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Living Forever: Is It Really Worth It?

By John Clarke

This was an essay I wrote last year about the ethics involved with curing the ageing process. A worthy topic of discussion, I hope you’ll agree. I thought it was alright, so here it is, sans references.

“O brave new world that hath such people in’t!”

Brave New World

One way to define ageing is an increased chance of dying as time progresses as a result of cumulative natural changes and degradation of the body. Therefore a cure for ageing wouldn’t simply be a cure for all of the most common diseases associated with old age, such as cancer, heart disease and so on, but rather a cure for the underlying cause of the body being more susceptible to those diseases. Even if we could cure cancer or heart disease, the disease itself may not kill you, but something else would, as the body would still have accumulated years of stress and damage making it increasingly more likely to fail. Instead, a cure for ageing itself would mean prevention (and even reversal) of the ageing process, ensuring a state of perpetual youth for those that partake.

As such, the incredibly complex ethical considerations for such a cure are echoed throughout a number of social and political issues, calling into question the rights of the current generation over future generations, the rights of the individual versus the rights of the society and the purpose of life itself.

Overpopulation

The primary concern that springs to the mind of most people when the topic of curing old age is discussed is overpopulation. Already, the population is growing exponentially, even when the majority of people are dying before they reach 100. If people are living for double that amount of time and reproduction continues at its current rate, surely we will run out of room sooner than if people were dying before 100? It follows then, that we would exhaust that same amount of habitable space even quicker should life expectancy be increased further, to say 500 or in the thousands, provided that the rate of childbirth remained the same.
This idea of cramped living conditions conjures up an image of Victorian style slums or today’s “High Density Living” solution to the same problem in Hong Kong, where the concept of your own space outside has almost disappeared. Not only does that sound uncomfortable with a diminished sense of privacy, but the more people there are in any given area, the more easily and more likely it is that infectious diseases will spread. So how can this problem be resolved? By drastically reducing the birth rate.

Controlling Birth Rate

It would appear that the only option besides killing a large proportion of the population every so often is to place a limit on the rate of child birth for society as a whole. On the surface, this suggests that the generation that decides not to have children so they can extend their own life are making an immoral selfish choice, but let us first take a look at how society handles this issue today.

In 2004, the average number of children per married couple in the UK is approximately 1.8. It is important to realise that this is not a physical limit imposed by the human body, but an amount which is convenient. With the use of birth control and abortions, we can decide when it would be appropriate for us to have a child and how many children we have overall. The point here is that by choosing when to have a child based on factors such as financial stability, we already are being selfish when it comes to reproduction. The world at present is rife with examples of people putting their career (and hence their own satisfaction and financial gain) ahead of their future children, which we do not tend to see a problem with. This hypocrisy extends even further when it comes to the stigma of underage pregnancy – if we as a society should selflessly put our potential offspring before ourselves, surely we should be reproducing as early as possible, no matter what the cost to ourselves? Apparently not. What may seem selfish to some may be perfectly acceptable to others. Unfortunately, it is never clear where the line should be drawn with most ethical dilemmas, and this is no exception.

Selfish or otherwise, there are other pressing matters relating to this kind of population control that must also be discussed. For example, who decides who should reproduce and when? Even China’s notorious “One Child Policy” is not enough to curb population growth. According the British Medical Journal in 2006, “China still has one million more births than deaths every five weeks”, so to prevent overpopulation, the average number of children per family would have to be reduced to far less than one to even keep the population growing at the same rate as China’s is now. Since it’s not possible for every family to give birth to a rather low percentage of one child, the responsibility of deciding who could reproduce and when would have to fall to someone, or some specified group of people, leaving the potential system open to all manner of imperfections. This could include bribery, blackmail, human error and any other form of corruption, which is particularly important with matters as fundamental as this. My lack of faith in humanity being able to think up and implement the perfect system for this situation is still not the most important concern, however.

Assuming that some method of control was necessary and in place, some people would simply not be permitted to reproduce for the interests of society. Not just limited to one child, but not at all. Currently, though, people who decide not to have children, or limit the number they have, retain their right to choose, no matter who may think it immoral; but if society decided the majority wanted to live forever, and the right to reproduce was something worth sacrificing, the choice would then belong to the society and not the individual. Many people see the point of life as having children, and could imagine life as worthless and hollow in hindsight should they not have had their children. The idea of potentially removing what point a lot of people saw in life from those people is one big step up from allowing people to choose when they have children themselves.

