Thought For the Day on Aging

A thought for the day, from a recent FuturePundit post:

Brain aging is gradual brain damage. Some people think aging is wonderful and natural. That's tantamount to saying that brain damage is wonderful and natural.

While progressive brain degeneration with age is not wonderful, it most certainly is natural - just like anthrax, parasites, suffering, living in caves and having a life expectancy of somewhere south of 30. Our present human condition is, thankfully, far removed from those past natural states. The reason it is far removed from that is, of course, because many, many people have labored to make it so through the advancement of medical science and other enabling technologies. The present human condition deserves its label by virtue of having been manufactured by humans, not because it is something that happens to humans.

We're not done with that manufacturing process, however, not by a long chalk. Anything and everything we don't like about the human condition is up for engineering in the years ahead. The purpose of that engineering is to provide choice: the choice not to live in caves, not to host parasites, not to suffer and die.

People who think aging is wonderful have their heads stuck in the sand; given the choice, almost all would opt to avoid suffering, degeneration and mandatory death by aging on a schedule other than their own. It's a damn shame we don't have that choice today, and so we see people strive to convince themselves that the ugly state of affairs they're stuck with is the best of things. In doing so, however, they shut off discussion about engineering a better future, cutting off their lives to save a little existential angst in the present.

Now that we're entering the era of rapidly advancing biotechnology, and there is a clear path ahead to producing medical technologies capable of rejuvenation of the old, the biggest obstacle to progress is a world of people convinced that aging and dying is the only option - indeed, that it is wonderful and noble. The more people we can win away from that cliff, the faster progress in the science of rejuvenation will advance. At the largest scales and over decades, widespread public support and understanding is what drives research onward.


Well said. The "it's natural" crowd needs to be confronted. There are so many un-natural things that we do that are good and desirable, it's not even funny. Fighting aging isn't even a new direction, we're just on the verge of getting much better at it.

Posted by: Michael G.R. at January 16th, 2008 9:15 AM

I for one, would be alot happier living as healthy as I could, and as best looking as posible.We dont live long enough for us to say, lets just get old and ugly and die gracefully. If we could get the technology,it would be the investment"For LIFE"Not to mention the other benefits that come about w/this technology.Who ever would be against it,has to be"NUS"////
Valentine, Riverside Ca.

Posted by: Valentine delpino at January 16th, 2008 3:43 PM

One big problem we have is the depiction of anti-aging technology in the media. The scientist researching life extension, or immortality, is pretty much always depicted as misguided, with the moral of the story being 'You shouldn't try to play god,' or something along those lines. This moral message does have an effect, and helps create the 'it's natural' crowd mentioned above. Are there any pro-life-extension movies or other media out there?

Posted by: falco at January 21st, 2008 8:47 PM

As to biotechnology - I am not an expert of it at all - On can image an anti-aging strategy like this:

When a cild has been born, some samples -
ancient cells/tissues - are extracted from his/her
navel string and thus several organs are grown -
including brains so that if any happens later - accident or getting aged - all of his/her organs
can be replaced by a new one. In this case death
could be avoided.

Other possibilities would be to getting regenerated by a lot of sleeping.

Optimal (bio) feeding would be desirable for everybody with yoga, ajurveda, sports.

Posted by: Gabor Luko at January 22nd, 2008 4:17 AM

Unfortunately people associate the good (more experiences, more friends, etc) of aging with the bad (slow degeneration of the brain).

In the god-loving USA this is much exacerbated by the fact that 50 per cent of the population can't wait to be reunited with Jesus in heaven and most of the others pander to them (or at least consider their ideas beyondrational criticism) -- which reinforces this "it's natural" idea from another angle.

Once you separate fact from bs, it seems pretty obvious.

Posted by: Alex at March 12th, 2008 3:06 PM
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