Longevity Progress needs Increased Lobbying, Advocacy and Activism more than it needs increased Funding
Longevity Progress needs Increased Lobbying, Advocacy and Activism more than it needs increased Funding
By Franco Cortese
When asked what the biggest bottleneck for progress in life-extension is, most thinkers and researchers say funding. Others say the biggest bottleneck is breakthroughs, while still others say it’s our way of approaching the problem (i.e. seeking healthy life extension, a.k.a. “aging gracefully”, instead of more comprehensive methods of radical life-extension). But the majority seem to feel that the largest determining factor impacting how long it takes to achieve indefinite lifespans is adequate funding to plug away at developing and experimentally-verifying the various alternative technologies and methodologies that have already been proposed (e.g. Robert Freitas’sNanomedicine , Aubrey de Grey’s Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence [2, 3, 4], Michael R. Rose’s Evolutionary Longevity [5, 6]). I claim that Radical Longevity’s biggest bottleneck is not funding, but advocacy, activism and lobbying.
This is because the final objective of increased funding for Radical Longevity and Life Extension research can be more effectively and efficiently achieved through public advocacy for Radical Life Extension than it can by direct funding or direct research, per unit of time or effort. Research and development obviously still need to be done, but an increase in researchers needs an increase in funding, and an increase in funding needs an increase in the public perception of indefinite longevity’s feasibility and desirability.
There is no definitive timespan that it will take to achieve radically extended life. How long it takes to achieve Radical Longevity is determined by how hard we work at it and how much effort we put into it. More effort means that it will be achieved sooner. And by and large, an increase in effort can be best achieved by an increase in funding, and an increase in funding can be best achieved by an increase in public advocacy. You will likely accelerate the development of Radically-Extended Life, per unit of time or effort, by advocating the desirability, ethicacy and technical feasibility of longer life than you will by doing direct research, or by working towards the objective of directly contributing funds to life-extension projects and research initiatives.
In order to get funding we need to demonstrate with explicit clarity just how much we want it, and that we can do so while minimizing potentially negative societal repercussions like overpopulation. We must do our best to vehemently invalidate the clichés that promulgate the sentiment that Life-extension is dangerous or unethical. It needn’t be either, and nor is it necessarily likely to be either.
Some think that spending one’s time deliberating the potential issues that could result from greatly increased lifespans and the ways in which we could mitigate or negate them won’t make a difference until greatly increased lifespans are actually achieved. I disagree. While any potentially negative repercussions of life-extension (like overpopulation) aren’t going to happen until life-extensionis achieved, offering solution paradigms and ways in which we could negate or mitigate such negative repercussions decreases the time we have to wait for it by increasing the degree with which the wider public feels it to be desirable, and that it can very well be done safely and ethically. Those who are against radical life extension are against it either because they think it is infeasible (in which case being “against” it may be too strong a descriptor) or because they have qualms relating to its ethicacy orits safety. More people openly advocating against it means a higher public perception of its undesirability. Whether indefinite longevity is eventually achieved via private industry or via government subsidized research initiatives, we need to create the public perception that it is widely desired before either government or industry will take notice.
The sentiment that the best thing we can do is simply live healthily and wait until progress is made seems to be fairly common as well. People have the feeling that researchers are working on it, that it will happen if it can happen, and that waiting until progress is made is the best course to take. Such lethargy will not help Radical Longevity in any way. How long we have to wait for indefinite lifespans is a function of how much effort we put into it. And in this article I argue that how much funding and attention life-extension receives is by and large a function of how widespread the public perception of its feasibility and desirability is.
This isn’t simply about our individual desire to live longer. It might be easier to hold the sentiment that we should just wait it out until it happens if we only consider its impact on the scale of our own individual lives. Such a sentiment may also be aided by the view that greatly longer lives would be a mere advantage, nice but unnecessary. I don’t think this is the case. I argue that the technological eradication of involuntary death is a moral imperative if there ever was one. If how long we have to wait until radical longevity is achieved depends on how vehemently we demand it and on how hard we work to create the public perception that longer life is widely longed-for, then to what extent is the 100,000 lives lost potentially needlessly every day while we wait on our hands? One million people will die a wasteful and involuntary death in the next 10 days. 36.5 Million will die this year from age-correlated courses of functional-decline. This puts the charges of inethicacy in a ghostly new light. If advocating the desirability, feasibility and blatant ethicacy of life extension can hasten its implementation by even a mere 10 days, then one million lives that would have otherwise been lost will have been saved by the efforts of life-extension advocates, researchers and fiscal supporters. Seen in this way, working toward radical longevity may very well be the most ethical and selfless way you could spend your time, in terms of the number of lives saved and/or the amount of suffering prevented.
