Aiming at Immortality is Not a Waste of Time, as Some Propose

These days immortality is a lazy shorthand for vulnerable agelessness attained though medical technology: your body won't kill you while you have access to preventative therapies to treat aging, but falling pianos can still ruin your day. Aiming at the goal of indefinitely extended healthy lives is decried in some quarters, but the arguments marshaled against efforts to make the human condition better by eliminating the pain and suffering of degenerative aging have never looked all that coherent to me:

I was a bit perplexed, to say the least, when I read Big Think blogger John N. Gray's article "Immortality is a Waste of Time." His entire argument revolved around the notion that, because of unknown contingencies throughout life, the act of curtailing death's inevitability and infinity is thus a waste of time, money, thought and anxiety.

This is absurd. An absurdity flooded with fear-mongering imagery of our future, claiming the acts of planning for our possible deaths as being equivalent to "a society that is one of cryonic suspension, a freezer-centered society, a society in which we spend our thoughts, our desires, our passions, our incomes on tending freezers." Tending freezers, he says? Like we tend to our graveyards, our crematoriums, and mausoleums? Examples, I might add, to which wastes precious land to accommodate the bodies and/or ashes of our long-since-deceased (or soon-to-be-deceased) loved ones.

This notion that "history will go on," all while admitting that it "makes good sense to take care of your health, to try to remain healthy for as long as possible" and that "we should use the new technologies to enhance the mortal life we have," is contradictory and ahistorical. History most certainly went on, but then the goings-on of history were determined - not by a lack of care for what our future holds for us, but - by a global society who no longer saw it fit to merely live by age 30, or to go days without food, or to suffer from terrible diseases due to complete lack of medical aid and knowledge. Our society has spent centuries upon centuries fighting for a better world not just for themselves, but for those who'll come after them. Maybe our efforts won't lead to immortality in our lifetime. But then when is a good time to fight for it? Should we simply condemn our future relatives to a life - albeit one certainly going on - flooded with problems that could have been alleviated, if not addressed completely beforehand?



Gray seems to share the characteristic I've pointed out in other life-extension critics of being thoroughly anti-human. From that perspective, of course one would oppose therapies to prevent Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis et al. since those are clearly friends of the anti-human agenda.

Posted by: José at July 23rd, 2013 7:00 AM

Estas expresiones son una muestra más de que las sociedades, precisan al menos unos 50 años para asimilar ideas que aparentan ser absurdas. Ocurrió con el avión al inicio del siglo XX, con las vacunas, y en general, con toda cuestión que implique pensar por si mismos. El pretender la inmortalidad o simplemente no morir, es algo esencialmente racional, que el ser humano puede aplicar por tener un cerebro más desarrollado que el resto de los animales.

Posted by: eduardo at July 23rd, 2013 7:52 AM

These expressions are just another sign that companies require at least 50 years to assimilate ideas that appear to be absurd. It happened with the idea of ​​flying at the beginning of the twentieth century, with vaccines and in general with all the ideas that involve thinking for themselves. Pretending to be immortal or do not die, is something essentially human and rational. A privilege that humans have to have the most developed brain of animals and no doubt it will be made ​​in a while. Who held a different view, you can simply choose to die quickly. It is your right.

Posted by: eduardo at July 23rd, 2013 7:56 AM

The term "immortality" must be condemned. Our species has not yet reached this state of being, so individuals who quickly associate it with their supernatural and/or illogical assumptions on life, which I think they frustratingly bias themselves between their psychological conscientiousness of their personal reality and their concrete, down to earth biological state in which they live. E.g. some may push immortality away because they may see it as "something that isn't right" or "evil because it interrupts the natural ways that life currently is," or ending aging will cause extreme overpopulation of the earth. These critics will not retain their oppositions when they are 70 and having a stroke, heart attack, cardiac arrest, ect. When that moment arrives, then he or she will do anything in his or her power to stay alive; even to the point that the individual will come to regret all those assumptions he or she made about anti-aging all of his or her life, given that the stroke will allow that level of complex interpretation of past experiences..

To note, by the time we are overpopulated primarily due to aging is when we will have a New New York on Mars.

Posted by: Donald Fry at July 23rd, 2013 7:14 PM

Gray's argument is analogous to someone arguing that one should not plan and go on a trip to South East Asia because the plane might crash. Its an utterly stupid argument. I have yet to encounter ANY argument against life extension that is not utterly stupid.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at July 23rd, 2013 10:00 PM

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