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The Oblivious Public

Posted: March 4, 2012 at 4:50 pm

At the end of a post on the science of aging, filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas says the following on the goal of greatly extending human life:

Actual age reversal was something - that, when I first heard of it 5 years ago - I put in the category of time travel and ghosts. [But] after 5 years of interviewing the researchers and poking around labs with my camera, it is not a question of if but when. The general population has little idea of what is about to befall them.

Which is both true and a problem. From an advocate's point of view, I'd say that unless a much larger portion of the public gains an understanding of longevity, the level of support will not rise far enough to generate the large sums of money needed for meaningful progress within the next 20 to 30 years. Outside of stem cell medicine and cancer research, the necessary research programs to build rejuvenation biotechnology are somewhere between fringe, anemic, and non-existent, relatively speaking - and it's only the dedicated efforts of groups like the Methuselah Foundation and SENS Foundation that have boosted these research projects to be more than non-existent. The present few million dollars a year is a lot in one sense, but a drop in the bucket in comparison to the the hundred of millions that are necessary for real progress.

Given that, I feel I can say that if the first fruits of longevity science come as a surprise to the world at large, to the average fellow in the street, then those advances will likely be faltering and far less imposing than might have been possible. On the large scale progress in science and medical technology is a numbers game: the more public support there is, the easier it becomes to raise funding, the more researchers become interested in working in the field, and the more entrepreneurs step forward ... and the wheel turns faster as a result. To gain that greater public support requires persuasion, communication, and education - informal and otherwise - are thus it is these line items that are the roots of progress when looking at breadth of society and a length of decades.

And still, today, the public is indeed largely oblivious to longevity science - not at all aware of the possibility that biotechnologies already envisaged in some detail could be rejuvenating the old 20 to 30 years from now. That future is uncertain: it depends on many more people grasping the idea and the potential, and doing their part to help provide the research community with a full head of steam and major funding.


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