Re: boldest endeavor

Date: Sat Apr 01 2000 - 16:54:11 MST

In a message dated 3/28/00 5:35:41 PM Central Standard Time,

> As you point out, Robert, huge sums of money are already being diverted to
> health and longevity issues. In fact the desire for longevity is so obvious
> and the profits so sure, that it doesn't seem to me that anything other
> than the market is needed to make it happen. Do you feel that the
> marketplace is not going to provide the advances needed, and do you feel
> that a NGO could assign money to the correct labs that the market is not
> going to fund?
> I am not suggesting that health and longevity is not the highest priority;
> only that it is a priority already being served ( not perfectly) by
> investments. But there are other endeavors that are not being and won't be
> served by the market. These are the leverage points.

As other have pointed out, at this point, it's not so much money that needs
to be directed to specific research initiatives, so much as money that needs
to be invested in cultural change. As you might expect, extropians are
particularly sensitive to the nuances of how new scientific and technological
breakthroughs in the bio-sciences, especially those dealing with longevity
research are announced and discussed. Over the last couple of years,
especially, we've increasingly noticed what you might call a "shyness" or
reticence to discuss the real implications of work on things like telomere
shortening and other genetics breakthroughs, by the people who are doing this
work. Part of this can be accounted for by laudable scientific humility and
caution. But the unwillingness to come out and say that a particular new
development has real implications for increasing human longevity seems to go
beyond this. To many of us, it looks like FEAR, fear of challenging the deep
and universal assumptions in all human cultures about human limits. Outside
of a very few "visionaries", discussion of any kind of augmentation of the
human animal is simply taboo among serious researchers. This is like
physicists and engineers at the turn of the 20th century not being able to
talk about heavier-than-air flight.

Although this cultural barrier has probably not yet thrown up any real
impediment to progress toward advances in human longevity or other kinds of
augmentation, the time will come fairly soon when it will. Progress in the
laboratory and the clinic will, within the next five years, begin to hit the
limits of what can be done without open definition and discussion of the goal
of real augmentation of the human animal. The time to address this problem
is now. It will take money to push discussion and defense of this agenda
outside of relatively small "techno-visionary" communities such as Extropy
Institute and the core founders of the Foresight Institute. People who
really believe in this agenda need to invest in a cultural initiative on many
fronts: Writers need to be supported so that more books can be published;
speakers need to be put out into the public's attention; documentaries need
to be produced for television; specific researchers with the courage to
identify human augmentation as their goal need to be encouraged that their
work won't be stifled by fear and superstition. Entities like Extropy
Institute and Foresight do this work, but they need more money to carry the
message to a wider audience. So, I would say that some of the best money one
can invest now in a truly bright future for humanity is to increase levels of
support for these incubators.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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