January 02, 2006
Aging Baby Boomers Begin To Turn 60

The earliest post World War 2 baby boomers have begun turning 60 years old.

The baby boom, a post World War II population explosion, began 60 years ago today, on Jan. 1, 1946. By the time it ended in 1964, 75.8 million children had been born in the United States. By Dec. 31, about 2.8 million boomers will have turned 60, the leading edge of a demographic shift that will make America, and the world, statistically older than ever before.

I am hopeful that the boomers are far less willing to resign themselves to aging than previous generations and as the fact of their aging sinks in that they will begin to push harder for acceleration of research into rejuvenation therapies. Aubrey de Grey's appearance on the very popular CBS 60 Minutes TV news show just introduced tens of millions of boomers to the idea of Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS). The 60 Minutes show introduced the Methuselah Mouse Prize as a way to incentivize anti-aging research just as the X Prize accelerated the development of technology for space exploration. Those of us who promote the idea of full body rejuvenation as an achievable goal have seen this cause come a long way from the fringe to the mainstream. About 8 or 9 years ago Aubrey was discussing rejuvenation with a small handful of us on the Usenet group sci.life-extension. Gradually he's made it into major print publications and TV with the idea that aging is curable.

The rise in the average age of Western populations increases the economic value of rejuvenation therapies. When only a very small fraction of societies were old the economic return on rejuvenation was much less. But with so many highly skilled people basically wearing out and deterioriating the loss of human capital from aging is immense. Efforts to rejuvenate humans would have an economic return that is analogous to the return from rebuilding worn out capital equipment.

The reason I see rejuvenation as an achievable goal is that aging is just a changing of the arrangement of matter and our ability to rearrange matter is advancing very rapidly. Ray Kurzweil (see The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology) makes this argument with logarithmic charts and graphs showing continuing accelerations of CPU speeds, hard disk capacities, fiber optic bandwidths and other measures. While none of his trends will continue unbroken indefinitely (e.g. we will reach the point where electronic devices can't get any smaller than atoms) the trends will continue along far enough to eventually produce nanotechnological devices that make full body rejuvenation and enhancement very easy to do. Barring the destruction of human civilization (which could happen any of several plausible ways including a massive supernova or other interstellar event reaching Earth) the development of rejuvenation therapies is not a question of if. It is a question of when. Current demographic trends provide a powerful argument for accelerating the development of rejuvenation therapies. Of course, the personal desire to not grow old and decrepit is another powerful argument for reversing the aging process.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 January 02 10:43 PM  Trends Demographic


Comments
David Govett said at January 3, 2006 12:59 AM:

How far will people go when reversing the aging process? Puberty? Infancy? Fetus?

Mike Anderson said at January 3, 2006 4:38 AM:

In the case of the Boomers, you'd need to customize the extent of age reversal. Many of us DO act borderline pubescent, if not downright infantile. Sometimes I think my generation is a good argument for NOT having indefinite life extension: do we really want to subject future generations to tie-dye t-shirts and the Moody Blues?

Just for fun, read Jack McDevitt's Polaris, which has life extension as a major plot theme.

Bob Badour said at January 3, 2006 8:56 AM:

Personally, I would like to have the energy and health of a 26 year old or younger, and the temperament of a 26 year old or older.

Robert Schwartz said at January 3, 2006 3:35 PM:

They will need to extend their lives dramatically as not a one of them has saved a sous for his retirement.

odograph said at January 3, 2006 3:57 PM:

I'm a late boomer (funny, I always thought of myself('58) as post-boomer) who just finished reading "Accelerando." The pitch made there is that you've got to be born pretty close to the singluarity to relate to it, and to make the jump.

Without getting as blue sky as that (excellent) book, I think it is a bit much to expect the bulk of the boomer population to understand and desire trans-human experience.

Anyway, the tech curve doesn't look like it's moving fast enough for someone my age. I'd say current "singularity" talk about as far ahead of the tech curve as H.G. Wells (100 years?).

Randall Parker said at January 3, 2006 7:39 PM:

Dave Govett,

Your question makes me flash on the end sequence of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

odograph,

Keep in mind that the first derivative of the rate of progress in manipulating small stuff is positive. The cost of DNA sequencing, for example, has fallen by orders of magnitude in the last 40 years. Just last year a single research paper published out of Harvard cut another order of magnitude off of sequencing costs. Look at DNA gate arrays as another example of orders of magnitude improvements.

