Pros and Cons of Life Extension

July 22 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

Opinion by Dick Pelletier

Some of you have heard me talk about prospects for extreme life extension – “To live in a healthy body continuously until I choose to die; to not be killed by disease or aging.”

I believe that science and technology will make extreme life extension possible for most of us alive today. The prime requisite is to maintain good health, keep a positive attitude towards the future, and root for science and technology breakthroughs in the coming decades.

We will soon experience overwhelming advances in disease prevention and age reversal through gene therapies and nanotech breakthroughs. Over the coming years, we will slowly grow into a body fashioned from “designer genes” that can never age or get sick.

Overpopulation: Prospects for this beautiful future are not without controversy. Some argue that humans living longer will cause overpopulation problems, such as expanding poverty and damaging the environment. However, they fail to realize that technology – spurred on by commerce (filling needs) – will provide solutions through improved agriculture, easier access to food and better use of space resources.

Poor health: Some assume that people will continue to exhibit signs of aging and be decrepit into their hundreds citing people who are kept alive for years in terrible health, sometimes beyond the point at which they wish to live. Merely extending life without improving health is a bad idea. This is why today’s medical world focuses, not just on preventing death, but on alleviating the affects of aging by curing diseases. Discoveries will soon develop for the reversal of aging, so that elderly people might one day choose to revert to the mind and body of a healthy 20-something. (cont.)

Only for the rich: No way! Extreme life extension efforts are not a single technology hoarded by the rich. Rather it’s the natural consequence in the evolution of health maintenance and it will be commerce-driven. Also, new health technologies will reduce medical costs overall, as most expenses occur in the last few months of life, and senior citizens currently consume a disproportionate amount of health resources. Life extension could therefore lead to a greater availability of healthcare resources for other members of society.

Who wants to live forever? Probably nobody does. If we live for 200 or 300 years and get tired of it, we will always have the option of dying. However, that decision would be ours. Death would not be forced upon us like it is today.

Would life still be satisfying? Some say that scientific conquest of death would not be satisfying. We would be incomplete; we would lack wisdom; we would lack God’s presence and redemption. Such views are indicative of religious organizations’ concerns about humanity turning away from supernatural forces and religious traditions and instead looking towards humans to solve human problems. Aside from this argument’s blatant religious prejudice, there is no rational or demonstrable credence to this line of thinking.

In conclusion: Most arguments against extreme life extension are based on the idea that it can never happen, or that it shouldn’t happen. As science and technology advances, these arguments are waning.

Life extension is not new with humans; look at our past: from avoiding predators to developing antibiotics, we have always sought to extend our lives. Today’s technologies simply expand this scope – live long and stay healthy – this is a worthy goal for all of us. Comments welcome.

What do you think is the biggest roadblock preventing rapid achievement of life extension?

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Comment Thread (14 Responses)

  1. This whole subject of life-extension is one that we as a species have debated for centuries. Ethicists, Theologians, Philosophers and other like-minded people have gone round-and-round with this issue without any clear-cut conclusions as how to best deal with the ramifications of living well beyond our normal, expected life span (70-80 years). However, this does not end the debate nor should it. I for one would like to live well beyond a century or two, in good health and with the necessary means to maintain a relatively normal First World life-style. In addition to this vision, I would consider it a priviledge to assist others in their pursuit of extended life, albeit with a sense that life in the hear-and-now is not endless and that ultimately we shall have to deal with those things Eternal (I allude here to Theological issues dealing with Eternal Life, Resurrection of the Dead, the Second Coming, and the final Judgement of all of God’s Creation). I must admit that there is a tension and a relative contradiction between extended life here and those things Eternal for the Body of Christ. As a member of this class of believers, I am well aware that I cannot fully synchronize the polemics inherent, but only do the very utmost to live a life of purpose for as long as both Science and my Creator allow it.

