What are your thoughts on life extension? What about Transhumanism?

I used to always consider myself an atheist, having no responsible reason to believe that a divine being could ever exist, it did, and still does sound like wishful, and therefore mystical thinking!

However, what always bothered me about many atheists I'd met was that they seemed to accept death as an inevitability, and well, i never fully accepted death.

What I'm getting at is the now fairly known concept of healthy or even radical life extension through slowing down, halting, or even reversing the aging process in humans.

Dr. Aubrey De Grey is becoming increasingly a well known name after being on such shows like 20/20 with Barbra Walters "How to Live to 150," a spot on "The Colbert Report," and just recently a History channel documentary, that I haven't seen, but covers this kind of life extension in humans as well as other futurist technologies including, Cryonics, Artificial Intelligence, The Singularity, and more...I plan on seeing this one. And just recently in very late November Aubrey was featured on a CNN interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta who is now a celebrity himself being televisions most sought after doctor.

The segment was phenomenal, and Aubrey went on to discuss, his overall plan to defeat aging, how it could be done with bio-engineering and stem cell rejuvenation therapies, how it will drastically change socio-economic and general political structures, and why defeating aging and along with it age related diseases that strike us mostly in the last two decades of our lives happen; diseases such as most cancers, Alzheimer's and other dementia's, heart disease, and obviously many others.

So I remember talking to a few atheists, (by the way I consider myself now to be agnostic as I cannot conclusively prove or disprove God, but I seriously doubt such a fantastical notion could be real,) and so many of them seem to be content with the natural way of things, much like some fundamentalists are simply ok with leaving a terminal illness in the hands of God!

As a young boy, age 5, I remember asking my dad if we could do something to stop us from growing old and dying. It seemed so natural to me to question this and want and need a solution!

Since then I've been a project leader and overall volunteer at the fast growing non-profit Immortality Institute for Research into Unlimited Lifespans. Now I know immortality is an age old chased dream, and most likely is impossible for so many reason, and imminst plans on changing the name to something more realistic! But so many of our members, in one thread, asked the same question to their families and friends growing up...and well, it just seems as "natural" or "unnatural" to me to want to beat aging as it was for medical researchers to want to beat cancer. I hope you see my point!

So how come life extension and other Transhumanist technologies, (some now call bio-progressive technologies,) aren't discussed more in most atheist circles? Surely most of you are familiar with Ray Kurweil inventor of Kurzweil synthesizers, reading machines for the blind and now a famous author and Transhumanist himself? His books include "The Age of Spiritual Machines," and "The Singularity is Near," plus many others. He's met with big name philanthropists such as Bill Gates, (him twice,) sharing his ideas of a potentially amazing future of technological wonders!

So do most Atheists want or feel the need to at least live longer, seeing as life is so fundamentally short subjectively and objectively I'd argue, right now? Or do you have good reason not to at least slow down the deterioration process that leaves us frail, hopeless, and ultimately suffering the last years of our lives?

Sorry for the length of this post!


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Life extension is eco-terrorism. It would be the single biggest environmental and economic disaster ever conceived. Quantity does not equate to quality. How about focussing on living more and better in less time ? Now that would be useful.
There are many rebuttals to your valid point including how population expansion will inevitably slow down as people treasure life more and have less children.

Nanotechonology will make energy conservation and use of energy so much more affordable, some believe almost non-existent when nano-factories can build things out of raw materials and some believe could even create from molecules anything we could possibly need at exponential rates.

Nano solar power could save Billions perhaps more?
There are people who have researched how this kind of life extension will impact the future far more than I have. People like Dr. Max Moore, Nick Bostrom, David Pearce, and many other H+ thinkers for example. I warmly invite you to our discussion forums on imminst.org for much more complete arguments to your concerns.

Also all the people who support life extension I know wish to have more time just so they can better the quality of their lives. How can you argue against the many many people who suffer most of their lives right now with debilitating physical and mental diseases? People such as Michael J. Fox who has Parkinson's. Doesn't he deserve a full lifetime to be free of his crippling illness? What about people who suffer from bipolar, depression etc. their entire lives like my girlfriend?

Bottom line is longer life, in this case, has a much better chance of equating with better quality of life. I'm sorry but 4 score is not long enough for so many of my friends and people I've talked to about this many of which are theists.

