Alex Zhavoronkov of In Silico Medicine has written a fair amount on the economics of aging and the urgent need for greater research and development of means to treat aging - to diminish the burdens that fall upon us all as the result of certain degeneration and death in late life. The costs of aging are staggering, and yet here at the dawn of the era of rejuvenation therapies, only tiny amounts of funding are devoted to doing something about it. Spending on competitive sports - or war, the other manifestation of the same urge - is vast in comparison to the resources devoted to slowing or reversing the causes of aging. We fiddle while Rome burns.
In the past, Alex Zhavoronkov claimed that he expected to live to be 150, but now he's more conservative. He's skeptical that we will see such drastic changes to the human lifespan quite so soon. There are too many hurdles left to clear, and he feels that today's political and economic climate isn't exactly conducive to expensive, experimental longevity research. To be clear, he does believe humanity will someday live that long, but not as soon as he thought. Someday, Zhavoronkov argues, we will build a future where humans can all live longer and healthier, enjoying productive lives well past the ages we never thought we'd reach at all. To get there, the powers that be will just need to shift their focus and decide that longevity is worth pursuing. And his company, along with others that are looking into big data, will forge ahead until that happens.
It's hard to argue that scientists shouldn't find ways to help people live longer. Zhavoronkov argues that longevity ought to be a fundamental human right - the right to live as long and well as possible. Living longer and healthier would help people enjoy a better quality of life, but it would also prevent or solve many of the problems facing our economy. Presumably, living longer will fix the economy because people will grow old without growing frail - our eternal descendants will spend less time at the nursing home and more time at the office. The economic argument is a compelling one for the people holding the purse strings for the grants that fund research, but so far it hasn't been enough for them to funnel money into the field, where Zhavoronkov thinks it's most needed.
"This is very frustrating. But this is the nature of today's society. People in the developed countries have most of their basic needs already satisfied but instead of focusing on securing the future, they focus on today's events. Clearly the governments and the people they represent have their priorities misplaced." In an ideal world, transformative changes will ripple through healthcare within ten to fifteen years, Zhavoronkov predicts. But he's disappointed that his company and other teams working on real, science-based, longevity research haven't gotten more hype. "The limitations on what we can do for longevity today come from our current understanding of technology and will not be there in the future. We need to focus on what is available today at the very cutting edge and take it to the next level."