Equality & Prejudice

A further ethical topic in need of discussion is just how widespread this cure for ageing would be. The two factors that determine just how far we can expect this cure to reach are choice and availability. The former addresses the question of whether or not the choice would be left up to the individual or decided by the majority.

If it is a majority that decide the fate of quite possibly all of human kind, this decision and all of its implications as outlined here could have a profoundly negative impact upon that minority, however small in number they may be. That minority that would have normally refused treatment if the decision was up to the individual could still be forced not to reproduce by the government for example, as mentioned previously. If the majority voted against it, there would no doubt be ways that particularly rich and powerful people could still acquire the treatment.

If the decision was left up to the individual, some people opting for extended life and others not, it is easy to see how society as we know it may be torn in two in a fashion not too dissimilar to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: a completely state-controlled “utopia” on one side, and the “savages” on the other, who opt out of the apparent benefits that such advances may bring. It is not too far fetched to imagine health care for the elderly refused with treatment being the only option, or perhaps a lack of work or housing. We already fear prejudice and ill treatment as a result of genomic sequencing, something that can be kept a secret, but whether or not you’ve taken a cure for ageing could not be hidden. There is an incentive for companies to hire employees who have taken the treatment over people who have not – no pension plans, a reduction of staff turnover, a continued increase in skills without the need to retrain new people. One person doing one job for 150 years will likely be a lot better at that job than someone who has done it for only 50 years, so why wouldn’t companies discriminate against those that opt?

The second factor, availability, needs to be thought about at an international level. Already, the availability of drugs in industrialised nations far exceeds that of developing countries, with over a third of the world’s population having no access to essential drugs. There is no reason to suggest availability of a cure for ageing would be any different, driving the wedge between the rich and poor even further. A possible result could be war for land or resources between both sides of this divide once the need for population control and limited space become a factor for those with the cure.

Dying Peacefully

One topic we’ve not touched on so far is death. If we remove the natural cap that the aging process forces upon us, then there won’t necessarily be a maximum age we can live to. However, death from anything not related to age would still occur. Currently, we think of death as an inevitable natural process although the causes of death can be many and varied. When asked to think about death and how they would like to die, the majority of people hope for a peaceful death during their sleep, at the end of a long and fulfilling life, and without pain. As we’ve already discussed, how fulfilled your life may be could already be compromised by denying you the right to bear children, so what about the rest of our ideal scenario? A long life? Yes. But pain-free in your sleep? That’s another story.

After dying of old age, the only causes of death that remain involve accidents, murder and other diseases that can affect anyone, not just the elderly. Discounting instantaneous (but still gruesome) death, any other situation in which a life is about to be ended will undoubtedly be accompanied by fear and pain. This is not to suggest that fear and pain are not part of dying of old age, but any hopes of peacefully dying in your sleep would be shattered. As people get older, the thought of death becomes more and more a factor in their life as something they have to come to terms with, but this will no longer be the case. Death will only be associated with terror and pain; with lying in hospitals fed through a tube; certainly without peace.

Legalising and actively supporting euthanasia, on the other hand, would be the only acceptable solution to this problem. Only then would the problem of the perception of death being necessarily negative be alleviated, but this raises yet more ethical problems, particularly among religious communities.

Conclusion

A cure for old age may bring with it the promise of an undefined limit to humanity’s lifespan, allowing us to do more than we ever thought possible; read more books, watch more films, and finally build that shed you’ve been talking about, among other things. On the surface, this seems idyllic, but only when you begin to scratch the surface do you reveal a swamp of ethical concerns that muddies this picturesque vision of the future. Living forever may require our lives to change so significantly that life might not be worth living in the first place.

It would seem that having our cake and eating it is simply not feasible. Would you really want to live forever if you could never eat cake again?

***

I’d love to hear your comments and opinions.

.

