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.
12 thoughts on “An Anti-Deathist F.A.Q.”
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”
Why yes, that is my favorite poem.
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Excellent post. What’s your estimate when the medical research progresses enough to give us treatments along these lines?
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.
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Fair enough. I guess lack of funding is one of the biggest problems e.g. SENS faces. I would like to see more public awareness for these matters.
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.
What do you think of this recent interview? One section is about transhumanism. https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/bitch-interview/caitlin-doughty-death-positivity
About the interview generally, I have mixed feelings. Death and aging are the current reality and acknowledging that reality is important. Grief is awful and anything that helps people process that is good and important.
But I don’t like the fatalism of this death positive movement, not at all. Every death is a loss.
As for the bit about transhumanism, it’s a bit absurd. I’ve moved in these circles for over a decade and I can’t think of a single time, a single person who’s ever said anything about “not wanting life extension to be available to the masses.”
I’m sure it’s been said, of course, because everything’s been said on the internet. But to claim that it’s the stance of many is unfounded and absurd.
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From what I’ve read by transhumanist they say realistically it will only be available to the rich at first but then the cost will go down and it will be more accessible. This implies they do not want life extension to be exclusive to the rich, only that they believe that will be inevitable in the beginning.
Recent death pos anthropology article basically slamming transhumanists:
“That death has become something many Americans avoid and abhor—an enemy to be defeated—is evident elsewhere too. Just look at the plethora of contemporary fantasies of immortality, which range from anti-aging creams to efforts to download a person’s brain so he or she can continue to live virtually, to cryonics, the practice of freezing and storing bodies or body parts in the hope that future scientists will thaw them and bring them back to life.”
Personally I’m interested in both transhumanism and death positivity so I want to hear both perspectives and how they can conflict,
I honestly don’t know why certain people love the thought of dying or being dead, maybe it’s because they don’t like the idea of having to do work forever, or because they think that they will eventually run out of things to do and become bored forever, or because they’ll feel less valuable if they had infinite life…
But as far as I’m concerned, we MUST fight for eternal life, we MUST fight death itself and reign triumphant over it! I care too much about life and other’s lives, even the people that desire death, I care for them too, and I don’t want them to die… It hurts so much…
We need to do what we can to win this. There’s no good reason to be dead, it’s horrible. Search up the Deprivation Account, it explains why death is very bad and unsatisfying.
We have EVERYTHING to lose, and so we have to try and save as much as we can for as long as we can, and I hope that it is forever. Please? Just try. It’s better to try than to not try.
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