the icing on the cake. But so far, nothing from them (:

Posted by: Robert Church at May 15th, 2014 5:59 PM

I still think it is going to be the demonstration of lifespan extension in a mouse model, with a technology applicable to humans that kicks this into higher gear.

Posted by: Jim at May 15th, 2014 10:22 PM

I think it's going to be success in a few applicable areas in humans rather than mice and I don't think it's going to be one cathartic event.

If you can visually see an aspect of someone's aging reversed then it stands to reason that other areas can also be reversed and most people will be able to make that link in their mind.

I could be wrong.

Posted by: Michael at May 16th, 2014 6:15 AM

Since it will be possible to slow and stop the aging process in the near future, any attempt to slow or stop this, is unethical and should be treated as such. Think about it! Remember, ethics function to maintain the status quo.

Posted by: Alfred Schickentanz at May 18th, 2014 7:47 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. 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.