An Anti-Deathist F.A.Q.

Q: What is Deathism?

A: Deathism is the belief that everyone should die.

Q: What is Anti-Deathism?

A: Anti-Deathism is the belief that death should not be mandatory.

Q: How the hell is that supposed to work?

A: Medical research. Aging has biological causes which we grow ever closer to unraveling.

Q: What happens when the earth is full of people because the population never stops increasing?

A: Space colonization is one possible answer, as is introducing disincentives for childbearing (like China did, though they went a bit overboard). But the earth’s population is increasing regardless, so banning life-extension would only be a delaying tactic.

Q: Poor people already have much lower life expectancies than rich people. Won’t life-extension technology just make this gap worse?

A: At first, probably, yes. That’s how new technologies work. Two decades ago cell phones were only owned by rich people. Now they’re transforming sub-Saharan Africa. Technologies (unlike wealth) trickle down.

Q: But it’s wrong to focus on improving the lives of rich people when we could be helping the less fortunate!

A: Why don’t you apply this standard to other types of medical research? Should we abandon all research into aging-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, and instead use that money on charitable work abroad? I’m in favor of continuing to pursue many goals simultaneously, like humans do.

Q: Max Planck once said “Truth never triumphs — its opponents just die out. Science advances one funeral at a time.” If he’s right, wouldn’t life extension do real damage to scientific progress?

A: If he’s right, yes. I’d be happy to bite that bullet and call the trade-off worthwhile, but it’s not even necessary. All you need is a mandatory retirement age for scientists and you’re set. And that’s not even considering the potential balancing force of scientists with centuries of experience who still retain their youthful vigor.

Q: What if you run out of stuff to do?

A: It’s going to be a very long time before there’s nothing cool left to do anywhere in human civilization. I haven’t even been into space yet!

Q: But let’s say boredom does eventually overcome everyone. Given stigmas against suicide, wouldn’t that lead to a lot of bored, unhappy immortals?

A: Maybe? But the solution to that problem is to rethink suicide stigmas, not mandatory death. 1000 years of happy life followed by a peaceful suicide sounds much better to me than 70 years of happy life followed by 20 more years of slowly wasting away until I die in agony.

Q: The rarer something is, the more precious. So too for years. Life extension would devalue human experience.

A: Rarity is one source of value, but there are others. My favorite novel would not be improved just because I was the only one to ever read it.

Q: Extending human lifespans is unnatural!

A: So is polyester.

Q: But I don’t want to live forever!

A: Okay. You don’t have to.

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8 thoughts on “An Anti-Deathist F.A.Q.

  1. Mike S. says:

    Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
    Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
    Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

    –Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Dirge Without Music”

    Like

    • Very tough to estimate. I would guess that some kind of treatment that reduces the damage caused by aging will hit the market within 10-30 years, weighted towards the back end of that distribution.

      But changes in the regulatory environment, scientific breakthroughs, political opposition could all have huge effects. Expect black swans.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy says:

    Deathism is really getting old. Women like Caitlin Doughty are promoting death and gaining followers. It’s sad that she’s more popular than Aubrey de Grey and other anti-aging researchers.

    Like

  3. Pingback: fizixer comments on "Mass Extinction and the Structure of the Milky Way"

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