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What would make young people feel the limited window of opportunity to tackle the problem of biological aging?

Image credit: CGP Grey, Why die?

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jul 17, 2022
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How do we help young people appreciate the urgency and understand our limited window of opportunity to tackle the challenge of biological aging?
When we're young, we don't see aging as an imminent threat. We have all the time in the world. We feel like we will never grow old, frail, and too low on energy to pursue our goals. By the time we realize it's coming for us, we're already past our prime.
As a result, too few people in their prime are focused on solving what ultimately becomes our biggest challenge. What can we do to make younger generations feel the importance of solving the problem of biological aging?
The way I see it, the mid-life crisis is triggered by people realizing they aren't invincible, their time is running out and it's all downhill from there. The person in the mirror starts to look old, the energy levels are waning, and health problems begin. The biological machine is gradually breaking down.
Suddenly, what didn't seem like a problem before, becomes the most important problem for the rest of our lives. People then invest a lot of effort into staying fit, appearing youthful, and healthy. We come up with coping mechanisms to accept mortality, etc. Unfortunately, the train of aging isn't stopping before graveyard.
How do we help young people feel the urgency and understand their limited window of opportunity to work on ending aging?
9
Creative contributions

Real-time ageing trackers

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Jul 17, 2022
If we had a mechanism that scans your body once in a while and gives you a report on how hard the ageing hit you by now, we could understand the impact of time (and other factors) on our body better. One part of it was discussed here and here, but I want to propose "gadgets" that could help people focus on it.
How would it work?
I propose several mechanisms that could be "fun" and potentially work:
  • skin mutations - a wearable system that scans occurring mutations on available sites (skin, eyes) and gives you information on the mutation load or number of mutations that occurred in time (a requirement for this is successful solving of this challenge)
  • number of greys - application/method that counts grey hairs and lets you keep track of them while you age
  • bone health - 1) determine the best place to scan bone health and structure, 2) choose the least invasive method, 3) train the algorithm to recognise structures known to appear during ageing and 4) keep track of your bone health
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J. Nikola
J. Nikola12 days ago
Example of lipofuscin
As Antonio Carusillo previously described, lipofuscin increases with age and the rate of lipofuscin accumulation correlates negatively with longevity. That feature could be used to use it as a real-time ageing marker. That is exactly what a team of scientists did when they evaluated Sudan-Black-B (SBB) specific stain of lipofuscin and demonstrated co-localization of lipofuscin and SA-β-gal in senescent cells in vitro and in vivo (cryo-preserved tissue), strongly supporting the candidacy of lipofuscin as a biomarker of cellular senescence.
Solutions:
Because of its autofluorescence and lack of specific antibodies, I would design fast tests that consist of cell isolation (from easy-administrable tissue like mucosa) and use the above-mentioned staining or fluorescence microscopy accompanied with computational work to assess the ageing phenotype of an individual). The other option would be to use quantifying lipofuscin in retinal pigment epithelium by in vivo visible-light optical coherence tomography-based multimodal imaging via a simple easy-to-use device. You would just scan your eye and get the result of how "aged" are you based on calculations of lipofuscin levels in the retinal pigment epithelium.

[1]https://www.aging-us.com/article/100527/text

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Show them what they will miss if they don't live longer/ solve aging

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Jul 19, 2022
This can be done in several ways:
  1. Showing them inventions that are just around the corner but they may not last to see them realize (for example, space colonization)
  2. Show them that the ones they love (both elder and younger than them) will not live for long
  3. Create the ultimate bucket list of life. It may not be feasible in the time one has.
What else?
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Spook Louw
Spook Louwa month ago
Show them how many hours people spend throughout their lives doing things they enjoy in contrast with how many hours are spent doing mundane things on average.
While we cannot avoid queueing, sleeping, commuting or being ill, seeing how much of our lifetimes are actually spent on these sorts of things might be motivational to try and get more time (lifespan) to be able to experience more memorable and enjoyable moments.
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Elevate "aging" to the same status as that of global warming, pollution, etc.

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Jul 19, 2022
"Aging" should be elevated to a problem the society is facing. The need to solve aging should be imbibed from the school level. Just like people are taught that pollution and global warming are real problems, aging should be described, too, as a grave problem. This will help eliminate the "inevitability" of aging. Aging is thought to be inevitable. Other problems, too, were thought to be impossible to conquer but humanity did it. For example, the first vaccine, changes in DNA, space travel, etc. Genetic diseases were impossible to cure, but not so much now.
As we have programs, laws, etc. to tackle global warming, we should have programs to tackle aging.
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Video compilation of older people stating their regrets.

