There are all sorts of bad, mistaken or plain malicious reasons that people give when opposing healthy life extension research - which means being all for suffering, pain and death by age-related degeneration. Perhaps they think that future longevity technologies would lead to increased, longer frailty (the Tithonus error); or that Malthusian predictions of doom by overpopulation will finally be right after all these centuries of being flat out wrong (fat chance); or that a longer life would inevitably lead to boredom; or economic ignorance leads them to oppose the conditions necessary for progress in medicine; or that present day attempts to engineer longer, healthier lives "defy nature" more than those of past centuries; or they romanticize of death and aging as somehow noble, papering over mess, suffering and horrors; or perhaps they are possessed of a deeply ingrained sense of self-loathing.
At the base of it all, I think, is a deep and profound fear of change. Some people would rather embrace any present horror than even the most positive change. This is not one of the better traits we humans seem to have hardwired in our evolutionary heritage. On that note, a very illustrative op-ed was pointed out to me today; it speaks volumes of the mindset that justifies a continuation of today's death and suffering into tomorrow.
There's a lot of talk about anti-aging research today, but with all the promises of longevity and even immortality, almost no one has apparently considered the consequences of human beings living forever. The more you think about it, the scarier the idea becomes.
Think of the people who currently hold power in medicine, pharmaceuticals, media or government. Imagine if they never died. In fact, if you think about it, one of the best things about some people is the fact that they will eventually be six feet under.
Science would never have advanced if the old-school high priests of science lived forever. And society as we know it today will never move forward unless the cronies currently in power someday keel over and die (harsh, but true). This is why I say a civilization that could give its population the ability to live forever would be doomed to eternal stagnation. Mortality is an important component of any successful species.
All complete nonsense, of course. I'm going to go out on a limb here and propose that ignorance lies at the root of fear of change: ignorance of the way in which change occurs; of the way in which people act to create change; of common timescales of change; of the degree to which change is occurring around us all the time. How can anyone look around the world today and propose that the present breakneck pace of change will somehow grind to a halt if people live longer? Major technological and cultural change is occurring on timescales of a decade; it should be rather hard to deny that in the face of the internet and biotechnology revolution, let alone everything else that is 2006 rather than 1986.
It is deeply disturbing that so many people believe that death - rather than personal growth and change - is the only thing driving progress. Destruction of health and life is nothing but destruction: those billions of unique individuals could have contributed, changed, built new things, accomplished new goals. The structure of our lives today is forced upon us by the all too rapid decay of our bodies; we simply don't have enough time to be anything more than the merest hint of our true potential.
The stagnation argument against radical life extension - illustrated in the quote above - is just as bankrupt as the other arguments for the death and suffering of billions, and just as widely dismantled and demolished. Nonetheless, it persists, just as the others; they are a displacement activity, resistant to logic, the cry of people who would rather suffer and die - would rather everyone else suffered and died - than change. If that is their choice, then they should be free to make it for themselves - but fought every step of they way should they work towards removing our freedom to engineer the longer, healthier life that we desire.
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