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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Sure but as long as I'm learning, having fun, and helping people and causes I can't predict how long I'd like to live. I'm factoring in the brain augmenting, potential singularity including invention of a self improving AI, and also other possible far out there, still, tech.

But it does get tricky, but yea if you're miserable, and death seems to be the only way out, and you have felt this way for a long time, then I agree euthanasia is a possible solution.

But just imagine surviving long enough for even more way out there futurist technologies to arrive.

It's up to us humans to want to progress, and not digress, or stay somewhere in the middle.

By the way reference this link to the old Extropy Institute... http://www.extropy.org/faq.htm
It has some feasible solutions to your obvious concerns.

Mankind has proven quite good at thinking around the toughest of obstacles. I would rather give it my all, and if we all fail, then at least we can't say we didn't try...as insignificant to the rest of the cosmos we may be.
That, Mr. Miller, is my whole argument that I refined recently having had more time to think about it.

My new argument is, if you wish to age normally, good for you! But don't stop others from living as long as THEY wish, as long as we don't cause others to suffer...again the overpopulation issue IS a big issue!

Other than that, if we can colonize space, have fewer children, and if we can somehow get around the population explosion, then it seems like we are actually saving people who really don't want to die so soon.
Coincidence, I just wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog about this, called Will Immortality Piss Off God?. It's a bit of poking fun at the Christian's ideal of the afterlife.
My great-grandmother is going to be 94 years old soon. She's senile and frail...and is literally waiting to die. But death won't come for her, despite that all she does is sit in her room all day, and hardly eats at all.

Because of that, I cannot imagine ever desiring to reach that age. I'd rather die young before I lose aspects of my personality and mind to dementia, and before I'm as dependent again as I once was as a baby. So no, I don't want to live longer. I just hope that death waits until I've experienced enough of life, and that it comes quickly and painlessly.
I'm right there with you Jennifer. I don't want too young, but I damn sure don't want to be too past my prime either. I've encountered a few like Devon, and with all the posts I've read on this thread, I agree with Felch: this mumbo jumbo that is being spouted is actually quite tired and worn out, and depends on technology that may or may not emerge within "our" lifetime, and even then, would it really be that good of an idea? As Glen said "What gives life true value and meaning is the fact that it ends."
forget life going on forever...I would argue the opposite that what gives life true meaning is being able to live long enough to experience all you need/desire to experience.

This isn't mumbo jumbo, it's a hot research area now, and maybe Aubrey is right, maybe he's wrong, but there are many studies being done, for extending life spans of other animals such as nematodes, and whether or not this happens in our lifetimes, or some of our lifetimes, I can't rationalize the brevity of life today as anywhere near optimal for all that I personally wish to do.

Let me ask you, if you were to magically live to 150, aging appropriately for that time line, would you not welcome the extra years? I doubt anyone would commit suicide unless they were severely troubled/depressed to begin with.

Finally, as Aubrey puts it, if and when the rejuevenation therapies arrive, each person will be able to choose, if they want to continue to live at say a biologically youthful age for however they choose.

I don't think there is a lack of people who wish to live longer, I think, overpopulation and eco problems are more the real worry.

So if merely living an extra 50 years or much longer scares you, that is your right to terminate your existence, in theory, again, when and if it is feasible.
It's mumbo jumbo to me, whether you like it or not. You say tomayto, I say tomahto ;). If I were to MAGICALLY live up to 150? I'd shoot myself at age 85. =) I'm not severely troubled/depressed, but I would not want to live over 100 years, hell, I don't want to live over 80 years. I figure after 80 years, I'm done, I'm good, and good riddance. I'd have probably done all the experiencing I needed/desired by that time, it's not being scared of an extra 50 years, I just don't WANT/NEED/or DESIRE it.
ok that's good for you, but don't think that I'm doing a bad thing by informing people of some of these theories ;)

I think we all have the rights to live as long as we desire though. The life extensionists use the argument of "wouldn't it be so cool to see how the world is 100, 200 years from now?"

I don't mind if it's mumbo jumbo to you, and never implied anything like that.
let me ask you a question about suffering...if you were suffering, would you want an option to buy more time to MAYBE fix your situation, or would giving up and not even getting that option be better?

Yes, I agree there will always be substantial suffering in the world, unless some amazing things happen with perhaps better energy sources, cheaper medical treatments, better people willing to help, and other things I can't even think of.

I guess I see length of life correlating, hopefully, with more options in the future for people, even suffering horribly to better there problems, but there are so many things that could go wrong or even right, there is no way to predict.
If I were personally (physically and emotionally) suffering, I'd put myself out of my misery rather than try and wait out on the HOPE that MAYBE they'll be able to fix me ONE DAY. No thanks, just kill me and get it over with.

You seem to be basing this on the assumption that things will hopefully go great and things will turn around if people are able to live longer and younger, but as you said, there is no way to predict the future.

We've done enough life extending (in my opinion) in the western countries and within the last couple of centuries...many centuries back, they'd be amazed to see how long we live NOW. Did humans acquiring the technology and know how to fight diseases, and to some extent aging and dying, radically help the future? As I see it..we've done more to fuck it up, now that we're able to live longer than 30-45 years.
ok, I can't argue your opinion :) But I think if you were to poll people in western countries, the vast majority would favor the fact that they live longer now a days.

I have read too many anecdotal accounts of people on their deathbeds trying desperately to stay alive with any life extending treatments for a terminal illness.

You may call them selfish, if you like, but I think the majority of people who have decent lives, don't want it to end, and will do everything in their power to prolong it even by months.

I totally respect your philosophy to just end it if you're suffering that much, but I think many people have grown fond of their gadgets and gizmos, and it would be interesting to do a poll or a study on subjective happiness across the last 100 years. I would be most people living decent lives today, are much happier than even 50 years ago, as there is so much more to do to enjoy, learn, and have fun.

Of course, we are in an information era, and there is defnitely, imo, more pressure to sort through vast amounts of data, that we didn't have to do in past decades. (I read a study on this, sorry I forget where.)

So, my attitude is, if we ever get there, for people to live their lives, extend, end, or not, as they see fit. This way everyone, presumably, gets a freedom that we have never had.
sorry to reply to my own point, I have read two polls one in Russia, and one with a bunch of countries, and a huge percent, from 40 to 60 liked the idea of prolonging life, if possible.

I can't attest to the accuracy or qualities of these polls, but that could be an indication that people, in general, want to live longer.

I'm not doubting that if you polled war torn and impoverished countries those percentages would obviously be lower.




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