32 Responses to Living Forever: Is It Really Worth It?

  1. old mouse says:

    humans, as a rule only spend 20 years in adolescence. Yet we spend 30 or more years in declining health and mental function. Shrinking the amount of time we spend in our dotage would be a good thing because people could continue to contribute by employment, creative works, and guidance at a much higher level and for a longer period of time than they can today.

    I know that younger people complain a lot about how “old timers” get in the way of their desire for power and climbing the organizational hierarchy. Extended well-being will make this worse and that’s okay. Eliminating the normal, nonproductive method of rewarding people will drive the development of ways of rewarding people for doing what they’re good at without stopping them from doing it.

    In the “flying car” future, maybe one solution to people living forever is that life extended people must move off planet. While it will cause a brain drain. People with experience are exactly the folks you want starting up new centers of human existence.

    anyway, I’m not going to worry about it because it probably won’t happen in my lifetime.

  2. Ron says:

    Nice website! And good ethical-stance on the issue.

    I call that life-extending drug the ultimate ego-inflating drug. That’s all it is. We might think that we improved control over our life expectancies but does that really change anything at all?

    That change will ripple outwards and will come back at us in one form or another – no need to be biblical here, it’s simply a matter of tweaking variables (life expectancy, population size, etc) in a system (Earth) with a definite amount of resources.

    What are these effects going to look like? Answer: Whatever they are, we can’t escape them since we form an integral part of this planet’s ecology.

    Are we ready to pay such a price for boosting our human egos for a couple more years of old life?

  3. Thomas says:

    I say, who the f#$% is anyone else to make my ‘ethical’ decisions for me about the length of my life? I sincerely doubt the vast majority of people on this planet will even avail themselves of the technology once it becomes available, so many of these arguments are moot. Frankly, I wish Thomas Jefferson was alive today – perhaps this country wouldn’t be so f#$&&$ up. Someone should hang around to bear witness to the follies of their day to future generations. Aging is the ultimate “terminal illness” to conquer – now death itself becomes a choice, not something unknowable yet inescapable. I look forward to the challenge of such.

  4. Peter says:

    The idea of overpopulation is always droned out when we talk about curing aging. Shooting the argument down is like shooting ducks in a bucket. This even if we accept the assumption of a population explosion despite the fact that an increasing number of countries are showing negative population growth. For one thing, there is a strong negative correlation between longevity and birthrate when you look at different countries. For another, if a cure for aging can also be applied to sperm and ova, then people may live to 200 and have their 2 kids at 100 instead of living to 60 and having their 2 kids at 30. That way, the earth’s population would increase 0.3 times as fast. For another, people may not race into having children because their biological clock is ticking. For another, having longer careers will give individuals more time to make the advances that will allow us to sustain larger populations.

    > Many people see the point of life as having children, and could imagine life as worthless and hollow in hindsight should they not have had their children.

    Are we then required to grow old because some people are unable to find fulfillment in life? There are some people who cannot have children for various reasons. They have to find other means of fulfillment.

    My comment to all these “bioethicists” is that if you do not like the new technology then do not take advantage of it.

    Ron> Are we ready to pay such a price for boosting our human egos for a couple more years of old life?

    How is a cure for aging going to increase OLD life? Why do so many critics of curing aging see curing aging as extending OLD life? Can the logical contradiction be any more obvious?

  5. Dave D says:

    You’ve convinced me. Because of the danger of overpopulation we should go back to life expectancies of 100 years ago and ban any advances in medicine that extend life expectancy. Maybe we shouldn’t allow anyone to live over 50? That’s long enough for anyone to live – over twice the life expectancy of 1000 years ago! Don’t agree?! Ok, then we need to solve overpopulation in a realistic way, not by limiting how long people can live!

    Limiting life expectancies doesn’t solve the problem anyway, it just delays it. I only see two ways to solve the problem, enforce a birth rate equal to the death rate, or expand beyond the planet. Killing people who want to live by enforcing a death rate, either by killing them directly, or limiting their life expectancies is immoral; enforcing a low birth rate is probably possible, but also has moral issues (with luck it might be unnecessary); and leaving the planet is the best, and maybe only, option in the long term.

  6. Adam says:

    I could write an essay on how all four of your arguments are wrong, whether on a factual or moral basis. However I’m just content with pointing out that whether or not immortality is a sound decision to make, it’s an individual’s decision and no-one should make it for them; that would be murder.