    Posted by: suttercain7734   July 23, 2008
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  2. A most intriguing article, to say the least. The debate between Theologians and Scientists concerning the long-term ramifications of life-extension will continue unabated.

    Posted by: suttercain7734   July 23, 2008
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  3. Suttercain7734, I appreciate your views on life extension and I wish you luck in your desire to live in good health for a century or two.

    In my own personal situation, I am not restricted by any religious beliefs. As a member of the American Humanist Association, I follow humanism philosophy. Inspired by humanity and guided by reason, “we embrace humanist values for fuller, more joyful lives without supernatural belief in gods, heaven or hell.”

    As the medical society continues its battle against unwanted death through disease management, human enhancements, and the challenging battle to eliminate aging, I wonder how Christians, Muslims, and other religions will adapt to a world where one day death will not be an automatic part of life.

    Convincing people that there is a life after death awaiting them when they meet the grim reaper will have little value if humanity reaches a time when all unwanted deaths are eliminated.

    In order for religions to survive in a future without unwanted deaths, I believe that they must change their appeal; perhaps focus more on the camaraderie of social gatherings and pushing the mantra that has been so successful for them in the past: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 23, 2008
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  4. To me, the most annoying argument against life extension is that “our lives won’t have meaning anymore without death.” The people who think this only think it because death as a part of life is what they’ve always known. Living within a society of “immortals” would surely carry another meaning, and it would also give me plenty of time to read all the books I’ve bought over the years.

    Posted by: Jason   July 23, 2008
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  5. Well the Bible is heavily focussed on death anyway, so that might explain why the religious folk believe that death is part of life. Has anyone noticed that this expression is actually a contradiction in terms? Death does nothing to add to the purpose of our existence, and extending our life and health span will give us much more time to either:

    1) Experience the joys of study, including the sciences, art, literature, music, history, and also to spend time in good health with our families and friends, or…

    2) Waste more decades studying the pseudo-subject of “theology”, in the mean time wishing our present life away awaiting a death which may have nothing at the other side (other side of what? other side of nothing? meaningless double talk).

    Therein lies the fundamental difference between scientific and theological endeavours; the former embraces this life and tries to advance it, the latter views this life as secondary, or lesser importance, with the result that some people wish their life away, and other are willing to kill themselves and others to speed things up a bit.

    Hopefully, the appearance of life extension technologies will force some to reevaluate their out of date belief systems.

    Posted by: CptSunbeam   July 23, 2008
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  6. Personally, I don’t want to die, I think death is the ultimate enemy of any species, and in the past we decided to cope with it by creating an eternity elsewhere: heaven, reincarnation, dare I say, reproduction.

    Posted by: AJ0111   July 23, 2008
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  7. Is it wrong to intervene in our human reality of frailty, suffering, and death; and try to end it? I think it is not.

    I believe an indefinite lifespan is written into our future, and I hope I will be fortunate enough to experience it.

    I long for the day when humanity records its last unwanted death. Wouldn’t it be the ultimate in bad luck to be the last person on Earth to suffer an unwanted death?

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 23, 2008
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  8. I’m not religious myself and I am also a humanist but I will admit that the mere idea of life without death is disconcerting to me. Maybe it is merely because I have become comfortable with the idea of eventual death and I have seen several loved ones die (I am still young) and I have accepted it.

    To me, it is similar to proposing a “life without any sadness whatsoever” not because I believe death gives our life meaning, but because I am not sure I would be able to define my experiences if there were no counterpart, no time-line.

    Perhaps I just need a new way of thinking, but perhaps the mere tension between life and death adds something important to life. I want to live long read all hundreds of good books written in the course of history, but if death were really eliminated would the literature of the future be as good?

    Posted by: Mielle Sullivan   July 23, 2008
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  9. As my username here is fantasywriter, I thought I would mention one of my inspirations, David Eddings. One of his characters, Belgarath the “Eternal Man”, has seen empires rise and fall and more wars and death than anyone should have to see. Luckily, life extension will be available to all, so you won’t see everyone else die around you. And I do believe that there will possibly be roadblocks built by religious conservatives and slow life extension technology development.

