This is the last part of the blogterview with Chris Patil about the growing role of blogs and the web in aging research and life extension activism. Spread, summarize, criticize, connect. Thanks Chris for the answers.
I think that blogs can do for life extension the same thing they can do for politics (my other favorite subject): They can spread the word about current events; they can provide summarizing analysis of a dense and exponentially growing literature; and they can connect people with similar ideals and ideas.
As in politics, blogs about aging can also give people the wrong idea. We’ve all got an agenda, even scientists like me who purport to maintain a scholarly neutrality. My blog is targeted at other researchers, on the assumption that they’re the folks who are actually going to do the heavy lifting in basic research and therapy development — but there are clearly others in cyberspace who would disagree with that emphasis. I constantly remind my readers that we know more and more but that there’s still lots more we don’t know, whereas other writers would consider my position overcautious. Where’s the truth? It’s certainly not in any one writer’s work.
The second best thing any consumer of blogs can do is read many of them — I find that relying on a variety of sources tend to cancel out the nonsense.
I say that’s “second best” because the best thing we can do for ourselves in any type of media consumption is think critically about what we’re reading, and to always ask: On what basis is a given claim made? Are credible sources cited? Were there alternative conclusions that could have been reached, and did the author explain why they didn’t favor those alternatives? To what extent is a given conclusion based on reason, hope, misunderstanding, ideology, or something else?
Blogs can’t do anything unless they’re read widely and engaged on multiple levels, and that’s where the readers can play an active part. Reading a blog can be very educational, but blogs aren’t just magazines — we can participate in the blogs we read. If a blog reminds you of something else, you can leave a comment and tell other readers about it. You can spread the word via email, and share your favorite articles and blogs with colleagues and friends. You can even use Web-2.0 approaches like tagging (digg, del.icio.us) to share blogs with people you don’t know. And of course if you’re a blogger, you can link to interesting articles on other bloggers’ blogs.
So in closing I want to encourage the readership of aging-related blogs to take advantage of the interactivity of the web, and to get involved with their favorite sites, as commenters and missionaries and contributors. Building an online community devoted to the biology of aging can only help the cause of lifespan extension.