Extension of Human Life

The Extension of Human Life Indefinitely and its Effects

Introduction

This discourse was initially prompted by my discovery of Aubrey de Grey who is a scientist working on a treatment to extend human life indefinitely. He spends some time in interviews explaining the numerous criticisms he receives (which is quite substantial I can only imagine for someone who is dedicated to such a controversial cause) and presenting his arguments to defend his research. His defenses were extremely interesting to me and during my analysis of them, I decided to write my own opinion on the matter.

I would first like to state that my discourse is not holistic; it consists of only the factors that I have thought of, excluding most of the ideas of Aubrey de Grey that I have heard, trying to keep the considerations in this essay as original to me and to him as possible. Furthermore, I intentionally did not include the subject of economics as I lack a thorough understanding of it that it deserves, if it is to be written about. This discourse is just one piece of the large puzzle which is needed in the holistic debate of the extension of human life and its effects.

The first part of this composition will consist of the question of man's nature and his morality. The point of this first section is to understand the concept of anti-aging treatment in the context of existing treatments to extend human life; this section will have it's own conclusion based solely in the context in which it is analyzed. In other words, I would like to use the context of existing treatments to show that we generally agree that postponing death is natural and moral.

The second part of this composition will consist of the analysis of the effects of extending human life indefinitely. The reason why I separated these two sections is because they take different things into consideration. The former takes into consideration general accepted morality while the latter takes into consideration concrete effects, a more utilitarian approach. In my opinion, the latter should ultimately have more weight in determining whether or not this treatment should exist.

Nature and Morality

When analyzing a new subject such as the anti-aging treatment, I find it helpful to connect it with similar subjects which are not debatable. In this case, treating disease or preventing unnecessary death would fit the criteria.

Do we find treating disease to be natural? The answer seems to be yes; it only seems natural that man would use his superior intellect to further his life, taking into consideration that all living creatures tend to do the same to their respective capacities. I see no difference between receiving treatment for a disease and aging; both cause unnecessary death and suffering.

This leads me directly to the second topic of this section, which is morality.

Do we find treating disease to be moral? I think we do. I would definitely find it immoral to allow suffering to continue while having the power to stop it. How is extending human life through anti-aging treatment any different? I do not believe it is and therefore, I conclude that extending human life indefinitely is moral.

The next step that needs to be taken is to discuss if extending life is moral given the context. In other words, are relieving pain and extending life good things once we take into consideration their positive and negative effects? Since I have already made the case that extending life through the anti-aging treatment is a moral thing, I would now like to mostly consider the negative effects it might have because ultimately, what determines the immorality of this treatment is the strength of the negative effects. In other words, if the negative effects do not outweigh the initial good of relieving pain and extending life, then the treatment should be developed. I would analyze other positive effects as well, but I do not find it necessary to take that next step because I do not believe the negative effects outweigh the initial good.

Effects

This section will unfortunately not be as structured as the previous; it would be more of a short list of the most obvious effects I think an anti-aging treatment will have.

I. Over Population
The most obvious negative effect this treatment could have is over population. This is, of course, a very legitimate concern for people who would like to take care of the planet and future generations. Seeing how humans are already destroying the planet and seeing how the world population is only growing, one would conclude that an anti-aging treatment would exacerbate this problem. I am not so convinced of this argument to the extent where I think we should not even try to develop the treatment.

The first part of the argument which is not too convincing is the possibility of overpopulation. The fact is that the problem of overpopulation is not about numbers, the problem is the fact that we're destroying the planet. For example, if one were to take the biomass of ants and put it in one hand, and then the biomass of humans on the other, one would realize that the biomass of ants would actually weigh more. However, ants do not create waste, they do not destroy the environment so it is not a problem that they are so many. In other words, the problem is not that we are too many, the problem is that we are too stupid. If humans were to live in a sustainable way, the world could actually support many more people.

Another factor to take into consideration is the status of women. As the status of women rises, fertility rates tend to drop. In fact, many countries in western Europe have extremely low birth rates to the point where it is not sustainable.

Therefore, I am not certain of how likely it is for our world to be over populated taking into consideration new green technologies and the rising status of women. However, if there were to be this threat, treatment could just be discontinued. Also, I would like to point out that this treatment does not make humans immortal; people will still die, just not due to aging.

I (extended). Taking Care of the Environment
It is possible that humans will actually take better care of the environment because they themselves would be affected by the deterioration of it. I believe the reason why most people who can protect the environment don't is because it poses no immediate threat to their existence. Moreover, it poses no threat at all to the older generations because they will be dead before they will suffer from their misdoings. Thus, an anti-aging treatment could make humans more environmentally friendly. Although people still would not suffer from their mistakes immediately, it would nevertheless be something significant for them to consider.

II. Violence
Such a radical treatment would definitely cause some unrest. I do not think this treatment will cause wars, but I leave that as a possibility. I think it is more likely that it would cause domestic violence, particularly from religious fundamentalists. I think this subject will be treated similarly as abortion.

III. Good and Bad People Living Indefinitely
I think it is very difficult to imagine if the general good of mankind would benefit or suffer more from good and bad people living indefinitely. It will be helpful first to distinguish different types of bad people, since there are a variety of them. Imagine a pyramid hierarchy with the petty criminals in the bottom and the powerful tyrants in the top. I think it is most likely that the anti-aging treatment will have more effect the higher we look on the pyramid. Petty criminals would still get punished with probably higher jail sentences to adjust to the increase in lifespan. Violent criminals, such as gangsters, would also not be significantly effected due to the dangerous nature of their activities. In other words, they would more likely die before they could take advantage of the treatment. The most considerable effect would be on the powerful tyrants and others who belong in the same category, and seeing that they pose the most formidable threat, I am unable to conclude whether or not society at whole would benefit more or suffer more from good and bad people living indefinitely. One would hope that the good done by good people in general would outweigh the bad done by tyrants.

Final Note

There is one more concept that I would like to give some credit to before I end this essay and it is the instinct factor. However nonacademic and unprofessional this factor sounds, its legitimacy should not be underestimated. For many it is difficult to avoid having a negative initial feeling when hearing about this anti-aging treatment. Although many would not be able to explain this negative feeling and although this anti-aging therapy could be logically explained as something positive, many if not most people would still have a negative feeling towards it. I think there are two likely possibilities for this. One is that people are emotional animals that distinctly dislike what they are not familiar with. The other possibility is that this instinct is brought about from unexplainable and unforeseen negative effects that the subconscious mind realizes. Of course, if its caused by the former, it should be ignored, but if by the latter, we should proceed with caution. And because I am unable to discredit this instinct, I think it would be wise for us to take it into consideration.

In conclusion, I believe the negative effects of this treatment are not considerable enough to outweigh the initial good of relieving pain and extending life; therefore, Dr. de Grey has my support.