07 April 2007

Life extension on Samizdata

This Samizdata posting on the Edmonton Aging Symposium prompted a broader discussion on life extension.

Some of the usual objections came up. The most unusual one, to me, was the concern that once life extension is possible, the government would make it mandatory. It used to be that we worried about totalitarian regimes killing people. Now we have to worry about them forcing people to stay alive? Gee, I guess fascism just isn't what it used to be.

I have a number of beefs with "libertarianism" as it currently defines itself, but many libertarians are evidently reliable voices in telling the pro-death Kassite "bio-ethicists" where to get off.

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5 Comments:

Blogger son of gaia said...

"Some of the usual objections came up. The most unusual one, to me, was the concern that once life extension is possible, the government would make it mandatory. It used to be that we worried about totalitarian regimes killing people. Now we have to worry about them forcing people to stay alive? Gee, I guess fascism just isn't what it used to be."

That was not an "objection", Infidel, merely a concern for consideration. There was no hostility toward life extension research intended.

It is a concern, because in my neck of the woods "forcing people to stay alive" is already happening - in a sense. None of the advancements you postulated as alleviating the kinds of concerns I've raised are in place, yet, so the fanatical attempts to prevent people from dying are creating much suffering. When elderly Alzheimer's patients "wander off", are they lost in an episode of delusion - or are they exploiting a moment of clarity to escape the caregivers who are keeping them alive (and preventing them from harming themselves)?

There is an attitude among health promotion zealots here, that almost equates us all to "tax cattle" - that we have a "duty" to stay alive as long as possible so that we can go on paying taxes into the health system (which pays their wages, coincidentally).

As for suicide - many persons, including some atheist rationalists - have personal moral problems with abruptly ending their own lives, such as the emotional impact on their loved ones. These are complex issues.

But they are not reasons to stop life exyension research.

Roy Harrold
Edmonton

07 April, 2007 18:58  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

There was no hostility toward life extension research intended.

If that's the case, then I have no quarrel with you.

But I do wonder why it seemed appropriate to raise these points in connection with life-extension research, when what you are talking about is freedom of choice for people with mental disabilities, which is a completely different issue.

None of the advancements you postulated as alleviating the kinds of concerns I've raised are in place

But the longer you remain alive, the more likely it is that you will live to see them become available.

As for suicide, refusing life-extension treatment when it becomes available will be just as much a form of suicide as shooting oneself through the head. I see no significance to quibbles about the mere method.

Rather than calling for Alzheimer's patients to be permitted (a questionable concept for people with severely-impaired judgment) to kill themselves, wouldn't it be better to pursue forms of technology which offer the chance to cure them of Alzheimer's? See my posting here and the links in it.

I recommend the site Existence Is Wonderful (long on my blogroll), which strongly defends both life extension and the rights of the mentally disabled (its creator is mildly autistic).

07 April, 2007 21:11  
Blogger son of gaia said...

Hmmm. There still seems to be some obstacle to clear communication with you. I had thought the source of the problem might be that you sensed antagonism, which was not my intent. Simply - you clearly have a mind worth conversing with and I'm just interested in raising some issues to get your perspective, nothing more.

It appears that I have not been clear enough in articulating my interest in the life extension and aging symposium and associated concerns. My bad. Please allow me to try again.

The Life Extension you are a proponent of already has a kind of rival,altho you may not perceive things in this way at this time. That rival is a very wealthy and powerful industry & lobby that calls itself "health promotion".

You are talking about extending life thru technological innovation, about scientific breakthroughs that would "cure" or "repair" damage that leads to death. You are talking about giving people MORE choice and more control over their bodies (and brains) and what happens to them. Yes?

Health Promotion also seeks to extend lifespan, altho they use the terminology "preventing death". Health Promotion is not interested in technological innovation. It seeks to extend lifespan by forcibly preventing "unhealthy" choices & behaviours, by legislating away the ability of the population to choose to risk illness and death. It seeks to restrict choice and eliminate individual control over one's body and ultimate fate.

I have attempted to illustrate, that this Health Promotion approach is already causing suffering thru unintended and unforeseen consequences of its agenda. I'm suggesting that Life Extension advocates might be able to learn some lessons about pitfalls to be prepared for in their own work, from the failings of Health Promotion.

But, I'm also trying to raise a spector. Life Extension research will require hefty investment. Health Promotion claims (falsely in my opinion) that costly research into "cures" is unnecessary - that illness can be conquered and life extended simply by controlling the behavior of the population - and that Health Promotion approach will reduce costs and SAVE (not expend) money. The Health Promotion lobby is a potential obstacle to securing the funding Life Extension will require, as they claim to be able to acheive similar aims at essentially no cost (other than the cost of passing laws).

The most important lesson, however, that might come from examining the failings of Health Promotion, is the way they have degenerated into an expression of "the ends justify the means". That was the point of raising the plight of Alzheimer's patients and the survivors of childhood trauma. Health Promotion's obsession with extending lifespan "at any cost" has left them oblivious to the suffering of groups of people whose emotional or mental health may not be on a par with their physical health and the conundrum that longer life holds for people in such disparities. I hope that you & others in this Transhumanist movement will always be watchful for "ends justify means" tendencies arising in your own Life Extension pursuits.

Finally, I had already been thru most of your links and explored "Existence is Wonderful" before you posted your reply here. I greatly sympathize with the concerns she voiced in her latest posting and left a comment telling her so. I am appaled by the quasi-eugenicist tendendies of the Health Promotion movement and their cold-hearted "bean-counting" evaluations of how much various groups of people "cost" society. I think they are very dangerous, which is why I have been monitoring them and exposing their propaganda for the last 5 years.

08 April, 2007 12:25  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks for the kind words. I think I do see the points you are making here.

On the possibility that "health promotion" advocates might oppose funding for life extension research, I've already seen similar problems in action; recently I got into a debate on the Fight Aging site with a person who objected to life extension research on the grounds that it would divert resources from other medical problems he thought were more important. This is not exactly the same thing as what you're talking about, but the objections and my counter-arguments were similar. So, yes, what you call the "health promotion" camp may indeed be one of the opposing forces we have to contend with in order to secure funding for the necessary work.

They, however, cannot in fact "claim to be able to acheive similar aims". If they were able to achieve every one of their tactical goals -- to eradicate smoking, alcohol, fatty foods, etc. -- the average lifespan might increase ten years or so. A genuine cure for aging would extend it for centuries -- something which no amount of change in diet or habits could do.

As for your second caution, though, I just don't see it arising. Nowhere in all my reading about life extension and its advocates have I seen anything that suggests an inclination to apply the hoped-for technologies coercively. You have it right when you speak of "giving people MORE choice and more control over their bodies (and brains) and what happens to them". De Grey himself is careful to speak not of "living forever" but rather of "living as long as you want to", a crucial distinction. Nor do I see much precedent in our culture for forcing the benefits of technology on people who do not want them. The Amish are left alone. Adults who object to certain forms of medical treatment have the right to refuse them. I don't think there is anything to worry about on that score.

As for things like Alzheimer's disease, again, I think they will be curable long before aging itself is, so such considerations will no longer be an issue.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

08 April, 2007 13:18  
Blogger Dr. Leonid Gavrilov, Ph.D. said...

It was great to see the video records of this Symposium.
I have posted my reflections on these records at:
http://longevity-science.blogspot.com/2007/04/edmonton-aging-symposium.html

13 April, 2007 13:55  

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