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Aging Is a Disease; Treat It Like One 625

theodp writes "In a letter to Sergey Brin, Maria Konovalenko urges the Google founder to pursue his interest in the topics of aging and longevity. 'Defeating or simply slowing down aging,' writes Konovalenko, 'is the most useful thing that can be done for all the people on the planet.' Calling for research into longevity gene therapy, extending lifespan pharmacologically, and studying close species that differ significantly in lifespan, Konovalenko says 'it is crucial to make numerous medical organizations recognize aging as a disease. If medical organizations were to recognize aging as a disease, it could significantly accelerate progress in studying its underlying mechanisms and the development of interventions to slow its progress and to reduce age-related pathologies. The prevailing regard for aging as a "natural process" rather than a disease or disease-predisposing condition is a major obstacle to development and testing of legitimate anti-aging treatments. This is the largest market in the world, since 100% of the population in every country suffers from aging.'"
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Aging Is a Disease; Treat It Like One

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:35PM (#44589015)

    More people living longer by artificial means.

  • That's so sad. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:36PM (#44589025) Homepage

    Aging isn't a disease; it's a gift.

    I pity the people who can't see this.

  • by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:36PM (#44589031)

    How fabulous! If we cure aging, then we'll get to have WAR all of the fucking time because of the population pressure.

    Or we can reserve anti-aging treatments for the rich and privileged.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:38PM (#44589045)
    That's actually exactly what the world needs the more our society becomes knowledge-oriented. If you could double the active lifespan of a (sane, healthy) individual, you'd get twice the amount of wotk for the same amount of high-school and college man-years. It's simple economy of scale.
  • pandora's box (Score:5, Insightful)

    by asmkm22 ( 1902712 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:44PM (#44589111)

    As much as I like the idea of a longer life, there is simply no way our planet will support it. Which means it would be a perk for the wealthy and influential, rather than the unwashed masses. Nothing good could come from that.

  • Missing a step (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davidbrit2 ( 775091 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:45PM (#44589119) Homepage
    You're going to have to "cure" starvation due to crushing population growth first.
  • by dltaylor ( 7510 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:45PM (#44589121)

    The statement "Defeating or simply slowing down aging is the most useful thing that can be done for all the people on the planet." is nonsense, if we do not first deal with the issues of , oh, for example, sex slavery (wouldn't it be GREAT to be forced to live 150 years as a sex slave?). How 'bout getting more people to a healthy 70, free of autoimmune diseases and cancer, well nourished, with a decent roof over their heads, and decent care for injury and illness? Could we, somehow, free the millions (if not billions) of women trapped in archaic, abusive societies?

    We don't have enough decent-paying employment on the planet to support the population we have now, and you're going to double the number of years someone has to support themselves? Where do we find those jobs?

    Maria Konovalenko has a serious case of aerobic encephalitis.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:45PM (#44589129)

    at the same time we're resource bound if people's life spans increased significantly and suddenly and our rate of growth stayed the same we'd starve ourselves in no time.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:46PM (#44589141)

    So much for the theory. And now look around you.

    Essentially, it would give 90% of the population more time to waste, nothing else.

  • Re:pandora's box (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:49PM (#44589185)

    Who cares what 'our planet' will support?

    99.9999999999999999999999999999% of all the resources in the universe start a few hundred thousand miles above our heads. The Earth is insignificant in the long term, and as immortals you have to think in the long term.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:52PM (#44589225)

    And far more people exploiting our natural resources. We're way beyond capacity as it is.

    No, we're not.

    The doomsayers have been doomsaying for thousands of years, and we've always figured out ways to avoid the doom they're saying. But, hey, if fantasizing about doom makes you feel good, keep on doing it.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @06:59PM (#44589309)

    What does that have to do with anything?

    People don't worry about retirement planning because they expect the government to bail them out. People in societies without welfare programs have been worrying about old age and retirement for thousands of years, that's why they used to have so many kids.