One of the most common and easy-to-raise concerns I come across in response to any effort to minimize the suffering of future beings is that there are enough problems to worry about right now. “Shouldn’t we be worrying about lessening starvation in underdeveloped countries first? They’re starving right now. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the problems of today? On things that we can have a direct impact on?”. Indeed. 100,000 people will die, potentially needlessly, tomorrow. The massive number of people that suffer involuntary death is a problem of today! Indeed, it may very well be the most pressing problem of today!What other source of contemporary suffering claims so many lives, and occurs on such a massive scale? What other “problem of today” is responsible for the needless and irreversible involuntary death of one hundred thousand lives per day? Certainly not starvation, or war, or cancer, all of which in themselves represent smaller sources of involuntary death. Longevity advocates do what they do for the same reason that people who try to mitigate starvation, war, and cancer do what they do, namely to lessen the amount of involuntary death that occurs.
This is a contemporary problem that we can have a direct impact on. People intuitively assume that we won’t achieve radically-extended life until far in the future. This makes them conflate any lives saved by radically-extended-lifespans with lives yet to come into existence. This makes them see involuntary death as a problem of the future, rather than a problem of today. But more people than I’ve ever known will die tomorrow, from causes that are physically possible to obviate and ameliorate – indeed, from causes that we have potential and conceptual solutions for today.
I have attempted to show in this article that advocating life-extension should be considered as “working toward it” to as great an extent as directly funding it or performing direct research on it is considered as“working toward it”. Advocacy has greater potential to increase its widespread desirability than direct work or funding does, and increasing both its desirability and the public perception if its desirability has more potential to generate increased funding and research-attention for life-extension than direct funding or research does. Advocacy thus has the potential to contribute to the arrival of life-extension and hasten its implementation just as much, if not more so (as I have attempted to argue in this article), than practical research or direct funding does. This should motivate people to help create the momentous momentum we need to really get the ball rolling. To be a longevity advocate is to be alongevity worker! Involuntary death from age-associated, physically-remediable causes is the largest source of death, destruction and suffering today. Don’t you want to help prevent the most widespread source of death and of suffering in existence today? Don’t you want to help mitigate the most pressing moral concern not only of today, but of the entirety of human history – namely physically-remediable involuntary death?
Then advocate the technological eradication of involuntary death. Advocate the technical feasibility, extreme desirability and blatant ethicacy of radically extending life. Death is a cataclysm. We need not sanctify the seemingly-inevitable any longer. We need not tell ourselves that death is somehow a good thing, or something we can do nothing about, in order to live with the “fact” of it any longer. Soon it won’t be a fact of life. Soon it will be an artifact of history. Life may not be ipso-facto valuable according to all philosophies of value – but life is a necessary precondition for any sort of value whatsoever. Death is dumb, dummy! An incontrovertible waste convertible into nothing! A negative-sum blight! So if you want to contribute to the solution of problems of today, if you want to help your fellow man today, then stand proud and shout loud “Doom to Arbitrary Duty and Death to Arbitrary Death!” at every crowd cowed by the seeming necessity of death.
. de Grey AD, Ames BN, Andersen JK, Bartke A, Campisi J, HewardCB, McCarter RJ, Stock G (2002). “Time to Talk SENS: Critiquing the Immutability of Human Aging”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 959: 452–62. PMID 11976218.
. de Grey, Aubrey (2003). The Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging. Austin, Texas: Landes Bioscience. ISBN 1-58706-155-4.
. de Grey, Aubrey and Rae, Michael (2007). Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs that Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime. St. Martin’s Press.
. Laurence D. Mueller, Casandra L. Rauser and Michael R. Rose (2011). Does Aging Stop? Oxford University Press.
. Garland, T., Jr., and M. R. Rose, eds. (2009). Experimental Evolution: Concepts, Methods, and Applications of Selection Experiments. University of California Press.