    Posted by: fantasywriter   July 23, 2008
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  10. Human life without unwanted death cannot be achieved in today’s world.

    Tomorrow’s technologies that will turn this future into reality not only includes biotech and nanotech advances expected in the next two decades that promise to strengthen our biological bodies making them immune to most diseases and aging, but futuristic possibilities like replacing most of our biology with non-biological materials and ability to transfer consciousness from a destroyed body into a new one must also be in place.

    Add to these miracle technologies, advances in artificial intelligence that will enable interfacing humans with their machines to increase intelligence billions of times, and you see a future unfolding that could not only allow us to manage these wild changes in our lives, but will enable us to thrive in this future time.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 23, 2008
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  11. Hi Dick. Great blog post. As far as aging I want to live to be 1000 years old and by then if life is still great I will become immortal. LOL Hope to see all of you who wish to live long in a thousand years as Dick says as this “magical future” unfolds.

    Posted by: timejumper2020   July 24, 2008
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  12. But what if death and generations help the species as a whole to perform better and survive?

    Posted by: Accel Rose   July 24, 2008
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  13. Life gives meaning to life; not death. Death is a tragedy. When our biological neurons no longer contain their life-giving energy; when those ‘brainy’ cells cease to be alive, our life disappears and the “us” that we cherish so much is no more. The fact that our frail bodies of today can fail us so easy is the most important reason for humanity to develop technologies that extend healthy life.

    Should our “housing unit” of the future encounter disaster, life will not come to an end. Mid-century wireless technologies merely transfer our consciousness into another housing unit and we just keep on trucking. We would not even be aware that we had died.

    This writer is convinced that human life is the most valuable commodity in the universe, and eventually researchers around the world will grab onto this thought and bring our “magical future” into reality. Let’s just hope that most of us will still be around to enjoy this wonderful time.

    No, I do not want to live forever. Scientists cannot even tell me how long forever is. Indefinite lifespan only means that I choose not to die from an unwanted death. Who knows, someday we may discover that death is just a temporary “vacation” from life and it may become a desired state. But for now, no unwanted death, please!

    As life extension technologies mature over the coming two-to-three decades, other technologies will advance too.

    Enhancing humans with non-biological neurons will enable undreamed of abilities with our minds. We will be able to interface wirelessly with computers, robots, and a futuristic “global brain” Internet to receive information, entertainment and communicate with loved ones and business associates in virtual reality modes.

    Home nano replicators expected to arrive by mid-2020s will increase affluence worldwide by providing food, clothing, and essentials at little or no cost.

    Household robots will become the most purchased major equipment by 2030 or before. These clever machines will display lavish attention that would spoil today’s humans, but enhanced people will simply feel their abilities are extended – we will be able to accomplish more with our lives by enrolling the help of our silicon cousins.

    As our intelligence increases with massive data accessible with non-biological neurons, we will be able to run thousands or millions of simulations to help us make decisions. It will be so illogical to commit acts of aggression or hostilities against each other that this type of behavior will soon disappear. We will become a peaceful civilization.

    By mid-century, humanity will be more focused on terraforming Earth to create a safer environment and to speed the development of space colonies, than wasting our efforts with crime and intra-global conflicts.

    This writer sees the possibility of a true “magical future” unfolding in time to benefit most of us alive today – including myself. Will I make it? If expressing a positive attitude helps, I’m in. Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 24, 2008
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  14. The only problem there is still unwanted death. If you were to try and live for ever, you would see the slow brake down of matter or “the big cool down.” so you would still die even if you didn’t want to It would be nice but you would have to find a way to stop the cooling of the universe and decay of matter. I for one would love to live forever to see all the great sites and advances our race could do. it would be nice to visit another plant or galaxy or even the end of the universe.

    Posted by: physicswiz   March 15, 2011
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