Chris’ note: We’re on the verge of another Industrial Revolution.
And much like the first Industrial Revolution, this period will be marked by profound change. According to Doug Casey, matter, energy, space, and time will “soon be manipulated on a cosmic scale”… thanks to rapid advances in technology.
For example, life extension breakthroughs could soon solve the problem of aging. If that happens, Doug says you could “be, do, and have everything that you can imagine.”
That makes it one of the most important advancements to watch going forward. So I got Doug on the phone to learn more about the implications of life extension…
Chris Reilly, managing editor, Casey Daily Dispatch: Doug, how far along is life extension science? Could the average person soon start living well beyond the age of 100?
Doug Casey, founder, Casey Research: In 1982, Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw – two close friends of mine – wrote a book appropriately titled Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach. I don’t have the book in front of me, but it’s about 600 pages. Parts of it are quite scientific, as its title would indicate. It was a New York Times bestseller for many weeks.
Back then, there were a half-dozen dominant theories about why people aged and died. The main thing you could do at the time was proper diet, exercise, good mental attitude – and having long-lived ancestors. Those things, and trying to slow down the natural destruction of your cells by taking a lot of vitamins and antioxidants.
Back then it was quite hard to get decent supplements. If people were aware at all, perhaps they’d take a One a Day, with enough vitamins to ward off scurvy, rickets or beriberi, but not enough for optimal health. In addition, many formulations were in the form of rock hard tablets, made under heat and pressure. They’d go right through you without even dissolving. And even if they did dissolve, the ingredients were totally compromised.
Things have changed considerably. Durk and Sandy continue to engage in super-nutrition. As do I.
It used to be just about antioxidants. But there are now other compounds like coenzyme Q10, resveratrol, and metformin that may let you live longer. And there are many other things you can do besides super-nutrition.
Chris: Like what? What are some other ways to extend your life?
Doug: Calorie restriction is another thing that makes sense.
Roy Walford was, among other things, the physician on the Biosphere 2 project in the Arizona desert. He developed the theory of super-nutrition combined with calorie restriction. He came to several meetings of the Eris Society to talk about his findings. He was planning on living to 125 – the probable natural genetic limit on lifespan – but died of Lou Gehrig’s disease at 79. The fickle finger of fate can point at any of us…
The science behind life extension has advanced a lot since then however. Just like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and nanotech, it’s advancing at the rate of Moore’s Law.
The key to extending your life now appears to hinge on reengineering your genetic makeup. That’s the cutting edge.
Billionaires like Larry Ellison, Jeff Bezos, and Peter Thiel understand that having all the money in the world does you no good if you get old and die; they don’t put luggage racks on hearses. Naturally, they want to live forever, because they’re on top of the world. Nobody wants to take the long dirt nap six feet under. So, I continue to monitor the whole area.
Chris: Aside from super-nutrition, what other things have you done to extend your lifespan?
Doug: Well, regrettably, I’m already 73 years old. And the Second Law of Thermodynamics has its effect on absolutely everything from amoebas to individual people to corporations to countries. That’s the tendency of everything to wind down and fall apart. Entropy.
It’s one of the few laws that I actually believe in. It’s incontrovertible that everything ends, right up to the heat death of the universe itself. I suggest you read Asimov’s short story “The Last Question” in that regard.
But let’s forget about the ultra-long-term for the moment. I try to go to the gym and pump iron three times a week. I know my limitations, so I no longer play polo, skydive, ride motorcycles, or drive cars too fast. I take a bunch of nutraceuticals. And I try to abstain from bad habits like overeating, drinking to excess, and smoking cigarettes. Although I love the occasional cigar; the problem in our increasingly puritanical society is finding a decent place to smoke one.
I’m counting on a research firm pursuing anti-aging/disease-prevention to get lucky. Perhaps a breakthrough in the pursuit of biological immortality is near. And there are many firms pursuing it right now.
Chris: How soon until life extension or anti-aging technologies go mainstream?
Doug: Well, rich people will obviously take advantage of these technologies first. That’s because, like all technologies, it will be expensive at first. Then they become democratized and cheap.
Nobody wants to become old and sick. So, life extension is one of the best reasons for becoming as wealthy as possible. If you’re poor, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.
I’m waiting for an indication. Perhaps George Soros, who is in his late eighties and looks half dead, will start looking healthy and young all of a sudden. I suppose we have to take the bad with the good… I’ll then know that a major breakthrough has been made if I haven’t already heard about it through the grapevine.
Chris: Where might this breakthrough occur? What area of science?
Doug: It’s likely to come through some variation of stem cell therapy or genetic engineering.
I’ve actually had some stem cell therapy. I went to Panama to have a course of it. But I didn’t notice any change. It didn’t have an effect on me.
Now, I don’t know if that’s because of the methods they were using there or the peculiarities of my genetic makeup. It’s hard to say.
Look, death is the most important problem of life, and people don’t talk about it. They, at best, talk around it. They don’t want to confront it because it’s such an ugly thing. But you won’t solve the problem by hiding from it.
