We stand at the dawn of a new age of medicine, an era in which the causes of aging will be treated and reversed, leading ultimately to indefinite healthy life spans, as many years as want. The transition from where we are today to the availability of effective therapies to prevent and cure the manifestations of degenerative aging will be very rapid in the context of the overall history of medicine, but still a matter of years and decades of hard work and persuasion for those of us living through it. At the large scale funding and progress in medicine follows popular support for the end goal, and at the present time we're still in the late opening stages of persuading the world that, yes, treating aging is a good thing and we should get right on with it. It remains the case that the average fellow in the street is suspicious, indifferent, or even hostile to the idea of living longer through medical science.
This will no doubt be seen as inexplicable by our exceedingly long-lived descendants, who will never suffer age-related disease and look back on our era in the same way as we look back on the poverty, disease, and suffering of Dickensian London. But we must play the hand we are dealt, and we are faced with a task of persuasion in order to bring enough people around to the idea that we should be treating aging. Given the number of deaths caused by aging, far more than any other medical condition, treating it should in fact be the primary purpose of the medical community rather than a field that receives little funding and notice - but again, all too few people agree. The more that we speak out in favor of greater funding and more effective approaches to treating aging as a medical condition, the faster we move towards that end goal.
Every cultural movement is a tapestry of efforts, woven from the initiatives at the grassroots to the backroom conversations of venture capitalists, and ideas flow here and there very freely in our highly connected society: a diffuse conversation about medicine and aging that anyone can join to have their say. The more that we talk about this topic, the more that people will think on it. Some of them will also join in. Over the past decade I have seen an acceleration in the number of new faces and new initiatives: the size of the community of people in favor of medicine to treat aging is increasing, and a tipping point lies somewhere ahead, much closer than when I first had this notion of writing about the science of aging and the prospects for healthy longevity.
We can all write, we can all talk to our friends, and we can all distribute our thoughts on the matter far and wide thanks to the internet. As ever more of us choose to do this, we help to build the future consensus on the treatment of aging. One day not so far from today, it will be obvious to the fellow in the street that aging itself falls into the same category as cancer and Alzheimer's disease, and of course it is a good thing that researchers are working towards a cure for aging, and it won't be unexpected to see people raising funds for those research programs in exactly the same way that they do for cancer today. So keep right on helping: talk to your friends, write online, say something about aging and longevity. It makes a difference.
I recently had the privilege of being the opening keynote speaker at the Financial Times Camp Alphaville 2015 conference in London. One thing I noticed at the conference was the increasing interest in longevity science--the transhumanist field that aims to control and hopefully even eliminate aging in the near future. Naturally, everyone has a vested interest in some type of control over their aging and biological mortality. We are, at the core, mammals primarily interested in our health, the health of our loved ones, and the health of our species. But the feeling at the conference - and in the media these days too - was more pronounced than before.
As a transhumanist, my number one goal has always been to use science and technology to live in optimum health indefinitely. Until the last few years, this idea was seen mostly as something fringe. But now with the business community getting involved and supporting longevity science, this attitude is inevitably going to go mainstream. I am thrilled with this. Business has always spurred new industry and quickened the rise of civilization.
Rejuvenation biotechnologies wouldn't just cure billions of people of age-related diseases, but would prevent the life of severely injured, sick and disabled people from getting considerably worse with age; and on top of that, anti-ageing therapies have the potential to enable them to live long enough to see the day when the condition that has been afflicting them for so long can be cured. They could see the day they can walk again, and undo the damage done to their only chance, which will hopefully last for yet very long. In the end, it isn't all that wrong to say that we have only one chance; that's exactly the reason why we shouldn't take any chances with it.
The number of demonstrations and rallies designed to drive awareness of the cause have been increasing. These brave and vital showings of leadership are pivotal in reaching the next levels of awareness and willingness to step forward for this cause. Because of these people, more around the world find the courage to take their first steps in support of this cause. To find a hero in this cause, you need not look far; there are whole groups of them, and you can take your pick.
We don't want to die. Sitting it out and letting others handle it will get us all killed. Time is ticking. This isn't about seeing if we can reach a goal; this is about having it within us to understand that we can achieve this in time for us and the people we know. Achieving indefinitely healthy longevity is about the expedition of this goal as a movement.