I really don’t know life at all

11 02 2019

I have been insufficiently cynical.

Tough to write that—cynicism has been my schtick since I was in high school—but the accumulation of more-and-less recent events have clearly revealed that I have been a goddamned Pollyanna about my fellow human beings.

Oh, I know, people can do terrible things great and small, that we are selfish and mean, blah blah. Big deal. I can say we suck all day long and even believe it, but does that belief emanate from the very marrow of my being?

Apparently not.

Now, maybe this is good, maybe this is bad, but I feel like I’ve caught myself out.

Example: Howard Schultz. I know, but this isn’t about yet another rich guy’s delusion that making money qualifies one for the presidency; no, this is about his dumb-ass comments that billionaires shouldn’t be referred to as such, but as “people of means” or “people of wealth.”

Yes, the billionaire who thinks his billions qualify him for the White House doesn’t want us to foul his pure air with such noxious terms as “billionaire,” but to be kinder, gentler, toward such sensitive souls as himself. To notice his massive pile of money is simply. . . unseemly.

You’d think I’d be disgusted by his disdain for social welfare and horror at a wealth taxOh no! after paying a shit-ton in taxes I will only have a mega-shit-ton of money left!—and I am. But rich people grabbing at all of the monies is nothing new.*

No, it’s the goddamned sensitivity about the rest of noticing that they’ve grabbed all of the monies and the expectation that we should cater to those sensitivities. Your gaze wounds me! Avert your eyes!

Yes, we’re supposed to pay attention to him because he’s a billionaire but not that he’s a billionaire. Uh huh.

*Okay, I’ll be honest: the depths to which rich people will go to get more riches does shock me. I’m aware of the concept of loss aversion, but once you have so much money that everything is effectively free doesn’t this concept lose its mojo? Aren’t we now out of the realm of cognitive biases and into that of sociopathy?

Consider the Sacklers, the crazy-rich family behind Purdue Pharma and one of the main drivers of the opioid crisis. They denied oxycodone was addictive, even as

Kathe Sackler, a board member, pitched “Project Tango,” a secret plan to grow Purdue beyond providing painkillers by also providing a drug, Suboxone, to treat those addicted.

“Addictive opioids and opioid addiction are ‘naturally linked,’ ” she allegedly wrote in September 2014.

Jeez, I remember this episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Or you could compare the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma to the executives at Omni Consumer Products (RoboCop, natch).

I mean, the Sacklers’ desire for MOREMOREMORE MONEY is beyond cartoon villainy, and yet, there it is.

I don’t get it.

Money is useful—that I get. It’s portable and transferable and in a society in which you must pay for goods, necessary. I’ve been broke and not-broke, and not-broke is better. But how much beyond not-broke do you have to go before you can say, “okay, enough”?

I’d guess that we’d all have different beyond-lines, and that we’d probably side-eye each other’s lines, so, okay. But not to have any lines at all? Not to have any concept of “enough”?

I guess, in the end, that doesn’t shock me. It puzzles me, but doesn’t shock. But the willing reduction of one’s life to the pursuit of MORE MONEY, the expectation that MORE MONEY is all there is, all that matters and ought to matter?

That’s fucked up.


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.