  • Re:That's so sad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:00PM (#44589315)

    Why is this comment modded up? Suffering from disease, disability and decrepitude on both physical and mental levels is a gift?? Then even being in disease and disability at any age is a gift. Why bother treating them at any age?

    Parent comment is so bad it's not even wrong (to word it like Wolfgang Pauli)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:00PM (#44589321)
    That sounds like a good reason to limit reproduction, not a good reason to make me die. I don't recall ever having made you die. What's your beef?
  • Re:That's so sad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:04PM (#44589363)

    Fortunately, the people who believe death is a gift will rapidly die out, and only us aspiring immortals will be left.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:05PM (#44589371)
    Any couple that has four children is already doing more harm to the population than one person living forever. Should we force-sterilize people at two or three kids per couple?
  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:06PM (#44589381)

    Yes, it will. The only thing that will 'end our species' is listening to the doomsayers.

    But, as I said, if dreaming of global doom gets you off, keep at it.

  • by WaywardGeek ( 1480513 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:08PM (#44589411) Journal

    The opposite is likely more true. For example, Einstein wrote all is great papers in his 20's. It is often said that the only way for science to move forward is for the old scientists to die. If we old farts stick around too long, we'll crush the crazy out-there creativity of the young. There's a reason we age and die: because it is better for the species. We here on slashdot have mostly become experts at something. I'm considered something of a "place and route" guru. Now I'm doing web programming instead! I love doing new stuff, but holy cow! The next generation of programmers need to grow up with this rat-bastard twisted way of accomplishing very little each day. I can hardly stand it. If geeks like us refuse to die, we'll stall this age of incredible progress.

  • Re:That's so sad. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by deesine ( 722173 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:21PM (#44589557)

    This comment is modded up by young people who have almost zero exposure to death and disease.

  • by onix ( 990980 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:22PM (#44589571)
    If the suddenly lifespan tripled, and people died at the same rate as born, then the population would triple before it would stabilize. If lifespan tripling was also accompanied by our current population growth, then it would much more than triple. And if lifespan tripling also meant reproductive years tripled, then woah, we really have a huge population crisis on hand.
  • Re:That's so sad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:26PM (#44589609) Homepage

    Aging isn't a disease; it's a gift.

    I pity the people who can't see this.

    While I'm sure there's a lot to mental maturity, what is happening to the body I can't call anything but decay. Loss of sight, loss of hearing, loss of smell, loss of motor function, all sorts of aches and pains, wrinkles, sagging and hair loss there's absolutely nothing there I'd consider physically or aesthetically positive. Some age gracefully but that's just saying they look less shitty than the rest, if I could keep/regain the body of a 20yo I'd take that in a heartbeat. And judging by all the people who desperately try to cling to their youth, I'd wager 99%+ of the population would gladly avoid this "gift".

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:42PM (#44589787) Homepage

    Except people might care a little more if they planned to live that long. We're going to run out of oil in 100 years? In 100 years we'll fry from global warming? Almost everybody alive today will be dead and buried by then, so nobody cares much. Sure a few nice speeches about what we leave our children and grandchildren but if people realistically could live 200 years they'd care a lot more.

  • largest market

    Those two words tell you everything you need to know about the motivations of Maria Konovalenko and why she would make such an appeal to a guy with very deep pockets.

    Also, I can "recognize", say, unwanted body hair as a disease, but all that means is that I'm delusional; my recognition doesn't make it so.

  • by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:47PM (#44589841)

    There *is* that axiom:

    Age is a fever chill
    That every physicist must fear
    He's better dead than living still
    After he's past his thirtieth year

    But the person I'm quoting here is almost a counterexample. Leon Lederman, Nobel laureate and former director of Fermilab, wrote this in his book on particle physics, The God Particle. In his younger years, Lederman discovered some crucial elements of the Standard Model. What's he doing now? Writing books and teaching (even into his nineties), something that to my way of thinking is even more invaluable than his work in the lab. Feynman continued to do good work very late in his career (like figuring out why Challenger blew up). Looking beyond physics, Mozart's best work (the Requiem and the C Minor Mass) was done late in his career, as was (according to one musicologist I know) Brahms'. Rachmaninov was known as a brilliant teacher of piano later in life: I've heard one of his students play, and she is incredible.

