Removing the Pressure of Impending Death

At root, medicine is driven by the urge remain alive. It is a process of engineering the means to prevent death, and so setting out to deliberately create greater longevity by tackling the root causes of aging - rather than addressing named diseases, one by one - is no more than the logical next step in this process. We know more than enough to get started down this path, and there are some few organizations working on it even today, though far from enough and with far from enough funding.

Consider a world with the means to prevent aging - say, though a package of therapies that a person undergoes every twenty years or so. Infusions of fresh stem cell populations, engineered enzymes to degrade metabolic waste products that build up in and around cells to impair their function, some form of mitochondrial DNA repair, culling excess memory T cells, and so on. These therapies prevent and reverse the build up of damage, allowing a body to continue in good health indefinitely. There is no good reason for them to be any more expensive than your average run of clinical treatments today: they would require little time from a physician, and would operate in much the same way for everyone, allowing economies of scale in production and distribution.

In such a society, all of the pressures associated with the short span of life we presently enjoy evaporate. We are so steeped in that omnipresent pressure of time that it's somewhat hard to envisage what a society without it would look like. Every strategic decision that we make in the course of our lives is based on time - that we have ever less of it remaining, the clock is ticking, and have only a few shots at getting anything significant accomplished. It requires a decade to become truly talented in any particular profession or skill, for example, and at least a few years to figure out whether not we can follow through to that level. That is a vast investment of time when we only have a few decades in which we are at our prime. The same goes for careers and relationships of any significance. We are pressured and choices have great weight precisely because we must forever give up an ocean of possibilities in order to swim in any particular pool.

There is a related school of thought among those opposed to engineering longevity: they say that the pressures of time created by the fact that we age to death due to our inadequate medical technology are a good thing. To me this has the look of rushing to justify what is, regardless of what might be, but they argue that the industry of individuals and humanity as a whole requires the deadline of dying; that without it, no-one would accomplish anything. They look upon the unending holocaust of death and destruction caused by aging - 100,000 lives every day, all they knew, all they could accomplish in the future, all they might have done, erased - and say it is necessary.

This is a hideous nonsense, serving to illustrate that little but a veneer separates us from the barbarians who actively slaughtered millions in past decades. It is true that rapid progress is very necessary in today's world - but we need it because we are dying, and the only way to save ourselves is through technological progress. The faster the better, every increment of speed representing countless lives that might be saved on some future date. If more people were more aware and more interested in doing something about this, we might move faster yet towards the biotechnologies of rejuvenation. Unfortunately, for all that each and every human life is shaped completely by the foreknowledge of future disability and death, all too few are willing to help change this state of affairs.

But so what if the medical technologies that can prevent death by aging make our societies slower-paced, more considered, less energetic? I'm not of the mind that this is a terrible thing - free-wheeling use of a resource is characteristic of wealth, and when we are wealthy in time, we will have the luxury to use it in ways that presently make little sense, or are called wasteful. Caring about waste is a sign of poverty, a sign that we don't have enough of whatever we worry about wasting, which in turn suggests we should do all we can to accumulate more of it. Besides, I don't for one moment believe that the slowing of economic engines and technological progress will in fact happen as feared by those who advocate for the continuation of mass death and suffering. There are all sorts of economic pressures upon human action that have next to nothing to do with aging and our current all-too-short span of life: consider the shifting desires for security, food, property, knowledge, and novelty, for example. The timescales on which those urges operate will not much change in an ageless society, as people will still have the same human nature as exists today. There will continue to be dynamic and ever-changing industries devoted to keeping people fed, clothed, and entertained.

These responses to irrational fears are, at the bottom line, unnecessary to some degree. 100,000 people died today of a cause that we can do something about. Tens of millions die every year, and hundreds of millions more suffer terribly on their way to that end. There is no argument that can possibly outweigh the need to address what is by far the greatest cause of death, suffering, and loss in the world - yet, for some strange combination of reasons, many people keep trying to find one.


They say- " life is short." And I hate it. I feel fortunate to be alive in this wonderful time where we have the means to conquer the ultimate enemy of life, i.e, death. I feel more efforts have to be made in making people aware of the possibility of indefinite living. You Tube certainly has few channels dedicated to this theme of 'fighting aging' but more channels are required. People are still running their lives based on the old thought of -'life is short' and we should first widen their field of view towards modern scientific possibilities. Everywhere I go I have developed a propensity to start a small discussion about Dr. Aubrey De Grey and SENS with people I meet and I am surprised to see that so many are unaware of what's going on. This certainly needs a change.

Posted by: Rinchu Lama at May 13th, 2016 11:22 AM

It's simple. All the money and effort that is currently burnt on space travel needs to go into defeating the biological clock.

Aging is the greatest plague in existence. It is indistinguishable from a deadly disease. "It's normal" is no excuse for letting humanity be plagued with pain and disease, dependence on wheelchairs, and the certainty that it will get worse with each year.