I'm expecting microfluidics advances to accelerate general biological research in a similar orders of magnitude fashion.

I do not know when the singularity will come. But I expect anyone who can make it to some point between 2030 and 2040 will start getting young again and therefore will live to see the singularity.

Bob Badour said at January 3, 2006 8:05 PM:

I am just excited that Aubrey is mainstream enough to appear on Sixty Minutes! Woo Hoo!

To my thinking, that's a huge advancement. The funding won't materialize until people accept the possibility.

Kurt said at January 3, 2006 10:09 PM:

Microfluidics will definitely accelerate biological research. I'm not sure I believe in Kurtweil's singularity, but i definitely believe in the biosingularity and that the SENS approach is the way to get there.

It is amazing, not only the pessimism that is expressed by conservatives about life extension, but their hostility towards it. This just blows my mind. I have always considered self-sufficiency and self-reliance to be the foundation of conservative values. The aging process, of course, reduces the self-reliance of the individual. One would therefor expect the conservatives to line up to support something like SENS. Why their hostility towards it instead? Perhaps they have lost their minds. Maybe they have an early form of Alzhiemer's. Who knows?

We also know that religion is a fraud. The Teri Schaivo case convinced me of this. Their obsession with keeping people alive, even against their own will, in bodies that are obviously disfunctional and (in their opinion) with no prospect of any kind of technology to restore their functionality, makes it clear to me that they really do not believe that human consciousness survives physical death. After all, if human consciousness survives physical death, that makes the physical body about as relevent as a car. The car becomes non-functional, you either get a new car, or move somewhere (Tokyo, NYC) where you do not need a car. The concept of an afterlife would be analogous to the move to Tokyo or NYC. The fact that the christians do have an obsession with life in physical form makes it clear to me that human consciousness does not, in fact, live or function independent of a physical body and that, therefor, any concept of an afterlife is fraudulent.

Also, if we really did survive physical death, would not old people look forward to the transition in the same manner high school seniors look forward to graduation and moving on in life? The fact that they don't also makes it clear that the really do not believe in an after life.

If the christians themselves do not believe in an afterlife, how on Earth can they ever expect a hard-core rationalist materialist such as myself to buy into their afterlife concept? Are these people dense or what?

I think Spengler and others who claim that religion is the pathway to immortality are either lying through their teeth or deluding themselves. I'm not sure which.

It is based on thier attitudes towards radical life extension that I consider conservatism, as something separate and distinct from libertarianism, to be nothing but facism.

PacRim Jim said at January 3, 2006 10:22 PM:

Apropos "The Singularity," since computer-based intelligence will surpass human intelligence about that time and then blast past it by many orders of magnitude, what's the point of humans living forever? We'll feel relatively like nematodes on this planet, so who'll want to live thousands of years?

Bob Badour said at January 4, 2006 7:00 AM:

Kurt,

I see conservativism as favouring the preservation of important institutions and taking a cautious approach to change. I would expect many of them to see aging and death as important institutions with biological origin. I don't see how that is fascist.

Bob Badour said at January 4, 2006 7:00 AM:

Kurt,

I see conservativism as favouring the preservation of important institutions and taking a cautious approach to change. I would expect many of them to see aging and death as important institutions with biological origin. I don't see how that is fascist.

Richard Bellamy said at January 4, 2006 7:34 AM:

Okay, maybe this is a weird question, but when, exactly did people born in January, 1946 become considered "baby boomers."

My mother -- born in June 1946 -- always said that she was one of the very first baby-boomers, calculated (reasonably, I thought) from exactly nine-months after the end of WWII.

I can tell you that, for certain, 20 years ago the "Baby Boomers Turn 40" edition of Time Magazine (which my mother framed) was their May 19, 1986 edition -- not their New Years' edition.

Kurt said at January 4, 2006 9:03 AM:

Bob,

Institutions exist to serve individuals. Not the other way around. Individuals are moral autonomous agents. Individuals are free to come together to create whatever social organizations they choose to create to fulfill whatever needs or wants that they may have. Where does it say in libertarianism that people cannot do this? They have no business compelling others to support those organizations if those others see no benefit in being associated with any such organizations.

Different people have different dreams and goals in life. There is no such thing as "one size fits all" when it comes to social institutions.