  7. Jacob says:

    It doesn’t really matter. A biological carbon based body is temporary, in the future when conscious porting becomes more feasible, many people will be leaving their bodies and entering new bodies, mechanical bodies, free of disease and pain. This is the next step in evolution, the merging of man and machine and the ultimate transfer all together, it’s inevitable.

  8. Skycake says:

    “It would seem that having our cake and eating it is simply not feasible. Would you really want to live forever if you could never eat cake again?”

    I laughed out loud when you actually invoked skycake as a danger for life extension: See this video of Patton Oswalt explaining: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55h1FO8V_3w

  9. Marnie says:

    You seem to be assuming that every person would take advantage of a cure for ageing if it existed.

  10. Steward says:

    Quite enjoyed the essay, was a great read, even if some of your points are a little weak.

    However, I’m surprised to find you didn’t point out how some of our organs would deteriorate the longer we live, despite the reversal of the aging process. Human brains can only hold so many memories, and eventually one would reach their limit. I’m positive after a few hundred years you could go crazy just because your mind can’t handle the mental and emotional stress of many years’ experience and thoughts. Hell, the boredom of living so long might just waste the point in extending your life in the first place.

    I suppose my point is, that if you wish for eternal life, just be aware that the grass is not entirely greener, moral contexts be damned. It doesn’t matter if you can’t die, if your entire earth becomes hell itself.

  11. Luke says:

    @Steward, the burden of proof is on you where the boredom issue is concerned, as nobody has ever lived long enough for it to be a factor. Also please notice that nobody is talking about eternal life; it totally doesn’t follow from curing aging. There is always risk of accidental death, homicide, and suicide.

    As to organs getting old, that is what aging *is* and what would need to be cured to fix it, so you’re just arguing in circles there. Replacing old organs by regrowing them from DNA is actually a near term technology. The brain is the only organ you can’t directly replace, hence the need to really good stem cell therapies.

  12. Jukka Vaijärvi says:

    Interesting to see that somebody else has philosofized about the eternal life. I would like to add few points to the discussion, firstly Thomas Jefferson living forever was mentioned but all the same we could have Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and a collection of other tyrants living forever, which could also mean that the overpopulation problem would not exist. What makes a big difference should a “civilization” based on eternal life be an utterly boring place, same day after day, is space travel and possibility to colonize other star systems. Because of vast distances people livin eternally would be best suited for this project. But even then boredom could be a problem, I could still imagine suicides happening in eternal life world. Not the number of days, but the quality of those should be emphasized.

  13. Luke says:

    @Jukka I agree that quality years are as important as more years, but if we had to choose a problem to solve FIRST, it is making people live longer. If people are consistently so unhappy they commit suicide often, the depression (or boredom) problem is obviously next on the agenda…

    Dictator-tyrants are just as vulnerable to violent death as anyone else, and probably more likely to attract that fate to themselves…

    I don’t think overpopulation is a problem unless people over-reproduce. We’ve responded well to the reduction in infant mortality over the last hundred years. Perhaps most people won’t want kids, or will wait and plan for hundreds of years before having a family.

  14. GK says:

    Not a single citation for any of the ‘facts’? Epic fail. 🙁

  15. Steve D says:

    Don’t ever say “forever” to a geologist – we have a distinctly different take on the word than everyone else. You left out accidents and homicide. The chance of dying in an accident is about 1 in 3000 per year. After 3000 years, you’d have a better than 50-50 chance of dying in an accident and after 10,000 years it would be close to certain. 10,000 years is an eyeblink in my time frame. You wouldn’t even live to see the next Ice Age. You will not live forever – period. And with disease and aging out of the picture, people might feel free to indulge in riskier behavior, raising the risk level.

  16. S.A. says:

    Maybe some nice people would live extra long lives, but so would the jerks.

    Who would want to work for so long? Be a greeter at Walmart for two hundred years because jobs are so scarce? Be a financial burden on your great-great-great-great grandchildren?

    If people lived that long we’d just murder each other for the quickly disappearing resources, or because our mental health couldn’t take all that stress for hundreds of years.

    Frankly, it sounds like a a crappy idea. We die and go on to something else for a very good reason.

