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Radical Life Extension’s Problem isn’t Lack of Funding – it’s Weak Advocacy

Posted: Wed, May 29, 2013 | By: Indefinite Life Extension

by Franco Cortese

When asked what the biggest bottleneck for Radical or Indefinite Longevity is, most thinkers say funding. Some say the biggest bottleneck is breakthroughs and others say it’s our way of approaching the problem (i.e. seeking healthy life extension as opposed to more comprehensive methods of indefinite life-extension), but the majority seem to feel that what is really needed is adequate funding to plug away at developing and experimentally-verifying the various, sometimes mutually-exclusive technologies and methodologies that have already been proposed. I claim that Radical Longevity’s biggest bottleneck is not funding, but advocacy.

This is because the final objective of increased funding for Radical Longevity and Life Extension research can be more effectively and efficiently achieved through public advocacy for Radical Life Extension than it can by direct funding or direct research, per unit of time or effort. Research and development obviously still need to be done, but an increase in researchers needs an increase in funding, and an increase in funding needs an increase in the public perception of RLE’s feasibility and desirability.

There is no definitive timespan that it will take to achieve indefinitely-extended life. How long it takes to achieve Radical Longevity is determined by how hard we work at it and how much effort we put into it. More effort means that it will be achieved sooner. And by and large, an increase in effort can be best achieved by an increase in funding, and an increase in funding can be best achieved by an increase in public advocacy. You will likely accelerate the development of Indefinitely-Extended Life, per unit of time or effort, by advocating the desirability, ethicacy and technical feasibility of longer life than you will by doing direct research, or by working towards the objective of directly contributing funds to RLE projects and research initiatives.

In order to get funding we need to demonstrate with explicit clarity just how much we want it, and that we can do so while minimizing potentially negative societal repercussions like overpopulation. We must do our best to vehemently invalidate the Deathist clichés that promulgate the sentiment that Life-Extension is dangerous or unethical. It needn’t be either, and nor is it necessarily likely to be either. 

Some think that spending one’s time deliberating the potential issues that could result from greatly increased lifespans and the ways in which we could mitigate or negate them won’t make a difference until greatly increased lifespans are actually achieved. I disagree. While any potentially negative repercussions of RLE (like overpopulation) aren’t going to happen until RLE is achieved, offering solution paradigms and ways in which we could negate or mitigate such negative repercussions decreases the time we have to wait for it by increasing the degree with which the wider public feels it to be desirable, and that it can very well be done safely and ethically.

Those who are against radical life extension are against it either because they think it is infeasible (in which case being “against” it may be too strong a descriptor) or because they have qualms relating to its ethicacy or its safety. More people openly advocating against it means a higher public perception of its undesirability. Whether RLE is eventually achieved via private industry or via government subsidized research initiatives, we need to create the public perception that it is widely desired before either government or industry will take notice.

The sentiment that that the best thing we can do is simply live healthily and wait until progress is made seems to be fairly common as well. People have the feeling that researchers are working on it, that it will happen if it can happen, and that waiting until progress is made is the best course to take. Such lethargy will not help Radical Longevity in any way. How long we have to wait for RLE is a function of how much effort we put into it. And in this article I argue that how much funding and attention RLE receives is by and large a function of how widespread the public perception of its feasibility and desirability is.

This isn’t simply about our individual desire to live longer. It might be easier to hold the sentiment that we should just wait it out until it happens if we only consider its impact on the scale of our own individual lives. Such a sentiment may also be aided by the view that greatly longer lives would be a mere advantage, nice but unnecessary. I don’t think this is the case. I argue that the technological eradication of involuntary death is a moral imperative if there ever was one. If how long we have to wait until RLE is achieved depends on how vehemently we demand it and on how hard we work to create the public perception that longer life is widely longed-for, then to what extent is the 100,000 lives lost potentially needlessly every day while we wait on our hands? 

One million people will die a wasteful and involuntary death in the next 10 days. One million real lives. This puts the Deathist charges of inethicacy in a ghostly new light. If advocating the desirability, feasibility and radical ethicacy of RLE can hasten its implementation by even a mere 10 days, then one million lives that would have otherwise been lost will have been saved by the efforts of RLE advocates, researchers and fiscal supporters. Seen in this way, working toward RLE may very well be the most ethical and selfless way you could spend your time, in terms of the number of lives saved and/or the amount of suffering prevented.

One of the most common and easy-to-raise concerns I come across in response to any effort to minimize the suffering of future beings is that there are enough problems to worry about right now. “Shouldn’t we be worrying about lessening starvation in underdeveloped countries first? They’re starving right now. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the problems of today? On things that we can have a direct impact on? ”. Indeed.


100,000 people will die, potentially needlessly, tomorrow. The massive number of people that suffer involuntary death is a problem of today! Indeed, it may very well be the most pressing problem of today! What other source of contemporary suffering claims so many lives, and occurs on such a massive scale? What other “problem of today” is responsible for the needless and irreversible involuntary death of one hundred thousand lives per day? Certainly not starvation, or war, or cancer, all of which in themselves represent smaller sources of involuntary death. RLE advocates do what they do for the same reason that people who try to mitigate starvation, war, and cancer do what they do, to lessen the amount of involuntary death that occurs.

