As our community grows, there are more of us in a position to push arguments directly into the media without having them distorted and mashed up via the average professional journalist's lack of specific knowledge and insight. The advent of earnest venture investment and numerous startup companies working on ways to treat aging means that the business press is where one might start to see more of this sort of thing. The example here is an opinion piece by Alex Zhavoronkov of small molecule infrastructure company In Silico Medicine, one of the first of the ventures emerging from our community to successfully align with major funding institutions and raise significant capital for further development of their vision. Zhavonokov presents some of the concepts that have been circulating in the broader advocacy community over the past year or so, considering the intersection of effective altruism and treating aging as a medical condition. It is an interesting topic, and one that I hope will lead to greater public support for the goal of human rejuvenation.
While there is a lot of talk about the growing income inequality and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, the difference in overall utility one can get in this life is rapidly decreasing. The rich can get a slightly better package but the net gain in utility will be marginal. One does not fly business class to arrive earlier. The arbitrary separation of classes, ethnic groups, races, and nations is only drawing our attention away from the most important and unsolved challenge - aging. Regardless of how much money you have, you cannot live substantially longer or better. Aging does not discriminate and death comes to us all. Life does not provide a path for continuous improvement. Aging is a universal equalizer.
Effective altruism is the idea that doing good and donating money to worthy causes is really just the start. It is suggested that we use research and reason to make sure our help reaches the most people and has the most impact on their lives. One of the keys to effective altruism, therefore, is to work on the right problems. Imagine for a second that you are a character and life was a video game. How would you know if you're winning? Does your wealth really indicate whether you're good at the game, or just lucky? Can it tell you whether you're even enjoying the game? Would that score say anything about how you improved the game itself, or whether you improved the game for your fellow players?
A better way to check your score at life is a metric called QALY, or quality-adjusted life year. QALY can serve as a universal score because QALY measures both how long you live and how well you live. QALY represents a year of life lived in an optimal healthy state. QALY can also be shared and distributed. For each year that we remain healthy, our acts and our contributions - anything from giving birth to paying taxes to work on scientific advances - could raise their QALY of other people all around the world. We call this optimizing global QALY.
The traditional approach to altruism is to donate accumulated wealth to charities and worthy causes. However, a far more effective way to maximize global QALY is to stay healthy, live longer, direct your wealth intelligently and keep contributing to the world in all the other ways money can't count. So, that means the best way - in fact, the only way - to generate effective altruism and maximize global QALY is to focus on aging and longevity research.
For those of you who are driven to find the most effective way to maximize QALY on a global scale, becoming part of the growing movement to help people live longer and healthier lives is an obvious option. Personally engaging in longevity research, understanding the key concepts, and distributing the resources into longevity and aging projects that maximize global QALY may very well be the most altruistic endeavor you can embark on. The longevity biotechnology is rapidly emerging as an industry with the new funding sources, credible business models, and early successes. There are new ways to measure the rate of aging and new tools to understand the driving mechanisms behind the many debilitating processes will soon emerge as more experimental data becomes available.