I am inordinately pleased by the existence of Longecity.
This is a forum where people discuss supplements and nootropics. I started looking at it when I was conducting the nootropics forum, assumed it was similar to every other forum that fits that description, and didn’t pay it more attention until today.
Today I looked at it in more depth and discovered their group buys.
The way this works is: people on the forum hear about some exciting new chemical that was found to have promising effects in an experiment, after which researchers say something like “this might be ready for human trials in a couple of years”.
Then everyone pools their money together, pays thousands of dollars to get a research laboratory somewhere to synthesize them a big batch of the chemical, distributes it to everyone in the forum, and they all ingest it and see if they grow wings or a third arm or whatever.
Needless to say this is a terrible idea and they will all probably die of some horrendous disease unknown to medical science. That’s not even in dispute.
But I was raised on science-fiction stories, and one of the most common tropes was some wonder drug being developed and then suppressed by the government. When I was like seven, I read a story about a kid in a science fair who invented a chemical that let people photosynthesize, and the government made him stop because it would destroy the food industry (my childrens’ books were better than yours). The basic structure of the mad scientist genre is small-minded fools delaying a genius in supremely great work. And in a world where the government is trying to put the brakes on the personal genomics revolution and drugs succeed or get ignored for confusing reasons, it’s easy to worry that real life might borrow from some of those tropes.
For example, a research team recently did something that looked like they might sort have reversed aging in rats. The lead researcher says he wants to start human trials soon, but he “is reluctant to forecast how long it will be before the compound might be readily available for use”, the chemical seems to be really expensive to manufacture in sufficient quantities, and the bioethicists will want to have their say about what if rich people can afford it more easily than poor people, and so on and so forth. Overall this doesn’t seem likely to be an exception to the rule that nothing ever makes it to market in less than five or ten years.
Meanwhile, the people on Longecity have already gotten a price tag from a chemical supplier and a couple dozen people willing to be human guinea pigs.
This particular case I am not optimistic about – they seem to be looking not at the precise chemical used in the rat studies but at a cheaper substitute; although as far as I can tell their biochemistry checks out, I feel like if the cheaper substitute worked the original researchers would have used it themselves. And this substitute also seems to be commercially available in some places and no one is aging in reverse. So this will probably be a no-go.
But they’re also working on group buys for a kappa opioid antagonist that someone says might help social motivation and a TrkB agonist that acts as a BDNF-mimetic and appears to treat Alzheimers in a mouse model.
I cannot even come close to endorsing this. The responsible part of me says that it is a terrible terrible idea and they will all come down with exotic cancers and die. It probably is a sweeping condemnation of our government that they haven’t burnt the whole website to the ground and then scattered red tape over the ruins so nothing can grow there again.
But another part of me is full of glee that a random Internet site has just made an entire class of dystopias impossible. If there is a miracle drug out there that makes you super-smart or reverses aging or something, and for some reason like an evil conspiracy or just bad luck it never “made it”, someone on Longecity will have taken it within a week of it first being mentioned online. And if they report that they think it worked, a couple hundred people will figure out hare-brained and probably illegal ways to get some.
I think a good motto for western civilization would be “Our institutions are stupid and our population is insane, but occasionally these two flaws perfectly balance each other out and it’s sort of neat”