  17. Luke says:

    With good safety tech, living thousands of years or even millions is not out of the question. But I agree with Steve that forever is too strong a term for a lifespan we can expect.

    @S.A. You need to update your picture of what it is like to be young for your whole life instead of suffering a horribly disfiguring and disabling disease (aging) towards the end. It’s about quality of life not just quantity. Also your talk of disappearing resources just translates to extreme pessimism about recycling tech (and doesn’t go away just because it is a different generation experiencing the problem).

    Jerks would be given more time to grow up. Better therapy would be available. You have to take all that into account. But in any case it’s a stupid point because if you wouldn’t shoot someone for being a jerk, you can’t endorse aging as a means of clearing the planet of them! It is not logically consistent… It’s also supremely unfair to the non-jerks; like dropping an atomic bomb on a city to kill all the rapists and murderers that it contains.

  18. Mark says:

    I’d love to live forever, I wouldn’t want everyone to though, not unless we were at the point we were able to colonize other planets or something.

  19. Dean says:

    Will there be bacon? If I can live forever but not have bacon than forget it.

  20. AJ says:

    You lost me at suggesting that waiting or not procreating at all is somehow selfish and immoral.

    What was selfish was my parents having three children with zero ability to provide for them throughout their childhood.

  21. Eddie says:

    Clearly, industrializing murder is the best option. Every, say, ten years everyone will be evaluated for productivity, and those who fall behind are culled and recycled to keep everyone else healthy and young. 😉

    To my mind, the main point I’m thinking of would be if such a process would be permanent, a treatment or a cure. As things go, treatments are more profitable than cures. If this anti-aging treatment costs half a year’s earning for a middle-class person, but only lasts ten years, that’s an exponentially greater profit than a cure that costs double but lasts indefinitely. Given the way the world works, a treatment seems more likely than a cure, which seems to lessen the gravity of issues such as overcrowding, scarcity of resources, and your mind buckling under the strain of ten lifetimes worth of menial labour.

    It could also be a Repo Men scenario, with prohibitively high costs, but anyone can be approved for a loan. If you fall behind on payments, they come and take back their product and possibly kill you in the process. I can see how something like this could happen, where you see a pricetag of $613, 299.99, with a plan to pay it in monthly increments of $800 for the next 766 months, give or take. What you don’t notice is the 8% interest rate, which may increase how much you have to pay off tenfold by the time those 766 months elapse.
    If death is no longer a certainty, taxes would become moreso.

    I can only hope that a cure, or treatment, for aging would result in a less fast-paced lifestyle than I see so many people following. Who knows, maybe this could be the cure for rush hour, but hopefully not spur a spread of apathy.

    I wonder if life imprisonment would be considered a worse punishment if you can live indefinitely?

    To continue this rambling, I can see artificial agelessness having more merit than biological agelessness. It seems to me that electricity is easier to generate and store than food is, which could result in there being a much higher sustainable population limit, and also solve overpopulation. Unless someone invents a sexbot that can get pregnant, at which point the whole issue becomes more confused.
    Once you crack downloading a consciousness, I can see many conditions and disabilities being cured almost by default. Paralysis, acquired sensory damage and degradation, cancers and other biological conditions, et cetera, seems to me that robot bodies would cure those. However, I can imagine how people might react badly to the idea of putting their ‘life’ in the hands of a software program. Then there’s the religious issues, oh boy the religious firestorms that would ensue. Let the robot revolution begin!

  22. g says:

    interesting read, some thoughts i had:

    about your point about people feeling fulfillment in life being coupled to having children. i think this fulfillment is tied to the length of our lives and the fact that we do die. when we have children we feel we are leaving a piece of ourselves behind and in someways we live on. if we had extended lives i think that feeling would diminish in correlation with the length of our lives. as others have written with increasing quality and length of life we see an increase in the age at which people procreate. like peter said if we could live to 200 you would probably see people having children at around the 100 year mark, thus slowing down population growth in a natural manner.

    the other thought that doesn’t seem to be talked about is the slowing down of the genetic evolutionary process that would occur with decreasing intervals between new generations. though this would probably be replaced by drug and gene therapies and a closer integration of our carbon based bodies with silicon based hardware to provide evolutionary advances to the current generation that may or may not have occurred naturally in the next generation

  23. Andrew says:

    Have a read of the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams and his character “Wowbagger The Infinitely Prolonged”. It provides an interesting perspective…

  24. Miranda says:

    Copied and pasted from an email.

