Living Forever – Or Darn Close To It

There’s an interesting discussion at The Volokh Conspiracy about the ramifications of radical life extension. That’s the now unthinkable proposition that the human life expectancy can be raised indefinitely.

When dieing at age 65 is “dieing young”, would living to be 100, or 150 be enough for you? Small potatoes. Think what it would be like to expect to live to be 750, or even 1000, as set in Biblical precedent. If you could be healthy and youthful all that time, could you think of it as a good thing TM? Or like me, do you perceive problems with this scenario?

There’s so much packed into this discussion, which started with Aubrey De Grey’s conjectures at the Cato Institute, it’s hard not to get sidetracked into sub-discussions that are unimportant to the main discussion.

Ahhhh! You see, that’s the problem. There are no side discussions that are unimportant to the main discussion here. They’re all important. Is it really feasible that we could live that long, healthy? What about the population problem? Would childbirth become a crime (or at least, a bad thing TM) in this hypothetical world? Would dictators rule for hundreds of years, the way Castro has ruled for decades – or is this a red herring? Indeed, could change and innovation happen at all when the best minds become inevitably ossified, or at least, much better able to defend themselves from new concepts? And by the way, if we expected to live to be 750 years old, wouldn’t premature accidental death become our overwhelming obsession? Would any of this matter, if you could live that long?

Wouldn’t we all welcome death after we’ve had our fill of life on this third rock from the Sun?

I truly don’t know. I know that, as a Catholic, I don’t fear death, and see eternal afterlife as a situation where all the contradictions of eternal life in this world are resolved.

But life can be sweet. Very, very sweet. And maybe that’s so precisely because we know it ends. How much then is enough? With great relief, I recall that it’s not for me to decide. Not at all.

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6 Comments on “Living Forever – Or Darn Close To It”

  1. MFound Says:

    There are no side discussions that are unimportant to the main discussion here.

    I guess it depends on how you define the main issue, Joe. Could saving 100,000 lives a day and freeing up billions (or trillions) of dollars of resources have some downsides? Maybe, maybe not.

    Most likely it will make some things better and some things worse, but
    I have yet to see a good argument
    why we should not pursue these life-saving therapies as soon as possible.

    Personally – as you can see in my YouTube challenge – I’m not going to sit back and let such tragic human suffering continue without taking action.

  2. Joe Says:

    Kevin, thanks for reading and responding. I’m impressed.

    But I must say, that even considering the offer (and after considering De Grey, too), I’m still only in half-agreement with – hum… with the idea.
    I am in total agreement with the effort to end aging, emphasis on effort. The journey.
    Not the end point. The moment aging is stopped, if that means we become (at least, potentially) immortal, is the moment that we are something other than human.

    I don’t know that we won’t be better. I only know that we will be something other than human, because it’s the fore-knowledge of our own death that makes us so.

    But yes, living longer, perhaps even 1000 years, and the efforts to get us to that point will undoubtably be the most important thing mankind has ever done. I see no wrong in that.

  3. MFound Says:

    I can certainly understand (and respect) your concerns. The world is changing fast and the rate of change is going to accelerate. We need to start preparing ourselves to deal with these changes.

    I guess the best point to remember about the Methuselah Foundation is that it isn’t about “immortality” or “transhumanism”. The organization is very much focused on the single goal of undoing the damage that kills old people.

    As far as I know noone is proposing a credible solution to keep us from dying from lots of other ways.

  4. Joe Says:

    As the husband of Diana Krull once said, “Accidents Will Happen”. ;>

    But I have to ask (hoping you’re willing to respond!) – isn’t this a bit of a problem (like, a major one)? I just (coincidently) wrote a post (People Know Something Isn’t Right) that tries to bring out the point that we’ve become a very fearful society, avoiding risk. If accidents become nearly the only cause of death, will this warp our psychology? I tend to think so.

    Avoiding risk is probably a good survival trait, but only up to a point. Yes?

  5. MFound Says:

    Here is how I see it. Perhaps when people realize that they have a few hundred years of life at risk they will be less likely to:

    -Become drunk
    -Become violent towards other people
    -Start wars
    -Drive aggressively
    -Take abusive drugs

    We should be so unfortunate to live is such a world. 🙂

  6. Joe Says:

    Well, this is true, Kevin.

    But then again, won’t they be less likely to:
    – explore Mars?
    – party?
    – master better and different ways of doing things (after they’ve become expert at the old way)?

    and be more likely to
    – submit to bullies, despots and criminals?

    Yes, I know the last one is a little out of bounds, because I’m hypothesizing a human foible after I’ve already said that we’d be something other than human.

    Still, the problem of human intellectual stagnation seems serious. It’s the old “ya can’t have light without dark” problem.

    This has been an enlighting exchange!


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