Progress in gathering support for rejuvenation research has long been hampered by a number of widespread false beliefs. Every time we pitch someone unfamiliar with the topic, seeking material assistance in the long process of developing clinical treatments to control aging and thus extend life, the same initial hurdles must be overcome: the false belief that longevity assurance therapies would make people older for longer, not younger for longer; the false belief that overpopulation is inevitable if life spans increase; the false belief that only extremely rich people would benefit or have access to therapies. These are resilient myths, surviving in spite of the fact that they are easily disproved, and despite the fact that scientists explain over and again in detail as to why they won't come to pass.
No-one aiming at the treatment of aging is trying to build treatments that will make old people linger in increasing decrepitude. It isn't even possible to do that with a rejuvenation treatment that repairs damage: aging is an accumulation of damage, and reductions in that damage translate directly into a longer maintenance of youthful physiology. Researches have published countless papers on overpopulation in the general sense to show that what people see as overpopulation is simply poverty resulting from bad choices and bad governance, people choosing to make a wasteland in the midst of plentiful resources. Malthusians predicting vanishing resources have always been wrong; resources are created and replaced the moment that price increases look likely. Where researchers have created models of future population growth under the influence of radical life extension, populations do not grow rapidly. Wealth, security, and longevity produce incentives that reduce population growth.
As to only the wealthy having access: every mass-produced medical technology is initially briefly expensive, and then later affordable, and then later again dirt cheap. You don't have to take my word for it. Go out and look at the price histories of thousands of drugs and other treatments. Treatments to repair the damage that causes aging will be the same for everyone, infusions and injections that are turned out in bulk from pharmacological assembly lines, or available in tens of thousands of clinics where cell samples are needed to produce personalized therapies from a standard template. These treatments will be similar in manufacture and distribution to drugs that today range in cost from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. The challenge will be delivery to the third world, because that is a challenge for every technology, not delivery to the average person in the first world. It is nonsensical to think that treating aging will be any different from the past treatment of disease in its logistics.
There are many other resilient persistent false beliefs that impact the ability to talk sensibly about the development of medicine for aging. The idea that multivitamins and antioxidants are a good thing, for example. The supplement industry continues to drown out the voice of the scientific community in this matter. It is done and settled in medical science that high dose vitamins and antioxidants do nothing or cause a modest level of harm, but you wouldn't know that from a tour of any shopping center. When people fixate on supplements, they tend to shy away from consideration of supporting research: doing something, anything, now satisfies the need. Of course it does nothing to actually help matters when it comes to living a longer life, but no-one should claim that we humans are particularly rational or consistent in our approach to life.
Scientists once rallied around the free-radical theory of ageing, including the corollary that antioxidants, molecules that neutralize free radicals, are good for human health. By the 1990s, many people were taking antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin C and β-carotene. It is "one of the few scientific theories to have reached the public: gravity, relativity and that free radicals cause ageing, so one needs to have antioxidants."
Yet in the early 2000s, scientists trying to build on the theory encountered bewildering results: mice genetically engineered to overproduce free radicals lived just as long as normal mice, and those engineered to overproduce antioxidants didn't live any longer than normal. It was the first of an onslaught of negative data, which initially proved difficult to publish. The free-radical theory "was like some sort of creature we were trying to kill. We kept firing bullets into it, and it just wouldn't die." Then, one study in humans showed that antioxidant supplements prevent the health-promoting effects of exercise, and another associated them with higher mortality. None of those results has slowed the global antioxidant market, which ranges from food and beverages to livestock feed additives. It is projected to grow from US$2.1 billion in 2013 to $3.1 billion in 2020. "It's a massive racket. The reason the notion of oxidation and ageing hangs around is because it is perpetuated by people making money out of it."
Fears about overpopulation began with Reverend Thomas Malthus in 1798, who predicted that unchecked exponential population growth would lead to famine and poverty. But the human population has not and is not growing exponentially and is unlikely to do so. The world's population is now growing at just half the rate it was before 1965. Today there are an estimated 7.3 billion people, and that is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Yet beliefs that the rate of population growth will lead to some doomsday scenario have been continually perpetuated.
The world's population also has enough to eat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the rate of global food production outstrips the growth of the population. People grow enough calories in cereals alone to feed between 10 billion and 12 billion people. Yet hunger and malnutrition persist worldwide. This is because about 55% of the food grown is divided between feeding cattle, making fuel and other materials or going to waste. And what remains is not evenly distributed. "Overpopulation is really not overpopulation. It's a question about poverty. Even people who know the facts use it as an excuse not to pay attention to the problems we have right now."