The Wellcome Trust is a biomedical research foundation of some size and influence. A fellow from their publicity group recently pointed me to a short film published by their house magazine, Mosaic. To my eyes the noteworthy item here is not the film in and of itself, nor the fact that the Trust has aging and longevity on its agenda, but rather that this organization, which is far and away large enough to be very sober and conservative, is comfortable publishing serious discussions of radical life extension and the prospects for unlimited life spans achieved through future advances in medical science.
If you're interested in reading the tea leaves, you might take a look at the Wellcome Trust's strategic plan for 2010-2020. About a quarter of their grants, around $250 million each year, go towards research into aging and the diseases of aging:
This challenge encompasses a broad spectrum of research to understand the cellular and physiological processes underlying normal development and ageing, and the mechanisms that underpin the onset of non-communicable diseases. Looking ahead, we will continue to work with the research community to stimulate research applications in this challenge area. We will hold a Frontiers Meeting to examine the topic of healthy ageing, and we will also examine the topic of disease prevention as a potential future area of focus. We will take forward discussions to examine the potential to use human induced pluripotent stem cells for large-scale studies on how genomic variation affects cellular phenotype and disease mechanisms.
Funded work is all very mainstream, and the Trust appears to follow the safe philanthropic playbook of reinforcing successful, established fields that already have a great deal of attention and support. Here that includes regenerative medicine and investigations into the genetics of aging. That makes the film below somewhat more interesting in the context of this organization's recent history and stated goals. One might hope that it is a sign that the veneer of conservatism in large funding institutions is cracking a little in the face of what might be achieved in the near future if only the right research programs are funded.
Do you want to live to 100? 1,000? What about for ever? Meet a man seeking immortality, leading age-research scientists, the very young and the very old as they grapple with deciding what is the right age to die in Until, a journey of the lifetime.
The human lifespan is increasing by five hours a day - every day. But how much life is enough? What if society reached a point where individuals could essentially choose how long they lived? At what age would people decide to call it a day, meet their maker and embrace death? And, for those reaching towards immortality, what would they do with their infinite time?
These are the profound questions explored in Until. Part science, part philosophy, this film invites us all to ask just one question: would I want to live for ever?