    There seems to be a pattern of people revolutionizing something or another early in their lives, and teaching and consolidating that revolution later on. I think our world would be more improved if we put more emphasis on the latter, as the dissemination of knowledge is as important for human wellbeing than "having a nonzero count of people who understand concept XYZ". Science needs more Carl Sagans and fewer Isaac Newtons these days, I think (and I say that as someone paid to do fundamental physics research).

  • by Alejux ( 2800513 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @07:49PM (#44589879)
    According to some commentators here. If you consider aging a gift and not a disease, then you must consider a gift the suffering imposed on the elderly and the trillions of dollars that are spent in treating all these "natural" diseases. People who want to grow senile and dependent on help of strangers to eat their soup, can go f*ck themselves! I rather be strong and productive when I'm in my nineties.
  • by KarlIsNotMyName ( 1529477 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @08:23PM (#44590137)

    I think it's more that long life isn't necessary, rather than death being necessary. If you reproduce and raise individuals capable of doing the same, job done. The universe doesn't care. As long as the process sustains itself, it wins evolution.

    But we can focus on what is best for the living individuals, rather than just the genes.

  • by FGT ( 2741971 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @08:44PM (#44590261)
    We seem to have quite a few people on /. who think dying is a good thing. Makes me wonder why they are spending time posting rather than just ending their lives. Oh, it's other people dying that they think is good (or themselves far enough in the future it doesn't seem real). Well, I could try to change their minds but they are entitled to their opinion. It is also one way to avoid any dramatic population increases as all the death fans check out at the age they feel is 'right'. Is that the average lifespan for Africa, North America, the current lifespan or that of just 100 years ago? Everyone picks their own? Nobody wants increased years of pain and suffering at the end of their lives. Unfortunately, that is what our medical system offers now with intrusive and expensive last ditch interventions in diseases caused by aging. In contrast, all the anti-aging research (whether slowing damage or repairing damage) would, if successful, extend the healthy years, not the unhealthy ones. Any increases in longevity are almost a side effect of that extension of healthy years. So, death fans, you check out on your schedule. Over time what should be left is a world of healthy, happy, wise, experienced people who are interested in the world and grateful to be alive.
  • by lvxferre ( 2470098 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @08:53PM (#44590313)

    There's something missing in this discussion - in the event people manage to double/triple human lifetime, this would affect first and foremost developed countries, and those don't have an overpopulation problem.

  • by ILongForDarkness ( 1134931 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @09:18PM (#44590485)

    Stupid people won't suddenly learn not to breed. They yet after 1000's of generations and they won't given parents that can keep earning long enough to bail them out of any crap they get themselves into.

  • by Time_Ngler ( 564671 ) on Friday August 16, 2013 @10:40PM (#44591017)

    But they do have a resource consumption problem...

  • Re:That's so sad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <> on Friday August 16, 2013 @11:42PM (#44591315) Homepage

    Death is required. Making death clean and without suffering would be humane and beneficial, but killing death itself is foolish in its most extreme.

    Personally, I believe that anyone who does not want to live forever is either insane or a liar. The solution is to have something to live for. I don't remember who said it, but to paraphrase, I plan to live forever, and I believe I'm off to a good start.

  • Re:That's so sad. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by quax ( 19371 ) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @01:36AM (#44591765)

    The linked abstract clearly states that this is a hypothesised model, and that this may lead to new insights into how to treat the onset of Alzheimers.

    Based on this abstract, I doubt that the author of this paper would concur with your wide sweeping conjectures with regards to longevity.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.