If the conservatives view aging and death as necessary to preserve their beloved institutions, this certainly suggests that those institutions have no useful function in a post-mortal society where people no longer age and die. In which case, those institution also have no valid reason to exist. If these institutions are valid in a post-mortal society, is it not likely that they will continue to exist and adapt to the changed conditions of a post-mortal society? In which case, the conservatives have no reason to oppose the development of effective anti-aging medicine.

If this is not the case, I do feel justified in calling conservatism facism. That's because the conservatives are effectively arguing that the preservation of their beloved institutions require (demand) the killing of people (through blocking the development of effective anti-aging technology) who may or may not want anything to do with those institutions. If that is not facistic, then I don't what is.

If the conservatives want to sacrifice their personal lives to preserve their institutions, that is their choice and they have the right to do so. They have absolutely no business imposing that choice on others who want nothing to do with them.

Please do not misunderstand me. If the defense of freedom itself requires me to sacrefice my life, I will do so. I won't like it, but I will do so in the end. However, I would never, ever consider sacreficing my life for any value or entity other than freedom itself.

Jim said at January 4, 2006 10:05 AM:

aging is a result of entropy
disorder proceeds with time (and, in fact, increasing entropy defines time)

the slowing of entropy of the human body (mind included) will be a lot harder than predicted by zealots in the field (in my ignorant opinion). jules verne (sp?) never got to go 20,000 leagues below the sea in a submarine.

the fear of death is a powerful force though.

curious george said at January 4, 2006 10:21 AM:

Although the idea of slowing the aging process is a good one-leaves us more time to enjoy the great parts about life...it's ridiculous to say that we will be able to stop it eventually. I mean, that's just what things on earth DO. They live and then they die. Besides, it seems like only the richest of the rich would be able to afford this kind of process. Which, leaves us behind a bunch of deteriorating poor people, and the problems of economy will still be a problem...

Kurt said at January 4, 2006 10:35 AM:

No. Aging is really not an entropy thing because entropy only applies to a closed system. Biological lifeforms, by definition, are open systems. They take inputs in the form of air, light, water, and food and output energy, waste products, and sweat. Hense, an open system. An open system can sustain itself indefinitely as long as the energy input into the system is greater than the energy output. The 2nd law of thermodynamics.

The entropy argument for aging is most often presented in the form of genomic DNA mutation build up, which obviously cannot be a cause of aging. The reason is that the genomic DNA mutations that cause cancer are the only ones that cause the whole system to crash (i.e. the person dies of cancer). Genomic DNA mutations that do not cause cancer cause only the affected cell to become non-functional. The rest of the body remains intact. Apotosis (programmed cell death) is the preferred method used by the body to eliminate non-functional cells.

Genomic DNA mutations were commonly believed to be the principle cause of aging back in the 60's and 70's. It was comprehensively ruled out by the 80's.

All of the current indications are that mitochondiral DNA mutations are at least 50% of aging (remember, mitochondrial DNA does not have the same self-repair mechanisms that genomic DNA has). There are proposed therapies to correct this oversight. The remaining causes (see the SENS website for explaination) are likely responsible for the ramaining 50% of aging.

I really do think that SENS is achievable in the next 30-40 years.

Jim said at January 4, 2006 12:51 PM:

Kurt, yes, aging IS due to an increase in entropy.

you're right that a living creature is not a closed system or else it would be impossible, not improbable to reduce the entropy (nor would life even hold any meaning, but that's a lot more of a meta-physics question than physics). quite a bit of external work must be added to reduce the rate of increase in entropy, and the body has many mechanisms to turn those cheeseburgers to useful, entropy-reducing work.

entropy effects are observed in much more than just genetic mutations, from tissue to bone to blood vessel to brain damage. take any organ.... it starts life close to perfect (for a perfectly healthy child of course) and slowly has defects occuring that impede each organ's operations.

if something can go wrong it will. efforts to fix the most common problems will help many suffering those particular problems, but everything eventually breaks down and reverts to its equilibrium state, which for earth-based creatures in this oxygen-rich system is ash, water, and co2.

The Man in the Yellow Hat said at January 4, 2006 1:06 PM:

Curious George,

Bird fly. Humans don't. That's just what birds and humans DO. Fish breathe underwater. Humans drown underwater. That's just what birds and humans DO. Well, at least until humans develop technology like aircraft and self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA).

