I was listening to a brilliant TED talk earlier today, Why We Age and How We Can Avoid It, by Aubrey de Grey. In it he discusses the possibilities for how we may manage to overcome age in the future, and possibly even live forever. I recommend you go watch it, but the talk itself isn’t really what I want to discuss, but rather what I’m seeing a lot of in the comments.
Let me preface this a little; I don’t believe in a god, gods, godlike beings, deity, or anything of the sort. I believe that everything physical can be described by physical science though our current understanding may be incomplete, and that the watchmaker analogy is deeply and fundamentally flawed. It is flawed because it predicates a fundamental set of physical rules and relations, a natural law that is simply on a “divine” layer, which begs the question who designed the layer upon which the designer resides. Even if you could answer that question it would destroy the fundamental concept of most godly theologies because it would imply an infinite chain of gods… including at least one in our layer of natural law. Note though that I don’t ascribe to the title atheist. I am simply of the opinion that 99% of religions literally MUST be wrong due to their contradictory nature, and since I can know nothing either way, there is no point at all in worrying about it. (There will be plenty of time to consider god after death, assuming I don’t simply stop existing.)
Now that I have that out of the way, lets get to the meat and potatoes of the aging discussions. First and foremost, death is not a primary product of evolution. We were not evolved specifically to die, we simply had no reason to biologically evolve not to once we had a long enough life to reproduce. If we assume that our body will only die of age related complications in the 80-120 year range of life, then for most of our race’s collective lifespan we haven’t even pushed the edge of what evolution allotted us.
But the evolution discussion brings up another fundamental cross thought. Some make the argument that we should be evolving into optimal beings not staying stagnant at our current place. Natural selection has three requirements however, diversity, selection and replication, which means humans are no longer under it’s biological sway. Yes, we are diverse, yes we replicate, however we are no longer biologically selective outside of a very small cross section. At least in the developed world, more people live than die, and almost all diversity can be accepted along side the current mutations. Even the small portion of our population that could have been below the line for possible replication is being pulled up through the medicinal curing of otherwise fatal or sterilizing complications.
It may not be true for the entire world just yet, but we are only moving towards non-selection, not away from it. The reason why is because we have already been gifted with evolutions greatest gift, sentient intelligence. Our intelligence has allowed us to move away from biological limitations and through ideas and tools continue to evolve without hardly any reference to biology. Biology has already created the “optimal” species, a species that can optimize itself, and with good ideas we don’t have to wait a hundred thousand generations. If we really are a few decades out from the first steps in increased longevity, then we would have to be very poorly evolved indeed to ignore it.
Secondly, I don’t care if you think there is an afterlife and you assume that anyone who doesn’t must live in abject fear of death. It’s your burden to bear in life that you are such a presumptuous twat. Let me put it quite clearly, I do not fear death just like I don’t fear getting the flu. However, if you asked me which I would rather do, have the flu or be healthy, I’d rather be healthy, if you asked me whether I would rather live or die, I would rather live. Why? Because I can do more things that I care about alive than I can dead.
Along the whole afterlife lines, it’s great if you’re looking forward to dieing and going on that wondrous journey. I’m not. I really would rather live for as long as I possibly can in a healthy state, and if that means forever… great. You can opt out, that’s fine, you are allowed to have that choice, if however your not liking the idea of living forever means I can’t you can rightly fuck off.
I’m not going to mince words here, I’ve been suicidal for years and at the end of the day I’ve never thought of taking anyone else with me. If you feel the need to die at some point of old age, great, but return my favor and don’t try and take everyone who wants this stuff with you. Who knows, maybe even you won’t want to die right away when you actually have the option.
Finally, the sociological issue. I rather thought that a whole lot of what a bunch of very smart people were plying themselves to was to fix the sociology gaps by raising everyone’s standards. If you think that doing that is impossible… you are welcome to your opinion. The rest of us would like to have this option even if it is terribly expensive and hard to get at first. Those are hurdles we can deal with, who knows, maybe you’ll get loans to pay for it and your credit score really will be a life or death matter. Still I’m sure we’ll have lots of scientists working to make it cheaper and plenty of pressure to make it more available to charity organizations. Also, just because we aren’t solving all the worlds problem’s today doesn’t mean it’ll be impossible to in the future, have some hope in your fellow man.
Oh… one last thought on the comments. If the concept is to repair a large amount of the damage aging has done to your cells before they become a pathology, then you won’t have to wait 50 years to get reliable test results. In fact it should be as simple as comparing the cells before and after treatment, and maybe a couple years of observation to ensure that the cells are sustaining damage at the same rate as before the therapy.
My personal note on the talk, even if he is being optimistic on the time frame, I am still young enough to probably be in the group to benefit from this research. Kind of makes me wish I had money to help fund it.