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View Poll Results: Should humans be able to live forever?

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  • No, it is morally wrong.

    3 23.08%
  • I don't like it, but have no moral objections.

    2 15.38%
  • Yes, I support this idea.

    6 46.15%
  • Undecided.

    2 15.38%
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Thread: Should Humans Be Able To Live Forever?

  1. #1
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    Should Humans Be Able To Live Forever?

    This seems like a question that was probably already discussed one these forums, but I did a few searches and couldn't find anything, so here it is.

    I do not want to discuss the question of whether or not it is possible for humans to live forever, nor do I really want to investigate the implications of having true immortality (being completely incapable of death). Rather, I am hoping to see some interesting opinions on a question which may actually have to be addressed by society in the future. Assuming that it is technologically possible to completely eliminate aging, and therefore death due to old age, should this technology be persued, or are there some moral barriers which require that we put a stop to such developments?

    Some of you may have already heard of Aubrey de Grey and SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence). Essentially, this man believes that he has identified all of the causes of aging, has suggested ways which they may be beaten, and is now organizing funding to persue his ultimate goal of allowing humans to live forever. If you wish, you may check out his site (http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/sens/index.html), although it is not really necessary to form an opinion on the topic. At any rate, he is the reason that I am posting this.

    To get everything started, I will not post my own opinion on the topic, but will instead attempt to highlight some reasons why people might be opposed to this kind of technological development. These are surely not all of the facets, but hopefully enough to get a good debate started. First off is the concept that mortality is central to the human identity. Basically, that without death, you can no longer be considered human. Second, there is the predicted destruction of the traditionaly family structure and reproductive process. With the ability to live forever, overpopulation would almost definitely be a problem, and controls on such things might have to be implemented. Third is the closely related topic of human interactions and how the larger society would react to such a development. Is it possible for the same group of people to live for thousands of years without major conflicts errupting? Fourth, there is the debate of academia and the input of fresh minds. Without the input of youth and new thought, will we simply continue to cycle the same ideas without real development? Finally, there is the broad question of whether or not drastically extending the average life expectancy will truly improve the quality and enjoyment of life? Is there really any point behind this besides raw human desire for something we truly do not understand? Perhaps it is better if we simply die when we do.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this subject. I'm hoping for some interesting ones. Any relevant links to external sources of information or opinions on the topic are also welcome.

  2. #2
    BANNED Dr. Pundit's Avatar
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    There is one obvious reason why humans should not be able to live forever. The Earth would become overpopulated and humans, let alone all organisms, would be competing for survival in their respective niches with a limited amount of resources (space, food, water). Density-dependent limiting factors like crowding and stress, parasitism, predation, and competition would all act so that not even technology would stop a mass death of humans or at least many organisms. As paradoxical as it may seem, humans should not be able to live forever in order to avoid mass death. Secondly, God did not want men to live forever after Adam and Eve sinned and were banished from the Garden of Eden and immortality. Thus, humans should not be able to live forever.

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    Quote Quote by: Dr. Pundit
    There is one obvious reason why humans should not be able to live forever. The Earth would become overpopulated and humans, let alone all organisms, would be competing for survival in their respective niches with a limited amount of resources (space, food, water).
    There's a very simple way around that: colonize off-planet. I'm up for it: just tell me where to pick up my space suit and what launch pad to report to. :)

    Quote Quote by: Dr. Pundit
    Secondly, God did not want men to live forever after Adam and Eve sinned and were banished from the Garden of Eden and immortality. Thus, humans should not be able to live forever.
    I am not an adherent of your religion, so for me your second argument is empty.
    There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way.
    -- Christopher Morley

  4. #4
    It's only logical Sonart's Avatar
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    LIfe on earth has evolved to be what it is exactly because it is mortal. Almost everything we experience as humans is because we're mortal. Love and lust, the instincts to raise families, to love them, to provide for and nurture them, to defend them. Ambition could be seen as simply an instinct for attracting superior mates and passing on superior genes, and of ensuring the survival of our offspring by providing a safer, more secure and more comfortable environment.

    Every instinct we possess is based on survival of our species, specifically by reproducing it in sufficient numbers, and all because of the unnassailable fact that we are mortal.

    Eliminate mortality and you've pretty much eliminated the very reason we exist in the first place.


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    I don't suffer from insanity... I thoroughly enjoy it

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    9/11: Inside Job PatrickHenry's Avatar
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    Welcome to volconvo, Kewima. Interesting and challenging first post; happy you did a search before posting (good etiquette).

    Sonart, your response was accurate...What else do we, as a mortal species, know than senescence and death? If the current paradigm were to change, everything would change.