Only rich people can afford polio vaccines. Only rich people can afford anti-biotics. Only rich people can afford anti-virals. Except that poor people can afford all those things too. Hmmmm, curious indeed.

Make one microfluidics device capable of diagnosing 1000 ailments that require early intervention for successful treatment, and the device will be dear. Make enough for everyone to use monthly and discard and the major impediment will become disposal costs.

Regards,
The Man in the Yellow Hat

Bob Badour said at January 4, 2006 1:16 PM:

Kurt,

I much care much what libertarians think--they are as looney as kumbaya commies are.

The problem with conservatives is not that they will force you to die. The problem with conservatives is that they won't allow you to tax them to keep from dying. It's a very different thing.

I want tax dollars to go toward basic research into ending death. A hundred years from now, I want to be a cradle robber hitting on all the hot looking 80 year olds. "Hey, baby! Why don't you come back to my place and I will show you my holograms? *wink*"

Kurt said at January 4, 2006 1:26 PM:

Jim,

The specific causes of "organ defects" is addressed at www.gen.cam.ac.uk/sens. Once the molecular biological processes are identified, there is no fundamental reasons why they cannot be altered to fix the problem. Biological systems (like human bodies) have active self-repair mechanisms to repair and maintain system functionality against the kind of "entropy" that you describe. It just a matter of enhancing and restoring these repair mechanisms. This is what stem-cell regenerative medicine is all about. The defeat of aging is a question of when, not if.

Cost of medical therapies is an issue. Vaccines, anti-virals, and the like tend to be very cheap. Surgical procedures that involve the time and skill of expensive surgeons tend to be very expensive. However, elective surgical techniques, such as LASIX and plastic surgury (which also involve the time and attention of expensive surgeons) tend to decline in price over time. This suggests that when medicine is subjected to the competitive marketplace, like most other stuff, that its prices come down as well.

There is also medical tourism. You can get a bone marrow transplant (which, at $2.5 million is THE most expensive medical procedure in the U.S.) for $26K in India. There are chemical contract manufacturers in China that will synthesize just about any organic and inorganic compound known to mankind on an contract basis. In addition to the free market, globalization is our friend and ally in reducing medical costs.

The naysayers who say that aging cannot or should not be cured express the same kind of defeatist mentality that said that power flight was impossible, Man could never land on the Moon, or that the Nazis and Soviets were invincible and that we should just roll over and play dead for them. This kind of defeatist mentality has never done any good for anyone.

Bob Badour said at January 4, 2006 1:29 PM:

Richard,

That's an interesting remark you made about the start of the baby boom. I suggest that the '50-something' managers and editors back in 1986 were old enough to remember 1946 and so remembered that detail from first-hand experience. The '50-something' managers and editors in 2006 lack that first-person perspective.

That's my theorey and I'm sticking to it.

Kurt said at January 4, 2006 1:51 PM:

Conservatives and Anti-aging:

It is suggested that the conservatives, as people separate and distinct from libertarians, oppose anti-aging technology because they are afraid that post-mortals will no longer have any vested interests in maintaining the social institutions that the conservatives believe in. Is it not likely that not everyone will want to become post-mortal as it is made available to them? in which case, would there not be "conservatives" around to maintain and preserve their beloved institutions? In which case, what is the basis of their fear?

Maybe conservative social institutions are as relevent to a post-mortal society as horses and buggies are relevent to the automobile age. Two things strike me about this. One, the conservatives have little regard to the competance and ability of "average Joe Blow" to make his own personal choices. Secondly, the conservatives seem to be arguing for the "positive" right to make choices for other people in the same manner that those despised socialist, communists, and other assorted "liberals" do all the time through the destruction of our school system and enforced social engineering. In other words, by denying the right of the individual to freely choose for his or her own self, are not the conservatives engaging in the same kind of social engineering that they deride the liberals for doing? Is this not the pot calling the kettle black?

I say it is.

Medical Costs:

It is certainly true that medical "stuff" in general is very expensive. Is there any reason to assume that this must always be the case? In the 1960's computers were very expensive. Only governments and large corporations could afford them. They also had a certain glamor associated with them (like in the old Bond movies). Today they are very cheap. Any reason why medicine cannot follow a similar cost/performance progression over the next 30-40 years? Perhaps medicine is expensive because we are still caught up in the "mainframe" era.

