A Commentary on Radical Life Extension

Here is a commentary I noticed recently, not entirely positive when it comes radical life extension, but the positive portion is quoted below:

Aging, along with the physical and mental deterioration that characterizes it, is undesirable. Potential economic and social difficulties notwithstanding, living longer and healthier lives is a positive and productive premise. Acceptance of the preceding premise leads to the conclusion that the technology that would facilitate radical life extension ought to be pursued.

Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a [biogerontologist] with a formidable beard, offers the argument that it would be morally dubious of us not to develop these technologies and deprive future generations of the benefits therein. To have the ability to develop therapies that lead to longer and healthier lives makes it our responsibility to do so. Policy decisions concerning the adoption and implementation of the policies should be left to those generations in which they are most relevant; it is presumptuous of us to make those decisions for them by not developing these therapies. In his view, it is not only desirable but a moral imperative to give future generations the choice and allow them to decide on implementation. Our hesitation in diverting resources to the development of these therapies is actually condemning future generations to a life span that is far shorter than it could be were we to actively pursue life extension technology. Furthermore, we cannot presume to fully understand the social and political landscape of the future and their priorities - they will be best suited to make a choice and we should allow them to do so.

Without going so far as to characterize those opposed to life extension technology as luddites, there is a serious risk of preventing the potential benefits of these technologies from reaching us, or our children, in time. Some people's fear of what may happen if people live ever longer lives is not a basis for pre-emptive policy decisions.

Link: http://bullandbear.musonline.com/2013/01/morality-immortality/


(from Google cache, since the article seems to be inaccessible)

"The policy implications of life extension, such as ensuring proper allocation of scarce resources and keeping people productive for centuries, would no doubt be a defining issue of a future where radical life extension is pervasive." Perhaps we could first ask what is a "proper" allocation of scarce resources? Who decides this, and who does the allocating? The underlying assumptions of this "defining issue" are all in favour of central planning and statism as against the free market and free choices of individuals. I should hope the future hasn't forgotten those latter possibilities.

"Furthermore, humanity’s new challenge will be feeling around for that fine line between self-improvement and self-destruction." I'm at a loss for what that's supposed to mean, but I bet it's deeeeeep, man.

"It would be foolish to suggest that there are no drawbacks to humans living indefinitely." I have never seen one. I have never witnessed one proposed that doesn't wither under a moment's scrutiny. There is no a priori reason to believe that there must be drawbacks. What were the drawbacks of eradicating smallpox? What are the impending drawbacks of the pursuit of guinea worm eradication?

"the widening of a socio-economic gap that is already tragically large in many countries is a very real potential ramification of radical life extension as the rich gain access to therapies before the rest of society."
If a rich person dies and his heirs inherit his money, I don't see how the socio-economic gap has been narrowed very much as against the case where he lives and keeps the money himself. On a deeper level, and as someone concerned about the plight of the poor, I think there are graver tragedies in their lives than the mere existence of rich people. Hungry children do not much care whether rich people have indefinite lifespans.

I'm off to blithely ignore 100,000 deaths a day while I write an elegy to the widening of the socio-economic gap.

Posted by: José at February 1st, 2013 3:06 AM

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