An investment in more ways than one

Brian Hicks

Updated January 5, 2006

How long do you think you're going to live? What about your kids?

If you're anything like most people, you probably expect to live only about as long as your parents did – perhaps five or ten years longer, to take account of medical progress. Chances are that you similarly think that your kids will live only a few years longer than you.

You know that medical progress is extending lives — that's why there's such a crisis in the welfare system — but progress is really slow, so people born 30 years apart (you and your kids, for example) will have lifespans differing by only a few years.

Well, if I have anything to do with it, that's not how it's going to be.

Your kids will probably live several times longer than your parents. That's what I said — maybe several hundred years, maybe more.

Where along that line you yourself will be, well, that depends a lot on how old you are today and a lot on how fast the work that I and my colleagues are doing progresses.

I work on life extension biotech. I'm not part of the anti-aging industry — if you want any convincing of my unmaterialistic nature, just see what I look like.

No, I work on early-stage research to develop therapies that probably won't be effective in mice for a decade and in humans for maybe 25 years. In fact, I want you to know that it could be 100 years if the research hits a lot of unforeseen obstacles.

But I think we have a 50/50 shot at getting there in 25 years. And I base that on a seriously detailed idea of how we'll get there. You can find out all about it here.

But hang on, you're probably thinking: if this work has a multi-decade timeframe, why did a savvy editor like Luke Burgess commission a piece on it in Archimedes Lever? He knows no investor takes a view that long in technology. What gives?

Well, I guess there are two main reasons why it makes sense for Archimedes Lever readers to know about this work early on.

The first reason is that when these therapies become available, life extension will be far and away the most lucrative industry of all time.

If you doubt that, just look at the size of the existing anti-aging industry — the mount people spend on products that, for most people, are almost totally ineffective on anything except one's appearance.

I mean, I'm not saying appearance isn't important for self-image and so on, but when compared to genuinely, indefinitely extended youth, it's no contest.

And if you want to be part of that wave, you'd better position yourself before the laboratory results appear that convince the world that aging will probably be defeated fairly soon — and that means now.

But the second reason is even more important.

100,000 people die each day from aging — that's 2/3 of the total deaths in the world. In the USA it's closer to 90%. If you could bring the defeat of aging just one day closer, you'd be saving 100,000 lives. A month closer: three million lives. These staggering numbers are why I work in this field.

Even if you think you're too old to benefit personally from this work, wouldn't it be a worthwhile legacy to know you did your bit in the War on Aging before you became one of its victims?

So, what can you do?

I make no bones about it: biotechnology research costs money. The Methuselah Foundation, of which I'm the chairman and chief science officer, is working to attract funds to hasten that work via an Institute of Biomedical Gerontology.

As a parallel venture, we already run the Mprize to encourage research on life extension worldwide.

I hope you'll get in touch.

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