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Jul 21, 2022
This idea ties in with Shubhankar Kulkarni's contribution.
Create a video compilation of older people listing things they regret not having the time to do. This will play on the emotion of anyone watching, making them feel sorry for the people in the video whose time is running out, as well as act as a warning for younger people, perhaps making them realise that contrary to what it might feel like while you're young, time runs out quickly and that you'll never have enough time to make all your dreams come true.
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Build a collective mass strategy to fight longevity skepticism with fact-based storytelling

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Jul 21, 2022
Find a way to clearly and precisely communicate the fact that biological ageing is an ‘engineering’ problem and not necessarily the default for humans. Why does this matter? It was only after the 19th century and, more specifically, after the introduction of medical interventions like antibiotics and disinfectants that the human lifespan grew longer than what it remained for thousands of years. As such, it is quite natural for humans to believe that probably a longer lifespan is not possible biologically.
The contra-longevity camp of the present world seems to believe very seriously that humans, being biological, are destined to be at the mercy of the natural biological clock and probably won’t be able to live longer. This gives rise to an acute complacency and a mass narrative of ‘why even care?’ or ‘it’s not possible to drastically increase the lifespan, why waste resources in a fruitless tree?’ or some other excuse for even not trying. Standing in their shoes, it seems quite obvious that when it is not possible, we probably should not bother much about extending our lifespan. It is counterintuitive to think otherwise, and it is much easier and safe to assume that ‘it is what it is; we are helpless.’ Only that they are wrong. Precisely because humans are yet another biological machines, the problem of ageing is an engineering problem. It is not biologically restricted to live longer. Tortoises live multiple hundreds of years. Some corals have been alive for tens of thousands of years. Hence, it is simply wrong that biology doesn’t allow us to live longer. It is a problem of complexity. If we could break down all the essential information that was required to design/modify a cell/biological system to drastically increase longevity, the question of whether we could prolong life significantly longer would not even arise.
However, this is a very complex concept to truly convince people. Hence, the most important task to divert resources, attention and investment towards longevity would be to first and foremost create a ‘quorum’ of effective individuals at the population level to actually believe and truly stand for the fact that given enough resources, knowledge and tools, human life can be prolonged very significantly. How could it be done? - break down the science of longevity and explain it to people at a mass level
- give real world examples, organise large-scale demonstrations of how some species live long
- explain the feasibility of regeneration: salamanders, xenopus are the ideal model organisms to show that it is a biological feature to regenerate tissues perpetually and that it is NOT unnatural
To start with, I would suggest bringing together scientists like David Sinclair, Michael Levin, Aubrey de Grey and others together in a common forum and develop not just a scientific strategy but a solid story backed by facts and research. Only when it becomes publicly accepted that longevity is indeed possible, there will be more funding and resources available for this domain. Hence, the main task to start with is to fight longevity skepticism strategically.
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A program that extrapolates your current achievements into the future and shows you where you’ll get with your life at what time

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Povilas S
Povilas S Jul 22, 2022
A program to which you feed your current achievements/character traits/talents, etc., and indicate your wishes and it shows you where you’ll be at the approximate (if fortunate) end of your life with your current determination/energy/success level/effort level, etc., and THE TIME YOU HAVE LEFT.
Why?
It’s difficult to evaluate and extrapolate your so-far achievements into the future to objectively see where approximately you’d get if you continued at the same pace you’re currently doing when you are young. Once you approach middle age (I suppose) it gets way easier, since you simply can approximately double everything (if disregarding the fact that your health and energy levels will only decrease). Even once you reach around 30 you can already evaluate that more objectively, but for people in their early twenties or even teenagers this is very difficult, they don’t have enough experience yet.
Nevertheless, from what they already achieved and how they are doing in life (school, university, relationships, etc.) one could still extrapolate a prediction of where they’ll be at this and this time in the future. The prediction will be more accurate the older the person is, but nevertheless, it would still work with a certain error margin even for very young people. So I propose building a program that would do this for them.
How would it work:
Once the person entered enough data about themselves into the program, they could then tweak different factors and see how their achievements would improve if those were improved in reality (some of those you can improve by putting effort, some not). Factors like your determination/efforts, your knowledge, and then, most importantly to the challenge’s aim – your health and longevity.
The algorithm would show you the risk factors for various diseases, the average life expectancy for the person of your physical type/genetics, and then what you could achieve if major diseases were prevented and your life was prolonged.
One could then see how important life extension and aging prevention are as a factor in this equation - even with maximum energy/talent, you could achieve very limited things compared to what you could achieve with a prolonged lifespan.
To evaluate your physical/genetic factors the program could be coupled with simple genetic tests similar to 23 and me. To objectively evaluate your character traits psychological tests would be used. All the rest of the required data about your so-far achievements and life situation you’d fill from your memory with the help of a questionnaire highlighting the most important points to focus on.
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Empowering youth to get involved in old people's lives for mutual benefit

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J. Nikola
J. Nikola Jul 22, 2022
The idea is to empower young people to get involved, meet, talk, help, entertain and teach old people.
Why?
  • Entertainment for old people
  • Benefits to the old people in terms of enhancing cognitive flexibility
  • Benefits to the young in terms of project writing, creative thinking, problem-solving, event organization
  • Young people hear stories from old people, listen to them and "feel" how old age will be like
How would it work?
Old people in and out of the nursing homes would apply (or be applied by their families) to the program where they share their stories. Stories would be written in a simple format of up to 200 characters along with the picture they choose, similar to an Instagram post. They would then be advertised in local schools, universities, companies, organisations, etc. This would hopefully engage young people to join the program and create workshops, courses, exercises and other activities that older people could learn. Old and young people whose skills, ideas, projects/wishes, experiences intersect would then be connected.
The idea is explained in more detail here.
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It all comes down to popular culture