    [quote]
    (I suspect that I may disagree with the article’s author on various points, so I’ll comment on them while reading.)

    Indeed, a cure for ageing would ideally imply eternal youth/beauty. *nods*

    ‘the rights of the current generation over the future generation’: people who are only potential people and who do not yet exist do not have rights, given the infinite number of potential people in (non-)existence. When people of both generations are alive at the same time, presumably they should be granted the same rights as equal members of society, neither over the other.

    ‘the rights of the individual versus the rights of the society’: Society being composed of individuals, the rights of a society might be said to be the summed rights of all the individuals who make it up. As a country exists for its people, not those people for their country, it makes little sense to disadvantage all ostensibly for the sake of all (possible exceptions being when there’s a clear way in which all in fact advantaged (?) by this seeming disadvantagement).

    ‘Overpopulation’: as acknowledged, this is not a new issue. This same argument about crowdedness can and has (I think?) been used about all technologies which allow greater production of food or longer lifespans or greater proportions of children who live to adulthood, et cetera.

    Capitalistically, a too-large population will automatically prune itself down to meet the amount of resources available to sustain it. Socially, population control measures seem appropriate, as–to some degree–are or have been in place in China. Politically, socialists will probably keep giving free money to the poor and unemployed who breed rampantly, in exchange for their votes, but these are all existing problems to deal with during normal existence.

    …I recall a certain matter about a person predicting mass starvation due to population increase, not being able to imagine the factors which then occurred and rendered it sustainable… however, both (?) directions are acknowledgeable as appropriate.

    In short: overpopulation-related terror is not new; the same concerns would be applied similarly shortly anyway; either try to bring down all medical and other advances which support population growth, or try to bring down none and instead do something about birth rates directly, or do nothing and hope that it will eventually be self-limiting. Even if it’s called immortality, a human (or non-human, for that matter) body can only go so long with no money and no way of replenishing its stored energy.

    *resumes reading; rests head in hand for a moment* Ah, that was acknowledged.

    ‘the only option’: there’s the possibility of relevant technological advances, colonisation of other planets, et cetera.

    Reasonable pointing out that in many places the birth rate has already been self-limited. There not being enough children is only a concern in places of drastically decreasing population, or where there are fears of having to support an unworking elderly generation without having enough young workers to do so. Indeed, it’s similarly surprising to the above political trend that, despite stated concern in some places, no measures are being taken to encourage the opposite trend.

    Odd to refer to choosing not to have a child as selfish, particularly in the context of overpopulation concerns. Is the parent who adopts a parentless child instead of creating yet another citizen to feed selfish?

    Ah, a mention of China’s attempts. ‘not enough to curb population growth’… why, if each generation is half or less the size of the last?

    ‘but if society decided the majority wanted to live forever, and the right to reproduce was something worth sacrificing, the choice would then belong to the society and not the individual’: this does not necessarily follow. Immortality could, say, be withheld by those who had had children and those who chose it become unable to have children.

    The phrase may have been referring to societal population decisions.

    If each non-immortal family has a few children who choose to become immortal every generation, the number of immortal people will keep increasing in any case.

    In many cases, the right to have children seems something that some parents do not deserve to have, and in many cases children have to be taken away by child services because of this, or else die when neglected by them.

    Largely, the ‘overpopulation’ thoughts above apply.

    In the worst case scenario, you can permit any family to reproduce, but at the forfeit of any and all government support. They are then free to live and die as they wish, without being a drain on society. Even if a child produced suffers and then dies, it will have existed and then returned to its previous state, which can be argued as being preferable to never existing in the first place; finding this not preferable can lead directly to ending the process sooner, and reaching the same end-point as if it had been preferable. Alternatively, it can be argued that subjectively there is no distinction between not existing and having never existed, as the subject is not in a position to have subjective experiences.

    ‘Equality and Prejudice’: the majority forcing minorities to do things against their will tends to go badly, depending on context. Better to leave those do not follow to themselves, and allow them to destroy themselves if they so will (or act as if they do).

