I just read an article on the advancements on Longevity Tech, and it’s eery. There has been plenty of people trying to extend our human lives with technology for ages. These efforts never amounted to much or found a big market for it. Most people, especially elders, don’t mind dying. They might be scared of dying, but most definitely don’t want to live forever.
However, recent advancements in technology and a new wave of human hubris are propelling some serious investment in the field. And, to be honest, I have to wonder if it’s a good idea at all.
On one side, you’ve got the population issue. Since science and medicine began to make a dent in our survival rates in the early 20th century, life expectancy has tripled.
While we should be proud of such an achievement, the unintended consequence has been a significant depletion of natural resources. The need for more food, more energy, more space is creating irreparable damage to our planet. And we’re fully aware of it, but we still act as our planetary resources are infinite when they clearly aren’t.
And here is the conundrum. Our capacity to live longer as it stands now is more significant than our capacity to create a sustainable lifestyle. So the question is if right now we’re struggling to find the balance for the population explosion we created, why would you want to push for a longer life?
You could argue that longer lives allow you to have a longer career, and in theory, more innovations. Such innovation could, again theoretically, be the key to find the equilibrium to our sustainability imbalance. Current data, though, tells a different story, so far.
Nevertheless, there is one minor challenge to all this. Most, if not all, of the Longevity Tech, focuses on preventing further degradation of life. This is amazing, but it stands on the narrow side of a very complex system called life.
We can enable people to live longer lives. The question remains, should we?
The biggest challenge in my mind is how exactly slowing aging matches our cognition capabilities. Our brains are designed for decay. Our cognition, our culture, and our thoughts are all framed under the undeniable fact of extinction. There is a reason why older people don’t care anymore about anything and don’t mind dying.
As it stands now, we’re already grappling with many psychological side-effects derive from our increased life expectancy. People are increasingly fighting depression, existential crisis, constant job switching, or loneliness. You can trace most of these, not only to our current societal structure but to the challenges that arise from triplicating your longevity in less than 100 years.
So I ask again if Longevity tech slows down aging at a cellular level, what makes us think that our psychology will follow (immediately)? It would probably require deep neuronal engineering to adapt to such a change. Should we then develop new drugs to deal with those side effects? Is that the path moving forward?
We can enable people to live longer lives. The question remains, should we? The constant myopic and reductionist approach to “improvements” we currently have disregards the impact on the whole. What are the consequences for the planet, for our sustainability, for our individual psyche, and, more importantly, for our collective wellbeing as a society?
Are innovators, after all these years, still disregarding their responsibility towards society? Or are we just trying to extend life to perpetuate the elite’s wealth, no matter the cost?