concerns regarding continuation of ageing research

Peter Nyberg pnyberg at
Wed Dec 9 10:00:30 EST 1998

spring wrote in message <366DE5DF.4429E6B9 at>...
>Does anybody else share my concern that ageing research, at least in the
>US, will be effectively stopped? I envision the religious right and
>center making an alliance with environmentalists to stop humans playing
>god and destroying the planet by becomming immortal. The government may
>not like it either, especially if it means more social security and
>medicare costs. Besides cutting funding, and making this type of
>research illegal, terrorist methods might be used to stop it. A bit of
>this was foreseen by Ben Bova in the SF book "Brothers". Right now,
>everyone is distracted with cloning and pluripotent cells, but soon they
>will wake up to what ageing research is really about. Another possible
>scenario, is that once the research is illegalized it will go
>underground or happen in other countries, and once drugs are produced
>only the very rich will be able to obtain them on the black market.

Not having a science background, I have a hard time following much of the
technical discussion that goes on in this and other groups (though I try).
So, I spend much more time pondering the personal and social implications of
the coming "end of aging".

I think you are right that some religious groups will oppose significant
life extention. And even though I didn't think of it first, I think you are
probably right about some environmental groups opposing life extention as
well.  But my guess is that these views will not be in the mainstream, and
will not be shared by the majority of individuals at large.  I think that
wanting to live longer is very basic human nature, and going against human
nature is like trying to stop the tide.  Many people will see that the end
of aging has the potential to create significant problems, but I think few
people are going to volunteer to die to help solve them.

Another reason that I think that anti-aging technologies will gain
wide-spread public support is that they will most likely come gradually and
incrementally.  This will give people time to get used to the idea, and also
make it more difficult for opponents to find a logical point at which to say
_this_ is OK, but _that_ is not.

As for the U.S. government, our elected officials are not going to outlaw
anti-aging technologies against the manifest desires of the American
electorate.  I suppose if there were some way they could keep it all secret
they might try, but that's not possible.  And I'm not sure that there's a
strong incentive for them to do so.

It seems likely to me that successful anti-aging technologies will decrease
the demand for Medicare resources, not increase it.  I may be on thin ice
here since, as I said, I do not have a science background, but it seems to
that in battling aging you are inherently battling aging related disease.
And if this is not true, the whole concept loses a great deal of its appeal

As to Social Security, there you've got a real problem.  But the problem
extends to pension plans and annuities as well.  Eventually it will become
obvious that the whole retirement thing needs to be reevaluated.  Businesses
paying out pensions or annuities will have to somehow be let off the hook,
or they will be driven into bankruptcy.  At 45, I've paid out a fair sum of
money in Social Security taxes, but if the price of effective anti-aging
technology means that I never see I dime in Social Security payments, that's
a deal I can happily live with.  Though I'm not optimistic enough to think
that this will be the prevalent attitude.  Clearly, eventually the program
would have to be shut down, but politically it's not at all clear how we
could get there from here.

One thing that I think that those of us who would like to see wide-spread
social acceptance of anti-aging technology should do, is be very careful
about using the word "immortality". (Like don't.)  First of all, it's
inaccurate.  Ending aging does not bring immortality.  People die from
non-aging related causes every day, and will continue to do so. Secondly, I
think that word is much more likely to trigger a negative reaction than a
more innocuous (and accurate) phrase like "the end of aging".

Sorry to go on so long, I've been saving this up for a while.

Peter Nyberg

More information about the Ageing mailing list