Radical Life Extension on the Radio

Biomedical gerontologist and advocate for engineered human longevity Aubrey de Grey appeared on Southern California Public Radio today:

How old is too old? Some scientists think the body has a metabolic stop-sign at about age 122; others think that through new technologies, genetics, and robotics we can expand our longevity to a quarter millennium. And one man thinks immortality is possible - that the first human who will reach 1000 years of age has already been born. But with great age our assumptions of life, family, work, taxes, government, health, sex… our humanness…would change. Are you ready for the long life?

You can listen to the program and leave comments at the SCPR website. I am interested to note the overwhelmingly negative nature of the comments - people pretty much lining up to declare their intent to die on schedule. I think that indicates an audience unfamiliar with the concepts of radical life extension, the great enhancement of health and life span that could be realized through rejuvenation biotechnology in the decades ahead. Presently sympathetic audiences, such as the readers of technology magazines and tech-news sites, were originally just as hostile before they began reading about longevity science more often and in greater detail.

In the comments to this radio program, I see the bitter fruits of Malthusian environmentalism: people convinced that the world is dying, that division and development of resources is a zero-sum game, that humanity is fundamentally evil and should be removed from the world. It is an essentially religious impulse, immune to logic, immune to facts, immune to the history of Malthusian predictions proven wrong over and over again.

By far and away the most common reason I see given these days in opposition to engineered longevity is fear of overpopulation. Environmentalism has become almost a religion in its own right now, and many strands of that religion are essentially death cults: loose networks of like-thinking people who fervently believe, for whatever reasons, that the world is dying, that humans already live too long, and that people should be forced to relinquish technology and return to a simpler era. Extreme fringe variants of the environmentalist death cult really do stand for the complete destruction of humanity, but even supposedly reasonable, middle of the road people are influenced by deathist environmentalism to the point at which it is seen as reasonable to say that (a) too many people exist, and therefore (b) the unending horror, pain, and suffering of death by aging is necessary.

Death cult environmentalism of the "too many people" variety is, fundamentally, a failure of understanding. It is to look at the undeniably bad situations and unpleasant regions of the world and say "this is because too many people are using too many resources," rather than to see that in fact it's all due to misallocation of existing resources and the failure to develop new resources - a grand procession of waste, corruption, and the inhumanity with which human beings treat one another. These situations are problems that can be solved through development and tearing down corrupt systems of rulership - they are not immutable facts of life that must lead to the deaths of millions.

So you see these strange online gatherings and discussions in which people strive to outdo one another in declaring just how eager they are to age, suffer, and die on the same schedule as their parents and their fellows. Yet when longevity science is in the clinic, they will be just as accepting of engineered longevity and longer healthy lives as they are opposed to it now - they will follow whatever the crowd follows, and it is the great shame of our age that the crowd, in its ignorance of basic economic knowledge, cries out for self-destruction, suffering, and death.


Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. New comments can be edited for a few minutes following submission. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.