Persuasion as Activism for Rejuvenation Research

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.

Transhumanism Is Booming and Big Business Is Noticing

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.

A matter of chance

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.

For Life's Sake, Join the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension

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.

Comments

I can't think of a more worthy goal than reversing aging. It's obvious that this will become one of the main themes of mankind within the not too distant future. There will be a huge longevity industry and everyone will be talking about longevity, and the people involved will be very dedicated given that this taps right into the center of our motivational modules, the will to live and making sure our loved ones live. These are like the years before the internet started to explode in the mid 90s. For most people it will seem like the topic came out of nowhere, just like the internet -- for a little while, and then it will seem like it's always been here, also just like the internet, which is taken for granted today. Very interesting period to be alive, even as it is frustrating to not yet have any treatment.

Posted by: Northus at July 18th, 2015 3:32 AM

I agree with you Northus. But I think the most frustrating part is all the people seemingly against it that need to be persuaded. I don't think the Internet had quite the same opposition... I was young then so I can't say for sure. Maybe it's more disbelief but who knows.

Posted by: Ham at July 18th, 2015 5:28 AM

The Internet is a bad analogy as it is a demand pull consumer product. As soon as people try it they realise its utility and want it. Contrast that with funding research that won't pay off for decades.

Cancer research has patient advocates. Look at the difference between cancer funding and Alzhiemers funding just because Alzhiemers patients can't advocate as they are mentally incapacitated.

Old people don't advocate because it still seems fantastical.

Posted by: jim at July 18th, 2015 6:07 AM

Ham, no people didn't generally oppose the internet, and most didn't explicitly love it either (though I certainly did), they just sort of eased into it until it became intertwined with everything. The topic of longevity will become more divisive I'm sure, with stronger feelings on both sides. But either way it will be a very hot and ever-present topic.

Jim, I was mostly comparing the growth of both from seemingly nothing (in most people's eyes) to being everywhere in a relatively short period of time. In the case of longevity it will become a common (and divisive) topic of discussion years before we have any product (the actual treatments), and probably relatively soon-ish. That's my guess anyway. Aging is an unbelievably ingrained part of the human condition, it affects nearly everything in every persons life, and the possibility of making it go away is a very big deal, a thought that won't leave people's minds. As soon as people get that it is really possible (and within their lifetime) and start understanding the implications it will become a mainstream topic, even though big funding may take longer and actual treatments even more so.

But we still need to do our part to spread the word (and to fund), esp at this early stage when individuals have a comparatively big impact. At some point another advocate or blog or researcher might mean little, but at this point it really matters, every single pro-longevity action.

Posted by: Northus at July 18th, 2015 7:02 AM

I think a lot of the reason people don't view it as something possible in their lifetimes has to do a lot with the way science and medical headlines are presented nowadays. How many new cancer cures have there been over the years that we've never heard of again. Things get so sensationalized that people tend to have an "I'll believe it when I see it" view on medical advances. That, and I think people want to see human results, not results in mice anymore.

Posted by: Ham at July 18th, 2015 7:13 AM

The first article finally gets it right; the emphasis is on life first and money second when dealing with the goals of big business.

Remember, folks: corporations, no matter how large or impersonal, are still run by humans, and said humans would prefer to be alive to spend their money.

Posted by: Slicer at July 18th, 2015 1:05 PM

To be honest I don't talk to my friends and family about the prospects for life extension technologies, I don't know how to do it without sounding like a maniac.

I'm thinking the best way I could get them to contribute would be to try and do a fundraising acivity (run a marathon or something) to try and raise $2,000, and tell them the money will go towards mitochondrial research, which may then lead to much longer and healthier human lifespans.

I can't afford to join the 300 and pay $1,000 per year for the next 25 years (I am sick and working a simple minimum wage job at the moment). But perhaps I could raise some money from my social network, and at the same time get some of my friends actually thinking about the prospects of aging research.

Only problem with that is that I currently have servere allergic respiratory problems that make me bedridden. So the above plan (if it actually makes sense in real life) is on hold.

Posted by: Jim at July 18th, 2015 10:39 PM

@Jim: I also don't talk to my family about LE, but I do talk to people I know on Internet, on fora not related to LE, etc. I also have a poorly paid job, so I myself can't contribute much money to research.

Posted by: Antonio at July 19th, 2015 6:44 AM

I talk to my wife and some others about it, but tend to dress it up as preventative medicine, which in effect it kind of would be, depending when you get it. It would be nice to join the 300, but obviously most people can't. However, even people (and if we can keep getting new people) continually keep donating a few dollars a month, it will eventually still add up to a lot.

Posted by: Ham at July 19th, 2015 7:06 AM

I think the analogy with the internet might be even better than people realize...

http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/27/part-1-how-the-internet-has-woven-itself-into-american-life/
From a 1983 survey:
'Personal computer owners were then asked, “Would your being able to send and receive messages from other people…on your own home computer be very useful to you personally?” Some 23% of the computer owners said it would be very useful, 31% said it would be somewhat useful, and 45% of those early computer users said it would not be very useful. And 74% of computer owners agreed with the statement, “The trouble with purchasing and bill-paying by computer is that it will be too easy to buy too many things that aren’t in the family budget.”'

Posted by: Mark at July 21st, 2015 2:29 AM

"corporations, no matter how large or impersonal, are still run by humans, and said humans would prefer to be alive to spend their money."

Hmmmm... social organisations are more than the simple sum of individual human desires - it might be more accurate to say that people are generally run by society rather than the other way around... if you are waiting for people to come to their senses, you might have a long wait.
Probably better to use marketing techniques to influence people than rational arguments.

Posted by: Mark at July 21st, 2015 2:35 AM

@Mark: Yes, that's a nice parallel. I can guess what went through the heads of those declaring to be uninterested: "I already receive enough paper in my mailbox and receive phone calls every day, why would I need a communicating computer for?!"

Posted by: Nico at July 21st, 2015 12:16 PM

Mark: I'm not talking about activism, I'm talking about the supposed profit motive of companies investing in real longevity research (as opposed to whatever supplement of the month happens to bring in the most $). The owners of said corporations have got to understand that their own lives are what are at stake.

Now, to *get* these big-ticket investors (and everyone else) to spend their money on this stuff, an emotional appeal is clearly the best one: either you put your nine figures into doing something about it or you've just raised your own risk of dying horribly.

Posted by: Slicer at July 21st, 2015 6:39 PM

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