Without an End to Aging, Every New Technological Advance is Just Another, Greater Monument to the Dead

A golden future is ahead of us. Humanity will build wonders upon the Earth, cities on the moon and Mars. There will be arcologies to touch the skies, artificial general intelligences that surpass the minds of humanity, molecular assemblers constructing the necessities of life from soil, resurrected dinosaurs grazing alongside de novo unicorns, and probes departing for the nearest stars. There will be wealth beyond measure, in an age of plenty for all. Hunger and disease will be banished, even as we engineer all of the greatest dreams of past visionaries into reality.

But what does any of this matter without longevity, without radical life extension, without an end to aging? The present, seen from the perspective of futurists two or three centuries past, already appears a golden age of staggering, near-magical machineries. An era of grand wealth and comfort, in which even the poorest of the wealthy nations live the lives of nobility, immune to famine and pestilence. But our cities and our achievements, the towering spires and the internet, the freeways and clinics, are little more than monuments to their originators. The engineers and the creators and the visionaries of this modern world of ours are long dead or even now dying of old age.

It is a noble thing to build a greater technology, to generate the wealth of choice and capability that will aid billions in years to come. To contribute to the construction of the golden future, one step at a time, is right and proper. Yet without biotechnologies to control aging, whatever you or I choose to build will be nothing more than a bigger and better monument to our passing, one increment greater than the monuments of our predecessors, and what difference that to the dead? It will become one of the countless tombstones of our age, of the all too short span of years in which we and our fellow travelers lived. Then we will be gone, and only the tombstones remain, and then even those will crumble.

We put fences around graveyards. That is a foolish thing, a wished-for separation of concerns that does not and cannot exist. Every city, every building, every road is a marker of the dead. Every last cultivated part of our environment was touched by someone who is now no more, gone to oblivion. When we walk into the doorways, or drive over the asphalt, it becomes a marker for us as well. For our generation. This will be the way of it. Whatever we strive to build, no matter how noble, no matter how useful, it will be nothing more than a tombstone, a monument, a marker destined to be worn down to nothing while we no longer exist. What is the point to this?

The true value of building a better future can only exist when we are all assured of living to participate in that future, in health and vigor, of sound mind and body. A house can only be a house and not a tomb if its architect and resident is alive. Yes, we should build wonders, because we can, because we can dream into existence a far better world. But of greater importance than any other technology, we must build the means to end aging, to enable life to continue for as long as desired. Until we do, we are merely marking time amidst grave sites that will all too soon be our own, and therefter the grave sites of the next generation, and ever on until we break this cycle. Until we do, all that we achieve is ultimately meaningless. There is no continued story, there is no progression, there is simply death, oblivion, and an end, too soon, over and over again.


Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Reason. The year's end is a good moment to rethink oneself's way of life and priorities.

Posted by: Antonio at December 18th, 2018 4:06 PM

Thank you, Reason. It's well-said and very encouraging indeed !!!

The future is bright, but it means nothing to us if we die before it arrives.

Posted by: Alek Ales at December 18th, 2018 5:16 PM

I appreciate the sentiment. However, as committed as I am to realizing this dream, I disagree with the idea that death from aging negates meaning or achievement or a life well lived. If I die tomorrow, or in a thousand years, the eternity that resides on either end of the span of time within which I drew breath will be no less vast, nor the fleeting hours of my life any less a miracle. The same is true of those I love, and all those who have lived and perished. It is a fucking miracle, no less than de novo unicorns or colonies in outer space, and greater than any myth or legend in history. Nothing can ever wipe it out.

Posted by: Ben at December 18th, 2018 7:04 PM

Hey reason, I read your blogs a lot and i greatly appreciate the effort you've placed for these 16 years. it is incredibly aspiring. I am pretty young, 29, but my father and mother obviously are not. I was wondering if there are any clinical trials coming soon that they could use for skin, hair, anything to make them just emotionally feeling better. I know there wont be any tremendous things recently but i see small reports of things such as "senescent cells causing liver spots in skin" and ect. The things you said would come about first above anything else as breakthroughs. Anything to make them happier.

If there is nothing i missed. I will keep a eye on everything you have to say.

Posted by: Anonymous person at December 18th, 2018 8:20 PM

When you know the potential for quality of life improvement with chemistry.. the idea that we should cut back on drug spending is just ignorance.

We should be talking as a society how much and how fast we can increase drug spending.

Getting a bigger fancier house, going on vacations, even flying in a space ship, pales in comparison to curing aging. Wealthy people in their 80's would gladly give up all their wealth, to be young again, that is how valuable it is.

Posted by: aa3 at December 19th, 2018 4:34 AM

@Anonymous person: There really is very little of merit out there other than senolytics, and if I were you or your parents I'd be worrying about function over appearance. The mitochondrially targeted antioxidants and NAD+ precursors such as nicotinamide riboside seem modestly beneficial, based on human results to date, but that is still at the moment on the same scale as a serious effort to undertake calorie restriction and increased fitness in later life.

Posted by: Reason at December 19th, 2018 8:45 AM

Reason, I envy those who get to have you around them.

Posted by: Tom Schaefer at December 19th, 2018 9:06 AM

thanks everyone for the responses, your all great

Posted by: Anonymous person at December 19th, 2018 10:56 PM

@Reason: I think there is "reason" no pun intended to think that NAD+ supplementation could lengthen human lifespan 10% because of its widespread use in metabolically active tissue throughout the body, coupled with the significant decline of natural NAD+ production in elderly and aging people. The growing deficiency of NAD+ with aging in the elderly almost certainly increases frailty and all the diseases of aging and resulting in shortened lifespan.

Posted by: Biotechy Marcks at December 20th, 2018 9:26 AM

PS: NAD+ is necessary for cellular DNA repair, specifically double-stranded DNA breaks that require a lot of energy to fix with PARP1 and NAD+. In energy deficient cells, unrepaired DNA breaks can result in mutations that kill cells, cause cancer, and result in more senescent cells.

Posted by: Biotechy Marcks at December 20th, 2018 10:40 AM

"But what does any of this [list of wondrous advancements that will benefit billions] matter without longevity, without radical life extension, without an end to aging?"

How could an intelligent and sensitive, humane person possibly ask this question?

Posted by: alan2102 at December 22nd, 2018 8:03 AM

BTW: Top-up your NAD+ levels simply by taking niacin or niacinamide. Works just fine at 1/50th the cost of nicotinamide riboside. Buying as bulk powder, cost of treatment = ~1-3 cents/day. Many appreciable health benefits, whether or not it extends life. Affordable by literally every human on the planet.

Posted by: alan2102 at December 22nd, 2018 8:07 AM

A well-done article that has been forwarded to AARP who is considering an Anti-Aging Initiative to the United States Congress.

By the way, other than the pen name, Reason, who is the author of this article? Curious to know.


Patti A. Harter

Posted by: Patti Ann Harter at December 24th, 2018 10:18 AM
Comment Submission

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. 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.