Healthy life extension is not 1 out of the 14 Grand Engineering Challenges…that can be realistically met, most of them early in this century according to the Committee on Grand Challenges for Engineering with members such as Larry Page, Dean Kamen, Craig Venter, Robert Langer and …lifestyle life extensionist, nanovisionary Ray Kurzweil. There is a challenge though called Engineer better medicines and the essay behind looks as if it had been hacked together by Kurzweil and Venter themselves during a sunny Californian Soy Beer Baby Boomer Beach Party. It is about personalized medicine in large and the only hint – I was able to find – to a recent discipline named regenerative medicine is a paragraph, not on, say the challenge of systemic regmed, but on synthetic biology.
It is a big challenge to learn how could healthy lifespan extension as a big and realistic challenge have been left out? Why did Kurzweil (author of the book Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever) not stand up for it? Why nobody out of the luminaries thought that regenerative medicine and stem cells worth discussing more than a tiny side note? And what about Venter, whom I still like to be interview as there are many points in his activity suggesting a life extension connection. Somebody in the committee was clearly against it?
One friend told me that he is not surprised by this, because it was announced at the AAAS meeting, which is very conservative. Out of the committee members Ray Kurzweil, Daniel Hillis, and maybe Dean Kamen would have been supporters of including LE as a challenge.
The other friend suggested that such “joint” statements usually are a rugby scrum that results in many things getting cut out. On the other hand he personally heard R. Kurzweil profess that life extension escape velocity would be achieved 15 years from now.
According to Wired Science:
They (the committee members) felt it more important to outline broad objectives that might influence research funding and governmental policy.
And here is the point: life extension should be a private business and not something left to governmental policies and think thanks.
And when the Google founders are getting old within a couple of years (just like all of us) they will still have the chance to move in and support everything healthy and biotech (beyond personal genomics and 23andMe). Larry will ask Lucy, and Sergey will ask Anne again. (I am serious here, but I’ll explain later why and how Google – a company, not a government – could be the decisive player in life extension technology.) But that is another story.
Update: the post with the question marks was sent to Mr. Kurzweil by Amara D. Angelica, editor of KurzweilAI.net