Life Extension vs. Overpopulation
As an advocate for life extension and curing aging you find yourself confronted with recurrent and often very emotional critique. People do not laugh at you, they rather get angry — which at least means that some part of them think it’s actually possible. And it is. That is a very inconvenient truth, as throughout all human history aging and death were inevitable and, therefore, sanctified, mystified (in religious afterlife ideas), or justified, in order to cope with this gruesome outlook. Being confronted with even the slightest possibility that aging can be reversed is a kick out of the comfort zone for a brain that has been wired in a different way for about 200,000 years.
From my experience the most common backlash in this regard is the argument that curing aging contributes to overpopulation. Thus, it’s bad for the planet and mustn’t be pursued.
Since you probably have been or will be confronted with this argument, too — by others or by your own mind — I wanted to share some counterarguments with you to trigger the discourse.
Life Extension doesn’t mean immortality for all from one day to another.
Like any scientific or medical research and development project, curing raging is a process with many stages and results on the way. Immortality might be a long-term goal in some people’s minds who are involved in its development, but its major objective at the moment is tackling aging as the root cause of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, stroke, or osteoporosis. The first objective in terms of life design is to reduce the amount of downhill time within people’s lifetime (due to age-related diseases). Only then the second objective can be pursued as something desirable: the extension of total lifespan — as a healthy lifespan. Each stage will have many unpredictable implications and reactions — be it on a biological or societal level — so that the approach will be iterated several times on the way. The long-term goal of extending the human lifespan indefinitely can only be seriously discussed when the first two stages are successfully implemented. However, to judge life extension like a magic bullet for immediate immortality misses the point.
Life extension will only be interesting for countries with a low birthrate.
In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, life extension takes place on the highest level of self-actualization or even transcendence (the basic level of physiological needs refers to securing survival in the present and near future, not the far future). The need to extend your lifespan only comes up when you secured, managed, and kind of mastered your life. At the same time the life quality necessary for the need of life extension goes hand in hand with a lower birthrate. As the clip below explains, population growth is the result of a global demographic transition. Life extension will only be implemented on a large scale in countries that already went through that transition.
Life Extension will be an option that only few people will want to take, even if it will be for free.
There is already so much you can do to extend your healthy lifespan, much of which is not an insider tip or a privilege. Still, most people don’t act on it because it’s not a societal lead value. Feasibility of and access to a cure for aging does not necessarily imply its widespread societal acceptance. 90% of people wouldn’t do it unless at least 50% of the people around them would have already done it. Like everything that needs to go viral to become a political issue, life extension will face the chicken-and-egg problem. Being the greatest thing for a few who love their lives, could still keep it the worst nightmare for those who don’t — or in a much later phase of life when people get tired of living for whatever reason.
Life Extension potentially eliminates the major reason for women in developed countries to get children before the age of 35.
Many people in developed countries want to have children out of self-actualization or transcendental needs. Still, the deadline for when to get them is set by women’s biological clock. With female emancipation and empowerment careers become more and more important for women, and the trend goes to postponing to become a parent to the last phase female biology allows. One effect of curing aging will be the absence of menopause. Without it, the decision on when to get a child becomes more practical than biological. With an increasing empowerment of women in developed countries and without biological pressure it will be more likely to get a child at a much later phase in life.
Life extension tackles the main reason for the pollution of the planet: individual unconcern.
The more people will know that they will be living on this planet 100 years from now (and that in a healthy state), the more they will take responsibility for it through their lifestyle, investments, and support of the right companies and political parties.
I hope I could provoke some thoughts with these arguments. If so, I would love to hear them, no matter whether they are pro or con. Leave them in the comments below.
Check out my book Life Extension Design.