This is a contemporary problem that we can have a direct impact on. People intuitively assume that we won’t achieve indefinitely-extended life until far in the future. This makes them conflate any lives saved by indefinitely-extended-lifespans with lives yet to come into existence. This makes them see involuntary death as a problem of the future, rather than a problem of today. But more people than I’ve ever known will die tomorrow, from causes that are physically possible to obviate and ameliorate – indeed, from causes that we have potential and conceptual solutions for today.

I have attempted to show in this article that advocating RLE should be considered as “working toward it” to as great an extent as directly funding it or performing direct research on it is considered as “working toward it”. Advocacy has greater potential to increase its widespread desirability than direct work or funding does, and increasing both its desirability and the public perception if its desirability has more potential to generate increased funding and research-attention for RLE than direct funding or research does. Advocacy thus has the potential to contribute to the arrival of RLE and hasten its implementation just as much, if not moreso (as I have attempted to argue in this article), than practical research or direct funding does.


This should motivate people to help create the momentous momentum we need to really get the ball rolling. To be an RLE advocate is to be an RLE worker. Involuntary death from age-associated, physically-remediable causes is the largest source of death, destruction and suffering today.  Don’t you want to help prevent the most widespread source of death and of suffering in existence today?  Don’t you want to help mitigate the most pressing moral concern not only of today, but of the entirety of human history – namely physically-remediable involuntary death?

Then advocate the technological eradication of involuntary death. Advocate the technical feasibility, extreme desirability and blatant ethicacy of indefinitely extending life. Death is a cataclysm. We need not sanctify the seemingly-inevitable any longer. We need not tell ourselves that death is somehow a good thing, or something we can do nothing about, in order to live with the “fact” of it any longer. Soon it won’t be fact of life. Soon it will be artifact of history. Life may not be ipso-facto valuable according to all philosophies of value – but life is a necessary precondition for any sort of value whatsoever. Death is dumb, dummy! An incontrovertible waste convertible into nothing! A negative-sum blight! So if you want to contribute to the problems of today, if you want to help your fellow man today, then stand proud and shout loud “Doom to Arbitrary Duty and Death to  Arbitrary Death!” at every crowd cowed by the seeming necessity of death.  


Advocacy can be done with fundings, just like the X-Prize did:
setup goals and put a prize on them. If the prize is large enough, there will be people looking to get it and the sum will talk for itself.

Setup a prize for:

1) the first artificial/printed liver implanted with success
2) the first hearth / lung / esophagus, aorta, ... implanted with succes.
3) one prize for every gene in the mitochondria expressed in the nuclei
4) one prize for successful ways to clean up cellular junk


By Mirco Romanato on May 29, 2013 at 2:04pm

blueI am the first to agree that we need to raise research money if we are to suceed but so far there has been little funding of life extension research..There are many reasons for this and no adequate responses to our critics.Allow me to elaborate on a few conceivable sources of funding and some of the reasons they would be reluctant to give us research funding.
1-Federal funding thru NIH-Lamentably life extension is not yet an issue that is within the mainstream.A lot of good ideas are out there but in a time of fiscal crisis in America with a viable “anti spending"movement life extension is hardly a priority..
2-Political support-Very few elected officials would risk their political viability on an as controversial as life extension.
3_Religious opposition-Indefinite life extension makes religion essentially superfluous.Who needs aGod if someone will live forever?
4-Political opposition-We live in a time of great political disagreement..The idea of a dramatic increase in life extension will have profound,political,social and economic consequences

By Tom Mooney on May 30, 2013 at 3:48pm

If people here want government help and support for radical life extension, they will die before obtaining it.
Government officials and politicians are risk averse, so they will never support something so controversial because there is no immediate advantage for them. They will come to support RLE only when it become successful or some will be able to use them as a political platform for THEIR advancement.

Better, as I wrote before, find intelligent, young, wealthy people and ask for their support and help. Both financial and in connections. They have the wealth and they have a good reason to want to live forever, whatever someone else think and want.

By Mirco Romanato on Jun 01, 2013 at 6:24am

Your right, Lobbying is far more powerful than any direct actions, mainly because it has cascading effects. But your wrong in that the view of the broader public needs to change, power is always held by a minority, affect change in this group and you will see the change you want whether the public likes it or not (Corporate interest and its affect on government etc..). Secondly its part a marketing problem, if your customer doesn’t like what your selling you repackage and sell it as something else. Instead of calling it RLE (which lets face it its not a very common concept), you call it Health cost minimizing technology or function restorative, etc etc..

Big things have small beginnings

By Occasionallyconscious on Jun 02, 2013 at 9:07am

Another thing worth considering is that a lot of progress on life extension may be reached through mainstream medical research, even without “radical life extension” as a main goal.  Things like stem cell research, organ bioprinting, genetic therapy, better artificial organs, and better ways to treat cancer and Alzheimer’s are areas that could move us significantly in the direction of radial life extension, and those are all areas of significant research by mainstream medical science. 

While advocating for radical life extension, on a parallel track, we should also advocate for more medical and biological research in general, which might be an easier sell for politicians right now.

By Yosarian2 on Jun 05, 2013 at 4:26am

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