IEET > Vision > Bioculture > Affiliate Scholar > Franco Cortese > HealthLongevity > Enablement
Victims of Our Age

Aging is truly the travesty of our age. It constitutes the largest source of in-principle-preventable death in existence today – a toll of 100,000 real, feeling, hoping and daring human beings lost irreversibly for all time, per day. That’s a million human lives lost every one and a half weeks. A loss equal to the entire population of Canada every year, and to the entire U.S. population every decade. It accounts for three quarters of all deaths globally and for nine-tenths of all deaths in most developed countries. 

This essay will appear in ”Death & Anti-Death Volume 13: Sixty Years After Albert Einstein (1879-1955)” coming out by Ria University Press, edited by Charles Tandy

Those who see life extension as a vain or hubristic affair rarely consider the fact that the diseases of old age – i.e. those diseases whose incidence rises dramatically with age, like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease – are among those that impart the most suffering and the ones that affect the largest number of people who live long enough to become afflicted by them. It is not just the final dying of the light in the face of the fickle final night that life-extension scientists, scholars, supporters, activists and advocates rage against. It is also the slow and sputtering dimming of the light that precedes that final night – the slow dissolution of self, in body and mind, under the weight of our bodies’ flagrant refusal to keep itself together. It is the grueling and drawn-out loss of our very self, as seen in age-related dementias; our memories and abilities, our loves and wants and haunts sickly crumbling out from under us as we can only watch in dumb horror from the inside of our own disintegrating temples. It is the gruesome and truly horrifying diseases of old age, and not just death-by-aging itself, that we few fighters against aging rage against. We work first and foremost not for an unending stay upon this earth, but to rid our loved ones and the world at large from such grand and unnecessary sources of suffering as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and the many other debilitating diseases of old age. The central aim of the field is to prevent and cure disease; life extension as-such is merely a side effect.

We all die before our time, still as children, some old but none old enough, and rightly scared for the time when we will be no more. Born into the tumult of existence for so short a time, only to be washed away in a grit of sand and time before any one of us can truly come of age. The world will be a better place when, finally, a slow and fetid decay into death will be our birthright no longer. 

The diseases of old age also account for the largest personal and national healthcare expenditures in developed countries today, and as such constitute the most expensive diseases to treat by the paltry means of today. They cost so much to treat both because they affect so many of us and are so legion in number, and most of all, because the mainstream medical community is taking the most expensive and least effective route to treating them – that is, indirectly and palliatively. These diseases are treated in the manner we have taken throughout most of medical history in treating diseases – that is, as discrete and distinct diseases to be treated on their own terms. But what distinguishes these diseases from those lacking any relation with age is that they result from the universal phenotypes of aging shared by all aging humans, phenotypes that are not treated as diseases, despite being deleterious and increasing the risk of mortality from a staggering host of other diseases, because they are present in everyone who lives long enough to develop them. The way to treat the diseases of old age most effectively and least expensively is to treat the deleterious physiological conditions that underlie them and that slowly increase the probability of their incidence in aging but otherwise non-diseased humans. 

We should appreciate the existence of what might be considered metapathologies – i.e. non-pathological but nonetheless-deleterious or deviational physiological conditions that ultimately determine the probability of incidence and the prevalence of other pathologies. Aging, the deleterious but universal physiological changes that occur through and accrue with age, is an example of such a category. If we were to treat the one underlying condition that leads to their ultimate development, i.e. the deleterious accumulation of age-related physiological changes and the age-dependent decrease in the homeostatic reserve of almost every organ system in the body, we could not only treat the diseases of old age effectively and curatively, but we could treat all of them at once by halting their shared source and preventing their ultimate development in the first place. The current medical system is systemically and infrastructurally incapable of doing tractable research on metapathological physiological conditions like aging because they don’t see aging as-such as a disease, and because they fail to realize that treating aging itself is the best – i.e. most effective and least expensive – means of preventing the multitude of age-related diseases that constitute healthcare’s largest expense and, arguably, humanity’s largest source of disease-related suffering, both quantitatively and qualitatively. 

The fight for the abolition of aging has many faces, and is impacted not only by biogerontologists (the scientific study of the biology of aging) and biomedical gerontologists (the study of medical interventions for aging and age-related pathology), but also by scholars, supporters, activists, advocates, artists, lobbyists, legislators and politicians as well. The fight can be forwarded on many fronts, by different faces and with equal fervor. It is at heart a scientific endeavor, but one that can be aided enormously by increased funding and public support, and one that is affected more than anything else by the number of taxpayers who think it is a good area of research with clear public benefits. 

The field of biomedical gerontology can be moved by many fronts, and few can rely on the excuse that his or her particular suite of passions and aptitudes isn’t of any relevance. Scientists, artists, scholars, activists, advocates, politicians, lobbyists and legislators alike can make a difference – and at a gain of 100,000 lives saved for every day that the field’s final fruits are moved closer into reach. 

I implore you, whoever you are, whatever your skills and aptitudes, lend your head, hand and heart to this most important cause: the eventual eradication aging and age-related diseases, the slow death of a true calamity of our age that has not yet seen anything approaching the kind of funding that the largest medically-surmountable source of death and suffering at large in the world today most deservedly warrants. Whether your aptitude is science, scholarship, activism or advocacy, you can have an impact on how long it takes to stop the preventable death of 100,000 men and women per day, and the long course of suffering, debilitation and dissolution that often precedes each one of those deaths for many years. 

The length of time it takes to see progress in biomedical gerontology is limited by the number of available minds to work on it, which is limited by the available funding for such work, which is limited by available public support for such work, which is in turn limited by the time and energy expended in demonstrating the feasibility, utility and ethicacy of such work to the public. There are many different bottlenecks upon which people can leverage their unique set of skills, aptitudes and circumstances so as to catalyze the rate of progress in biogerontology and biomedical gerontology. And more importantly, doing so will save lives and prevent some of the qualitatively-worst and most-prevalent forms of suffering afflicting humanity today, i.e. age-related diseases. 

No one wants to see their grandparents, parents and children lose their very selves and all they’ve ever had bit by bit in a crumbling, quiet catastrophe quickly swept under the rug and wept for afterward when it could have been raged against beforehand. Every grandparent wants to live to see their grandchildren grow up. Yet the former happens evermore and the latter never, and despite this fact, that it happens to everyone, it should be brutally obvious that there is nothing natural about it at all – indeed, quite the contrary: that death and the diseases of old age embody the black and foul heart of all that humanity is not. 

You can impact how many unspeakably-precious human lives are needlessly lost in the interim. And, indeed, I would go so far as to contend, lest you remain indifferent the death and long-suffering of those you love most dearly, that you are obliged to lend some of your time and energy to it if you are so capable. It is never too late – except for the 100,000 people that lost their lives today, and for whom spring will never again sing and for whom a new day will never again dawn.

Franco Cortese is an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET, and won our #1 Editor’s Choice Award in 2013. His other positions include Research Scientist at ELPIs Foundation for Indefinite Lifespans, Assistant Editor at Ria University Press, Fellow at Brighter Brains Institute, Ambassador at The Seasteading Institute, and an Advisor for Lifeboat Foundation, occupying positions on their Life Extension Scientific Advisory Board and Futurists Advisory Board.

COMMENTS No comments

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: The Tyranny of Mathematics

Previous entry: The Electronic Frontier of Longevity and Control