    But as to the original question, if it is now possible, or near future possible, to eliminate aging, we must assume that it would be implemented gradually, by those who could afford it. It would be an elitist program, likely to be kept secret, because to publicize it would cause unrest, maybe even violence in those who had no access. Would this constitute a breach of trust with the democratic ideals of more advanced political systems? I think it would...

    There are ethical questions with no simple answers...
    "Arms in the hands of the citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny or private self-defense." -- John Adams

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    Bacon Sizzle
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    Kewima: > "Should Humans Be Able To Live Forever?"

    What do you mean when you say Humans? Explain what's a Human.

    Peace be with you, Paul

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    Pragmatic liberal ericsp23's Avatar
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    It is my understanding that this research is not intended to end mortality. People will still die. These scientists are trying to end death through aging and disease. People would still die in accidents or by murder. Everyone would know that eventually they will die, even though they would have no idea just when it would occur.
    Of course things would change, but I don't think the change would be catastrophic. There would probably be some upheval at first as there always is anytime there is any major change in society, but we would adapt and figure out a new way to live with our extended lives.
    Economic Left/Right -5.38
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarion -4.41

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    To add to that i think suicide would be a rather large factor ( positive or not depending on your views )

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    former overlord Sean's Avatar
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    Read this a few weeks ago, and thought it might be of use: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4396495.stm

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    colonize off planet? don't get all utopian on me. obviously, this is an ethics question whether or not it deals with elitists. However, it would not deal with them, because throughout history, "info leaks" have been made of confidential info. the rich would not be the only to have access to this unethical thing of human immortality.

  11. #11
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    I have recently written a paper on this topic for a university philosophy class. I didn't do the best job of it due to time restrictions, and the works cited in particular are quite bad. However, I think that it clearly states my opinions and arguments on the topic.

    OUTLINE

    Thesis: There are not sufficient rational reasons to prevent the extension of human life.
    I. Introduction of topic & controversy
    II. Mortality as a part of the human identity
    III. Overpopulation
    IV. Relationships & personal identities
    V. Unfair or dangerous availability
    VI. Academia
    VII. Conclusion: People should be given the right to carry out this research, just as others should be given the choice of whether or not to use the technology once it has been developed.
    The Question of Immortality : Should Humans Live Forever?

    In certain academic circles, there has recently been a push towards researching life-prolonging technology. It now appears that humans may, in the foreseeable future, be capable of extending the average lifespan by a very significant amount, perhaps even by several millennia. The ultimate goal is to completely eliminate the aging process, effectively allowing humans to live forever. Obviously, such bold propositions have caused quite a lot of controversy, and many people feel either that it is not morally correct to extend the human lifespan, or that doing so will create unresolvable problems with society. Such opposition to life-prolonging technologies is not based on very reasonable arguments, however. There are not sufficient rational reasons to prevent the extension of human life.

    One very common argument is that the introduction of immortality will take away the human identity. This relies upon the concept that mortality is one of the defining characteristics of the human species. Firstly, I would like to establish the fact that the proposed technologies would not, in fact, make humans completely immortal. They aim only to eliminate the process of aging, meaning that death by any other means would still be possible (de Grey). In fact, I think that it is impossible to achieve complete immortality, and if there exists a possibility of death, then it follows that there is either a certainty of eventual death, or an end to time itself. Second, it is my opinion that the mass rejection of such an opportunity in favour of a more natural lifespan would be both hypocritical and morally wrong. Throughout history, humans have tried their hardest to both improve and elongate their lives. It has been a central ambition of society to distance ourselves from animals, to defeat the limitations of nature. For a person to make a solid argument in favour of a natural lifespan without being hypocritical, they must also support the undoing of current medical practices and technologies which permit longer lives. To carry out such a proposal is both ludicrous and immoral. Some may choose to make such a decision for themselves, but barring society as a whole from such benefits, even singly those of more significant life extension, would require the introduction of an immoral regulatory program which would deny people their right to life.

    A second common concern is that of overpopulation, which raises the related scenario of population control. It is correct that the implementation of such a program would be of equal moral concern, but not so much as to justify the implementation of a program limiting the development of life-prolonging research. How is the right to reproduction more important than the right to life? It might also be mentioned that overpopulation is already a problem. In fact, it may be that the Earth’s population will reach the staggering number of eleven billion by 2035 (“World Population”). Even if life extension research is stopped, the dilemma of overpopulation will still have to be addressed. It will most likely become a larger problem because of lifespan prolongation, but in no way would a completely new difficulty be introduced. Such a problem might also partially resolve itself. There is already a movement to slow human reproduction due to overpopulation, and a proven increase in the number of women choosing not to have children (“Childless by Choice”). Given that people will be living far longer lives, it is doubtful that childbearing will be seen as an urgent need, and people may even take voluntary measures to limit reproduction without need of regulation.

