Extending the lifespan: problems and questions

Allen Smith allens at yang.earlham.edu
Mon Apr 27 11:05:19 EST 1992

In article <TSF.92Apr25175951 at U.ERGO.CS.CMU.EDU>, tsf at CS.CMU.EDU (Timothy Freema
   n) writes:
> In article <9204242346.AA26763 at genbank.bio.net> GMP at PSUVM.PSU.EDU writes:
>    I fear few of you understand the consequences of extending the life span.
>    ...
>    Forget about social
>    security and consider what living will be like, even with gene modification
>    and cancer cures and laser surgery for the arteries. Something will always
>    give out.
>    In dealing with aging, in general, one must consider the plight of the
>    Struldbruggs (I think I have it right) in "Gulliver's Travels," the horribl
>    creatures that lived forever but wished they didn't have to.
> The rate at which things give out increases exponentially with age.
> Improved techniques for patching things up won't have much effect on
> the maximum achievable age; successful anti-aging techniques will have
> to change the nature of the exponential rise.  So we don't have to
> worry about becoming Struldbruggs.
> Even if we did, suicide is always an option, so extending the life
> span can't possibly make things worse.
        There's also the option of cryonics; if aging damage gets to be
too much, go into a frozen state and wait until medical tech has advanced
somewhat. Admittedly, it's uncertain whether current cryonic techniques
can preserve the person adequately, but it's still a better chance than death.
        Some problems with this way out (or suicide, for that matter) are
the various anti-Right-to-Die laws in existence, which also prohibit
cryonics until the person is legally dead. To me, as long as the person
who is asking is competent, they should be permitted to die.
        Of course, one question is what to do in cases when someone
becomes incompetent; the living will is a good answer here, as is that if
the person's cerebrum is dead, then the person is dead.

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