A Reminder that Fight Aging! has a Bus Factor of 1

Modern advocacy for longevity science, and indeed the entire longevity science community, is comparatively young and comparatively small when viewed in the grand scheme of things. Some single sports teams have a larger footprint in the world, measured in people and dollars. The importance of work on longevity science for the future of humanity is enormous, and enormously underappreciated, but that importance must be realized through growth. It is near all a potential yet to be realized. As of now our community includes many quite small organizations and initiatives which, while doing something valuable, are very vulnerable to happenstance and accident because of their small size. Many of the advocacy efforts that have arisen from the community, like Fight Aging!, have a bus factor of 1. If anything happened to me, that would be the end of Fight Aging! Not everyone is in that boat, of course. If you survey some of the organizations that are running research programs relevant to the medical control of aging rather than just talking about research and longevity, you'll find that their bus factors are in a more respectable range for their size of 2 to 4. That represents an organization far less likely to be rendered unable to continue through a normal rate of attrition of essential personnel.

Still, these are low numbers when considered against the bigger picture. They are a outcome of small organizations, areas of cutting edge research without a large number of experts, and the fact that the community of longevity science supporters is not large. If you look at larger institutions, those further from rejuvenation biotechnology but still within the field of aging research and interested in intervention, you might see that losing four people from, say, the Buck Institute - ten times the size of the SENS Research Foundation - would be unfortunate, but the organization would continue much as it is today without missing a step. On the other hand losing four people from the very select group of scientists who carry out research into glucosepane cross-links would probably set back that line of research for years - there are only a couple of labs with good experience, and little funding for the very important goal of clearing these cross-links from old tissues. Senescent cell clearance doesn't have this problem, given the growth in interest and the greater breadth of knowledge to start with: half of the researchers could decide tomorrow to take up a different line of work, and there would still be plenty of hands left to get the job done. Most of the lines of research relevant to the SENS vision for human rejuvenation fall somewhere between these two extremes.

Advocacy for research is a job for small groups of people - it is hard to justify spending enormous amounts on education and outreach when early stage research costs so very little. The biotechnology revolution has completely changed the economic calculus for near all of the life sciences. Fortunately writing doesn't take much effort, and one of the points of the exercise is to encourage more people to do exactly the same thing. In theory, the sooner you make yourself obsolete the better the job you are doing. So it shouldn't much matter than any one initiative has a low bus factor, because all initiatives have their start and their end, and it is the broader tapestry that is the important thing. One shouldn't lose sight of the forest for the trees. With that in mind, it has been encouraging to see more people trying their hand at this advocacy for longevity science business in the past few years. A number of quite promising attempts have come and gone, some of which are still in the sidebar links on the Fight Aging! home page, but I think it noteworthy that we're starting to see initiatives with a bus factor that is higher than 1. I might point out the Longevity Reporter, for example, that has good number of people involved.

Whether talking about advocacy or the actual work of making progress in rejuvenation biotechnology, growth in the community and the funding solves all concerns about the fragility of organizations and initiatives. The ideal world is one in which there are so many contributors and so much funding that the failure of a company or a laboratory group is not going to cause any significant delay in the pace of progress. The stem cell or cancer research fields are examples to aspire to in this regard. Longevity science is a way removed from that level of funding and participation, but I think it only a matter of time. There is no danger that treating aging as a medical condition will find itself in the same place that the cryonics industry has occupied for the past four decades, struggling to grow both support and funding. The dynamics are very different: I find it hard to envisage a scenario in which a working prototype of a narrowly focused rejuvenation therapy is ignored for decades. Approaches to rejuvenation that are demonstrated to work will be adopted by the biotechnology and medical industry, and after the first couple of these therapies the major players of that industry will stop waiting to be handed the technologies and start in on early stage development of the remainder themselves. It is all a matter of bootstrapping, as always. Just how long it will take is the big question mark, and the number we hope to influence through our actions.

I would hope it to be a matter of great irrelevance as to whether Fight Aging! itself is still around ten years from now or next year or tomorrow. I would be more comfortable saying that with a few more organizations working at advocacy in much the same way, and a five to tenfold growth in the size of this community, however.


I've often wondered if SENS in its current form would take an arrow to the knee if Aubrey de Grey was suddenly struck down by illness.

Posted by: Jim at August 29th, 2016 11:37 PM

Lol skyrim reference nice. I think not jim, Aubrey has even touched upon this. Sens has a number of people involved and I believe would continue even if the worst thing happened.

