I promised I would have more to say about Aubrey de Grey’s book, and I do that in this essay.

At a more subtle level, de Grey wants institutional changes that wrest control of the research agenda from the medical establishment, which is vested in the existing paradigm. Here, the fact that so much medical research is under government auspices makes the outlook discouraging, in my view. If there is one thing that you can count on government to do, it is to protect incumbents and move with great reluctance to support upstarts and innovators.

We have come to think of “pure research” as a government function. But much of what de Grey is talking about is applied research. It probably will be under-supplied by the private sector, because the benefits will be difficult to capture. But government will not fund research in an optimal way either.