Rather than choosing to wax philosophical about the ethical imperatives in favour of life extension, the organizers of the IEET symposium specifically geared the event around the work of Jay Olshansky and his efforts to frame the discussion in more practical terms.
In other words, money.
Indeed, the case for a longevity dividend – the idea that prolonging life will save not just lives, but oodles of cash -- is beginning to take shape. As Reason science correspondent Ronald Bailey noted, “It's a way of rebranding the quest for extending human lives in a politically palatable way.”
Among the many alarming statistics presented by Olshansky, he noted that as a person ages their risk of dying doubles every 7 years. And as the expense required to keep people alive continues to escalate, society could be in for some serious economic trouble. Olshansky estimates that by 2030 the medical costs in the
To deal with this pending crisis, Olshansky suggests that we need to keep people healthy by working to develop more meaningful interventions in life extension, whether it be genetics, insights gained from the effects of caloric restriction, or the development of compounds with properties that appear to slow aging. Ultimately, the goal is to extend maximum healthy life span and drive medical costs down.
At the same time, Olshansky critiqued the tendency towards an explicit “anti-aging” sentiment. Quite interestingly, he sees aging as a positive and wisdom-endowing process. His goal is more modest than those of the transhumanists who which to eliminate death altogether. Instead, Olshansky urges that we should simply strive to extend maximize healthy lifespan as much as possible.
In terms of increasing life expectancy, both Olshansky and the transhumanists are on the same page; it is agreed that work needs to be done to reduce the ravages of aging as much as possible. It is also agreed that the word needs to get out. Money is the language of politics, and while they may not understand the intricacies of biogerontology or the ethics of prolonging life, politicians can most assuredly understand the impact on the bottom dollar.
Regarding public support, de Grey urged that more PR work needs to be done on his behalf; Aubrey wants better funding. He mentioned his supreme disinterest in politics and politicians, who he believes are merely looking towards the next election and pandering to the needs of their constituency. The trick, he says, is to sway these constituencies on the side of life extension.
As for de Grey’s talk itself, it was vintage caffeine-inspired Aubrey -- but this time he was also full of piss and vinegar. It was angry Aubrey, on the offense and lashing out at those critics who he accused of being dismissive of his work out of sheer incredulity and little else. He eventually returned to more substantive issues by addressing Olshansky’s longevity dividend and his own work, including his upcoming book, Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs that Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime.
Also speaking at the event was economist David Meltzer who dazzled attendees with abstract renderings of economics equations and high economic concept. Anders Sandberg worked to frame more meaningful policy scenarios as they pertain to life extension; Ronald Bailey spoke of the political economy; I presented a summation and taxonomy of arguments both for and against life extension; and James Hughes demonstrated how coalitions should be built for anti-aging science and medicine by turning the symposium into a collaborative workshop.
The life extension community continues to take strides by expanding and attracting more effective allies. And by doing so it is acquiring a powerful arsenal of ethical, legal, political and economic rationales to support the claim for longer life.
The case for radical life extension continues to mature.
Read Ronald Bailey’s recap of the symposium.