[LINK] Should we live to 1,000?

post by XFrequentist · 2012-12-11T16:59:19.755Z · score: 10 (13 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 8 comments

Peter Singer, makes a (refreshingly simple) ethical case for anti-aging research, and endorses increased funding.

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-ethics-of-anti-aging-by-peter-singer

On which problems should we focus research in medicine and the biological sciences? There is a strong argument for tackling the diseases that kill the most people –diseases like malaria, measles, and diarrhea, which kill millions in developing countries, but very few in the developed world.

Developed countries, however, devote most of their research funds to the diseases from which their citizens suffer, and that seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Given that constraint, which medical breakthrough would do the most to improve our lives?

If your first thought is “a cure for cancer” or “a cure for heart disease,” think again. Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation and the world’s most prominent advocate of anti-aging research, argues that it makes no sense to spend the vast majority of our medical resources on trying to combat the diseases of aging without tackling aging itself. If we cure one of these diseases, those who would have died from it can expect to succumb to another in a few years. The benefit is therefore modest.

[...]

De Grey has set up SENS Foundation to promote research into anti-aging. By most standards, his fundraising efforts have been successful, for the foundation now has an annual budget of around $4 million. But that is still pitifully small by the standards of medical research foundations. De Grey might be mistaken, but if there is only a small chance that he is right, the huge pay-offs make anti-aging research a better bet than areas of medical research that are currently far better funded.

8 comments

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comment by Decius · 2012-12-11T20:25:39.397Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What is 'aging', if it isn't the changes that happen over long periods of time, like developing cancers, heart disease, and degenerative diseases?

comment by JGWeissman · 2012-12-11T20:48:11.406Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Aging is the accumulation of low level damage, like junk in your cells and the space between them, and telomere shortening which eventually cause cancer, heart disease, and degenerative diseases. The SENS approach is to repair the low level damage before it can accumulate to the point of causing noticeable symptoms.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-12-12T12:48:29.388Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

These changes are exactly what anti-aging research is seeking to prevent, so I'm not sure of the point of your question.

comment by Decius · 2012-12-12T21:10:36.487Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Because the article was advocating treating aging, instead of cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases.

If your first thought is “a cure for cancer” or “a cure for heart disease,” think again. Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer of SENS Foundation and the world’s most prominent advocate of anti-aging research, argues that it makes no sense to spend the vast majority of our medical resources on trying to combat the diseases of aging without tackling aging itself.

comment by beriukay · 2012-12-13T10:36:31.299Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'm thinking it's the difference between prevention and treating symptoms. It's more like "we will cure the common cold" and less like "we will make it so you don't suffer the stuffy nose while the virus wreaks havoc on your body".

comment by Thomas · 2012-12-12T11:31:28.629Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Currently we live as much time, as a snail would need to circle the Earth.

To put it in a perspective.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2012-12-12T15:31:32.873Z · score: 7 (9 votes) · LW · GW

A snail's perspective isn't very relevant to me...

comment by Error · 2012-12-12T16:43:31.811Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes I think it's not so much that life is too short, as that so much of the time available is necessarily wasted.