Blogterview with Fight Aging!’s Reason: answers to life extension questions

Our first answerer to the 6 questions is Reason, who is the main driving force of the biggest and most established life extension site, Fight Aging! (Technorati Rank) and The Longevity Meme, continuously from 2001.

1. What is the story of your life extension commitment?

I don’t like the idea of decaying, suffering and dying. I reached the point in life at which you realize you can make a difference. The rest is just logic.

2. Is it a commitment for moderate or maximum life extension?

communityAs much as possible. I endorse the concept presently known as actuarial escape velocity (de Grey), a bridge to a bridge (Kurzweil), the step by step approach, etc. The essence of the idea has been around for longer, but it’s getting more press these days; if the next advance increases your healthy life span enough, then you will be able to benefit from the life extension granted by the advance that follows. At some point, the ability to repair the damage of aging increases more rapidly than the damage accrues – and then we are ageless.

It is an open question as to whether this process will get underway soon enough for those young today. But it certainly won’t if we fail to organize and accomplish meaningful goals. None of the science, advocacy or fundraising is particularly hard or strange; it’s “just” going to require a great deal of work, money and infrastructure to get the job done. That fact didn’t stop the cancer research advocates, and it shouldn’t stop us.

3. What is your favourite argument supporting human life extension?

That it is possible, that it harms no-one, and that some people want to do it. No action needs any further argument or justification.

4. What is the most probable technological draft of human life extension, which technology or discipline has the biggest chance to reach it earliest? (regenerative medicine, nanotechnology, gene therapy, caloric restriction, bionics, hormones, antioxidants, …)

reasonThere is no single road forward. Fix any one failing system in the body suffiently well and you’ll still get scuppered by the rest of the damaged machinery as it falls apart. That said, the fast (and largely incidental) gains – say an extra 10-20 years of healthy life for those not damaging themselves into an early grave via obesity and other poor health practices – are going to come from some combination of:
a) tissue engineering/regenerative medicine for conditions in which small but vital populations of cells are depleted or damaged
b) successful cancer therapies, early diagnosis and prevention
c) successful enhancement or repair of the aging immune system
d) successful therapies for the most common neurodegenerative conditions
e) across-the-board improvement in knowledge, technologies of medical practice, and rate of research

I see these items coming into general use over the next 10-20 years in phases, as they are where much of the money is today. It’s a fool’s game to predict further than that; it depends on how far advanced nanotechnology development has progressed, how much of the technology platform has been turned to biological and medical usage, and how much progress advocacy for healthy life extension research has made in the interim.

On a timescale of decades, technology advances according to the scale of its research infrastructure. Today’s infrastructure increases life span by accident, and therefore inefficiently. The infrastructure of tomorrow must be dedicated to the task of healthy life extension if it is to progress rapidly and efficiently.

5. When?

It’s already happening. Don’t expect binary results; the dawn of the next generation of healthy life extension technologies will be utterly obvious in hindsight, and invisible while you are living it. Two decades from now,
healthy people will be living 10 or 20 years longer, and that seems fairly foregone at this point – the real game is to build up the will, support and dedicated anti-aging science infrastructure to (a) reach actuarial escape velocity rather than to just have your 20 years and nothing more, and (b) move fast enough to avoid our own deaths.

6. What can blogs do for LE?

Anyone who gets out there and talks seriously about healthy life extension, the science and supporting research is helping to move us over a tipping point. We are very close to starting the avalanche of public support and self-sustaining growth in awareness and education for healthy life extension science – very close indeed. Your efforts in advocacy today are quite possibly the most valuable they will ever be.

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