Posted by: Steve h at August 30th, 2016 4:31 AM

Hi there !

''I would hope it to be a matter of great irrelevance as to whether Fight Aging! itself is still around ten years from now or next year or tomorrow. I would be more comfortable saying that with a few more organizations working at advocacy in much the same way, and a five to tenfold growth in the size of this community, however''

To help and not sound offensive (a suggestion to reconsider),

I know this is costly (time, money) but sometimes you must change direction to make things change or else Nothing changes; regular people opinion will most likely not change all that much on SENS therapies etc and as such, this website, SENS and the hopefuls behind them will remain a small percentage - until the therapies are made wide available to the public/really 'known' and from mouth to ear, not just internet or media. Until then, it's all in 'awaiting/wip/may not even concretize uncertain' domain. I suggest going 'international' by translating in other languages - extend reach. Otherwise, this will remain US based only target audience thing and that is a detriment, most other country work less like that, they translate for increased reach worldwide, not some US sites because they are using the language that others translate too (English, being the language of health/medecine/business). Yes, how you do increase your reach - you reach to them by doing the Same thing they do to reach you - translate - to them - in Their language. We all do it, and so can you, it takes a small amount of effort and reduction of self-ego (my language or Nothing because all speak mine, how Lucky am i. US website for US catered target audience, good for everything else - not for aging/medical/health topic, English is that language, but this a worlwide-concerted effort).
This will greatly improve your marketing power/internet traffic reach power. Don't ask yourself why Google, amazon or eBay are in 50 odd some unknown languages, and are now as big as they are. Without, that fact, they would not have reached their sizes and, remained US based/US-centric only/English-only. To get out of North America and reach large percentage of European countries, you have to give them a reason to come over besides the 'all is done over here and in Our language' they know that already, how do you entice them More..by doing that - reaching their deep identity, their language and communicating with them, in Their terms, not yours all the time (US website for US people, and some outsiders visit it).
It may seem the assimilationist idea, but you're not assimilating you're expanding (learn another language/learn Something..or else have it translated/by someone or Google translate who cares. I know that US are not very keen on bilingualism or trilingualism, it's a concept that is alien as they were luckily born in their language (who happens to be Hot around the world now) and use it all the time so no need for another language)while keeping your roots home. It doesn,t need to be the whole thing (demanding), just a small section will do wonders to put you 'on the map'. So do like eBay, amazon big ones, and you'll get big results or else will lament in 10 years no advancement/outreach of website/traffic. Just a suggestion of course.

Posted by: CANanonymity at August 30th, 2016 12:31 PM

Hi Reason. I've been holding off on posting because my own project is still in development. Since you brought it up however I'd like you to know that I am also working on a social-side public advocacy project of my own for the RLE (or as I prefer to call it, the Rejuvenation) movement.

I'll be sure to let you and everyone else know when it's done. I'm hoping it will make a rather large impact and it has several individual core points to it.

In the meantime and for as long as you can afterward, please do continue your good work. Thank you.

Posted by: Sadi Khan at August 30th, 2016 3:34 PM

Looking forward to seeing what you've got for us, Sadi.

Hopefully your project will be mostly complementary with what's already out there - FA, Lifespan.io, etc.

Posted by: Spede at August 30th, 2016 4:50 PM

Dear Reason,

your blog is one of the best written sources on the topic of aging. I admire how fast you report on news and I also admire the extremely high quality of your posts. I disagree with CAN's proposal to translate the posts. Unless someone does this for you for free, this is a huge waste of time. Many readers of this blog are no native speakers and most of the topics discussed here are rather hard to grasp for a complete layman. It is my assumption that most of your readers therefore received some form of higher education and thus, can understand English.

The only way to boost the anti-aging community is to offer working treatments. You offer something, some early adopters try it, if it works, more people will buy it, money will be earned and can be reinvested. Otherwise it's only talk and no action and perfectly explains the status-quo. Why would someone invest into the anti-aging field if all he gets is talk and more talk.

Posted by: Claus at August 31st, 2016 3:45 AM


Very much so. I should also point out that it's an ongoing framework, not a one-shot deal. I am very interested in the "social" aspect of the RLE/Rejuv movement as a complement to the business, political and scientific parts. I realize this is where most of the assistance is needed and am focusing my attentions accordingly.

Posted by: Sadi Khan at September 2nd, 2016 7:08 PM

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