I would imagine that the longer time we have to live the more likely we'll find all, or many, of the answers to whatever diseases, and problems that plague us now.
I am Devon's girlfriend, and I can honestly attest to his brilliance and the brilliance of the people on this forum. Devon, I agree with your points on extending the aging process as I think it tantamount to disease, but I also think that we need to cure physiological and biochemical diseases such as all forms of cancer, autism, bipolar (which I am afflicted with), schizophrenia, Alzheimer's and all other types of dementia, blindness, diabetes mellitus types I and II, cardiac disease, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, celiac disease, Krohn's diesase, HIV/AIDS, Huntington's chorea, Parkinson's disease, et alia before we speak of life extension and negligable senescence.

I am aware of the statistic that people over the age of 65 are twice as likely to develop some form of cancer, and so this might constitute an age-related disease, and so I can understand the imperative to preventing the aging process. If there is some way that the government could appropriate as much money toward medical research and technological development for preventing the aging process as is allocated toward research and development for preventing disease, we might be able to prevent both the aging process *and* disease. On the Immortality Institute's forum (www.imminst.org), I have proposed that we petition the U.S. Government and Congress to create a Centers for the Prevention of Aging just as we have a Centers for Disease Control in order to develop medical technologies that would end the aging process. I was also considering writing the NIH to back such a project. I know it seems like a long shot, and that there is a high probability of this failing on the grounds of a lack of monetary funding, but I think that if we galvanize enough support, we might be able to effectuate this. If you or anyone else wishes to join me in petitioning the U.S. Government and members of Congress to create a Centers for the Prevention of Aging, please visit www.imminst.org, go to "Project Ideas", and click on "Petition for the U.S. Government to Create a Centers for the Prevention of Aging" (I would include a link to this, but unfortunately my computer is broken and my iPod touch does not include a copy/paste feature). Please join me, and together we can actualize this idea. Thank you so much for your time and attention to this matter.


felch: Life extension ... would be the single biggest environmental and economic disaster ever conceived.

I thought I was the only one to think this. Thanks, you made my day.
Nope you are not I feel this way too.

Life Extension and Immortality would IMHO be a disaster for the Human Race.

Despite what anyone thinks about the population leveling out, it will still be up around 8 billion at least if not more.

It is easy to think about life extension when you have access to modern scientific medicine because it is what extends your life already. Living in the westernized world is a form of life extension, just ask all those people from the 2nd and 3rd world countries why they immigrate, and what they get out of moving to the westernized world. There are places on this planet where the average lifespan is comparable to what the majority of humanity had in the middle ages.

My main question is if we have life extension... or true immortality. Who gets the treatment and even more so, who gets to decide who gets to be immortal.
It's not only a moral concern to me (although I don't want to minimize the moral issues). It's also economical and environmental. Every bioscientist I've heard giving an opinion on this topic seems to agree that the cost of life extension would be prohibitive if granted to everyone, on grounds that human physiology is (sort of) 'designed' for obsolescence, and that universal immortality would likely require considerable amounts of useful resources.
It's also economical and environmental.

I completely agree with this statement.
Count me in . Until our species stops breeding like rodents we shouldn't consider ways to be hanging around for 100's of years. I would prefer the financial and intellectual capital be invested in making sure the 4 score we do get we have the health and vigor to live it fully and maybe a modest jump to a 5 score allotment.
As Jay asked,
.Who gets the treatment and even more so, who gets to decide who gets to be immortal.
My guess is that there won't be many selections from the peasantry - life extension will be for the wealthy and powerful and their toadies.
People keep thinking I am talking immortality when I'm talking life extension, WITH the problem of perhaps living quite long if we can successfully halt the aging process or reverse it, again read Aubrey De Grey's theories by wiking him or reading his book, Ending Aging.

So, again, the ideas is everyone could decide on however long they wish to continue to get rejuvenation therapies. In my experience I'm finding that people who are all happy to not extend life, are afraid 1) that it won't happen in their lifetime, which we all should fear, and 2) they buy into the pro deathist trance of death is natural, overpopulation...again this can be controlled! or 3) only the rich will get it so why bother trying?

Well let me ask you, would it kill you to not try?
Finally to reply to Jim's post, Jim would you NOT avail yourself of extending life for even 20 years if given the opportunity?

See, I know it is unfair to the generations who don't benefit from robust life extension, (and I'm quite sure it will happen eventually,) but I see it as a cause worth fighting for, if we can control the same arguments I keep hearing.
Devon, you asked, "Jim would you NOT avail yourself of extending life for even 20 years if given the opportunity?"

I said as much in the post,
making sure the 4 score we do get we have the health and vigor to live it fully and maybe a modest jump to a 5 score allotment.




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