On The Popular Press and Its Misrepresentation of Research

Complaining about the way in which the popular press garbles and misrepresents aging research is evergreen. The economic incentives operating on professional journalists mean that they garble and misrepresent everything; it is how they operate. When you can make money by selling garbled, misrepresented stories as news, and spending more to get it right doesn't cause you to make more money, then it is inevitable that the end result is of low quality. Specialist knowledge and effective fact checking are not cheap propositions when compared with the cost of paying for writers. Some people argue that the situation has become worse in this modern age of low-cost communication, but I suspect that it has just become easier to see the true scope of the problem. After all, these days we have easy access to both original source materials and the specialists who know what is actually going on under the hood.

I don't agree with all of the article quoted below, in particular the matter of whether or not advocates and scientists should avoid talking about greatly extending human longevity. I think that it is useful and necessary to talk about radical life extension of decades or centuries. The bounds of any discussion fall somewhere in the middle of its far extremes, and if no-one is talking about complete medical control over aging, then the middle ends up being support for some mediocre goal such as the original Longevity Dividend proposal of finding drug candidates to slightly slow aging in ways that might add five years to the healthy human life span, assuming you're not already old when the drugs arrive. So much more than that is possible and plausible - actual rejuvenation treatments based on repair of the damage that causes aging - but only if there is widespread support and large-scale funding for the work.

The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in the attention given to science intended to increase healthy human lifespan. This increased coverage, as anyone would assume, should have represented a step forward. With astronomically wealthy private entities such as Google in support, many predicted a move toward a more legitimate and widely accepted status for both the industry and its advocates, investors, and experts. However, coverage of research and developments is still being taken out of context and hyped up to the point of farce. The main issue being the media's fixation with the notion of immortality.

The media's obsession with immortality is of course rooted in the need for an attention-grabbing headline. Ignoring the science and focusing on the possible fantastical outcome of living forever is an easy way to reel in readers. The problem with this coverage is that it doesn't show any interest in the actual progress of science, and further alienates the industry, associating the bizarre with the real and critical.

Furthermore, for readers, these attention grabbing headlines are neglecting the actual scientific processes and complexities of anti-aging research. What we are left with is a stripped down version of the industry, which doesn't reflect the developments in healthy life extension, and withdraws from any real in depth analysis. Advocacy coming from among those who are interested in immortality will no doubt increase, but not the awareness amongst the general population, what the industry is really aiming for.

Rather than being seen as a single issue subject, life extension science wants to be seen for what it is, an important and complex area of science aiming to eradicate age-related disease. Real and, in many ways, awful diseases and conditions which blight us later in life, no matter how much our lifespan has increased. For journalists and news outlets covering life extension, instead of conceding in creating clickbait titles which attract one-time readers on the subject, why do they not engage in a debate and provide real analysis, which would more than likely, over time, establish a base of returning readers.

Life extension has been granted its place in mainstream media, which many areas of science would still love to acquire, but this elevated position is currently not doing anyone any favours. With this obsession with immortality, people who could be potential supporters and advocates of healthy life extension are put off. By asking the question 'do you want to live forever?' rather than 'do you want to see more investment in cures for age-related disease?' the media faces the reader with a fantastic and in many ways terrifying notion, instead of one which is entirely practical and more likely to be universally supported. Greater exposure then, of this kind, has a direct negative impact on advocacy.

Link: http://lifemag.org/article/the-media-s-fixation-with-immortality-is-it-becoming-a-problem

Comments

I pretty much agree with you reason. Most of the media coverage this field gets is sensationalized garbage. Just look at the cover of times when calico was announced. I really feel that the media does is no favors here, and is more damaging than helpful.

The one spot I disagree with is when talking about extending life by centuries. I think part of the resistance about the whole field is just people not being able to imagine living that long, compared to what we get today. And when they do imagine it, they probably imagine it in a state of decrepitude like many elderly today. Maybe it should be presented as healthy living to 100 or 120 first, or something along those lines? But you're right about the middle proposed in the longevity dividend as well, which isn't very inspired in my opinion. It just seems to me that talking big about potential super extremes turns people off, which is usually how the media presents things.

Posted by: Han at October 16th, 2015 5:16 AM

I can't agree with the quoted article. What attracted me to this field was immortality, not curing Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. If it were only about diseases of old age, I would not be commenting here and donating to SENS.

Posted by: Antonio at October 16th, 2015 6:27 AM

I agree Antonio for the most part. But the majority doesn't look at it like that. Besides, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's are steps along the way that must be dealt with to continue down the path. And talking about immortality will in no way help get anything passed the regulatory bodies. Just look at how carefully worded the metformin trial proponents presented things to the FDA.

Posted by: Ham at October 16th, 2015 7:26 AM

Hello,

Agree with you all, Finding ways to Stop Death from happening is what captivated me. Still,we have to be careful with our wording with everyday people who hold doubt about dubious claims of sensationalistic immortality being within reach of a mouse-click. But at the same time must talk about it, seriously, so people come to their own conclusions and can now see that centuries lifespans don't sound so ridiculous, impossible, ethically unacceptable, unchangeable death fate and strange Dr.Who Twilight Zone fiction (snake oil); but really serious stuff grounded on proven science that is just as important as diseases that kill everyday.
For example,Alzheimer's...My uncle died last November 2014 of Alzheimer's at 73 years old... I very well know the whole gravity the situation, and as someone who saw the devastation it does in less than 6 months, I comprehend people's fear of crippled unhealthy no quality life if they live forever, it's time to make them understand, that to live 3 centuries long you must be biologically young rejuvenated, else it will not happen, this means a substantial part of those centuries will be lived healthy with little or no inflammation; meaning a Quality life for extremely long. Although lengthspan period of morbidity rises as lifespan rises too, it will be our challenge to compress that morbidity period to improve final quality time (i.e. 300 year lifespan with 50 last years in agony/disease vs 300 year lifespan with 5 last years in agony/disease).