Fly said at January 4, 2006 4:34 PM:

Kurt: “The entropy argument for aging is most often presented in the form of genomic DNA mutation build up, which obviously cannot be a cause of aging.”

Genomic DNA mutations could have an indirect affect that causes aging. For example, suppose that the main stem cell reservoirs are in bone marrow. Bone marrow stem cells then travel through the blood stream to replenish local stem cell reservoirs in various tissues. Accumulating genomic DNA mutations reduce the regenerative ability of bone marrow stem cells. (I’m just guessing. There is evidence that hematopoietic stem cells lose regenerative power with age. I don’t know that the loss is due to DNA damage.) Over time, tissues lose their regenerative abilities and begin to fail. Some tissue failures result in loss of body homeostasis and that eventually results in death.

So genome DNA mutations in bone marrow stem cells could be one cause of aging. (Has anyone looked at replacing old mouse bone marrow stem cells with young mouse stem cells? Perhaps a leukemia related treatment?)

“Genomic DNA mutations were commonly believed to be the principle cause of aging back in the 60's and 70's. It was comprehensively ruled out by the 80's.”

I’m aware of studies that showed no more “aging” in high metabolic tissues (e.g., retina) than in low metabolic tissues. And no more “aging” in high-turnover tissues than in low turnover tissues. So I do believe studies indicated that DNA mutations in local tissues were unlikely to be a major factor in aging. But those studies didn’t rule out the above stem cell hypothesis.

“All of the current indications are that mitochondiral DNA mutations are at least 50% of aging”

That is a very broad claim. Studies of mitochondrial DNA defects in aging muscle tissues are interesting but certainly not conclusive at this point. Studies have shown that the percentage of mitochondrial DNA defects is small in most aged tissues. (Unless the patient inherited a mitochondrial genetic disease.)

Until changing a biological factor can be shown to reverse aging, I’d say it is too soon to conclude that the biological factor causes aging.

Kurt said at January 4, 2006 7:56 PM:

Fly

Replacement of old bone marrow cells with young one in mice have been tried (this is a relatively cheap experiment to perform). As far as I know, it didn't work. Yes, I've heard that hematopointic stem cells do loose their regenerative capability, but supposedly its not due to genomic DNA mutations. I also heard that there is a way to rejuvenate them as well (i.e. immortalize them) where they do not become cancerous.

The problem with this theory is that it can account for aging in only the dividing tissue, not the non-dividing tissue. Since aging affects both kinds of tissue, there must be another explanation.

Randall Parker said at January 4, 2006 9:23 PM:

DNA and aging: I believe DNA mutations make a significant contribution to aging. But so do several other factors. DNA isn't the cause of aging. But it is an important one.

Conservative and aging: Kurt, I really think that Leon Kass belongs to a small minority on the subject of rejuvenation. He just happens to have been given a big platform by Bush. I do not think he's representative of conservatives as a whole. The religious opposition to human embryonic stem cell research does not represent a general rejection of biomedical research or rejuvenation therapies.

Try asking religious people if they'd use rejuvenation therapies should such therapies become available. All the ones I asked said Yes. Ditto for conservatives I've asked.

The biggest obstacle in the way of the development of rejvenation therapies does not come from religious people or conservatives. The biggest obstacle in the way of an acceleration of the development of SENS treatments are the overwhelming majority of scientists who are reluctant to state that the development of such therapies is an achievable goal within a few decades.

Think about that. Scientific conservatism, not religious or political conservatism is the biggest obstacle.

Fly said at January 4, 2006 9:46 PM:

Yeah, if just replacing the blood marrow cells worked then the experiment where they connected the blood system of a young mouse to an old mouse should have rejuvenated the old mouse to some degree. Clearly more is involved.

“The problem with this theory is that it can account for aging in only the dividing tissue, not the non-dividing tissue.”

The aging of dividing tissue could cause systemic hormone problems that affect the non-dividing tissue. Various tissues must operate properly to maintain homeostasis. (I’m not sure that there are any totally non-dividing tissues. The brain comes closest and I think the recent evidence is that new neurons are continually being generated. Clearly the replacement rate is very, very slow.)

Note that I am not claiming that aging is one factor. As the SENS site suggests many things are going wrong. I’m just saying that we don’t yet know what factor is most important for human aging. (Different factors may be more important for yeast or worms.)

remo williams said at January 5, 2006 4:54 AM:

Randall, two points:

You may be right about a 2030-2040 timeframe for age reversal, although Kurzweil has 2015 for when serious age stagnation begins. Maybe 2020-2025?

