Today’s “Saturday Essay” in The Wall Street Journal is an excellent primer penned by Sonia Arrison on ever-longer longevity, adapted from her new book, 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything.
Arrison’s essay covers many of the promising techniques and technologies that may enable humans to live well into their tenth decades and beyond, including everything from calorie restriction to gene therapy, organ printing and replacement and tissue regeneration. She also writes about how a longevity revolution will impact society for the better, but even so, will not be without its critics:
But realizing the full potential of the longevity revolution will not be easy. We will need to tackle important and legitimate questions about the effects of greater health spans on population growth, resource availability and the environment. The decisions that we make in this regard will matter far more than the mere fact of greater numbers.
The very idea of radically greater longevity has its critics, on the right and the left. Leon Kass, who served as chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics under George W. Bush, sees the scientific effort to extend life as an instance of our hubris, an assault on human nature itself.
The environmental writer Bill McKibben, for his part, strongly opposes what he calls “techno-longevity,” arguing that “like everything before us, we will rot our way back into the woof and warp of the planet.”
I’m unconvinced. Arguments against life extension are often simply an appeal to the status quo. If humans were to live longer, we are told, the world, in some way, would not be right: It would no longer be noble, beautiful or exciting.
But what is noble, beautiful and exciting about deterioration and decline? What is morally suspect about ameliorating human suffering?
Read the whole thing online here.