Radical Life Extension Won't Cause Resource Shortages

That overpopulation exists at all is one of the most prevalent delusions in the modern world: thanks to the environmentalist movement, a cause that has ascended near to the status of civic religion, the average fellow in the street thinks that there are too many people alive today, that resources are stretched to breaking point, that the future is one of Malthusian decline, and that horrible poverty in the third world is caused by the existence of too many people. All of these points are flat-out wrong. Humanity is wealthier and has greater access to resources today than at any time in history, the variety and amounts of available resources are growing at an accelerating pace due to technological progress, the earth could support many times more people than are alive today, and where there is poverty it exists due to terrible, predatory governance and the inhumanity of man - it exists due to waste and aggression amidst the potential for plenty.

Even this pro-longevity piece subscribes, as many do, to the false idea that somehow we are consuming too many resources and will run out. This is silly: resources are infinite, because through technological progress we constantly develop new ones. People live in an age of change, with each new decade clearly different from the last, and yet live under the assumption that everything will remain the same going forward. Being worried about running out of anything that we use today is like being worried about running out of candle wax in 1810, or running out of room for horse breeding operations in 1840, or running out of food in 1940. All false concerns, and all false for exactly the same reasons: we are not static consumers of resources, we are net producers of resources.

Make no mistake, it'll take us a long, long time to get there, but we'll eventually find a way to halt the aging process. Owing to advanced medical, regenerative, and cybernetic technologies, future humans will enter into a state of "negligible senescence," a condition marked by the cessation of aging and the onset of everlasting youth. It sounds utopian, but as biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey has repeatedly noted, it's simply an engineering problem - one that's not intractable.

I've been debating this issue for the better part of a decade, and I've heard virtually every argument there is to be said both in favor of and in condemnation of the possibility. I'm not going to go over all of them here. But without a doubt the single most prominent argument set against radical life extension is the issue of overpopulation and environmental sustainability.

As a final note, there's a certain inevitability to radical life extension. It's the logical conclusion to the medical sciences. So rather than futilely argue against it, we should come up with constructive solutions to ensure that it unfolds in the most non-disruptive way possible.

Link: http://io9.com/no-extreme-human-longevity-won-t-destroy-the-planet-1440148751

Comments

Denialism does not help your cause

The article makes a number of poor assumptions which currently have no real world truth to them

It amounts to we will address the problem later

Not that its not a problem

But look over there

See problem solved

You need to come up with better answers

Posted by: Real reason at October 4th, 2013 10:02 AM

Occasionally when I talk about developing biological immortality, someone will say that we should solve this or that problem first. Its as though we have solve all of the world's problems first before we are "allowed" to live indefinitely long youthful life spans.

Of course this is horse shit.

If I were to tell the same people I was, say, developing a new computer chip, I certainly would not get the same reaction. Or I was involved in expanding my company's sales into the Asian markets.

I would simply ignore these kind of jerk-offs who think we have to solve all of these other problems before we can tackle aging.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at October 4th, 2013 1:00 PM

I don't disagree with the points made on this blog post, though I am sure that it is not that simple and that there are several people suffering to some degree due to poor distribution of population, resources, and/or wealth - blameless or otherwise. That being said, I don't believe the arguments put forth in the blog post - posted or quoted - are necessarily politically-savvy, helpful, consensus-building, or support-generating. I think if we say that many issues of poor distribution of said items and increasing overall abundance are eminently solvable/manageable by technological means, by experienced and intelligent people, and widespread co-operation, we could make the compelling argument that increased longevity could indeed be assisted by those older, experienced, wiser, and thoughtful individuals who have had the opportunity to extend their lifetimes. Longevity is about providing the additional resources of our experienced, caring, and sophisticated super-annuated (healthy) members of society - probably an incredibly valuable human resource far above and beyond their resource 'costs'.

Posted by: Jer at October 4th, 2013 2:21 PM

@Real reason Your elementary approach to an attempt at disproving the validity of the blog or the article is as solid as your display of proper punctuation. You have failed to give logical examples as counterpoints, but have instead thrown in a big word or two to accentuate your emotional hyper-reactionalism. If your post were dialogue for a kid's cartoon I would be enertained by your appearance of wit. As a researcher who has a strong interest in this and other related fields, I am bored by your sub-par bashing of the work of one more brilliant than yourself. A fool will say it cannot happen while a genius finds the way. You my friend are exhibiting the greatest form of denialism of all. To deny that any one thing is possible is to live a life of lies. I wish you luck, and most of all a change of patterns in thought.

Posted by: Adam at October 4th, 2013 7:38 PM

Adam, don't pick on people who are smarter than you. Real Reason's post was very clear and easy to read, because his writing is better than yours. He did not throw in any big words to try to sound smarter than he is, unlike you. And he is also correct, unlike you.