My father takes metformin for his type 2 diabetes. It's great and controls things, his blood glucose and insulin spikes are reduced. Much like in mice it is great but in terms of rejuvenating effect it's pretty useless; it only slows an accelerated aging (diabetes AGEs glycation) to a level approx. similar to people with no diabetes, so basically not that much effect for already healthy people without diabetes (metformin may create strong dangerous to mild hypoglycemia in these people because their fasting and postprandial blood glucose and insulin secretion are already adequately low enough. Too low by metformin can create comatose and severe migraines by lack of brain blood glucose; brain fuels on glucose and needs constant blood levels of it, otherwise it catastrophically shuts down from energy failure; glucose is needed for energy through the Pentose Phosphate Shunt Pathway). Metformin does not reverse melanocyte apoptosis, my dad's hair is greyer than ever (gray hair have overproduction of hydrogen peroxide H2O2 in follicules melanocytes, that when catalase in transfered in mice graying fur coat the graying reverses to brown as the melanocytes start to produce melanin anew from reduced oxidative stress catalase enzyme quenching H2O2 in them). Metformin slows AGEs glycation and oxidative stress the best it can, in humans it's not enough.

Posted by: CANanonymity at October 16th, 2015 2:18 PM

Most people who read the words "age-related disease" go "What's the point? These people are OLD, if you cure their disease they'll just die anyway from something else". Rejuvenation is the right word, the only word.

"300 year lifespan with 50 last years in agony/disease"

Not going to happen. Unless there's some global collapse, someone who survives to age 200 is not going to die of degenerative disease.

Posted by: Slicer at October 16th, 2015 2:43 PM

Rejuvenation is good. Probably best to use that term. But as an arguing point against this people like to say "but then what do people die from then".

Posted by: Ham at October 16th, 2015 3:23 PM

"But then what do people die from then" is basically "Don't take me seriously, I just want to be mocked and humiliated in public". You can go "Cure cancer? Well what would people die from then? Stop heart disease? Geez, what would people die from without that?" Or just list rare and implausible accidents: "People would die from electrocution by whizzing on the third rail, obviously." It's a non-argument and deserves to be treated as such.

Posted by: Slicer at October 16th, 2015 3:42 PM

@Slicer

Hi Slicer ! I agree with you Rejuvenation should be the word on everyone's lips to break this autodefeatist fatalistic thought in everyone (" You *will* die and I will make sure you do, because that's what humans do ... Die ... that is. No way around it. You're dead. And your expiry date is set for 122 years and 164 calendar days should you get the genetic lottery jackpot, otherwise you'll expire quicker "); this is the kind of fatalistic pessimistic accepptance of defeat (of death) that permeates these days, it's sad, we must educate to change this wide perception of old age that there is absolutely *nothing we can about it but sit arms crossed and resolve ourselves and to just accept it, accept the *inevitable, accept our timely fate/end, accept we are f...... beyond anything we can do about it. We really have to change this and erases 10,000 years of resignation acceptance malinformation perception, because unlike back then, today we control evolution to our own survival, it's not the other way around of evolution controlling us; we now genetically adapt evolution - to us (and play god some would say, in the ethics). We 'played it/rigged it' to our species survival (we cracked the code of biological life !), it's time for us to crack death code like we did for life and like certain lucky immortal animal species have figured out before us. Evolution and adaptation gave them their immortality, we will adapt and evolve too, only this time *we* will 'adapt' evolution to give us these secret codes we'll crack it from. The saying goes :
Adapt or Die (trying, survive).

It would make sense that with extreme lifespan (200+ years) one would not die of any diseases, seeing got this far is phenomenon and they must have had excellent biorejuvenated biology maintenance. I agree with you seeing the 508 year old clam Arctica Islandica from Iceland, maintains redox and great capacities 192 and 120 years respectively. Meaning, living centuries biologically young and disease free is a necessite requirement for the centuries to continue piling up. Disease free till end, pathologies,aging would continue though, albeit extremely slowly or nearly stagnant, as rejuvenation will continuously allow rejuvenate and backtrack death program to a genetically biorejuvenated young self (retroprogrammed damage-free) phenotype

Posted by: CANanonymity at October 16th, 2015 4:06 PM

Yeah I always found the argument to be stupid seeing how this is what medicine has been working towards for ages now. But some people get upset about disturbing the "natural order".

Posted by: Ham at October 16th, 2015 5:08 PM

If 1% of people were inspired by calls for extreme longevity (we can't be that unusual can we?) then I would have thought that would be enough to get some pretty serious funding.
10 million people giving 10 dollars a week?

You don't have to aim to convince the mainstream.

Posted by: Mark at October 18th, 2015 11:48 AM

I think we're still unusual mark. Probably well below that 1% still :/

Well if comments and reactions on any mainstream aging article are an indication at least.

Posted by: Ham at October 19th, 2015 7:18 AM

We are the 1% (of people who aren't mad)

How is that for a marketing slogan?

Posted by: Mark at October 20th, 2015 5:08 AM

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.