Are life extensionists mainly driven by a desire to actually live a long time?

How do you interpret the following situation: we have a life extension technologist whose all endeavors is about pushing this issue to its very limits and making things possible but on the other hand this very life extensionist himself is not driven by actually living as long as he can.

It seems that SENS theorist Aubrey de Grey, who is chronologically 45, (BioBarCamp photo by Ricardo) is taking roughly the above position in a recent interview. Aubrey is a good and witty interviewee and of course the interpretation of what he is saying is strongly context dependent so here is the full question and answer:

Question: One hundred years of life can wear you down physically, but it can also wear you down emotionally… perhaps even existentially. For you, is a desire to live long accompanied by a desire to live long in a much-improved human civilization, or is this one satisfactory?

Aubrey de Grey: I’m actually not mainly driven by a desire to live a long time. I accept that when I’m even a hundred years old, let alone older, I may have less enthusiasm for life than I have today. Therefore, what drives me is to put myself (with luck) and others (lots and lots of others) in a position to make that choice, rather than having the choice progressively ripped away from me or them by declining health. Whether the choice to live longer is actually made is not the point for me.

Let’s see 2 possible and extreme interpretations of this answer (neither of them is my own interpretation) and I hope my readers can find fine-tuned arguments in between while thinking a bit about this still rather philosophical topic:

1., Saying that we want the process (a robust healthy lifespan technology) but not necessarily the product (a robust healthy lifespan) of our own business is a disaster Continue reading

Even ugly handwriting can fit the informal nature of SciFoo

I had problems with my handwriting since elementary schools, or at least my teachers had continuous problems with it. Even during my university years I was asked sometimes to read out loud my essays, papers to them otherwise risking bad grades. Maybe it’s because I am a hidden right-handed using my left hand for writing or maybe I am just too impatient over the slow pace of handwriting (needless to say computers mostly solved this problem).

On this George Dyson photo here you can see the SciFoo schedule in progress and I think you can easily pick the one with the ugliest handwriting on Aging and Life Extension:

The marketing problem of life extension technologies

If “Science has a really serious marketing problem” as Larry Page observed, then life extension technologies face even bigger marketing problems. I am definitely not a marketing expert but realized the problem early on when thinking about the lag-phase period of a robust life extension technology.  So I made a short email interview with Dave Gobel, the marketing and business mind/strategist behind the Methuselah Foundation (official title: Chief Executive Officer) following our meeting and chat at the SENS3 conference in Cambridge, UK, 2007.

1. What is the biggest marketing problem of any future (or present) healthy life extension technology?

The biggest marketing problem today is the time it takes for a beneficial effect to present itself. For instance, a product such as resveratrol may take months to present beneficial results, or it may never show up clinically. People who are scientifically sophisticated can appreciate the value of reduced circulating fats or glucose, but to the typical individual, there are much sexier things to spend money on that give immediate gratification and clear utility. The proof of this is illustrated by a counter example – how ridiculously easy it would be to sell a product that biologically reversed grey hair. The effect might be seen gradually but incontrovertably by all and in the mirror directly.

It seems to me that the best way to proceed from a business standpoint therefore is from the outside in. Create legitimate products that improve a person’s visual image and therefore social standing and they will flock for the result. Try to engineer those products to have globally beneficial effects, and marketing becomes easy.

So, for the present, the problem is delayed, and difficult to pinpoint results in exchange for expensive pills/treatments and never ending taking of pills. What about the future? The problem of marketing will evaporate as tissue engineering provides an immediate benefit by eliminating hip, knee and similar pains while restoring or even improving base functionality. When biologically matched teeth can be implanted and grown anew in gums, marketing will be easy.

2. How to market life extension for different generations (teenagers, college students, young adults, mature adults, grandpas and grandmas) and what are the main differences here? Continue reading

BioBarCamp: we have room for 55 plus Campers!

BioBarCamp is due in circa 3 weeks and we have now 45 BioBarCampers signed up on the list of attendees and our host the Institute For The Future has the capacity for around 55 more campers, roughly for 100 people in general. We already have a very valuable mix: researchers, biologists (grad, postdoc, PI), coders-engineers-bioinformaticians, biotech entrepreneurs, doctors, science journalists.

Here is the list so far and that’s also a chance for you to decide whether you want to join and meet us there in Palo Alto on the 6th and 7th, August and share, ask and answer, be the donor and receptor of ideas from all around biogeekdom. I am continuously trying to collect some links on the campers on the BioBarCamp FriendFeed Room to make future Campers preconnected.

Eva Amsen (writing, blog 1, blog 2)

Michael Andreg

Siamak “Ash” Ashrafi

Monya Baker (Nature Reports Stem Cells, The Niche) 7th, August (added by ACs)

Alex Bangs (Entelos, bio)

Pedro Beltrao (blog, postdoc@UCSF)

Jason Bobe (blog , www.personalgenomes.org, www.DIYbio.org)

Kevin Braithwaite

Martin Brandon

Mackenzie Cowell (diybio.org, pobol, cis-action) Continue reading

Life extension people & session at SciFoo 2008, Googleplex!

Last year I was probably the only SciFoo Camper with an explicit life extension commitment. I suggested & held a session which was related a bit to partial immortalization but was rather about the systems biology perspective in general, illustrated with some examples. So throughout the terrific SciFoo Camp 2007 life extension as a conversation topic remained rather implicit (ok, close to zero) and there was not much room to discuss it in the lack of other fellow life extensionists.

In my opinion the whole point of unconferences is to form the good aggregate of people with a common interest & similar/complementer message to join forces in order to draw enough (intellectual) attention for their topic. In this context, an unconference is about topics at the first place, not just about people. Idea networking is as important as social networking.

And if something fits 100% with the idea of SciFoo it is life extension/aging just as handling terrantic scientific datasets, open science or climate change as all these topics are utterly complicated and quite urgent screaming for the attention of the smartest people.

So I emailed Timo Hannay, SciFoo organizer:

“One thing I’ve noticed is that it would be very good to organize a session on scientific life extension technologies and consequences, because the SciFoo people are ideal to see and discuss all angles of this really important topic.”

And…..here is a session suggestion for SciFoo Camp 2008: Continue reading

Understanding Aging Conference is over but it is the end of the beginning

I try to cover some interesting, sciencey points on the conference in later posts, right now just a brief, subjective human- and strategy focused summary:

Congrats to Aubrey de Grey and the team, everything went well and if finally a worldwide consensus is around the corner claiming that robust healthy lifespan extension is technologically possible and worth achieving it is largely due to Aubrey’s relentless networking, organizing activity and American like pushy marketing strategy! Well done!

Had a nice chat with a diverse bunch of interesting people amongst others: Barbara Logan, Nason Schooler, Todd Huffman, Betty Liu, the startupper Andregg brothers, Mark Hamalainen, Keith Causey, Ben Zealley, Brian Martin and sure I forget to mention many more here.

In the photo (thanks Barbara Logan): Neal Van De Ree, Florida auctioneer and activist, John Furber, Legendary Pharmaceuticals, Florida, Aubrey, Paul Logan, Alex Zhavoronkov, GTCBio, BioGerontology Research Foundation Damian Crowe, Genescient, BioGerontology Research Foundation and yours truly.

Conference photo via Bruce Klein: Continue reading