Biotechnology

Radical Life Extension and the Problem of Malthusian Hells

Is living longer in an overcrowded world better than the alternative?

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"How dare you do this research? The earth is already being raped by too many people, there is so much garbage, so much pollution."

Ten years ago, an anti-aging researcher described this hostile reaction to her work in the pages of The New York Times. Not much has changed since then. The first objection one hears when one advocates radical life extension is that it will produce a Malthusian Hell of overpopulation and resource depletion. Objectors clearly believe it would be immoral to make it possible for lots of people to live to be, say, 150 years old. But is that so? Two newish papers from two controversial philosophers take on that reasoning, and tear it apart—with the help of their pocket calculators.

Philosopher John Davis from the University of Tennessee takes a direct approach, arguing that pursuing life extension—even if it results in a Malthusian Hell—is the moral thing to do. In his article, "Life-Extension and the Malthusian Objection," Davis accepts for purposes of argument that the moral goal is to maximize total human welfare over time. To illustrate how one might decide whether or not a society should permit research and deployment of life extension technologies, Davis assumes a population of two types of people: Lees and Seans. Lees who want to live a long time are 17 percent of the population and Seans who prefer shorter lives are 83 percent. Seans live an average of 100 years, while Lees using life extension treatments live an average of 600 years. Then you add up the life years of a population of 100 Lees and Seans, and find that 17 Lees would enjoy a total of 8,500 life years while 83 Seans enjoy only 8,300 life years. Treatment prohibition would result in the loss of 200 life-years, thus reducing the total human welfare possible. So Davis concludes that counting aggregate life-years rather than individual lives is the way to decide whether or not to go with life extension treatments.

Davis then considers what might happen in situations where people are forced to choose between life extension and reproduction, as opposed to a world where they can opt for both. Davis divides a hypothetical population of 100 people into three policy categories: Free Choice; Forced Choice/Treatment; Forced Choice/Reproduce. Free Choice allows everyone to choose life extension no matter how many children they have. Under a Forced Choice policy, people must choose between having children and receiving the treatments. Davis assumes a population of 100 will contain 31 Free Choicers, who take both the treatments and reproduce, 19 Forced Choicers who take the treatments and do not reproduce, and 50 Forced Choicers who refuse the treatments and choose to reproduce. The numbers reflect his own rough intuitions about how human preferences would play out. Adding up the life-years at stake:

Free Choicers 31 x 500 years = 15,500 life-years

Forced Choice/Treatment 19 x 500 years = 9,500 life-years

Forced Choice/Reproduce 50 x 100 = 5,000 life-years

In this scenario, the Free Choicers' preferences that would result in a Malthusian world trump the combined preferences of those who choose long lives over reproduction and short lives in favor of reproduction.

What drives Davis' calculations is the concept of total utilitarianism which aims to maximize utility across a population based on adding all the separate utilities of each individual together. "So far as the total net good for humans is concerned, the most justified social policy is the one that satisfies preferences over the greatest number of life-years, all else being equal," argues Davis. One implication of total utilitarianism is that "we should create as many people as possible in order to maximize the total amount of desirable experiences." Total utilitarianism might result in Malthusian consequences because a large, relatively miserable population might well have a greater total amount of utility than a smaller, happier population.

Davis' allocation of preferences among Free and Forced Choicers is based on his own guesswork, and tweaking the numbers could produce different outcomes. But no matter how you slice the numbers, it would be immoral to stop research on life extension technologies simply because of fears that they would result in a Malthusian Hell. As Davis notes, people who choose the treatments would obviously not consider living in an increasingly Malthusian world a fate worse than death, and "therefore they would probably not consider it a fate worse than non-existence for their children either." And Malthusian Hells may be self-limiting. "Will there come a time when the Malthusian conditions reach a level of such crisis that people are better off not extending their lives?," asks Davis. "Perhaps so; if they see it that way, they will stop choosing life-extension."

Is there any way to break out of this dismal total utilitarian calculation? Bioethicist Russell Blackford argues yes.

In the second new paper, Russell Blackford from Monash University in Australia specifically addresses Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer's claim that it is immoral to want to live longer, say by doubling one's life expectancy to 150 years. Why does Singer think this? Singer begins by setting up a thought experiment in which researchers develop a pill that will double life expectancy to 150 years. He assumes that people have an average happiness level of 5 out of a possible 10 during the first 75 years. The life extension pill maintains its users at about the same level of health and mental acuity as a healthy 60-year-old for the next 75 years, reducing their happiness level to 4 for that period. This yields an average happiness level of 4.5 over the course of their 150 year life spans. Imagine Singer's pill as a kind of Fountain of Prolonged Middle Age.

Singer also assumes population control measures stabilizing population at replacement levels. As we shall see, the population stabilization assumption is a bit of a contradiction for Singer. Ultimately in the Singer scenario, the total number of people who would be born will be half of what they otherwise would have been during any specific time period without the age-retarding drug. So a long lived society might constitute 1 billion individuals and a normal life expectancy society would number 2 billion at any one time.

To illustrate Singer's calculus, Blackford does a little happiness math in his recent article "Moral Pluralism Versus the Total View: Why Singer is wrong about radical life extension." The hedonic calculation for long lifers would be:

4.5 units of happiness x 150 years of life x 1 billion individuals = 675 billion happiness years.

The computation of pleasure for short lifers:

5 units of happiness x 75 years of life x 2 billion = 750 billion happiness years.

Singer acknowledges that individual long lifers would have better lives (4.5 hedonic units x 150 years = 675 total units) than individual short lifers (5 hedonic units x 75 year = 375 units). But the total sum of happiness over any specific period of time is higher in the society without the life extension treatment. So Singer concludes that the moral thing to do is to stop research on life prolonging drugs.

But imposing population control measures should be morally suspect to someone who advocates maximizing total utility over time. Why? As Blackford points out, Singer's utility logic leads to the irresistible "conclusion that a sufficiently large population with people whose lives are barely worth living would be a better outcome than a much smaller population of people who are very happy." This is what philosopher Derek Parfit called the "repugnant conclusion." Parfit never believed that he had resolved the paradox at the heart of a total utilitarian calculus that leads to the repugnant conclusion. One consequence of this line of argument is that people should have as many children as possible in order to maximize the total amount of happiness just so long as they could eke out some minimal amount of pleasure. In fact, it would be immoral for people to restrict the number of children they bear because they would be reducing the overall amount of possible happiness in the world.

To counter the total utility logic, Blackford offers another thought experiment in which a benevolent, but not omnipotent deity has the choice between creating a world with 1 billion happy people (6 hedonic units on average out of 10 possible) versus another world with 6 billion fairly miserable inhabitants (1.5 hedonic units on average). Total average happiness on the second miserable planet would exceed that of the first by a ratio of 3 to 2 over time (9 billion units versus 6 billion units in any given year). Singer, if he followed the logic of his argument, would advise the deity to create the second world rather than the first. Blackford counters, "We expect a benevolent god to be concerned about how well lives go, rather than about the sheer number of them." The upshot of this analysis, according to Blackford, is that "what we value…is that whatever actual lives come into existence should go well."

Blackford's benevolence scenario, like Singer's original set-up, implies that the maximization of utility under Malthusian conditions will be avoided because population growth will be kept in check. However, Blackford, unlike Singer, is morally consistent, because advocating benevolence does not require maximizing total utility, but rather the goal is to attempt to maximize the utilities of individuals. As Blackford concludes, "Since I see no doubt that the lives in the pro-drug scenario would be better—something that Singer also thinks—then we should develop the drug." Of course, if one accepts Blackford's conclusions, the question of how will population be controlled comes to the fore. Will some "benevolent decision-maker" impose something like a replacement fertility requirement in order to make sure that the Methuselahs are not overcrowded thus enabling their lives to go well? Perhaps such "benevolent decision-makers" are unnecessary.

Turning from philosophy to the empirical, it is noteworthy that the societies with the longest life expectancies now are already experiencing below replacement fertility largely without the interference of "benevolent decision-makers." In addition, human ingenuity can avoid producing a Malthusian Hell by expanding available resources to more comfortably support a larger, more prosperous, and happier human population.

At one point Davis acknowledges, "Of course, if the Malthusian consequences of total utilitarianism are a reason to reject total utilitarianism, then one can argue that Malthusian consequences are a reason to reject Free Choice." Blackford implicitly accepts this analysis and rejects Free Choice. In any case, the conclusion from either analysis—Davis' dismal total utility calculus and Blackford's benevolence argument—is that pursuing radical life extension is the moral thing to do.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is available from Prometheus Books.

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  1. “Is living longer in an overcrowded world better than the alternative?”

    That’s where the death panels come into play.

  2. The first objection one hears when one advocates radical life extension is that it will produce a Malthusian Hell of overpopulation and resource depletion.

    If you find a person that talks about resource depletion, you have found a person who subscribes to the notion of “intrinsic value”, and should be treated as a crank.

    1. And if you find anybody that talks about “overpopulation”, think that the person is really talking about the population of brown people, and you will not err.

      Again, that person should be treated as a crank, for talking about overpopulation implies the person has knowledge of what is the optimal population level.

      1. Or we could give a cyanide tablet to every person that prattles on about “overpopulation” to test their sincerity. More room for the rest of us.

        1. Or make it cool to commit suicide–e.g., Apple’s new iCarousel.

          1. Great read thanks for the nice post!

      2. So one must never discuss overpopulation, gotcha. Am I now going to be morally upright?

        Seriously, as the cost of technology, building, food, manufacturing, etc. go drastically down it would seem rather foolish to assume that past behaviors will repeat. Especially in a more technologically advanced world.

        Ir would seem that a smart individual would at least watch trends to determine whether to build a seastead, go off planet etc.

        Sure everyone should choose their own path but I don’t see how discussing downsides of a non-aging population and continued reproduction is immoral.

  3. Life extension for humans, sure. Politicians? Hell no.

  4. I think i’ve seen this on an erpisode of Startrek.

    1. Less soda.

  5. Too many people? A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies!

    1. To imply that we could have the technology to double lifespan but, not the technology to deal with problems arising from this is a gross omission. Hell, most of the tech needed for space colonization is available. What’s needed is the engineering whose impetus would be the need caused by overpopulation, spurring a profit motive for innovative individuals.

      1. I was talking about the people in the article not responding to Pro Liberate, don’t know why this comment is here.

        1. Damned threaded, nested comments!

      2. We can’t even colonize the Sahara, Antarctica, and the interior of Greenland — where there is plenty of oxygen and temperatures are far less extreme than on any other planet or moon (and gravity is the same as we’re used to). Heck, even colonizing the ocean floor would be easier.

        I won’t believe we have the technology to build space colonies until we have colonies dotting the Gobi desert.

        1. Excellent point,Tulpa.

    2. Reason number 1 why space exploration is so important.

    3. lol a new life awaits you in the off world colonies what do you mean??

  6. Mars trilogy, anyone?

    1. blech. i read the first book, during the second I actually laughed out loud at his childish ideas. Especially those meetings of how to build a government.

      1. Really liked initial description of life on Mars. LOLed at the idiotic building-a-new-society twaddle. Stopped reading after second book. Probably should have stopped reading during second book.

    2. I couldn’t get through Red Mars. It had some good bits, but I lost interest somewhere in the middle. To be fair to Robinson, I did have a newborn at the time to distract me.

      1. I read Red Mars, but found the nativist twaddle too much for me. I did admire the character of the Russian engineer (Nadia Chernyshevski), and simply loved her solutions to engineering problems, but the rest of the plot reads like a lefty fantasy about bad corporations and heroic environmentalists/nativists, like a cowboys and indians dime novel. Yuck.

        1. I think it was something along those lines that turned me off to it.

        2. I read Escape from Kathmandu and consider it great fun (though it steadily declines). Memory of Whiteness and Icehenge I found worthwhile, though more for the ideas than the writing. For some reason I don’t remember, I decided to stay away from the Mars trilogy. Thanks for confirming my good sense.

          (For those not in the know, we’re talking about Kim Stanley Robinson.)

        3. Thanks for the great share I agree with this comment

  7. They don’t even imagine the other consequences of long life. for instance, will long lived people be less likely to engage in violence because they are risking more? Will they be kinder to their neighbors because they will be around longer to face the consequences? Will they spend more of their life “older and wiser” and less “young and dumb and idealistic”?

    There could be a great boon having to make decisions knowing you will have to live with them for a long time, it may make people act with more consideration for themselves and their neighbors. If that it true, longer life may make for a better society overall, which may mean the happiness quotient of Singer’s maybe go up rather than down.

    OTOH it may make us so passive we never take risks. The point being there is more to think about.

    1. Fertility would have to be accounted for as well. If people were fertile later in life the rush to procreate might be tampered. Also having a vastly longer life may psychologically change the way people look at having children, meaning the urge to extend your genetic line may seem unreasonable when your life is so long.

      People with longer lives might just reproduce less often voluntarily.

    2. “There could be a great boon having to make decisions knowing you will have to live with them for a long time, it may make people act with more consideration for themselves and their neighbors”
      Yeah, but your still young and stupid when you initially make the decision…I never should have gotten that, “Oops, I did it again” tattoo after I got my first “Oops, I did it” tattoo.

  8. How dare you do this research? The earth is already being raped by too many people, there is so much garbage, so much pollution.

    I find it infinitely amusing that the same kind of person who is so enraged at the damage we are all doing to the earth wants to ban smoking and trans-fat, make sure that we all have our annual wellness exams and live an austere and abstemious life. If they love earth so much they really should be encouraging people to be as reckless and die as early as possible.

  9. From the article:

    ‘In the second new paper, Russell Blackford from Monash University in Australia specifically addresses Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer’s claim that it is immoral to want to live longer’

    Now, why does it not surprise me which side of this issue Peter ‘abortion until the tenth or eleventh month’ Singer is on?

    1. With ethics like Singer’s, who needs wickedness?

    2. Singer is far worse than “..tenth or eleventh month.” In his opinion, special needs children should be euthanized (murdered) at birth because the may consume too many medical resources.

  10. Disclaimer: Ronald Bailey was born in 1376. He is immortal, he has inside him blood of kings.

    1. That doesn’t get you laid unless you do the knife thing too.

      1. Great read thanks for the nice share!

    2. Yes, but does he have a cool jacket?

      1. Awesome, Jersey Patriot. Simply awesome. I’d even say your comment was a kind of magic.

  11. Or we could send long-lived colonists to Aurora, with robot slav–I mean, helpers.

  12. Aurora being a world orbiting Tau Ceti.

    1. Good, because if you meant Aurora, IL, you’ll have very different results.

      1. I thought I should clear that up.

  13. How many zero-growthers opposed to life extension go to a doctor? How do they square their attempt to evade a natural death with their professed ideals?

    1. Meh, they don’t need to… Being a hypocrite is sort of the standard operating procedure for most people with no brains.

      1. Like all those people who want more Government spending and cheat on their taxes?

    2. I’ve always wondered how the Hemlock Society keeps its membership rolls up.

  14. As always, the subtext is “I oppose longevity treatments (for you).”

    Personally, I want to live forever. Anyone else who wants to come along on the ride is welcome.

  15. Imagine that you go back in time to 1792 and find the person who is arguably the most intelligent and knowledgeable single human then alive: Benjamin Franklin.

    You say to old Ben, “Mr. Franklin, in the year 2010, the island of Manhattan will have a population of 1.6 million people.”

    Franklin no doubt would have replied, “I think that impossible. The entire population of our new nation is only 3.8 million. How could you possibly fit over a third of that many on one little island? The most densely populated city on Earth (Edo) comes no where close. Think of how many wagons, barges and ships would have to crowd into the city every day to feed such a population! Why the manure from the horses alone would be several feet thick every day! Not to mention as to where you could find and ship enough wood to light all the fires for that many people. Even if the new coal stoves prove successful, 1.6 million fires on the small island would create such a choking haze that it would smoother all life.”

    Then he would wink at you and say, “And it goes without saying that to get that many on the island you would need hundreds of building each dozens of stories tall!”

    Now imagine you go back to 1950 and tell someone that in 2010 we will be worried we are burning so much fossil fuel that we are altering the climate. They will say, “I don’t think that likely. By 2010, everything from power plants to toasters will be atomic powered and we won’t be releasing any additional CO2.”

    People who try to predict the future to the degree they claim we can base policy on their predictions are dangerously arrogant idiots. Trying to shape our descendants lives is not being responsible, it’s cutting off their options based on our own limited and (as history as repeatedly demonstrated) always incorrect guesses.

    What we owe our descendants is to give them widest possible options by giving them all the energy and technology we can. They’ll be better able to figure out things then than we can now. We wouldn’t want to live within strictures laid down by our fore bearers in 1910 and we should imagine that our descendants in 2110 will feel any differently towards us.

    1. So what you’re saying is that someone else down the line should solve the problems created today? Are you a Senator or Treasury Secretary by any chance?

    2. Shannon, are you seriously arguing that it is likely (hell, even plausible) that we are going to significantly curtail our carbon emissions in the next fifty years without major pushes by governments?

      LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL

      1. I’m saying that it is unlikely that people 50 to 100 years down the road will view carbon emissions as a serious problem.

        Without exception, every historical attempt to extrapolate the trends of the day to more than a couple of decades down the road have failed miserably and usually comically. Without exception, ever historical attempt to act on such predictions have failed counterproductively and sometimes with horrific consequences.

        If we went back to 1980 and told them that in 2010 we would be worried that we were burning so much petroleum that we would be altering the climate and that from 1990-2005 giant gas guzzling SUVs would be the most popular vehicle, the popular consensus would have been that you were barking mad. Everyone back then knew without a doubt that the “Energy Crisis” was caused by the physical depletion of oil in earth and that therefore the idea that petroleum would ever again be cheap and plentiful to make SUVs feasible was absolutely insane. It would follow that if we were physically out of oil we could burn enough of it to alter the climate.

        Looking back, I think that global warming most resembles the eugenics panic that seized the secular progressives from 1890-1935. Before the Nazi’s signed on eugenics was widely accepted by the “educated” class and they all believed that a great genetic calamity was bearing down on the white race if the government didn’t do something. A lot of law was passed to protect the gene pool.

        Of course, it all turned out that while some of the basic ideas of eugenics were scientifically sound (civilization decreased fitness), they got the actual mechanism and the time frame all wrong.

        It’s always the same story. Someone creates a linear extrapolation of some contemporary trends and then panics. They demand the government “do something” to prevent this gotterdammerung which their brilliant pulsating brains have predicted absolute without a doubt.

        Then suddenly they discover that, whoops, history does not progress in linear ways and that all linear extrapolation are inherently crap.

        A few decades from people will be either amused or horrified by how we overreacted to CO2 emissions because we were so arrogant that we thought we had all progress and future history mapped out.

        They’ll be sitting next to their Mr. Fusion chuckling at us.

        1. classic example
          http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t…..743968.ece

        2. Post-game prediction – Saints 31 Colts 17.

          It worked!!!

        3. If anyone knows how to start a slow clap for Shannon with html, let me know. Until then…
          +100

        4. Bravo Shannon.

          I call “Game Over”.

        5. Not only all that, but isn’t it abundantly clear that extending human life spans *reduces* reproductive rates? We won’t have overpopulation – we’ll have a birth rate crisis.

  16. Watching utilitarians struggle over this issue just reinforces the conclusion that utilitarianism is a flawed theory. (For one thing, it is chronically obsessed with meddling in other people’s choices in the name of the overall good.) For an interesting non-consequentialist discussion of a similar topic, see Timothy Chappell’s paper ‘Infinity Goes Up On Trial’: http://philpapers.org/rec/CHAIGU.

  17. You say to old Ben, “Mr. Franklin, in the year 2010, the island of Manhattan will have a population of 1.6 million people.”

    And his response? “Imagine the opportunities for debauchery that would present”.

    1. I don’t think that old Ben was the bon vivant some modern historians make him out to be. He lived to robustly to the age of 84 and he would have been extraordinarily lucky to do as much porking as attributed to him and not end up with syphilis.

      Back then, if you lived fast, you died young.

      1. SL: Here’s remarkably interesting observation on the prospects of human longevity from Ben Franklin (see especially the italicized section):

        “The rapid progress true science now makes occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon. It is impossible to imagine the Height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the Power of Man over Matter. We may perhaps learn to deprove large Masses of their Gravity, and give them absolute Levity, for the sake of very easy transport. Agriculture may diminish its Labour and double its Produce; all Diseases may, by sure means, be prevented or cured, not even excepting that of Old Age, and our Lives lengthened at pleasure even beyond the antediluvian Standard.

        1. Unfortunately for you, Mr. Franklin, we really needed you at your moment in history to do the things you did. Besides the specific accomplishments, you pioneered the role of professional scientist.

          This article in City Journal makes a nice companion piece. We may desperately need life (and youth) extension to make up for the declining birth rate: http://www.city-journal.org/20…..rates.html

      2. Disease-resistant man-whore. And, er, scientist, publisher, businessman, Founder.

        1. …donner of fashionable headwear, diplomat.

        2. Whatever you do, don’t tell Ben Franklin he looks like a pirate.

        3. Inventor of the condom. Which he didn’t make public, the bastard!

        4. Inventor of the condom. Which he didn’t make public, the bastard!

  18. Sergeant Hero: “You guys wanna live forever?”
    Private Parts: “Well, now that you ask, sir…”

  19. Davis, Blackford, Singer. All way too optimistic.

    What this question needs is a little Woody Allen:

    “Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.”

    “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.”

    “Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.”

    1. “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work… I want to achieve it through not dying.”

      -Me

      1. “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” -Roberta Flack

        1. “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” -Orson Welles

          1. “I think we’re alone now.” -Tommy James and the Shondells

            1. I vant to be alone.

              – Greta Garbo

              1. I want you to be alone, Greta, you bitch.

  20. I have only two comments:

    1. 15,500 > 9,500 > 5000 so, obviously 15,500 is better, “based on his own guesswork.” I am surprised that this bit of numerology hasn’t drawn more comment for its idiocy.

    2. I am also surprised that at this bastion of rugged individualism, I find only one explicit objection to the collectivism implicit in the whole enterprise.

    1. For 2.

      +1e6

    2. The idiocy is in trying to reduce the subject down to numbers and equations and paying for the idiocy with my tax dollars.

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  22. Living 600 years.

    What happens to our prostates?

    1. Think “watermelon” size.

  23. If we went back to 1980 and told them that in 2010 we would be worried that we were burning so much petroleum that we would be altering the climate and that from 1990-2005 giant gas guzzling SUVs would be the most popular vehicle, the popular consensus would have been that you were barking mad.

    But if you went back to 1980 (or 1950, or hell, the late 1800’s) and talked to SCIENTISTS about this matter, they would have taken you very seriously. AGW is a theory over 100 years old, and the original projections were reasonably accurate.

    You are also conflating the difficulty of predicting the future of society and technology with predicting the changes of a physical system. They are not at all comparible. Indeed, with respect to the climate, you are faced with a choice which you lose either way. First, you can argue that the climate is very stable. This would imply that AGW is unlikely to be catastrophic, but also implies that it is more predictable. Or you can argue the reverse, and claim that that it just too chaotic to predict…but then you are admitting that the chances that it could spiral out of control are much higher. Take your pick: either way, I win and you lose.

    It is unlikely that we will stop emitting massive amounts of carbon with laws and regulations that prevents this. It is also unlikely that thousands of scientists, spanning more than a century and armed with a mountain of data, are wrong. Yet you are betting a fortune and risking our planet on the chance that one of these two situations will come to pass, all so you can save $20/month on your electric bill and won’t have to buy a slightly smaller car next time. That is simply despicable.

    1. It is even less likely that Chad will stop emitting large masses of bullshit, covered with liberal sprinklings of “I’m A Progressive Scientist” dust.

      Which, come to think of it, gives me one really good reason to oppose life extension technology.

      1. I live by the George Carlin Philosophy in regaurd to climate change. Which is that it is happening, or could be happening. It may be our fault or not. We might be able to stop it or not.
        But in the end the human race will someday go extict and it is an enevitbility that will not have any consequence in the future.

        Those who wish to limit the lives of free people with the benefitial slavery imposed to extend the life span of homo sapiens are as misguided as the zealots who believe that there is an invisible man who lives in the sky who watches over everything that we do and has made a list of 10 things that he does not want you to do.

        The Human race has been given the diagnosis that we are dying. Likened to a terminally ill patient with a non-limiting illness. He knows that he will one day die of it but sees no ill effects. His choice is to try everything to extend his life or have as much fun as possible.

        I believe that the human race should not limit itself to preserve the species for an extra 100,000 years or so. We should advance as much as possible and face the enevitability of extinction with wide open arms.

        1. If you want to face it with wide open arms, have at it.

          But I can live with your take on things a whole lot easier than Chad’s.

        2. Well, Ben, you can live by that insane philosophy, but please leave the rest of us out of your suicide mission.

          Hmmm, that bag of powder may or may not be cocaine. Taking the whole thing at once may or may not cause me to OD. The doctors may or may not be able to save me. What the hell, we are all going to die someday anyway, right?

          1. Who had more fun Chris Farley or The world’s oldest man of all time? They are both dead.

      2. Eb: The next time you accuse me of spewing bullshit, at least have the cajones to describe exactly how you disagree with what I said.

    2. Indeed, with respect to the climate, you are faced with a choice which you lose either way … blah, blah, blah

      … or I can suggest that humanity does not know enough to know whether it knows enough to make decisions or I can suggest that if the climate of the Earth were metastable, i.e. near some kind of a tipping point, then local weather variations would immediately drive the climate to a stable state, but that can’t happen because it would already have happened or … well, let’s just say that your false dichotomy is as false as long cat is long and leave it at that, shall we?

      either way, I win and you lose.