Second, to a degree conservatives have stalled the advance of science. While the military has contributed to advances in some areas, think of where ewed be today if we spent $250 billion on national defense a year instead of over $300 billion over the past 20 years. Then extend similar numbers (obviously smaller) to the 60s and 70s.

It is possible cancer would be cured today rather than 2010 - 2012. Not necessarily, but possibly.

Kurt said at January 5, 2006 8:32 AM:

Randall,

You are correct that religious opposition to embryonic stem cell usage does not rreepresent a general rejection of biomedical research. What prompted my rant earlier this week was reading comments on the National Review's blog (The Corner) where several noted conservatives such as John Derbyshire and others expressed hostility and opposition to radical life extension in general, regardless of embryonic stem cell usage. I have encountered similar comments by other conservatives. Hense, my conclusion that conservatives, in general, are hostile to real life extension.

I find this attitude appalling because I came of age during Reagan, whom I regard as one of the greatest presidents we ever had. I also feel the same about Maggie Thatcher. I am republican BECAUSE I believe in free markets, minimal government intrusion, and individual self-reliance and self-ownership. To me, this is TRUE conservatism, not this collectivist rot you sometimes see over on National Review and Townhall. Radical life extension fits right in with this definition of true conservatism becuase it makes the individual more independent and self-reliant. How can a conservative argue against this?

Ayn Rand said it best: Capitalism is the essence of conservatism. If a conservative is not for capitalism, then he stands for nothing.

Jim said at January 5, 2006 12:11 PM:

RP - they don't need to convince the average scientist it's achievable in a few decades, just convince a few venture capitalists or major biotech/drug companies.

it'll happen. a lot of breakthroughs are needed on many science and engineering fronts though.

Fly said at January 5, 2006 2:06 PM:

“While the military has contributed to advances in some areas, think of where ewed be today if we spent $250 billion on national defense a year instead of over $300 billion over the past 20 years.”

DARPA’s building of the Internet and early funding of integrated circuits, microprocessors, computer science, microwave communications, fiber optics, etc. shouldn’t be discounted.

My guess is that the money not spent on national defense would have been spent on social programs that were even less likely to further science and the economy than the military spending.

Now if I had $50 billion a year for twenty years to spend on the projects that I deemed most important could I do better? Well sure. I have hindsight, I’m smarter than the average politician, and I’ve played many hours of Civilization. Besides if I screwed up I’d just restart the game.

To me the biggest setback has been 911. The hit to the economy and the diversion of wealth and talent devoted to the war must have slowed biotech. Before 911 there was also an “open source” biotech movement. The idea was to provide the information and tools so that anyone could do biotech. Not such a great idea when bio-terrorism is a real threat.

On the other hand biotech, nanotech, and IT are progressing so rapidly it is hard for me to imagine that things could go faster. Sometimes more money and more people doesn’t speed things up.

Randall Parker said at January 5, 2006 8:12 PM:

Jim,

I am very serious that scientists are the biggest obstacle. Aubrey de Grey argues this point as well.

Aubrey de Grey argues that if scientists started writing lots of grant applications for investigations toward developing the ability to do SENS that lots of funding would simply shift toward SENS. Grant agencies shift their priorities based on what scientists en masse want to do.

Also, if scientists said rejuvenation is in reach within 20 or 30 years that would cause the public to shift toward very strongly demanding acclerated research. No one wants to be the last one to die of aging.

The debate about human embryonic stem cell research is a distraction that causes too many people to think about biomedical research in politically partisan terms. Even without human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research we can develop SENS and many SENS treatments (e.g. crosslink breakers and gene therapy for xenohydrolase delivery) will not depend on any stem cells at all. The biggest problem is not the opposition to hESC research. The biggest problem is the lack of belief that SENS is a technologically achievable goal.

Really, let other people argue about hESC research. There's no shortage of such people. You each personally ought to put your efforts into arguing that SENS is achievable and in a time frame to save most of the people alive right now.

