Dec 19, 2013

The Seven Fallacies of Aging

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, futurism, life extension, transhumanism

Some people become incredibly confused about the effort to eliminate aging, which they see as a nebulous, ill-defined process. I refer to the concept of radical life extension, when aging as a process has been abolished. I am not referring to simple healthy longevity (the effort to live a healthy life until the current maximum lifespan of 110–120). Here are some common misconceptions:

1. The Fallacy of words

Eliminating aging will make us ‘immortal’ and we will live forever.

No, it won’t. If we eliminate aging as a cause of death, we may be able to live for an indefinite (not infinite) period, until something else kills us. Even in a world without aging, death can happen at any time (at age 10, 65 or 1003) and for any reason (a shot in the head, malaria, drowning). If we manage to eliminate aging as a cause of death, the only certain thing would be that we will not necessarily die when we reach the currently maximum lifespan limit of around 110–120 years. We would certainly NOT live for ever, because something else will kill us sooner or later. Our organs cannot be repaired if we perish in a nuclear explosion for example, or in a fire. Some statisticians have mentioned that, without aging, we may be able to live to 1700–2000 years on average before death happens due to some other catastrophic damage. This is a long time, but it is not ‘forever’.

2. The Fallacy of numbers

Eliminating aging will result in overpopulation.

No, it won’t. This is based on spurious, even naïve, thinking. Aging happens because we need to reproduce. Or, we need to reproduce because we age. If aging is eliminated, the need to reproduce will also be broadly eliminated. It is a cyclical, reciprocal argument.

3. The Fallacy of loneliness

“I don’t want to live dramatically longer because I will have to witness the deaths of all my family and friends”.

No, you won’t. If you live longer because aging has been eliminated, then your family and friends will too. In any case, this counteracts fallacy number 2: if everybody else dies, how come we would have overpopulation? And fallacy number 2 counteracts this one: if we do have overpopulation, then it is likely that your friends and relatives will be alive too.

4. The Fallacy of the pill

Aging will be eliminated by taking a pill (or a combination of pills, injections, something physical).

No, it won’t. It will be eliminated through a change in the direction of human evolution, when billions of humans continue to engage with technology (or via other, abstract global technologically-dependent means). As the general direction of evolution is towards a more complex state which makes us better adapted to our environment, there would come a point when our hyper-technological environment would select individual longevity instead of aging and degeneration, as a more thermodynamically efficient situation.

5. The Fallacy of money

Research into the elimination of aging is not progressing fast due to lack of appropriate funding.

No, funding is not the main bottleneck. The main problem is the widespread adoption of the wrong approach. The idea that aging can be eliminate through pharmacological intervention dates back to the time of the Alchemists. It has no place in a modern, highly technological and intellectually sophisticated society, and certainly not with respect to defying such a fundamental process as aging. It is reductionist instead of integrative.
Aging may be eliminated when the cause for its presence is removed. Aging happens because within a tendency to progress from simple to complex, evolution has selected reproduction (and thus aging) as a mechanism for maximising the use of thermodynamical resources, and so to ensure the survival of the species

6. The Fallacy of the rich elite

Only a few rich people will have access to the treatment.

This is a combination of fallacies number 4 and 5, a fallacy based on fallacies. People who adapt and fit within an upwards moving technological environment will be more likely to survive. Money is irrelevant. What is relevant is intellectual effort and aggressive engagement with our environment (hyperconnectivity is an example). If a large number of humans (in the order of hundreds of millions) actively engage with their increasingly technological environment, there would be no reason to age/reproduce at the current rates, as survival can be assured through the individual rather than the species. Therefore, there could be no secrets about the process, due to the very fact that a significant section of humanity must necessarily participate.

7. The fallacy of frailty

Living dramatically longer will mean a long life with debilitating illnesses.

No, it won’t. The two concepts are mutually exclusive. A life without aging necessarily means a life without age-related degeneration. You cannot have one without the other.

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