Adding decades or adding centuries of health and vigor to human life spans are in fact much the same thing: success in adding decades in an environment of rapid progress in biotechnology means that all those people have time to wait for new technologies that add yet further decades. As soon as future rejuvenation treatments reach that point of initial effectiveness, at which years are added more rapidly than the passing of time erodes them, then most recipients are on a trajectory towards indefinite healthy life. This is shocking for many people when they first think it through, but it is a very straightforward, logical outcome of progress in medicine. Aging is just a medical condition; it is not set in stone, nor is it so mysterious that researchers cannot today be working on ways to remove its causes. In fact there are groups now, such as the SENS Research Foundation and Methuselah Foundation, that have been advocating and funding scientific work in this area for more than a decade.
It always takes far too long to sell the mainstream of any field on a new idea, even when that idea is obviously excellent and obviously an improvement on present affairs. So it is with the goal of repairing the causes of aging, and even the very concept of treating aging as a medical condition. Interest in treating aging in the medical research community has lagged very far behind the bounds of the possible these past two decades, and it has required a great deal of advocacy to get to where we are today. Ten years ago talking about rejuvenation via an implementation of SENS biotechnologies that repair various forms of cellular and molecular damage thought by the consensus to be involved in aging was called fringe, laughed at, or rejected out of hand. Today we see the start of mainstream researchers working on exactly the projectsproposed by SENS and companies founded to build commercial treatments. It is good to be right, but much better when everyone else starts to agree with you and, more importantly, work what has to be done.
Further, now we're in a time where large organizations like Google Ventures are openly putting a lot of money towards the goal of radical life extension. As of the moment they are not actually funding any work that has a hope of achieving that goal, rather mainstream efforts likely only to produce therapies capable of marginally slowing aging, but it is an important step in the growing support and legitimacy granted to longevity research. It is hard for talking heads to laugh at this work now, and from here on out that means increased funding, while the lines of research with a good chance of success will slowly overtake the current mainstream by demonstrating their better prospects at each stage of development. As that happens organizations like Google Ventures will begin to pour funding into that work. The first steps in this process are happening right now for senescent cell clearance, and will happen for other repair based technologies from the SENS portfolio as they bootstrap their way to success - something that depends very much on people like you and I helping philanthropists to deliver the needed funding, by the way.
Bill Maris has $425 million to invest this year, and the freedom to invest it however he wants. He's looking for companies that will slow aging, reverse disease, and extend life. "If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes," Bill Maris says one January afternoon in Mountain View, California. The president and managing partner of Google Ventures just turned 40, but he looks more like a 19-year-old college kid at midterm. He's wearing sneakers and a gray denim shirt over a T-shirt; it looks like he hasn't shaved in a few days. "We actually have the tools in the life sciences to achieve anything that you have the audacity to envision," he says. "I just hope to live long enough not to die."
Google puts huge resources into looking for what's coming next. In 2014, it started Google Capital to invest in later-stage technology companies. Maris's views on the intersection of technology and medicine fit in well here: Google has spent hundreds of millions of dollars backing a research center, called Calico, to study how to reverse aging, and Google X is working on a pill that would insert nanoparticles into our bloodstream to detect disease and cancer mutations. "There are plenty of people, including us, that want to invest in consumer Internet, but we can do more than that," he says. He now has 36 percent of the fund's assets invested in life sciences, up from 6 percent in 2013. "There are a lot of billionaires in Silicon Valley, but in the end, we are all heading to the same place," Maris says. "If given the choice between making a lot of money or finding a way to make people live longer, what do you choose?"
I also recently noticed the online post for an NPR interview from late last year. You might have missed the first time around, so here it is again:
The dream to live forever has captivated mankind since the beginning. We see this in religion, literature, art, and present day pop-culture in a myriad of ways. But all along, the possibility that we'd actually achieve such a thing never quite seemed real. Now science, through a variety of medical and technological advances the likes of which seem as far fetched as immortality itself, is close to turning that dream into a reality. This hour, we talk with experts who are on the cutting edge of this research about the science and implications of ending aging:
Wendell Wallach - consultant, ethicist, and scholar at Yale's Center for Bioethics where he chairs the working research group on Technology and Ethics. His upcoming book, "A Dangerous Master: How To Keep Technology From Slipping Beyond Our Control," will be out May 12th of 2015.
Aubrey de Grey - leading expert on anti-aging medicine and technology as well as the Chief Science Officer of the SENS Research Foundation. He's the co-author of "Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime"
Stephen Cave - Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He holds a PhD in Metaphysics from Cambridge, and has worked as a diplomat for The Queen of England. He's the author of "Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization"