No Problem that can Possibly be Produced by Rejuvenation Therapies is Worse than Not Having Rejuvenation Therapies

The Life Extension Advocacy Foundation authors are presently walking through the foundational arguments for pursuing the development of human rejuvenation therapies. This covers the long list of clear benefits to health, wealth, and society; cataloging the terrible cost of aging; pointing out that the most commonly voiced objections veer from the trivial to the ridiculous to the outright and obviously incorrect; and so forth. It is a strange thing that we humans hate to be idle, but at the same time it is in our nature to be very conservative. We cling to the present status quo, no matter how bad it might be, even as we are energetically collaborating to overturn it. You will find no shortage of people who defend the horrific toll in suffering and death caused by aging simply because it and its consequences are familiar. But imagine that aging did not exist: would you find people jumping up to endorse an introduction of the slow and painful death of tens of millions of individuals every year? The gradual, painful, and enormously costly incapacity of hundreds of millions more?

The traditional objections raised against the idea of longer lifespans touch a variety of different topics, but they can all be reduced down to a single, general form: "Rejuvenation biotechnologies would cause a specific problem, so it's best not to go there." Here, we're not going to question whether rejuvenation will cause a certain problem or not; rather, whatever problem we may be talking about, let us assume that it will happen and weigh it against the benefits of the defeat of aging.

To do so, let's keep in mind that aging kills about 100,000 people a day; that is, it accounts for two-thirds of all deaths worldwide. Moreover, it causes an indecent amount of suffering, disability, and debilitation, making the last decades of one's life increasingly miserable. To that, we must add all the problems of an aging society - money and resources spent on pensions and geriatrics with little to no utility, practical and emotional burden on the families of the elderly, too many retired people to be supported by a declining younger population, the lot of them. Let's also not forget that these are virtually everyone's problems. Is the above better than the potential side effects of the defeat of aging and the countermeasures we might thus have to take?

For example, suppose we determined that rejuvenation would cause such an unmanageable population increase that, in order to prevent it, it would be necessary to limit births worldwide, at least until we were able to support a larger population. Is asking all people to become sick and die better than asking those who want children to postpone their parenthood plans?

Another example: imagine that an evil dictator used rejuvenation to prolong his reign of terror by decades. So, on one hand, nobody would suffer and die of aging anymore; on the other hand, people who lived under the dictator would have to endure the dictatorship for longer. Forget for a moment that waiting for a dictator to die of old age isn't the best way to get rid of him; rather, let's reflect on this: would the amount of suffering caused by the dictator to a fraction of the human population be worse than that caused by aging to everyone? Would it be fair to ask the whole world to give up on lifesaving medical technology so that no dictator could ever use it to continue oppressing a minority that could be saved by more effective means anyway?

Let's face it - suffering and death are hardly a solution to anything. Will the rise of rejuvenation biotechnology cause unexpected side effects and challenges? Quite possibly, because it is a disruptive technology, and as such, it has the power to revolutionize our lives. But as for other past disruptive technologies, we'll figure things out as we go.



'Is asking all people to become sick and die better than asking those who want children to postpone their parenthood plans?'
Postpone for how long? Once aging is cured, the answer becomes 'indefinitely', given our planet is already overcrowded. If every day a person's life is extended, pushes back by a day that a baby is allowed to be born, every benefit of anti-aging becomes counter-balanced. The bulk of the environmental crises we now face comes from over-population - it is practically the biggest problem we have as a species.
Your article on this amounts to 'don't worry, technology will solve the problems in due course'. Really? In a world where people don't die of age, somehow this won't prevent the future generations from being born?
And then waiting for a tyrant to die of old age 'isn't the most effective strategy' - yes, we know, but it is the one reliable one that we have. History shows us tyrants aren't typically overthrown. It is extremely normal for them to maintain a grip on power for the entire length of their long lived lives. Allowing a dictator to live for centuries grows the power imbalance dramatically into their favour - the consequences of which should not be considered trivial.
What would a centuries old tyrant *not* do, to maintain their grip on power?
The benefits of this technology you pitch as going to be wonderful help for 'all of us'. Are you sure about that?
You think that the rich won't get first dibs, and entrench their power base?

Posted by: Sam at October 30th, 2017 5:59 PM

@Sam: The senolytic drug candidates used to extend life in rodents can be purchased for a few to a few hundred dollars a dose for established drugs, or synthesized for a few thousand a dose in advance of mass manufacture. The likely dose schedule is once every few years. These are not expensive treatments.

Overpopulation is a myth. It doesn't exist. What does exist is war, waste amidst plentiful resources, and kleptocracy, and the self-delusion of those who look at ravaged parts of the world and say "too many people caused this" rather than correctly diagnosing bad governance.

Posted by: Reason at October 30th, 2017 6:17 PM

Indefinitely postponing childbirth is an overstatement.

People die of accidents, it's easy to push this out of our minds as anything else that is related to death. But it's a fact accidents - when combined - are in the top 10 causes of death even in our age of widespread emergency medicine.
Then there are infectious diseases - those can be quite deadly. HIV alone kills a sizable amount of people at the ages between 20 and 45.
Ischemic strokes and heart attacks - those aren't always age related, if anything, they are correlated with weight and fitness more.
And then there's homicide and suicide.

As for tyrants, whenever you let one die of aging he's typically replaced by someone worse. Just look at North Korea now or the history of Soviet Russia. I never understood this argument at all, it doesn't hold any validity when you look at human history.

If anything, looking at human psychology, if a tyrant is allowed to stay in power for that long that typically means the people who will replace him are so much worse than him they themselves don't want to have to elect a replacement - they know only one can take his place after all.

Posted by: Anonymoose at October 30th, 2017 8:09 PM

Overpopulation is not a problem in the West, or at least it wouldn't be if we had sane immigration controls. Actually, underpopulation is the problem as will become ever more clearer as the post-war baby boomer generation gradually dies off.

As it is, low birth rate countries like Japan and Germany face an apparent choice between economic suicide or national suicide. Japan has chosen the former and Germany the latter. Given the rapid progress being made in both robotics and (hopefully very soon to be evidenced) life-extension, it appears that Japan has chosen correctly. In 30 years time, Germany will be violently split into an 'older' rejuvenated white population and a largely unemployable, unassimilable Third World Muslim population, whereas Japan will still be Japan, and likely still leading the world in technology and culture.

Posted by: alt-transhumanism at October 31st, 2017 4:12 AM

@alt-transhumanism Your data on muslim birth rate is very outdated:

@Norse: "Nearly 500,000" magically become "as many as 650,000" when referenced by a different reporter. Anyway, none of them is "a LOT". Number of deaths in the US in 2014: 2,626,418. So that would be as much as 2% of deaths.

Posted by: Antonio at October 31st, 2017 5:42 AM

@Antonio - I didn't say anything about Muslim birthrates.

Posted by: alt-transhumanism at October 31st, 2017 7:28 AM

Ok, sorry, I understood you wrong.

Posted by: Antonio at October 31st, 2017 8:00 AM

Oh by the way, this is not correct as stated by Sam: "If every day a person's life is extended, pushes back by a day that a baby is allowed to be born, every benefit of anti-aging becomes counter-balanced."

It appears like zero sum but it is not.

Due to the dependency ratio preventing aging is always beneficial. Simply put: A person born now will require 20-30 years to reach peak performance and maximal contribution for society. Therefore having fewer children and longer lifespans, all else being equal, is always beneficial.

Posted by: kismet at November 1st, 2017 12:23 PM
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