Regardless of how "normal" something is, if it causes illness and suffering, it must be defeated. Period.

It is the number one priority of our species to remove the primary cause of suffering. Then we can deal with everything else. Then we can explore other planets. But let's get rid of aging first, please.

Posted by: A. Sharafi at September 4th, 2023 7:25 AM

(A message to wealthy people:)

Hi, Mr. Gates. Hi, Mr. Fink. Hi, Mr. Page. Hi, Mr. Musk. And hi, Mr. Bezos.
You might be able to buy a lot of things, but you can't buy the greatest luxury of all. You can't buy yourself young again.

You can buy golden watches, but you can't buy a strong immune system.

You can buy palaces, but you can't buy healthy non-presbyopic eyesight!

You can buy yachts, but you can't buy vigor.

You can buy Bentleys, but you can't buy pain-free bones.

You can buy Maybachs, but you can't buy muscles.

You can buy majestic gardens, but you can't buy hair follicles.

You can buy Gulfstreams, but you can't buy asthma-free lungs.

You can buy rockets, but you can't buy a healthy and ecstasic love life.

I hope you will prove me wrong by using your wealth to find a cure for humanity's main problem, rather than wasting it on meaningless nonsense that won't save you from your demise.

Yours truly.

Posted by: A. Sharafi at September 26th, 2023 8:33 AM

People argue "the finitude of life gives you the motivation to use your time well / to work hard in life / to get things done" and similar. For example, AskAMortician (Caitlin Doughty) uses this argument on the VSauce MindField episode "Should I Die?" [ - 16 minutes 10 seconds ].

I disagree.

First of all, that does not account for the massive suffering, the frailty and illness and dependence on rollators that comes before death.
Second, if anything, the finitude of life reduces motivation because it means I will lose everything I worked so hard for. Or can Warren Buffet can take his billions into afterlife, if such a thing even exists?
Third, it is not just about myself but about loved ones that get ill and die, and I have to watch and can't do anything about it. This needs to change.

Posted by: Lord BW at October 1st, 2023 3:21 AM

I wonder if we got to a cure faster if the various research organizations such as SENS and Calico worked together. We all have the common goal to prevent illness and suffering of both ourselves and beloved people.

As Aubrey says, it pays for itself.

Posted by: A. Sharafi at December 13th, 2023 3:47 PM

It's that time of the year again. Sounds of exploding fireworks from outside. To some, it is a fun celebration. Admittedly, it used to be so to myself. But then it became nothing but being another year closer to the pain and illness of old age.

I never understood what the big deal about new year is. It's just a date. It is pointless excitement over a bunch of numbers on a calendar.

New years will only be worth celebrating when the problem of impending old age is eliminated from the picture.

Posted by: A. Sharafi at December 31st, 2023 4:59 PM

Metaphorically speaking, aging is the "final boss" of problems plaguing mankind. (In video games, the "final boss" is the most difficult enemy at the end.)

Other diseases are avoidable. Whenever I see people in wheelchairs, overweight people, blind people, or hear someone has cancer, I know this can be avoided with a healthy lifestyle, or has already been avoided thanks to luck.

But the one disability that can not be avoided is old age. Old age robs people of the most enjoyable things in life. Health, love, sexuality, mobility. All of those things are eliminated by old age.

One can avoid being fat, sick, wheelchair-dependent, but the one thing one can currently not avoid is getting old. I don't mind seeing wheelchair drivers and obese people in public, because I know "this will not be me". But whenever I see elderly people struggling with their rollators, who look like they hadn't had sex since the fall of the Berlin wall, I am reminded "this is my fate".

A healthy lifestyle only delays the misery, it does not prevent it. Humanity needs to cure age, then we can deal with the rest of the problems.

Remember when FaceApp was wildly popular in 2019? People applied the age modifier that made them look old, and they made fun out of it. It's easy to laugh about it, but when it is their turn to experience old age in their own bodies, I can tell you for sure that they will not be laughing anymore.

Posted by: Lord BW at March 22nd, 2024 4:14 PM

For these reasons, so-called "birthday" is among saddest days of the year. One less year to live a healthy life. One less year to acquire new skills. One less year to experience affection and sex. One year closer to being a burden on the time and energy of other people just to survive, not even to enjoy life (because that is not possible with the poor health of old age). How is that in anyway worth celebrating? If anything, it should be dreaded.

And I am sick of hearing/reading the phrase "died of natural causes". It really means "died of old age". To those who use that phrase: Stop glorifying it. Name it what it is.

I am looking forward to a world where there would no longer be this imaginary timer ticking in the back of everyones' heads.

Aging puts a hard limit on how many skills a person can acquire, and with death, all of it goes to waste anyway. It would be far better if there was no such limit. Due to age, people become reluctant to start long-term trainings for new skills due to the time cost, so they have to be more considerate what to start with instead of jumping right in because if it turns out be less useful than expected, "no problem, life is not limited anyways.".

Posted by: Lord BW at May 12th, 2024 5:04 PM
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