We Might Not Want Our Life Extended

What's the point of living longer if we don't live better?

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European politics offers an illustration of why some people are uneasy about initiatives that seek to slow or even stop aging. At a 2010 meeting in Russia between the country’s then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi, at that time Italy’s premier, the two men were overheard discussing life-extension technologies. Berlusconi told Putin he planned to fund an institute that like Google’s Calico would investigate ways to lengthen the human span. “So we’re going to live to 120?” asked Putin, eagerly. “It seems so, yes,” replied Berlusconi. “But that would be an average age. I’m told leaders will have an even longer life.”

(MORE: Aubrey de Grey: Finally, the War on Aging Has Truly Begun)

Since I included that vignette in my 2011 book Amortality: The Pleasures and Perils of Living Agelessly, both men have demonstrated a fervent interest in leadership extension too. Putin, 60, exchanged the Prime Ministership for a third term as President and 76-year-old Berlusconi is fighting his expulsion from the Italian senate despite his conviction for tax fraud. It’s hard to imagine that either man, if granted extra decades of life, would choose to spend those years in quiet retirement.

But if one obvious flaw in the concept of radical life extension is that power and wealth might become concentrated in the hands of those with the power and wealth to afford the technologies, there’s another danger even in the more democratized, idealistic vision that seems to motivate Larry Page. Many of us already trust to science to fix everything including the ravages of unhealthy living and a system that makes processed food cheaper than fresh produce. A high profile initiative such as Calico reinforces the belief that immortality is just around the corner; that we just have to live long enough to live forever.

 (MORE: Ten Ideas Changing the World Right Now: Amortality)

The amortal denial of aging and death is no bad thing if it encourages us to discard outdated notions about what constitutes age-appropriate behavior and keep active and involved for as long as possible. But there’s no point chasing the dream of living longer unless we also learn to live well.

6 comments
vovix.sw
vovix.sw

No, Catherine, it's not 'we", it's YOU who say they don't want to live. (Until you see real life extension spreading around you, then you'll sooner or later join it.)

 Anyone in principle has a right to die, but I think suicide by inaction is just as stupid as suicide by action. Do we, as the society, need to support suicide?


It is simpler than 2x2: it's just a matter of LIFE or DEATH. Life is good, death is bad, even in Auschwitz it was so. Period. if you choose life, you should not seek limits to it, you should remove those limits. Otherwise you should recognize you are promoting death.

GPA2030
GPA2030

Aging is just another illness that we are on our way to curing, so if we have the tools available, why not solve this one for ourselves?

Aubrey de Grey on health & longevity: https://vimeo.com/78282480

Whoa182
Whoa182

FACT: The world is becoming a better place. Our lives are becoming easier and better than at any point in history. The world is less violent. It's just that the media/news we have access to now portrays the world in a negative way. Life is amazing, wonderful and exciting to those that dream big. We have a whole universe to explore! Why die?  People have a lack of imagination.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

The coffin industry is not going to take this laying down.

DirkMcGerk
DirkMcGerk

Extend our lives and we all commit murder at some point.  Imagine listing to the same nonsense stories over and over for hundreds of years, not likely.

kcmoplc1
kcmoplc1

this is a blurb for a book !!!! shame on you, TIME...