Sitting in a tin can

12 05 2015

Okay, so, a question for those in favor of life-extension: why?

Is this just about “more”: more time to do more things, see more sights, experience more experiences? That if you could live to 1000 years you could do so much more than if you could live only to 100?

I asked this question to my intro-level bioethics students today, and for those in favor, the notion of “more” came into play.

But then there was the issue of how those 1000 years would play out, relative to a life lived within the confines of a century. Would you reach adulthood at ~20, as we do today, and then live 980 years as an adult? Or would live just be stretched, such that instead of two decades to reach adulthood, you’d take 2 centuries?

And if the latter’s the case, then, really, aren’t you just living life much more slowly—playing the same record at very low rpms, as opposed to playing many more records?

And even if you were able to do more—if you reached adulthood, and then the aging process slowed—what about that more is better? If all that happens by living 10x as long is that you get to do 10x as much as the same things you already do, then. . . what? Instead of 15 jobs you have 150, or instead of 15 sexual partners you have 150, or instead of 1000 fantastic meals you have 10,000—is life-extension really just about extension? about the ability to do more. . . of the same?

Does your life change substantively by being able to do more of the same? Or is it really just the same, only longer?

The idea of extending life to do more of the same seems to me, someone who sees life as an equivocal good, as not worth it. Living some magnitude longer would, to someone like me, only make sense if living 1000 years allowed you to do things you couldn’t otherwise do.

Like space travel. Really.

Right now we can send people into near space. We may at some point in the next few decades figure out how to set up an outpost on the moon, and some are already talking about colonizing Mars, but even Mars settlement would likely be a one-way trip, as almost certainly would be anything further out: You’d live long enough to get there (wherever “there” is), but not enough to come back.

Live a millennium, however, and you could go and come back. Can’t do that with a mere 100 years.

Beside that, however, and it seems that everything you could do in a thousand years is just a magnification of what you could do in a hundred. But with all that more, it’s still nothing more than that.


There is another way to look at life-extension, of course, and that’s an a compensation for a lack. That is, we know that people can live more than 100 years, but if someone dies at 85, it might be said that she had a good go-round.

If someone dies at 45, however, well, that seems a bit young. And there are populations around the globe—not as many as there used to be, but still there—where the average life-expectancy is below 50 years of age.

Would altering our social practices such that life-expectancy is raised for those at the low-end count as life-extension? Or is life-extension something beyond the (current) outer-bounds of life-expectancy?

And if one is good, why not the other?


I’m not convinced of the equivalence implied by that last question, but I can’t quite dismiss it, either.

There might be some kind of curve of “more” that goes up and up—that is, one gains something that he wouldn’t have had before—and then after a certain point, flattens out.

Alas, even if one were to accept this more-curve in theory, there is the little matter of determining that “after a certain point” point.

And the immortalists, well, the immortalists would say that even if does flatten out, that one continues to exist at all is all that matters.

To which this equivocationist can only say, Huh.




2 responses

13 05 2015

and my heaven will be a big heaven…
my sense is that in general people haven’t given it much thought, we celebrate the very old (even on national “news” shows) for being very old, and than there are the singularity whackos who are counting on the future being better (less messy/human/embodied) and so want to be part of it (immortal even), and than on the other end of the spectrum:

14 05 2015

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