Sep 21, 2015

Aubrey de Grey: Longer lives won’t mean overpopulation

Posted by in categories: health, life extension

Aubrey de Grey wants to save lives. He wants to save as many as he possibly can, as soon as he can, and to do it he is going to fix ageing.

The prominent scientist and futurologist is on a crusade to beat ageing and when he does it will mean that we stay healthy and live longer – possibly for up to hundreds of years.

But, as de Grey emphasises, his primary goal is not just making people live longer; he wants us to live healthily, he wants to restore us to a state of health that is “fully functional in every way”. The ability to live for hundreds of years is just a side effect.

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  1. I agree with Aubrey 100% on this. Personally, I feel that overpopulation issues which might arise due to the development of treatments to control and reverse aging are greatly exaggerated. It’s highly possible that curing aging may exacerbate overpopulation issues in some countries in Africa and Asia, but this will not be an issue for around 30 years after aging has become a treatable condition and must also be viewed together with technological progress that will increase the world’s carrying capacity. The other factor is that it’s already becoming very apparent that in developed countries the tendency to have smaller families and less children is a consistent trend and has been for many years, you only that but you only have to look at the birth rate in most EU countries, Japan and Russia to see the trend and the birth rate is even dropping in many Third World and developing countries so I don’t see that bringing aging under a decisive level of medical control would inevitably lead to the population catastrophe used as a justification for not tackling aging by many people. An interesting and very detailed examination of the impact of bringing aging under control is worth taking a look at here

    As a point of interest these are the countries where population is falling with annual rates and projections of total reduction by 2050:

    Ukraine: 0.8% natural decrease annually; 28% total population decrease by 2050
    Croatia −0.2%; −14%
    Germany −0.2%; −9%
    Czech Republic −0.1%; −8%
    Japan 0%; −21%
    Poland 0%; −17%
    Slovakia 0%; −12%
    Austria 0%; 8% increase
    Italy 0%; −5%
    Slovenia 0%; −5%
    Greece 0%; −4%
    Russia: −0.6%; −22%
    Belarus −0.6%; −12%
    Bulgaria −0.5%; −34%
    Latvia −0.5%; −23%
    Lithuania −0.4%; −15%
    Hungary −0.3%; −11%
    Romania −0.2%; −29%
    Estonia −0.2%; −23%
    Moldova −0.2%; −21%

    Regardless, concerns regarding overpopulation are not an acceptable justification to oppose bringing aging under medical control or treating the diseases of aging it is just something else which would have to be addressed.

    My personal belief is that when people know that they are going to live for very long time it is highly probable they will take the decision either not to have children at all or to delay having children until late in life which will become possible due to medical progress.

    There are several additional factors which must be kept in mind when it comes to population which I have outlined below. These were raised by Tony Reno in some correspondence between us and I consider them to be highly valid and something we should all take on board.

    1. People not dying does not add to the population rate. Only people having children adds to the population.
    2. The younger people have children, the faster their population grows.
    3. The longer people live, the later they start having children.
    4. The later people start having children, the less children they tend to have.

    Which is why, around the world, the countries with the longest lived populations have slow growth rates (leaving out immigration which is not new people, just people moving) are the ones with the. And the countries with the fastest population growth rates all have short life spans.

    Finally, I also point out that any average number of children per couple that is less than 2 is no longer exponential growth, as asymptotic growth to an eventual maximum. Simplest case example, if the average per couple was 1 child, the population would never double, even if no one ever dies.

    Finally I point this out. People will often claim that population is a problem, but if population is a problem, then why are the most populous cities also the most expensive to live in? And why are the most highly populated cities e.g London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore etc also the ones which produce the highest incomes? Wouldn’t both of these be false if population was the problem it’s often made out to be?

  2. Filiapolis says:

    Regardless of whether overpopulation would result and of whether or not it would lead to negative consequences overall (both of which are far from certain), it is unambiguously more ethical to curb reproductive choices than it is to curb life extension research (forcing people to die).