I’ve read a lot of science on the subject and am looking for a magic breakthrough. As is Ray Kurzweil. He believes that the Singularity is only 20-25 years away. That will trivialize any of the problems we have today, and hopefully make the future not only better than you imagine, but better than you can imagine. The key is to just hold on that long.
Chris: Doug, I recently read about a young Russian billionaire who started something called the 2045 Initiative. In short, he wants to have his brain uploaded to a computer so he can live forever as a hologram.
He says this is the next step in human evolution. Do you agree with him? Is this where life extension technology is headed? Or is this a different phenomenon entirely?
Doug: Well, a bit of background first. Cryogenics has been around now for about 50 years. This is the idea that you can either freeze your body, or at least your head, and at some point in the future technology will allow for you to be reanimated.
It may work, although I’m skeptical. Although there’s no theoretical limit to what technology can accomplish, preserving your meat brain may or may not mean that you preserve yourself or your memories or your knowledge. So I can understand his interest in somehow uploading his consciousness to… let’s call it the Matrix.
Is it possible? I’m a solipsist at heart. That means I think anything that can be imagined can be done.
I think it’s very problematical, and my guess is that it’s a dead end in the near term. But I wish him well. There are undoubtedly many paths up the mountain. Anything is worth a shot, considering that the alternative is nonexistence.
Chris: Doug, now that you’ve touched on the philosophical ramifications, I’m interested in what you think about the more immediate considerations of life extension.
Specifically, what will society be like if the ultra-wealthy find a way to cheat death? Will this lead to even more income inequality or eventually overpopulation if older people aren’t dying at a natural rate?
Doug: These technologies will have a wonderful effect on society. As people live longer, their time preferences change. They become less live-in-the-moment and more let’s-look-forward-to-the-future.
If I knew I was going to die in a year, I wouldn’t make any long-term plans or investments. But if I’m going to live for another 100 years or 1,000 years, I’m going to reorient what I do with my life. I’ll have a reason to want the world to be better in the future, other than just good karma.
Life extension could, for instance, have an immense impact on morality. By having a longer timeframe preference, people will likely become much more ethical. They’ll know that they have to live with the consequences of their actions – good and bad – for a long time. The amount of wealth will increase geometrically; people will be much less prone to dissipate it in the short term. They’ll save it, and try to compound it for the future.
If rich people are the only ones that can take advantage of life extension to start with, I’d say that’s wonderful. And probably the way it should be. Why? Well, most rich people – with the exception of crony capitalists, thieves, and politicians – become rich because they provide goods and services that the world values. I can hear the envious screaming “What about me? I want to live longer at somebody else’s expense!”
The rich will be, and should be, first in line for living forever. They may or may not be the nicest people. But their wealth is some evidence that they’re more diligent, more intelligent, and harder working than most. That’s tough luck for the ne’er-do-wells, the mooches, and the slackers. If you’re poor, you made your bed. Now, you sleep in it. And, yes, I hear the whines about “bad luck.” You make your own luck over the course of a lifetime. In fact, the bread generally goes to the wise, the race to the swift, and the battle to the strong. At least in a free market. That’s what justice is all about.
I’m very concerned by the government in this context. This is to say that many people in government want to control other people. They’re already talking about wanting to make it impossible for anybody to become a billionaire. Which may make it impossible for anybody to live longer than the norm. They want egalitarian democracy? It only exists in the graveyard. I’m not interested.
In the process of trying to reward lazy and incompetent grasshoppers, and penalize productive bumblebees, they may throw a monkey wrench into scientific progress itself. These people are even now eating away at the foundations of Western Civilization. They’re anti everything that’s brought mankind out of the muck – free speech, free thought, free markets, individualism, science… and life extension. Why? I’ve heard some fools argue that it will bankrupt Social Security and Medicare. Of course those systems are already bankrupt – but they should be abolished. As crimes against humanity.
Politics brings out the worst in people. It attracts the most degraded types. But other than that, I’m incredibly optimistic for the future, including the possibility of living for a very, very long time in a healthy and productive way.
Chris: Aside from investing in your own health, have you made any investments in the life extension space? Maybe there’s a company that you’re personally speculating on?
Doug: No. I haven’t found the bio equivalent of Apple or Microsoft yet, but I’m looking. It’s not easy. As you know, there’s an old saying, “high tech, big wreck.”
Getting involved in a bioscience project in its early days could make somebody a trillionaire. But for every person that hits the jackpot like that, there are going to be billions and billions of dollars flushed down a toilet in false-start companies that just don’t make it.
So, the answer to the question is that I’m looking. I haven’t found anything that I’ve personally put any money in. But most of my friends are high IQ libertarians that are science-oriented. And also looking. If I find the right deal, I’ll let you know.
Frankly, it makes a lot more sense for the market to allocate capital into something like that than buying big yellow trucks and digging holes in the ground, which is basically where I allocate most of my money now. That said, I expect I’ll get 10-1 in the coming resource bull market. That will give me the flexibility you should have to play with biological science projects.
Chris: Thanks for chatting with me today, Doug.
Doug: You’re welcome.