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Life Extension Falls Short: Experts Highlight Major Concerns


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Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, recently invested $180 million in Retro Biosciences, a company that aims to extend human life by 10 healthy years.

One way to achieve this is to “rejuvenate” the blood. This idea is based on studies that showed that old mice showed signs of reversal of aging when injected with blood from young mice.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Google co-founder Larry Page have invested millions in projects that could dramatically change the way we live.

The first scientifically posed question is: can these technologies be successful? There are grounds for both optimism and skepticism at the same time. The second question is no less important: even if life extension were possible, would it be an ethical act?

Julian Kopelin, Professor of Bioethics at Monash University, and Christopher Gingell, Research Fellow in Biomedical Ethics at the University of Melbourne, explain why some of the common ethical arguments against life extension are not as compelling as they might seem. an overlooked explanation of why Trying to live forever might not be worth it.

Is it worth it if you’re going to die anyway?

It can be objected that the extension of life only brings the inevitable closer: we will die. However, the problem with this view is that any life saved will only be saved temporarily.

Extending life by 10 years is like saving a drowning swimmer only to die in a traffic accident 10 years later. And while we may mourn their deaths once and for all, we are still glad we saved them then.

The same applies to traditional medicine. If the doctor cures the pneumonia, I will eventually die of something else, but that doesn’t mean that I or the doctor will regret saving me.

It is also useful to take a closer look at where life counseling research can lead.

In the most optimistic scenarios proposed by experts, even modest short-term gains could help people add centuries to their lives, because the benefits from each intervention can cascade. For example, each additional year increases the likelihood of surviving until the next major breakthrough.

Is it worth it to become boring forever?

Many opposed life extension on ethical grounds, saying they would not use these technologies. Why does anyone object?
One problem is that an extremely long service life may not be desirable. Philosopher Bernard Williams said that life becomes valuable when what he calls “resolute desires” are satisfied: desires that give us a reason to want to live.

Williams expects these desires to be associated with major life projects, such as raising a child or writing a novel. He fears that such endeavors will fizzle out if they live long enough. If that were the case, eternity would become boring.

It’s not clear if Williams is right. Some philosophers point out that human memory is fallible and that certain desires can resurface when we forget past experiences.

Others argue that our categorical desires evolve because our life experiences change our interests—and may continue to do so for a very long life.

In any case, our categorical desires and therefore the meaning of life will not be exhausted in a very long life.

And even if immortality becomes boring, it will not be considered a mediocre life extension. Many argue that 80 years is not enough time to reach your potential.

Is it worth it if it misses the poor?

Another issue with life extension technologies is fairness.

These technologies will be very expensive; It seems unfair that Silicon Valley’s billionaires are celebrating their 150th birthday while the rest are mostly dying in their 70s and 80s.

This objection seems persuasive. Most people would welcome interventions that promote health equity, as reflected in broader social demands for universal health care.

But here it is necessary to take into account an important nuance. Keep in mind that universal health systems promote equity by improving the lives of those who are less well off. On the other hand, preventing the development of life extension technologies will exacerbate the situation of those who live in abundance.

However, few would argue that we should stop developing technologies to improve the health of people over 75 years of age.

Moreover, the price of life extension technologies is likely to fall over time.

The real problem

However, it is believed that there is a serious ethical objection regarding extreme cases of life extension. If people generally live too long, it can reduce our population’s adaptive capacity and lead to social stagnation.

Even a slight increase in life expectancy will lead to a radical increase in population. To avoid overpopulation, we would need to lower the birth rate, which would drastically slow down the rate of generational change.

As previous research has shown, this can be incredibly detrimental to social progress because it can:

1. Our increased exposure to extinction threats.

2. Threat to human well-being.

3. An obstruction to moral progress.

Many fields benefit from a regular influx of new young minds and build on the work of predecessors.

Even if the brains of older scientists remain sharp, their “confirmation bias”—the tendency to seek out information and interpret it in a way that confirms previous beliefs—may slow down the acceptance of new scientific theories. Moral beliefs are also subject to confirmation bias. In a world of extended life, people whose morals were determined in their youth (perhaps over 100 years ago) will remain in leadership positions.

And slowing the rate of generational change may delay the moment when we realize and correct our moral ills, especially those that we do not yet see.

Source: Science Alert

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