Towards Eternal Youth For All

The progression of degenerative aging is presently the greatest cause of pain and suffering in the world, so why are we not all greatly in favor of working towards medical technologies capable of preventing the detrimental results of aging? Beyond removing frailty and disease, a side-effect of therapies capable of halting all age-related dysfunction through the repair of accumulated damage to cells and tissues is we'll all live very much longer in good health and youthful vigor.

The yearning for eternal life and youth has been a preoccupation of humans for millennia. Yet quite a few people remain unconvinced that cheating death is a good idea. For every promising advance in cancer treatment or hip replacement, a chorus chimes in with a warning about being careful what we wish for: Sure, we're curing diseases and easing pain, but perhaps the cost - in health and in dollars - is too high. This approach isn't just wrong; it's almost criminally obtuse. These objections conflate the physical process of aging with the mere passage of years. Our quest must be - as it has been for all of recorded history - not merely to live a long time, but to slow and stop the process of aging. Eternal youth, not just long life.

The current medical paradigm is to go after each individual disease as it emerges in a perpetual game of therapeutic whac-a-mole. The result is that individuals begin to accumulate infirmities. About 50 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are being treated for five different chronic conditions. This is ultimately a losing proposition, because aging bodies accrue more and more lethal and disabling conditions that compete to kill them. Patients routinely survive health crises that would have done them in even a generation earlier, but to what end? If an older patient doesn't die of a heart attack, prostate cancer could do him in. If a stroke doesn't get her, the Alzheimer's will. Ultimately, more than 25 percent of Medicare spending goes toward the 5 percent of beneficiaries who die each year.

There is a better way. We must look beyond individual pathologies to their root, aging itself. If anti-aging treatments can maintain people in the state of health of the average 30-year-old, the onset of chronic illnesses will be forestalled and health care and pension expenditures will be much lower. And it increasingly looks like we may actually be able to slow or even stop the aging process, to the tremendous benefit of humanity.

If bodies can be kept young, they will be less vulnerable to diseases at any chronological age. If 55 really were physiologically the new 45, the incidence of cardiovascular disease would go down by about 50 percent and the prevalence of cancer would be cut by nearly 80 percent. Bodies age in much the same way that automobiles do. In the course of roaming around the world, they accumulate damage, which, if not repaired, leads to a breakdown. Unlike automobiles, human bodies do have some capacity for fending off hurts and for self-repair, but those mechanisms eventually wear out. Fortunately, researchers are making considerable progress in figuring out credible ways to repair the damage and thus slow down the aging process.

Link: http://reason.com/archives/2015/02/06/eternal-youth-for-all/print

Comments

Is it just me, or does the economic right seem a lot more openly receptive to this technology than the economic left? The left makes arguments about poverty, inequality, nature, suggestions that it'd only be available to a few... and meanwhile, Reason goes "Make it available to everyone, now".

I'd always thought not being inevitably killed was somewhat more apolitical.

Posted by: Slicer at February 11th, 2015 10:14 AM

@Slicer

"Is it just me, or does the economic right seem a lot more openly receptive to this technology than the economic left?"

Yes!

Posted by: johnathan at February 11th, 2015 12:39 PM

@Slicer

*Not "Yes!" it's just you, but that I agree.

Posted by: johnathan at February 11th, 2015 12:40 PM

That mostly seems true, but I'd say that the theoretical commitments of the supposed political left (which I take to be something like a Rawlsian attitude of greatest good for the worst-off members of society, even if it means impinging on economic or property rights of individuals or corporations to some degree) to be consistent with the goals of SENS and similar groups. Because obviously those with chronic, degenerative, debilitating, terminal illnesses are among the worst-off members of any society, especially late-stage sufferers. And aging I think can rightly be characterized as such a condition, with the caveat that everyone has had it since birth and it is in a sense one of the so-called normal biological operations for members of our species (but not for every species, which I think matters for appropriate application of a word like 'illness' or something similar for aging). So yeah, I guess all I'm saying is that the left, if they were fully conscious of their apparent theoretical commitments and were rational and self-consistent, would have no problem with SENS. Also, more general reflection on utilitarian principles (distinct from Rawls' approach to social justice), which might be considered more left-y, ought to yield the view that we should invest in the projects that will yield the greatest decrease in suffering for the fewest number of dollars. And ostensibly that is just what SENS is.

Posted by: gheme at February 11th, 2015 3:03 PM

Also, fuck Bill Gates.

Posted by: gheme at February 11th, 2015 3:06 PM

@gheme

Fair point. When the reasoning is laid out most people have no choice but to agree.

