Radical Egalitarianism in Defense of Engineered Longevity

Radical egalitarianism is an impossible ideal: that a utopian society could exist in which everyone is equal in some important way - in possessions, ability, or access to resources. Lesser arguments for egalitarianism are usually heard alongside the blandishments of green-eyed socialism: calls for a levelling brought upon anyone with greater wealth or better access to medicine. That type of egalitarian can often be seen speaking out against research into engineered longevity, on the - mistaken - grounds that it will be "for the rich" or otherwise benefit some small group before it benefits everyone. Death for everyone before inequality for anyone is the mantra there:

I find it very strange that apparently intelligent people can field this sort of argument. Replace working anti-aging medicine with, say, working heart transplants, or working kidney dialysis and see how far you get in trying to convince people that suppliers in the developed world are keeping such technologies out of the hands of others, or that we must stop using medicine that is not universally available. Quite aside from the glaring failure to understand simple economics, it is deeply depressing that we live in a world in which people argue for the enforcement of large-scale, preventable suffering and death.


Creating "equality" by taking from the successful ruins the creation of wealth - very much a non-zero sum game - for all. It takes away the vital incentives and rewards for success. At the end of the process, as demonstrated by all that transpired in the Soviet Union, you are left with the same old inequalities, but now taking place amongst ruins, starvation and disease.

In any case, I thought you'd be interested to see the fundament of the egalitarian position turned to support research into ending aging and extending healthy life for a change. Consider this another installment in seeing how mainstream pro-longevity bioethicists think:

Why should the aged have a much greater risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, AD, infection and death? The aged do not deserve the cellular and molecular damage that accrues over time; and thus we should seek to mitigate these vulnerabilities. And so I think the aspiration to retard human aging is actually a requirement, not violation, of equality. And this is what I argue at greater length in my paper "Equality and the Duty to Retard Human Aging"

The trouble with radical equality is that the "right" to possess more than you presently own - be it possessions, resources, or young cells - is what's known as a positive right.

Within the philosophy of human rights, some philosophers and political scientists make a distinction between negative and positive rights. According to this view, one's positive right imposes an obligation on another to do something for someone, while a negative right obliges others to refrain from doing something to someone.

A positive right for one person always implies enforced servitude for another person: where do the labor and resources to supply that positive right come from, after all? A system of government that grants positive rights is a system that must be backed up by coercion - taxes, public service, prison, police, and guns. Just try suggesting that you won't supply labor and materials for the postive rights written into law by those who will benefit from them, and see what happens. That is never ethical ... unless you happen to be one of the silent majority who believe it is acceptable to force other people to do what you want them to do. Sadly, if you look outside, you will probably find you live under such a government.

Anyway. It is interesting to see the emergence of attempts to restructure various restrictive philosophies of life to be in favor of engineered longevity, now that the prospect of actually engineering greater human longevity is more plausible. That in and of itself is a sign of progress, I think. Follow the incentives: when people think that they could possibly benefit from a future of rejuvenation therapies, then they will work on the roadblocks they know best. Articles like the one quoted above are a form of vote of confidence in longevity science.


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