Journalistic Balance Run Amok in the Matter of Aging

The implementation of journalistic balance is a self-parodying genre of writing. In the case in which the scientific community is working towards saving countless lives, by implementing therapies targeting the underlying mechanisms of aging, the paint-by-numbers journalist and editor duo will dutifully find a curmudgeonly figure who thinks that everyone should just get on and die, and put in a few quotes in order to balance the article. The piece here is an example of exactly this phenomenon; it is left as an exercise for the reader to identify the other popular media checkboxes lazily checked in the course of its few pages. And one can still use this to say that the quality of articles on the development of therapies for aging is much better than it used to be! A low bar, but slowly rising. Still, it is hard to take the output of what passes for journalism these days at all seriously. Sadly all too many people do just that for every topic with which they have little familiarity.

The quest for eternal youth may not be new, but it is now bankrolled by some of the wealthiest individuals and corporations on Earth. Anti-ageing science works at the level of gene therapy, cell hacking and reconstituting human blood; the medical treatments at its heart are based on "bleeding edge" science and aimed at the mass market. Some focus on biological reprogramming: adding proteins known as Yamanaka factors to cells, causing them to revert to a previous state. Others look at genomic instability or the way DNA damage that accumulates over time might be repaired.

The entrepreneurs in this fledgling field are determined that the end of ageing will come via therapies approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The elixir of youth won't be a single drug, but a regimen of treatments that knock out different hallmarks of ageing and allow us to get older without losing our bodies and minds. We will still die: there will be accidents as well as diseases unrelated to age (children still get fatal cancers, after all). But death will become increasingly remote, and no longer preceded by years of inevitable decline. Its advocates argue that, once ageing is cured, the financial, medical, societal, and emotional burden of taking care of the elderly will disappear. But have these entrepreneurs thought about what a post-ageing world would look like? And if they have, would anyone want to live there?

Paul Root Wolpe, 64, director of the centre for ethics at Emory University (and a former senior bioethicist at NASA), told me that a world without ageing would be "an economic disaster". The argument some advocates make for its enormous social benefits is "a misdirection", he said. "I find their arguments extremely naive, sociologically unsupportable, and most importantly, deeply narcissistic. I've never heard a single plausible argument of how radical life extension would benefit society - only an egocentric desire not to die. The truth is, they want to stop ageing. They want to live healthily to 150."

In Wolpe's view, anti-ageing scientists and entrepreneurs minimise or ignore the profound implications of significantly increasing the human lifespan. "The International Monetary Fund has stated that an ageing population in Japan has led to a vanishing labour force, higher demands for social services, a shrinking tax pool, greater wealth disparities - and that's just from living what is currently our lifespan. If we increase it, all of those things would increase exponentially." But in the future envisaged by the biotech start-ups, we would work into our hundreds: an elderly population would still be a labour force. Wolpe had little patience for this idea. "That is a profoundly elite perspective."



Does the thought occur that people who don't age would want to keep working and achieving in life - rather than be idle? That the reason why they do so presently is because of aging?

Western nations are importing immigrants because they don't make enough babies. Why not increase lifespan and workspan?

Posted by: Eighthman at October 27th, 2021 7:00 AM

I I am still reading the article but there's already an interesting quote annuity unity bio's new senolytic human study The majority of those patients showed an improvemen

Posted by: Cuberat at October 27th, 2021 7:22 AM

@Eightman: I tried to get that message out to national conservatives and anti-immigrationists. It's work. They mostly get the message.

Posted by: thomas.a at October 27th, 2021 8:37 AM

Here I am preaching to the choir , but still.

When I read the objections by Mr. Paul Root Wolpe there are a lot of words and claims but nothing is really explained or justified:
...old me that a world without ageing would be "an economic disaster"..."a misdirection"..."I find their arguments extremely naive, sociologically unsupportable"...

and here
... a shrinking tax pool, greater wealth disparities - and that's just from living what is currently our lifespan. If we increase it, all of those things would increase exponentially." ...

... Do you really think that the longshoreman, the hard labourer, the person who works as a clerk in a store, at the age of 65 is going to say, 'Great! I get to work for another 50 years!' It's absurd." ...

So I guess the poor workers would rather gladly die of a slow and agonizing disability of aging.
It is a strawman argument. In fact it is good that the article brings it up, so it can be publicly debunked.

What they get right is:
The political ramifications of an indefinite lifespan are equally huge, Wolpe argued.

However, what he is saying in fancier words is "OK boomers, can't you just die and make place four younger ideas? "

The end of the article show the Luddites ethos of the author:
There it was again: the answer to a problem created by technology is… more technology. The future looked bright once more

But as a whole, I find this article brings a net positive to the antiaging. Even if it is a negative PR and exposure it is nevertheless disseminating the idea among a wider audience.

In fact, I think, it would be good if there was an enraged journalist jealous of how billionaires remain younger how the peons are left to age. That would make the mental transition from an impossible quackery to a plausibly solvable problem

Posted by: Cuberat at October 27th, 2021 8:43 AM

This is a well-discussed issue. There multiple solutions and each one of them could work.

1) If we are talking about poor societies where there's no pension system to talk of, then working indefinitely is a good thing compared to rely on tour children to support you.

2) Besides even the elderly, as long as they are not disabled "work" as free daycare and such.

3) In the richer countries with pension system a lot of countries are raising the retirement age already without any anti-aging treatments. Therefore , the retirement system will have to be profoundly altered anyway.