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Artem Gruzdev
Artem Gruzdev Jul 24, 2022
This is a topic where I can draw from personal experience as someone who has been interested in life extension from the age of 14. These are the reasons I became interested:
  1. Realization that the future is always more exciting than the present, and I want to live long enough to, at the very least, walk on the terraformed Mars. It mostly came from science fiction that plausibly imagines humanity’s near future (preferably non-dystopian one) such as Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey 2001–3001 or Mobile Suit Gundam 00, and to a lesser extent from witnessing technological progress.
  2. Realization that time is the most valuable asset, and the most unique: while converting time into money is straightforward and available to all (by earning a wage or an interest), the opposite conversion is limited—money can buy personal assistants, faster transportation and better healthcare, but in this regard there is little difference between Elon Musk and someone with 0.1% of his net worth, and nobody can exchange even a trillion dollars for a hundred years of life. Thus, the best use of time (and money) is finding ways to get more time: from the simple matters of exercise and diet to the appropriate scientific research.
Unfortunately, young people are pressured by society to engage in self-destructive activities (binge drinking, sleepless partying etc. that are the absolute worst use of time because they rob us of even more time than is actually spent on them) and in general to spend time indiscriminately. On the other hand, there is no shortage of advice to spend your time “productively”, i. e. to ultimately earn more money. But money is the wrong goal; time is the right one. Sleeping more or walking in the woods are not productive, but probably constitute net positive time flow.
I was intrigued by the 2011 film In Time based on the concept of time as the universal currency, although it paints a rather bleak picture of the future where aging has been defeated—on purpose, no doubt, because the entertainment industry, while being seemingly obsessed with youth, is curiously pro-aging and pro-dying as if it were run by Malthusians.
In Harry Potter teenaged Tom Riddle sought immortality because he was evil, became unsightly in the process, and in the end lost everything. Nicholas Flamel achieved immortality, but his existence was unpleasant (permanent old age—biologically absurd), and he gave it up because he was not evil. Harry Potter acquired the means to conquer death, but threw them away because he was not evil. “There are things much worse than death” professes Dumbledore, and if you disagree, you are literally Voldemort.
In Stargate SG-1 there is an alien device—the sarcophagus—that can indefinitely maintain the youth and vigor of a human, but gradually makes the user evil. The villains in Stargate Atlantis are essentially vampires, a hybrid species accidentally created by humans in scientific pursuit of immortality. Another alien species—the Asgard—gained immortality by transferring their minds into clones, but with each iteration their bodies degraded, their civilization waned, and they committed mass suicide.
In the film The 6th Day a similar technology of transferring minds into clones is invented by humans, but the hero played by Arnold Schwarzenegger puts an end to this illegal (not to mention evil) enterprise.
I believe many more examples of this propaganda can be found and it must be counteracted.
One popular counterexample, where the protagonist embraces immortality after much angst, comes to mind (The Twilight Saga), but it’s about vampires and can’t be taken seriously. However, its vast commercial success probably means that young people would gladly choose to remain young forever if the idea were not relegated by popular culture to the realm of pure fantasy.
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Life calendar

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Jul 17, 2022
I believe people have difficulty conceptualizing time, especially long periods like a lifespan. 20 years, for instance, sounds like an extremely long time, but if 40-year-olds were able to visually see the difference between how long they've already had on earth, vs how long they have left before they are 60, it might motivate them to use their time with more urgency.
The life calendar gives you a block for every week from the day you are born up to the age of 90 (which is generous, the global life expectancy is only around 73 years while there are a number of countries where the average life span is only between 52 years and 60 years .
Perhaps we can come up with better ways to illustrate the inevitable approach to the end of our lives, not in a macabre way, but simply in a way that helps us conceptualize the amount of time we actually have.

[1]https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/WLD/world/life-expectancy#:~:text=The%20current%20life%20expectancy%20for,a%200.24%25%20increase%20from%202021.

[2]https://www.worldometers.info/demographics/life-expectancy/

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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagaina month ago
This could potentially work. Borrowing the idea from Tim Urban's WaitButWhy blog's idea, a calendar that reflects how less time as productive humans we actually have to actively pursue things that we care about definitely will make people realise that perhaps we would be much better if we lived longer. For example, the following picture shows a 90-year-old human span in months:
This looks ridiculously terrifying to visualise the shortness of life. Maybe such visual appeals could be better used to motivate people to find ways to live longer.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louwa month ago
Subash Chapagain Exactly, I don't think it even matters what increments of time are used. Weeks, months, years, potentially even days. Just the fact that you can see it all on one page is sobering, and realizing that by the time you've reached 30, you're anywhere between a third of the way and halfway through what would be considered to be a natural life.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savica month ago
Subash Chapagain yes, this could work. Also, the graph doesn't account for the healthy months vs those we spend handicapped by various old age diseases. If it did, it would look even more extreme
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Darko Savic
Darko Savica month ago
Here's a good article that touches on the point of this challenge
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