      I admit it. I wasted a portion of my life by reading and responding to your post. You win.

      1. You can “suggest” that some magical, unknown force will come to save us. And when you provide a mountain of peer-reviewed scientific observations to back your claims, we would listen.

        Pray tell, what IS the magical negative feedback, and what is your evidence for it?

        1. what IS the magical negative feedback, and what is your evidence for it?

          What is your magical evidence that Earth’s climate is about to spiral out of control? You have none. None of your sources, such as they are, have any. It is nothing more than raving lunatic hand waving by people with agendas.

          Go back and reread my post. I have provided the argument for negative feedback that prevents wild climatic fluctuations. The Earth is a non-equilibrium system. As such, there are significant variations in the weather from location to location. If the Earth’s climate were near a tipping point, then the weather at a location experiencing particularly anomalous variation would begin a run toward whatever alleged catastrophic conditions you fear. That run would perturb the weather at nearby locations, which would in turn perturb the weather at other locations, propagating until the catastrophic conditions enveloped the globe. The Earth has been stable for a long time and gives no indications that it is near any kind of race condition.

          By the way, why is Greenland called Greenland?

          1. I believe it’s named after Colonel Green.

            1. It’s Mr. Green. You’re thinking of Colonel Mustard.

        2. Before we do that, what, pray tell, is the temperature of the earth today? Show your work.

    3. Or you could argue that there is no AGW, only GW, which was around long before us. You’d be right.

      “It is also unlikely that thousands of scientists, spanning more than a century and armed with a mountain of data, are wrong.”

      They are armed with 50 years of temperature data of dubious reliability, 50 years of data with good reliability, some tree rings, and models that go haywire in terms of their hypothesis when you put all the data in them. I’m not convinced.

      Anyway, gotta roll for now, I’ve got about 2 feet of AGW to scrape off the driveway with my carbon-spewing snowblower.

      Peace.

    4. I want to know why no one asks the first question: is it necessarily a bad thing if the earth gets warmer? Maybe a warmer climate is a good thing. Certainly it would be where I live.

  24. I’m noting no, “Methuselan Objections.”

  25. Are there any “bioethicists” who don’t seem like total jackasses?

  26. Its incredible that we even have to defend technologies that make our lives longer! Even rationally speaking, actual life today should be valued over theoretical life tomorrow. It would be a shame to get 200 years into a satanic Malthusian culling only to look up and see a big asteroid heading towards your underpopulated pebble of a planet.

  27. Its incredible that we even have to defend technologies that make our lives longer! Even rationally speaking, actual life today should be valued over theoretical life tomorrow. It would be a shame to get 200 years into a satanic Malthusian culling only to look up and see a big asteroid heading towards your underpopulated pebble of a planet.

  28. You can have my life extension drugs, when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers

  29. when chad says “i win, you lose”
    he gives away his whole point in arguing. he is just doing it to win, he knows he is full of shit.

    anyway chad, all americans lowering their utilities bills and buying smaller cars will not have a noticeable impact on CO2 emissions.

    and i know you hate the thought, but this is what is gonna happen. The Earth will get warmer, more ice will melt. but civilization wont end, the world will adjust. some coastal people will be screwed, but it will be a small number, and everything will be okay. and in 20 years you will have to apply some revisionist history to pretend you never thought it was a big deal in the first place, in order to quell your inner rage at being such a pompous, sanctimonious tool.

    1. Yeah, but what about the Tsumanis !!!!?

      1. Yeah, and the AGW-caused earthquakes, which will kill off 75.8655774 of humanity within 34.65835666 years!

      2. Yeah, and the AGW-caused earthquakes, which will kill off 75.8655774 of humanity within 34.65835666 years!

  30. the progressives really do fetishize the role of being Cassandras, dont they?

  31. If you want to restrict access to medical care to shorten lifespans and prevent overpopulation, wouldn’t it be more effective to deny it to the young, who haven’t yet reproduced?

    Better yet, just ban medical care altogether. The birth to death ratio is going to stay 1:1 regardless of anti-aging technology. Whatever medical tech you restrict is only affecting longevity and birthrates, so you might as well go for the gold.

  32. Imagine any number of bastards and monsters from the last century and how nice it would be if they were still here with us.