    ‘Torn in two’: an advantage of planet colonisation. There’s already such dissimilarity though with the English class system, or in the differences between countries.

    ‘pain-free in your sleep’: carbon monoxide is relevant. This is assuming that these people want to die, rather than all shooting for immortality and/or living long enough to attain safety through redundancy.

    The ‘only acceptable solution’ claim seems short-sighted.

    It’s a common thread throughout history that those who find life worth living live, while those who don’t do not.
    Not having cake may be sad, but the pleasure of intellectual discovery (and otherwise) trumps such straightfoward pleasures.

    …hmm, there’s a request for comments. I may copy and paste this.
    [/quote]

  25. Dave D says:

    @ S.A.
    “[…snipped stuff about how awful a long life would be…] We die and go on to something else for a very good reason.”

    This kind of comment is hilarious. It’s saying “living forever is bad because you are meant to die before you live forever”.

    Sorry, but anyone who wants an after-life has no business complaining about people who want to live a long actual life!

  26. Andrew says:

    overpopulation? is space migration not a potential option? too heretical?…naive? i dunno i just like throwing things out their for discussion…

  27. Adrian K says:

    Immortality, apart from being for society (population, employment etc), is surely bad psychologically. Anyone who believes they will live forever or even beyond 150 must have a completely different attitude to life. The prospect of mortality gives life more of a sense of urgency: why make the effort to start something today when it can be put off till tomorrow when the conditions might be better? Mortality gives life focus.

    Then there’d be the problem with memories becoming fragmented and confused. You’d have to copy them into some digital storage, which would either be an addendum to the brain. Or if a separate store then does that storage device become the real you if the memories are in a living network – a program that can run at any time?

    I think from about 120yrs most people would find that they have done everything realistically possible, and with no new experiences life becomes too familiar, until the original memories end up so corrupted that you lose any sense of your original self.

  28. Luke says:

    If you foresee immortality causing psychological problems, learn psychology… There could be good money in it.

  29. James says:

    To counter all your important points…

    OVERPOPULATION: You need to be more precise with your definition of overpopulation. Yes the world population is increasing, however this is due to birth rates in developing countries. If you look at the birth rates in 1st world countries they are actually lower than the death rates, even with increased lifespan. Why is this? Education is the answer, that and female liberation. Solving overpopulation may be as simple as introducing education to poorer countries

    CONTROLLING BIRTHRATE
    You are wrong. There is no need to introduce birth control laws with a population of eternally youthful and well educated citizens. As you know women tend to put off having children till later in life to focus on their careers, but are wary to have children before menopause. If women are eternally youthful then they don’t need to worry about menopause, meaning they will likely put off having children for a long time, thus lowering the birthrate even more.

    EQUALITY & PREJUDICE: You mention the fear of companies getting their hands on genomic information. Laws have been introduced (at least in Britain) that prohibit companies from getting their hands on that info. It is illegal to discriminate based on characteristics individuals have no control over. This is just a common sense issue that can easily be resolved in an ethical way.

    DYING PEACEFULLY: Very few people in old age die peacefully in their sleep. They are far more likely to have an agonizing death from stroke, cancer, organ failure, dementia etc. And even if they do die in their sleep, those last few years of old age are miserable and painful. The answer to this is again very simple: euthanasia. Screw the religious debate, everyone has a right to their life.

    In conclusion eternal youth really is a pretty swell idea

    P.S. I found the tone of your essay condescending and bias. Especially on the topic of abortion.

    Refs:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fertility_and_intelligence
    http://www.genome.gov/11510227

  30. Glen says:

    Living forever means eternal life. Ending age related diseases is not living forever.

  31. Tony says:

    There’s this new idea I’m beginning to take a liking too that considers the possibility of our civilization being catapulted into a new, never-ending dimension; one that if we did actually live forever, considers just how blissful our world might be. I saw this movie called “Solar Revolution,” that encompasses all of these notions. You can find the trailer at yekra.com/solar-revolution. It’s incredibly significant and equally trippy stuff if at all interested.

  32. abdul says:

    hi, as long we function; we’re alive, when die; we’re old…

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