One caveat: "which I take to be something like a Rawlsian attitude of greatest good for the worst-off members of society, even if it means impinging on economic or property rights of individuals or corporations to some degree".

In the context of the U.S., SENS, health, and tech in general, from a long-term viewpoint, the worst-off members of society (on a global level) will end up even worse-off (decrease in theoretical advancements) under left leaning economic policies. Private wealth and investment is of substantial importance for advancements in tech.

Posted by: johnathan at February 11th, 2015 4:57 PM

@johnathen "Private wealth and investment is of substantial importance for advancements in tech."

Yes, it is. But so is public investment on less-than-profitable basic research, like basic aging research. (Which, unfortunately, some members of the economic right try to cut along with the rest of the NIH budget) In order to attack aging we need both the private and public sectors firing on all cylinders and throwing as much money, time, and talent at the problem, or we could fail. People should not let their personal politics (left, right, libertarian, etc) get in the way of the cause.

Posted by: jen at February 11th, 2015 6:25 PM

@ Slicer

It's just you hopefully, as you're way, way off the mark. The correct answer is actually the opposite. At present, the right has fundamentally opposed stem cell research, attempted to destroy the dike separating church from state and has supported a military/industrial monstrosity that is the single biggest threat to the planet's future by both creating new foes with which to keep the ordnance inventory in constant need for repleneshing and by its continual insults to the environment which circumscribes us.

The Russians on the other hand, have created the groundwork for a cottage industry of AI and anti-aging research which has already produced pioneers like Dmitry Itskov and others. It has also outlowed GMOs and its 87% of its population is fed with the produce from small organic farms. Oh, and they have not desecrated the earth by bombarding it with mmillions and millions of bombs since WWII. Wake up. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/08/a-database-of-every-bomb-the-us-military-has-dropped-since-wwi/260640/

Posted by: manorborn at February 17th, 2015 12:30 PM

"It has also outlowed GMOs"
"desecrated the earth"

You're on the wrong website.

Also, you don't know the difference between the economic right wing and the social right wing.

Posted by: Slicer at February 17th, 2015 8:29 PM

@ Slicer
Apparently, you don't. There's an enormous difference between "Libertarian," which hopefully you probably meant, and "right wing" – a term fraught with historically unsavory connections to fascism to those of us who have references from having seen the world. In any case, you wouldn't want the future of AI and life extension to fall into the hands of the "right wing." Trust me.

Posted by: manorborn at February 18th, 2015 3:53 PM

This is a US-centric place. The economic right is the Libertarians and the social right is religious. And save your "references from having seen the world" crap for someone who might be dumb enough to believe you.

And if you really believe that the vast majority of the Russian longevity scene is anything other than snake oil and people that have no idea what they're doing (i.e. inserting stem cells that form bone inside brains), I have unfortunate news for you.

Posted by: Slicer at February 19th, 2015 3:02 PM

By the way, are you really, seriously crying about GMOs when discussing a field where many of the major actors believe that to avoid being inevitably killed, you have to get yourself bioengineered?

We can trace certain human problems directly to genetic issues, and you're really going to go "Oh noes, those horrible genetically modified organisms!" while a large segment of the population would stand a better chance of not getting their minds raped to death by Alzheimer's if they, themselves, became genetically modified organisms?

Posted by: Slicer at February 19th, 2015 3:51 PM

OMG! So it's come to ad hominens, has it? First off, I already pointed out that you probably meant to say libertarian as opposed to "right wing." And second, this is not necessarily a US centric place at all. Your quaint views about Russia are ridiculous. Of course you can dig up bad things happening in Russia as you could here as well...the historical record of medical experimentaion on civilians as well as military personnel in the States is staggering, not to mention experimentation with chemical weaponry in SE Asia and elsewhere, but I digress. I suggest you visit Moscow and see for yourself. And when I reference "GMOs" I am referring to the GMOs presently manufactured by Monsanto for consumption that are commonly making news for their lack of procedural safety testing and their toxic contents – not the universal concept of GMO! Give it a rest Slicer, you're becoming obnoxious.

Posted by: manorborn at February 19th, 2015 5:53 PM

"that are commonly making news for their lack of procedural safety testing and their toxic contents"

Except that's crap peddled by alternative news sites. Real studies have shown nothing of the sort.

Your whole post is basically just regurgitated crap fresh off the homepage of Natural News.

Posted by: Slicer at February 20th, 2015 10:15 AM

Sites???

Posted by: manorborn at February 21st, 2015 4:11 PM

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.