    Many people also have concerns regarding the structure of the family institution, human interaction, and whether relationships and memories can withstand the test of eternity. The answer to this question, most likely, is no. The important question to be asked, however, is whether or not it even matters. The classical family structure is already being redefined, perhaps even unravelled. In recent years, marriage rates have been decreasing, while divorce rates have been increasing (“Various Views of Divorce”). While there is a large number of people concerned with this trend, it does not appear to be destroying our society. While two people can’t be expected to love each other for thousands of years, this probably will not have any massively negative effects on society. So far as the memories and personal identities are concerned, I think that this is a non-issue. People’s personalities and identities already change significantly over time, and memories are forgotten. By the nature of the human mind, something important to an individual will be frequently recalled and well remembered. If something is forgotten after a long period of time, it has obviously lost its importance and significance.

    Many critics worry that only the rich will have access to life-extending technology, or that people who damage society will gain the ability to live forever. While this is certainly a possibility, we are fortunate enough that the people most interested in developing this research are the residents of democratic countries, and that they are not keeping secrets. Quite to the contrary, they are trying to publicize their work as much as possible in order to gain funding (de Grey). If people want anti-aging technology enough, they will be capable of obtaining it through use of the political system. When confronting the topic of undesirable individuals living forever, it should be remembered that they can still die. Plainly put, if someone such as a dictator is unwanted enough, they will eventually be killed. People who lack ambition are not really an issue, as they are not a new problem in society. In fact, this issue might resolve itself. With enough time, almost anyone will eventually get up and do something productive.

    Finally, there is the issue of academia and the lack of input from fresh minds. If the same people stick around for too long, will the same stale ideas continue to circulate? To the contrary, I do not think that this will be a problem at all. There will always be conflict and debate over ideas. It is extremely improbable that everyone will eventually come to a consensus on the nature of things. Even if this did eventually happen, I fail to see how it would be a bad thing. In addition, there will most likely be a cycling of contributors to the academic community. Even someone with an undying passion for their work will eventually want to try something different, and this will make room for alternative views. Age and experience might also improve things in the area of academia. Many of humanity’s problems are caused by haste, or lack of knowledge or experience. Such things would not be nearly so large an issue if the life expectancy were drastically increased. People might also become more ambitious with long-term projects that they would not now undertake simply due to the time constraints of life.

    There will always be people who want to live forever, and there may well be the possibility that they can manage to achieve this goal. Even if restrictions and regulatory programs were introduced to prevent anti-aging research from being undertaken, I do not think that they would be capable of completely preventing it. Ways of prolonging life as much as possible will eventually be found. It does not make sense to attempt the restriction of such technologies when it cannot even be sufficiently justified. People should be given the right to carry out this research, just as others should be given the choice of whether or not to use the technology once it has been developed.
    Works Cited

    - - -. “Childless By Choice - survey of women on having children - Statistical Data Included.” American Demographics. 1 Oct. 2005. 10 Apr. 2005 <http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4021/is_2001_Oct_1/ai_79052844/pg_2>

    de Grey, Aubrey. Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence. 10 Apr. 2005 <http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/sens/index.html>

    Various Views of Divorce & Marriage Rates in Canada. Fathers For Life. Mar. 5 2005. Apr. 10 2005. <http://www.fathersforlife.org/divorce/dvrcrate.htm>

    World Population Awareness and World Overpopulation Awareness. World Overpopulation Awareness. Apr. 8 2005. Apr. 10 2005. <http://www.overpopulation.org/aboutWOA.html>

  12. #12
    Igneous Magma orgaelin's Avatar
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    Quote Quote by: PatrickHenry
    Welcome to volconvo, Kewima. Interesting and challenging first post; happy you did a search before posting (good etiquette).
    My word! A compliment from PatronisingHenry! You are honoured Kewima! And welcome!

    My views on this subject are strong, but they're not what you'd expect. I think our short lives are very deliberately short.

    Generalising as I so love to, I would say that when most people think about living forever they are rather more just thinking about 'not dying', whilst ignoring the potential reality of what it might be like to really live forever.

    It's widely understood that we fear what we don't understand, but it should also be recognised that we don't fear that which we have no need to contemplate, such as eternal life. However, if you really give it some thought, the idea of never ever ever dying, of existing forever, to the point where you have fallen in and out of love (supposedly one of the most special experiences a human can have) so many times that it has become mundane... not my cup of tea at all.

    Obviously there are other reasons, like everyone else has mentioned. But for me, the most important reason to not live forever is that we don't actually realise that doing so would suck just as much as dying, and would take a whole lot longer too!!

    I think pretending to die is the solution, as in reincarnation. We have the illusion of a single lifetime, but in reality have the pleasure of coming back and starting fresh, so love is never mundane.

    ~ Org.
    "Only two things are infinite,
    the universe and human stupidity,
    and I'm not sure about the former."
    - Albert Einstein

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