Re: a to-do list for the next century

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Sun Mar 26 2000 - 13:37:44 MST

Well, the discussion has gone on for a week now and in reviewing
the ideas, there has been no mention of "present value analysis".

The question is:
  "What bold endeavors do you wish you could see funded in the
   next decade?"
In providing suggestions, we should look at whether we giving
answers (we personally) think are "nice" or "clever" ideas, or are
we providing proposals, that are really "bold endeavors", i.e.
ideas for things that would truly make a difference?

First, you have to look at (a) what might *really* be done (there
is no point to undertaking an endeavor if it *really* cannot be done),
and (b) what isn't already being done (because the stuff currently
being done presumably isn't very "bold"). Then finally, you have to
try to determine the present value of the various suggestions.

When I do this analysis, I am forced to conclude that Natasha Vita-More
is absolutely correct. The boldest endeavors of the greatest value
would push issues of lifespan extension and technology for that
into the daily discussions of every person on the planet.
It was pointed out by the people of the Hunger Project, many
years ago, that the deaths from hunger and malnutrition occuring
in the world were equivalent to crashing a 747 loaded with people
into the side of a mountain *every hour*. Those deaths are
a small fraction of the deaths caused by pandemic dieases
and aging.

While NIH is receiving regular boosts in funding and organizations
like the Welcome Trust have their pockets open. There is much
more that could be done. Fortune (March 27, 2000, pg 226), points
out that of the ~$35 Billion in VC that was invested in 1999,
the rankings related to health were: Health-care services(8th),
Medical devices (10th), Biotechnology(11th), and Pharmaceuticals
(17th; last). Pharmaceuticals received less money in 1999 than
it did in 1997. All of the health categories *combined* got less
funding than any of the top 5 catagories.

The greatest aggregate loss to the planet is millions of people
dying every year. We may be losing species at a rapid rate
but we are losing humans as well. And push come to shove
I'll take the life of a human over the life of a bug in the
Amazon every day of the week. The longer it takes for people
to get serious about re-engineering people so they do not age
and die, the more deaths there will be on the hands of those who
could have done something but didn't. In ten or twenty years
the people who had the resources or the opportunity, will look
back and wonder how many more they could have saved if they had
pushed a bit harder or invested a little sooner.

The boldest endeavor, that I can think of would be to commute
the death sentences imposed on the majority of people alive today.
Saving the greatest number of humans that can possibly be saved
should be the priority. I don't believe that projects that
change governments or provide free education or put terminals
in the hands of everyone on the planet will do that as effectively
as developing the medical, bio- and nano-technlogies that are
required to eliminate current causes of death and aging.


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