Re: a to-do list for the next century

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Sun Mar 26 2000 - 01:11:44 MST

On Saturday, March 25, 2000 8:09 PM Zero Powers
wrote:> >1. This isn't an either-or proposition. Both "normal" medical care
> >longevity can both be financed.
> I realize that. I was responding to Natasha who emphasized the need to
> counter the ubiquitous "deathist" meme. My point was simply that it will
> much easier to get people to support longevity research once it is clear
> that the environment will be able to support 10 billion people who like to
> make babies but don't like to die.

Outside of advanced nations, I'm not sure that many people care about the
environment. I'm not saying this is a good thing, but it seems a peculiarly
First World concern. Yeah, sure, you can find well off people in the Third
World worrying about such things, BUT I bet the average person in those
societies does not care about it.

Now, this might support Zero here, since First Worlders might not want even
more Third Worlders who are only interested in becoming First Worlders
quickly and leaving the environment as a luxury for the future.

But however that might be, the truth is the US generates enough food now to
feed about 5 times its population. If the relation were strictly linear,
then all we would need to feed a world of 10 billion people is the farmland
of 8 USAs using current methods. (Remember: most of the US is not farmed
and not all farmland actually produces. Actual stats are available at, but I'm
too tired to look them up tonight.:/) My point being, we don't need a lot
of research and money to figure out what works. We don't even that much to
put it into practice. In fact, probably the simplest way to do so would be
to cut off foreign aid packages to all nations, especially Third World ones.
This would, at the very least, stop funding local elites that typically put
ineffective social and economic policies into play, often for their benefit
at their peoples' expense -- not to mention it helps to prop up unpopular
and tyrannical regimes.

> It is hard to convince people that
> indefinite life spans won't presently sap our environmental and
> resources when people now typically only live less than 80 years and yet a
> good percentage of us are living in poverty and starving.

I agree there will be a problem convincing the average person in the First
World, but you don't need to do so. All one has to do is get longevity
research on a firmer footing and screw what the man or woman in the street
thinks. Get it done, then enough people will be around to solve these
problems. Notably, corpses don't tend to do a lot of creative/productive
work -- at least, last time I checked.:)

> >2. The amount of money needed to make decent progress towards longevity
> >- to take the level you quoted, $100 million - would have very little
> >practical impact on supplying "normal" medical care.
> I question whether $100 million would have very much impact on longevity
> research. My guess is that there is currently at least that much being
> spent right now on aging research and other research that will be of value
> to life extensionists. And sure $100 million would not end hunger, but
> could damn sure build a lot of irrigation with it.

I doubt that much is being spent on longevity research -- not when cryonics
organizations can hardly fund thier research, not when there exist only a
handful of reputable clinics and foundations working on chemical life
extension. Perhaps some of the big drug companies are investigating this
stuff, but I see most of the real work being done by universities and very
limited in scope. (Doug! Prove me wrong! Please prove me wrong! I don't
want to be right here.:)

> Perhaps, but I still maintain that if you couch it in terms like
> or indefinite life span research, you are simply not going to make any
> headway with the public, at least until we have global poverty, ignorance
> and hunger already under control.

I agree with Zero here. I usually don't talk to people about immortality.
Instead, I talk about living a very long time and staying young, active,
happy, healthy for that time. That usually digs into them more. Some of
this stuff has to be spoon fed, especially if you want to make a lasting
impact. For every person who buys into the immortality arguments, I've met
about twenty who think it's akin to flying saucers and black helicopters.
But when asked about just living longer and better, I'd say more than half
the people I talk with are willing to listen and think about it.

This might be a sad commentary on human nature, but then think about if
someone introduced you to a radically different way of looking at the world.
If she was wearing a clown suit and walking on her hands and she also
started talking about fantasy novels, would you really listen with rapt
attention? Or would you dismiss her as a kook?

> Oh sure, that's likely to go over *really* well. "Hey, lets all fund a
> bunch of way-out research so Bill Gates can live forever, while millions
> kids in the third world (not to mention a few thousand right in the good
> US of A) go to bed hungry every night." Nobody's going to touch that with
> 10 foot pole. Not Republicans, not Democrats, nobody.

It's not a matter of choice here. The rich can afford the latest and
greatest. The poor can't. Though I think more people today who aren't rich
can get in on the ground floor, the fact that there's inequality is just a
fact. We have to deal with it for now. Solving this problem -- one which
was attempted to be solved during 70 years of Soviet history; see the
results? -- is likely to be around much longer than we are, especially if we
don't solve the longevity problem.

> Don't get me wrong. I wish there was a bunch more research being done on
> nano, cryo and immortality. But the only way to get funding for such
> research is to convince people that there money is better spent there than
> somewhere else. I just think we're going to have a heck of a time
> convincing people of that as long as there are things to spend money on
> feeding, healing and improving the standard of living of the 6 billion
> people we already share this planet with.

Here I disagree with Zero. I don't the problem exists as he states it.
Most people do not spend that way. They don't think, "I've got to spend
everything I have above bare necessity on help the Joneses have as much as I
do." These Establishment Liberal pieties sound good in campaign speeches or
church sermons (for some, not for me), but most people never put them into
practice (and it's probably a good thing they don't; what money is sent to
help other societies often does more harm than good and a lot of it gets
consumed by do nothing bureaucrats*).

Daniel Ust

* See Michael Marin's 1997 book _The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of
Foreign Aid and International Charity_ for one view of the ill effects of
such schemes.

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