Thoughts on the False Choice of More Life or Better Life

Opponents of engineered longevity often put forward a false choice between quality of life and length of life. But medicine of the future will give us both: "one of the ten most-read articles on the BBC news website at the moment is a piece by Joan Bakewell suggesting that greater longevity may not be desirable. It's a superficially thoughtful commentary, but in truth it just runs through a series of standard knee-jerk reactions, most of which don't stand up to much scrutiny. Firstly, there is the implicit assumption that any extra years of life are bound to be of extremely low quality, due to physical and mental frailty. But one thing that actually unites almost all scientists in this area - from the mainstream ones like S Jay Olshansky who seek to slow the aging process by a few years, to the 'heretics' like [Aubrey] de Grey who seek to conquer it entirely - is that they don't think an increased lifespan would be beneficial unless 'healthspan' is boosted to an equivalent (or more likely greater) degree. There's always the danger of unintended consequences, of course, but there's no reason to fear the stated goal of the research. ... Finally, there's the general sense in Bakewell's article that 'a fuller life is better than a longer one'. This is a superficially attractive philosophy, but once again, it looks somewhat different if you just tweak the implicit parameters a little. What if the 'fuller life' lasted a mere twenty years, and the 'longer life' lasted eighty? Would anyone seriously suggest that the fullness of the twenty years entirely makes up for the tragedy of the lost sixty years? Some might, but it would be a far tougher case to make, simply because of our perceptions of what a 'natural' lifespan is. And yet the span we fetishise as being optimal is just a random quirk of the stage of evolution we happen to be at - some species live much shorter lives than we do, other species much longer."

Link: http://scotgoespop.blogspot.com/2010/12/joan-bakewells-false-choice-on-life.html

Comments

As always spot on, Reason. Not to belittle, but you have to admit that fighting deathists on the philosophical plane is almost too easy, it seems sometimes.

Really, a person dogding a speeding car on the street and saving their life is practically saying "Death sucks". You cannot possibly argue that if life is good ( beautiful, wonderful etc ) then death is somehow good too - the whole "cycle of life" BS. It's either that or the other, tertium non datur.

One little thing - quote from Joan : "Nobody looses their looks, they just have different looks". One look at the picture of Jo and I hear "Stockholm Syndrome" repeating in my head. Can't people just be honest about this ? Yes, old really is ugly, it's not some Hollywood/beauty indsutry scheme. One more reason to fight aging, so that they wouldn't have to make up stupid rationalisations like this.

Keep it up !

Posted by: Lost Sheperd at December 6th, 2010 6:28 AM

There is the occasional religious conservative. However, I have noticed that the vast majority of opponents of radical life extension have a liberal-left political orientation. This makes sense as the liberal-left always wants to regulate everyone else's life choices. I do not know why they are called "liberal" as they clearly do not believe in liberty. They believe in restricting liberty. We should come up with a more appropriate label for these people.

Posted by: kurt9 at December 6th, 2010 9:28 AM

Bakewell also trots out the standard "neighborhood" argument against cryonics. This is where one would not want to be reanimated in the future, even in a universe of unlimited opportunity and freedom, because all of the people familiar to you would be gone. Of course she has never thought that all Americans are the descendents of settlers and pioneers who did precisely this. Some people just can't wrap their minds around the idea that cryonics can be thought of as immigration across time in the same manner that settlers and pioneers immigrated across a distance to create a new life for themselves in the new world.

Some people's brains just don't work at all. This is a fair assessment of your typical "deathist" weenie.

Posted by: kurt9 at December 6th, 2010 11:04 AM

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