I have a few thoughts on this question. Perhaps ironically, they’re in the form of more questions.
What exactly is the War on Cancer? How did it start?
How “popular” is it?
Does popularity in this sense correspond to funding, research results, or any meaningful metric?
Is this approach something we want to emulate?
Wikipedia reports, “The War on Cancer refers to the effort to find a cure for cancer by increased research to improve the understanding of cancer biology and the development of more effective cancer treatments, such as targeted drug therapies. The aim of such efforts is to eradicate cancer as a major cause of death. The signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971 by then U.S. President Richard Nixon is generally viewed as the beginning of the war on cancer, though it was not described as a “war” in the legislation itself.“
The War on Cancer is referring here to the passage of a law and is not really a war in the conventional sense.
The popularity of the idea is a bit of misleading thing. I’m not sure what this means here. How many people supported the law back when it was passed? How many people think it is a good idea now? How many people search for this phrase on Google? Popularity in the sense of the general public liking an idea had little or nothing to do with the passage of a law like this.
So in summary, the War on Cancer required the passage of a law allocating funds. The popularity of the idea had nothing to do with it.
The idea of war on a disease or an abstract concept such as “terror” is problematic. War suggests enemies to attack and weapons to deploy. But these metaphors are not always correct in reference to curing an illness like cancer or solving the complex problem of aging.
After all, the enemy in cancer is our own DNA. How can we attack it?
With aging the issue is even more dramatic. A war on aging suggests eliminating older persons perhaps. The war metaphor is at least overused and deserves to be questioned.
Has the war on cancer been won? Wars are won and lost, but our scientific investigation of methods to cure disease goes on. Just because a disease is able to be cured in some cases does not mean we have “won”.
Curing aging is in fact not entirely separate from curing cancer. Cancer is largely a disease of older persons, especially certain cancers. So any “war on aging” would at least overlap with the war on cancer. Creating a new war is always problematic, however.
Declaring war does not produce funding. Successfully defeating aging require funding of research and development of medical techniques, medicines, etc. It isn’t a PR campaign like “Say No to Drugs” during the Reagan era and the same methods of communication do not apply..
But transhumanists are notoriously bad at marketing, for example consider the failed Immortality Bus campaign which draws crowds of less than half a dozen people. Sure it is weird enough to get written up in Vice, but does it convince anyone that controls funding to support our efforts? Name one person or organization that has funded some scientific research as a result of this campaign. There isn’t one.
To move forward we have to focus on the efforts that matter, and that means getting research funding. A realistic approach to increasing research funding is forming a Political Action Committee to promote the idea in congress and in D.C. more generally. This is where the decision will be made as it was with Nixon’s 1971 Cancer Act. All other efforts are at best distractions, and at worst make our cause seem weird or out of the mainstream.
Weird, fringe causes do not attract funding.
In summary, I want to suggest to the panel and audience that they go All In for longevity research. This means doing whatever you can do yourself to achieve longevity. Eat right, get enough sleep. Avoid junk food. Exercise. Transhumanists that do not do these things are not in a good position to talk to the public about longevity at all in my view.
Beyond this, we need to directly support research ourselves. Crowdfunding is one avenue, but realistically crowdfunding is a drop in the bucket and will remain so when compared to the U.S. annual research budget of $65 billion dollars. Volunteer yourself.
Peter Rothman, M.S. is Editor of H+ Magazine where he is looking for great articles about the future of technology, humanity, the mind, society, and human culture.
Peter is an engineering and management professional with deep experience in the design, development, and launch, of commercial software products, internet services, and other mission critical systems. He is currently doing research into analysis and visualization of text for a consumer facing application.
He was previously chief scientist of a biometrics-based fraud prevention company. He led the development of Live365.com, one of the largest providers of streaming audio on the Internet. He operated a product development and engineering team for the global multi-million dollar public software company MetaTools/MetaCreations. He founded and operated a startup software company, raised capital, and negotiated eventual sale of company. He has designed and implemented cutting-edge software, algorithms, and technologies.
Peter’s specialties include biometrics, mathematics, streaming media, virtual reality, simulation, text analysis, data visualization, and artificial intelligence.
Peter was an early developer of VR technologies, including developing applications of VR to financial visualization and a concept for unencumbered infantry training using VR for the US Army.