Jim said at January 6, 2006 7:35 AM:

grant applications are written to specific solicitations or an privately-funded grant for technology that can be potentially commercialized.

i don't know who aubrey de grey is or too much about the sens debate, but if you can extend rich peoples' lives, then there are literally hundreds of billions of dollars available (bill gates isn't too old and very well-funded) and if adg has ideas how it's possible, he should act. or whoever has such ideas should act.

because a few well-funded visionaries could hire armies of well-directed biological engineers.

on many levels isn't this what biotech companies are working on now? - chemical approaches (drugs) to solving problems, and some mechanical approaches. think about all the bionic joints and blood vessels (stents). in-vivo microrobot surgeons can't be too far off

i'm sure a lot of basic research is still needed to understand the true biological mechanisms at play for each individual organ/cell/whatever function. biological engineers are pretty far behind architects or aerospace engineers in having well defined, mechanistic models to make reasonable design trade-offs for biological engineering problems. usually they deal with statistical studies that make correlations

Bob Badour said at January 6, 2006 8:07 AM:

Architects and aerospace engineers start with tools and components that were themselves designed. In spite of what some folks believe, living things were never designed.

Designs by necessity and for aesthetic reasons keep things simple and compartmentalized. Evolution doesn't care about that. Mutations in proteins can affect scores or even hundreds of processes in different ways--some beneficial, some neutral and some harmful.

I suspect it will be a while before we have computers powerful enough to evaluate deterministic models.

aa2 said at January 6, 2006 1:38 PM:

One of the good things lately is the valuations in pharmacueticals, medical instruments and biotech. Even for smaller more innovative companies if you can get products that look prommising in early trials you are set. As you can sell the company to the mega-pharma companies who are looking to expand their pipelines.

aa2 said at January 6, 2006 1:48 PM:

remo - The time frames are going to be key for the boomers obviously. Ten years here or there doesn't matter much for a 15 year old today as we look at the numbers. But for a 60 year old boomer, 2020 or 2030 could easily make or break them.

I agree with Randall that the most important thing to do is make life extension an accepted field. Which I think some companies are already talking about by saying the emerging field of regenerative medicine. Already I believe products are on the market which are arguably life extension products. Like Lipitor. As heart disease is the number one killer and it can substantially delay it. Every step like that is a victory.

Randall Parker said at January 6, 2006 9:53 PM:

Jim,

Most of the advances we need to make will take much longer than the average time horizon of venture capital investments.

Also, we need orders of magnitude more money than the venture capitalists currently invest in biotech and we need it for many years.

MC said at January 7, 2006 10:50 AM:


The fact that the christians do have an obsession with life in physical form makes it clear to me that human consciousness does not, in fact, live or function independent of a physical body and that, therefor, any concept of an afterlife is fraudulent.

Why would we care what Christian dogmatists think about the afterlife? Since when did dogmatists of any stripe have the corner on any kind of factual truth?

Here is a group of people who might actually have something to say about the possibility of the afterlife. I think you will find that in fact they are not at all afraid of death. Quite a few former materialists and atheists among them.

aa2 said at January 8, 2006 12:29 PM:

Randall - "Also, we need orders of magnitude more money than the venture capitalists currently invest in biotech and we need it for many years."

First I also support in general government research. I like the idea of 1% of gdp, which is about what the US does. Through many different agencies and states.

I wouldn't underestimate what venture capital can do though. Sure to solve the whole thing at once it is way more then can be financed by anyone. Same with if we had to cure every ailment at once it would cost too much. But different companies went after different problems. Same with aging, I think the way will be many companies each going after different parts.

For example stem cell therapy will be companies specializing on specific organs, and specific stem cells. Breaking cross links, could be companies each working to break certain types of them. Gene therapy could be companies specializing at fixing very specific pieces on the genome.

When I start listing all of these avenues I start thinking health care could easily grow to be far more of the economy then it already is.

Bob Badour said at January 8, 2006 2:06 PM:

aa2,

I see a couple of problems with your analysis:

1. Some of the treatments for SENS will actually treat a lot if not all of the age related diseases. I think the same processes underly many of them.

2. Venture capital generally jumps in to fund the commercialization of discoveries paid for by government research. With lower initial funding, the VC's will have fewer choices and will not allocate their resources as efficiently.

3. With improved tests and treatments, the costs of medical treatment will decrease. Less than 100 years ago, many people with deep lacerations spend days or weeks in hospital before finally succumbing to bacterial infection or perhaps losing a limb or two to gangrene. Contrast that with the cost of treatment with antibiotics.

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