4) We can devise "retirement/sabbatical" funds where one contributes/saves for x decades and then can either receive a small return indefinitely or have a couple of decades of full income as sabbatical. Then rinse/repeat.

5) Some jobs and pension funds/schemes let you retire as early as 45. Say you are in a good health. You have 40-50 more years ahead of you.

6) If you are a pool and naive soul who drudges for many decades without any savings. And even accumulate debt. You still have the chance to become wiser and fix your finances , while now you would just die poor and decrepit.

Of course having more years to waste will let more people just kill the time. But this is a good thing. It shows that we as a society could afford this luxury of having idle decades or even centuries. And there's always a hope that people will wisen up, or even , dare i say, get smarter.

Posted by: Cuberat at October 27th, 2021 8:58 AM

Yes, Reason, that's very true.
Personally I don't waste much time thinking about anti anti-aging comments which state a thing that's possibly available in the future won't work in or be detrimental to the current state of the environment, social systems, etc..
The world changes.... a lot of human work will be replaced by AI/robotics, social systems will have to adapt.
The next pandemic might take care of overpopulation and in turn climate change. Maybe even this pandemic already does its share, if one wants to believe studies showing COVID19 infections reduce fertility of young men. Still ~7bn unvaccinated people in the world...

'It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.'

Posted by: Jones at October 27th, 2021 9:34 AM

Legitimate journalism no longer exists. It is all about pushing political agendas. I don't pay attention to what journalists write any more because I know its all propaganda and crap.

Bioethics is in even worse shape. There is one and only one legitimate issue in bioethics, and that it the issue of informed consent. There is nothing else to bioethics as a legitimate field. We've seen how this has been completely corrupted in the pursuit of pharmaceutical profits with the rollout of dodgy covid-19 vaccines and the political pressure on people to circumvent their personal risk/benefit calculation to undergo forced vaccination.

Again, like journalism, bioethics is about promoting specific political agendas. Legitimate journalism and bioethics no longer exist.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at October 27th, 2021 9:49 AM

This bioethics guy is also a friggin idiot. I mean, we shut down the economy last year ostensibly for protecting lives. And now this idiot says we can't save lives because it would be bad for society and the economy. How many of you in here want to bet money that this idiot favored the lock downs last year? Talk about a serious cognitive dissidence (You gotta love the liberal mind!). I honestly do not understand why anyone would even pay attention to this kind of idiot.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at October 27th, 2021 1:29 PM

Jones said: "The next pandemic might take care of overpopulation"
Overpopulation is a myth and has always been so. Check this out:

Posted by: Antonio at October 27th, 2021 2:13 PM

Curing aging is no different than curing cancer. People don't badger cancer researchers with these kind of social questions. They have no business badgering anti-aging people either.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at October 27th, 2021 2:47 PM

I have recently had conversations with family about this. Most people do not understand that nearly everyone has ALREADY gained decades from medical technology (and other improvements) created in the last 50 years.

Blood pressure medications, statins, coronary stents, antibiotics, better surgical procedures etc. Average male lifespan has increased nearly 40 years in the last 100 yet people don't see that as the same thing. But it is the same thing.

We need to re-brand our movement to the quest to end age related diseases and disability. We are going to have a harder time gaining acceptance from regulators and the public if we continue down this same path.

Posted by: Lee at October 28th, 2021 4:54 AM

Just call it homeostasis restoration. The purpose of medicine, in general, is to restore and maintain homeostasis.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at October 28th, 2021 9:57 AM

@Abelard Lindsey
And it doesn't need to be a perfect restoration. Just good enough

Posted by: Cuberat at October 28th, 2021 12:23 PM

When they speak of "elites" getting their hands on these technologies, they're really referring to useless eaters. THEY are the "elites." They fear the social implications of the peasant class unlocking the key to indefinite life and "elite" genes.

If the upper class is not fit to righteously rule over all by virtue of their superior genes and our "inferior germplasm" ... then there's no longer a justification for this rule, and they can no longer be permitted to rape and murder young women like Dutroux's friends did. Hence "sociopolitical instability." Get it now?

They realized a long time ago that the peasants and the elite were essentially the same, separated by access to nutrition, healthcare, education, etc., and have now shifted to self-justifying through appeals to planetary custodianship. There's a plus with that: being custodians of the planet allows them to boss us around even more. Back in the day, they justified themselves by having larger armies under their control. It was truly their belief that God ordained their rule, and that they were of superior stock to the rest of the world. Guillotines, however, proved they were made of flesh and that their most marketable skill was psychopathy.

If you want proof for this, just look at any of the current figureheads of the international banking-transhumanist cabal that runs the world government, Klaus Schwab being most infamous. He surrounds himself with plenty of "bioethicists." Ethically, there must be winners for there to be losers. Get THAT? Immortality will be expensive, so they say. A simple injection, but it will cost billions. This is what bioethicists say--what they plan and prefer, if you will.

A skinhead would never let a black man access some kind of medical treatment enabling superiority over whites. Why would those who have stated explicitly that they want to depopulate the planet let people live forever? That's just dumb. If you're such a smart person, stop writing dumb things on your blog.

Posted by: Daniel "Swatch" Lewin at October 28th, 2021 9:31 PM

What a flog. Is there any role more self-righteous than being a "director of ethics"?

Posted by: Evan at October 30th, 2021 1:54 AM
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