Overpopulation clearly exists today. There are people suffering and dying from lack of resources, who would not be suffering and dying if the population was lower. I'm not prepared to sentence 7 billion people to death to solve that problem though. Which is what I would be doing if I didn't support anti-aging treatments. But the problem will still need to be addressed.

It's not environmentalism that is the religion. This kind of insane far-right politics is a religion. Fortunately, it's a religion that only exists in significant numbers in the United States, where people are raised on that crazy dogma. If you pull your head out and have an objective look at the world, you will see the flaws in your basic principles.

There are too many people alive today. Resources are stretched to breaking point. The future (and the present) is one of Malthusian decline. Horrible poverty in the third world is caused by too many people. All those points are flat out right.

And third world poverty is not caused by predatory government oppressing the poor citizens. That is crazy far right dogma made to fit crazy far left dogma. Third world poverty is caused by third world people lacking the genes for intelligence, self-control, and empathy. Which leads to overpopulation, and a complete lack of the technological progress and development you are counting on to compensate - among other problems.

Ironically, this post also forgot the problem of "damage", that is the accumulation of waste and junk that is starting to reach levels where it causes pathology. The planet is "aging" and the damage repair approach isn't feasible in this case.

Posted by: Carl at October 5th, 2013 1:46 PM

@Carl I will speak as I choose. You may imply levels of intelligence how and where you wish. That being said, I still side with Reason(not Real reason) who wrote the article. This is not to say I don't find some degree of validity in a few of your points. Third world poverty is not caused by too many people, nor a widespread genetic inferiority, however, I will agree with you on lack of empathy. Thid world poverty is caused by first world greed and lack of proper infrastructure. The first world could choose to be empathetic thus in turn creating more empathy, educate and rebuild the third world, and those communities would in time become self-sufficient.

As for the damage and aging of the planet, I agree that we are trending negatively in this direction. Despite the doom and gloom, countries such as Sweden are reversing the trend with zero-trash initiatives, companies such as Global Clean Energy Initiative are turing waste into reusable energy, and a country in India will have bragging rights to the first zero-carbon city. Other companies will take note out of greed, repuation, or trend and will eventually keep momentum going. The only real x-factor is time.

As for your views on overpopulation, I lean in your favor, although I find error in the second sentence. My opinion is that people are not dying of scarcity due to overpopulation, in most cases. Since there is no global shortage, this is much more relative to your key point of lack of empathy - though I don't see the lack of empathy being isolated so much as it is epidemic.

Politics are not my game. However, my prinicples are solid, and the view is quite objective with my head fresh out of my ass. Thank you for the visual. It humored me to read.

Posted by: Adam at October 5th, 2013 9:00 PM

Even a death rate of 0 would not cause overpopulation as long as every woman gives birth to significantly less than 2 children in her lifetime on average. The population then grows as follows:

SUM(i=0;t) N0 * (c * 0.5)^t

where t is the number of generations considered, N0 is the start population and c denotes the average number of children for that part of the population able to bear a child (approx. a half of the population is female).

Assuming c=1, we get

Generation 0: 7000000000
Generation 1: 10500000000
Generation 2: 12250000000
Generation 3: 13125000000
Generation 4: 13562500000
Generation 5: 13781250000
Generation 6: 13890625000
Generation 7: 13945312500
Generation 8: 13972656250
Generation 9: 13986328125
Generation 10: 13993164062
Generation 11: 13996582030
Generation 12: 13998291014
Generation 13: 13999145506
Generation 14: 13999572752
Generation 15: 13999786375
Generation 16: 13999893186
Generation 17: 13999946591
Generation 18: 13999973293
Generation 19: 13999986644
Generation 20: 13999993319
Generation 21: 13999996656
Generation 22: 13999998324
Generation 23: 13999999158
Generation 24: 13999999575
Generation 25: 13999999783
Generation 26: 13999999887
Generation 27: 13999999939
Generation 28: 13999999965
Generation 29: 13999999978
Generation 30: 13999999984
Generation 31: 13999999987
Generation 32: 13999999988
Generation 33: 13999999988

so we reach a plateau of almost 14 billions after 32 generations. Assuming c=1.5, we reach a plateau of 28 billions after 77 generations. Ok, that's a lot, but it's limited!
Many developed nations already have a birth rate which is low enough.

Posted by: Nicolai at October 6th, 2013 6:46 AM

sorry, the "^t" in the formula should be "^i"

Posted by: Nicolai at October 6th, 2013 8:48 AM

The "link" between population (overpopulation) and life extension isn't really there? Though in an overall sense as the population increases it will likely become more difficult to pursue it....due to various issues such as resource depletion/political-environmental instability.

In my family most members have more resources than I do, but have no interest in actively pursuing health in declining years...they simply accept old age and find comfort in numbers...letting the corporate influences do as they please. Traditionalists....that have been trained by corporatists?

So the personal "formula" would be... (interest x resources ) - negative influences both mental-emotional and physical.

Posted by: bob at October 9th, 2013 4:34 AM

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