Whimsical Eloquence wrote:Could you perhaps clarify your position then and state clearly what exactly your objections are to a continuation (at an accelerated rate) of the increase in life spans we've been enjoying via technological progress to the point where we enjoy lifespans that make us comparatively immortal unless we chose otherwise?
I do not believe that we ought to develop technologies which allow humans to live indefinitely. I think that it is a questionable premise to propose that lives will be better as a result of being relatively unending.
Imagine that we could create an objective measure of a life's "value," why should this increase as a function of duration? In the most extreme case, why is having a life better
than having no life at all?Assuming it is possible to develop such a technology I think that it will be infeasible to use this technology in an egalitarian society.
If we are to offer all individuals the opportunity to use this technology, then we must accept that billions of people might use it. Either these people severely reduce procreation or there will be an enormous population boom. I think that either of these outcomes will be negative, but that the latter would be more likely. In the case of this latter outcome, I have already posted numerous reasons why I believe this situation will be infeasible.
The first point speaks to whether or not this technology would actually be beneficial in a "perfect world". The latter point argues that it is not reasonable to believe that our society would, or even could, put this technology to good use.
elasto wrote:Just to say, I meant my words literally. I didn't say 'it's a pretty sad state of affairs for you to say...', I said 'it's a sad state of affairs for anyone to say...'
Why not just admit that you mischaracterized my viewpoint in a moment of impulsiveness, rather than pretend that you meant something other than you did?
If you are using the word "anyone" to literally mean anyone
, then there is no reason to preface your comment with suppositions about my life. It's intellectually dishonest to make a clear implication and then pretend that you were ignorant of what your words imply. I suspect we both recognize that the joke you mention is funny specifically because
people are so willing to shamelessly pretend that they didn't realize the implications of their words; perhaps, then you meant this as a tacit admission of guilt? I don't know, so I won't put words in your mouth. It really doesn't matter to me so long as we are clear on the fact that I am not this enigmatic and mysterious man named Anyone.
Anyhow, it would be interesting for me at least to hear why you think "But as someone who has experienced both the good and the bad, I can tell you I
really don't want to live forever"
I fear death as much as anyone, I suppose. I don't believe in an afterlife (there might be one, but I suppose my mindset doesn't allow me to accept this without reason), so I admit that it's quite disconcerting to imagine what it would be like to no longer exist (well, it wouldn't be like anything of course! and that is what's so disconcerting). In this sense, I am tempted by any technology which might allow me to escape this fearsome, bizarre, unimaginable and yet ultimately ineluctable state. But the thought of living "forever" (accepting that the probability one survives will decrease with duration, eventually moving towards zero) or even a sufficiently long period of time (say, 500 years) really doesn't appeal to me. To make an analogy: When I'm tired, I go to sleep. When I imagine living several hundred years, it sounds like it would be exhausting.
I suppose what is most troubling is that, at the same time, the idea of cutting life short* is even less appealing: how could I force myself into nothingness? To be honest, I'm not even sure which way I would go; I have an inkling, but I don't pretend that I can predict the future. In a way, I find it oddly comforting to not have a "choice" in this (a feeling of choice, perhaps?... an argument for another day). But that's just me. You're welcome to conduct whatever amateur psychoanalysis you want.
[By the way, I completely missed the irony about using "anyone" when writing about the human fear of death. Looks good on me, I suppose.]
*I have realized this statement is somewhat ambiguous. I support using life-saving treatments such as surgery, anti-biotics, etc, which certainly increase the mean life span. I also support encouraging healthy eating and exercise, and various medicines which undoubtedly act, at least in part, to extend the life spans of individuals. This is certainly a fine line that I am walking. I suppose I conceive of medicine which is intended to improve health/quality of living (which, incidentally also
extends lives) as being different from medicine/technology which only extends the duration of life, without directly impacting quality. It is certainly imaginable that we might be able to eliminate the negative impact of aging without extending the life span indefinitely. I'd like to think this counters the argument that "by extending the life span indefinitely, we are improving lives by reducing the negative effects of aging on quality of life". Others might disagree.
nitePhyyre wrote:I don't know why you are hung up on egality.
I have already made this point. If technology is not beneficial in a broad sense, then I don't support using it. If a technology simply produces a greater divide between the haves and the have-nots--improving the lives of privileged few but not affecting the lives of the poor--then I think it is superfluous.
You say that you fear a longer life will dilute its quality. This is the unfounded assumption you make. You are assuming that any life 'added' will be empty, hollow, and worthless. If the life that was being 'added' is of the same quality as a 'natural' life, then the addition cannot be diluting it.
You are missing the analogy. If I were to take a flask containing 1L of 100mM NaCl and dilute it tenfold, the total number of moles of NaCl would not change. In this analogy, the number of moles represents the "value" of a life and "duration" represents the volume. Whether my life lasts 10 years or 100 years, the total "value" would not change any more than the number of moles would change if I diluted the concentration of my flask. In this sense, when I say "dilute" I do not mean to imply that the value of a life will decline with duration in an absolute sense.
At some point I may have implied that increased duration could make life worse. If so, you are right, this would be an unfounded assumption, and it would conflict with the principal argument that I am making here (that the value of life is relative and not necessarily affected by duration).
I don't think that life extension will let people live longer, better lives. Just longer ones. If their life is good, then it will be just as good if it is longer. If it is a bad life, it will be just as bad for longer.
So then why is longer better? If all you are increasing is duration then why bother? If duration has no effect on how good my life is, then why should I care? I suspect what you mean to say is that "[living longer lives] x [lives which are just as good per volume of duration] = [better lives overall]".
And I hate to sound like a broken record, but if we are going to be assuming things, current trends will continue is the default assumption to make.
This is not the default assumption. In fact, there is no default assumption. We don't have sufficient data to make one. This is why predictions about the future are meaningless.