  33. yep, i sure am glad carl sagan, einstein, franklin, hayek, friedman, and issac newton are gone!

    1. Yeah, but how many battalions does Carl Sagan have?

      1. Billions and billions.

  34. This whole exercise is a neat little reminder of why we need to keep “utilitarian” eggheads and assorted “bioethicists” the hell away from social policy.

    But still, looking at this from a purely utilitarian perspective; if the goal is simply to maximize the number of life-years – wouldn’t the longevity pill scenario result in a genetic bottleneck? And wouldn’t that genetic bottleneck leave the human population vulnerable to extinction via disease? If so, the ultimate result would be the exact opposite as that desired by our bioethicists. i.e; we would experience LESS human life years overall.

    Haven’t we learned that there is strenght in genetic diversity? I think it would be cool though, if there were licenced bounty hunters who were paid to eliminate runaway long-lifers who did not show up in time for “final processing”. Rutger Hauer call your office!

  35. Folks, we already fought at least one World War over whether any government ought to control who lives and who dies exclusively. It seems to me that the Court of the War God decided that the answer to that is “No”. Want an appeal? That’s what all of these life control decisions are heading towards. No? Consider China’s “one-child” policy and its consequences, which we are just only beginning to see, starting with the way off-balance men:women in China. Consequences of that? Results of that consequence? The details are blurry yet, but they all converge in war. Enough already!

    1. I agree! I think…

      1. What is gude? To KEEL wawn’s enahmees un do heeyah da lahmahntayshuns of theyah weeman.

        1. Precisely! And we ought to support life-extension in order to ensure that they don’t die (the bastards!) before we get a chance to kill them.

  36. Julian Simon really plows through the misconception of this forever impending yet never arriving malthusian hell. I don’t think Chad would be a big fan.

  37. I’ve got to admit that I’m not convinced by the utilitarian reasoning presented. I guess I’m too simple a man. My response to

    “How dare you do this research? The earth is already being raped by too many people, there is so much garbage, so much pollution.”

    would be a simple and heartfelt: “Go kill yourself, asshole.”

    And I don’t think they would deserve any more response than that.

  38. I’ve always compared the green movement to be an extention of the immortality really does exist movement. You know, the idea that if we eat right, exercise, and have a healthy lifestyle the you can live longer. What if we pu all of this effort in stopping global warming only to have an unforseen ice age wipe us out? I love to hear the stories of how people who believed in the immortality if I do the right steps lifestyle die in a car accident or some other form of death. We have to accept that our species like all others will fair at some point.

    And no, you can’t be left out because you will be dead before everyone else is. The choice at the end is this:

    The human race has one existance. You have one life. Do you want to spend it enslaved to never see the benefit that the future enslaved generations will miss out on? Or do you want to accept fate and live in freedom with the possibility that our ever expanding greed and prosperity will lead to a possible alternative? Either way you will not see the longterm benefit of either decision. But being scared of global warming and being willing to enslave yourself with the promise of stopping it is misguided as killing yourself because you are concerned about overpopulation.

    1. Great read thanks for the nice share!

  39. I have a feeling that if they are any significant changes they are going to be people who are going take the hypocritical view that its okay for them to live for a thousand more years but probably not everyone.

  40. This is my first read. Very interesting.:)

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  42. If that it true, longer life may make for a better society overall, which may mean the happiness quotient of Singer’s maybe go up rather than down.

  43. not sure if that is true.

  44. This is a post about this subject I really wanted to read.Thanks.

  45. This is my first read. Very interesting.:)

  46. This is my first read. Very interesting.:)Good, because if you meant Aurora, IL, you’ll have very different results

  47. I totally agree with the two academics’ opinions about radical life extension by use of technology. I think it is completely normal and moral.

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  51. I think that Radical life extension is unnatural and things like this disturb balance of nature which results in more problems. The extension of life will result in more population which will speedily exhaust our already depleting resources.

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  53. Really informative post, cheers for writing this.

  54. Not too much point in living 600 years without learning how to live better. Imagine 600 years of stress, anxiety and depression.

    Learn to be happy in the years you have

  55. This really help me a lot,thanks.

  56. Sergeant Hero: “You guys wanna live forever?”
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  57. It must be a shame to get two hundred years into a satanic Malthusian culling only to look up and see a big asteroid coming towards your underpopulated pebble of a planet.Even rationally speaking, actual life today should be valued over theoretical life tomorrow.

  58. Learn to live Happy as possible.
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