The anti-ageing industry is hotting up. Not the one advertising me snail goo and sheep placenta facials (the algorithms can’t accept that I barely moisturise); the one exploring how elastic the limits of life are. A generic diabetes drug, metformin, apparently shows potential to slow ageing (researchers are hoping to secure funding for a large-scale trial).
A “longevity diet” could hack cell ageing, but you’d better like your proteins “pesco-vegetarian-derived” and your fats “mostly from plant-based and pro-longevity sources”. There’s a definite buzz, but it’s all in the early stages – as one researcher put it: “It’s a great time to be a rich mouse.”
Rich – that’s key. We relish tales of absurd billionaire biohacks – dodgy supplements, cryochambers and fasts so long I’d eat my own arm – as evidence that all their money can’t buy them eternal life. But now we might have to be grateful for their mad hubris: billionaire-funded private sector startups are apparently filling the gaps in longevity science, funding anti-ageing research too speculative for big pharma and too expensive for academia and government, with Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin all getting involved.
But will this generate meaningful trickledown of any advances? We know how effective trickledown is in other areas. Mainly, I keep thinking how only billionaires have the luxury of believing great age is remotely desirable. Recent research found just 35% of “ordinary” people want to reach 100.
There’s no mystery: getting old at the pointy end of the climate catastrophe, as food and water supplies falter and health and social care are dismantled is one thing; getting old on your private climate-controlled island as handmaidens count your macros and juice your nuts is quite another. Then there’s the “health span” disparity: the wealthiest live nearly 10 disability-free years longer than the poorest.
We are in the UN’s “decade of healthy ageing” and there are tons of innovative ideas out there around healthcare, community, city life and more that could make living longer appeal to more of us. But all that requires money. Let’s hope the billionaires discover the secret to eternal life is paying a lot more tax.
Courtesy: Guardian News & Media Ltd.
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