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IEET > Life > Enablement > Innovation > Health > Contributors > Kyle Munkittrick

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Why Do We Accept Aging?


Kyle Munkittrick
Kyle Munkittrick
Pop Transhumanism

Posted: Mar 3, 2010

When I was in undergrad, a professor asked our whole class a strange question. The question was strange because it seemed totally out of context, but I think he had a point, so I present it here as a worthy thought experiment.

image
“Lets say that I have in my hand, right now, a pill,” he said, holding up an invisible tablet between his thumb and index finger.

“This pill, if you take it, will make you ageless. You will not age or suffer the diseases of aging if you take this pill. You can still die, commit suicide, etc, but you will not age. There is, however, a catch. The catch is that you don’t get to think about this decision. You have to choose right now, will you take this pill. Alright, if you would take this pill, raise your hand.”

My hand, tentatively went up. This all occurred before I was interested, heck, had ever heard of transhumanism, mind you. The professor was notoriously difficult (by that I mean stubborn and odd, not smart and challenging) and I had little reason to want to incur one of his rants, but my hand went up all the same. I was the only one in the room, and whether he noticed me or not is irrelevant. His point was not that people want to age and die but that we naturally distrust such offers. It simply sounds too good to be true.

Our brains are trained, over time, to understand what a reasonably possible benefit can exist for a given price. A free pill that has no side-effects and no Twilight Zone caveats (you have to be alive, can’t die so are tortured, etc) seems more impossible than the idea of anti-aging itself. The problem is that this protective aspect of our mind can become over excited, so we stop believing certain solutions are ever possible. To cure, or even significantly reduce the damages caused by aging, are such an epic benefit that it seems our minds will actively manufacture problems, because the benefit must have some sort of epic cost associated.

So we tell ourselves curing aging will cause too many problems and that aging has a lot of natural beauty to it and creates a lot of meaning and that all of that is good. But I think there is one other reason. Imagine we suddenly discover we can cure aging. It’s simple, cheap, universal, and we manage to quickly adapt society to deal with an undying population. All of the impacts described by bioconservatives don’t exist, anti-aging is a glorious and beautiful time and everyone lives for centuries.

The cost is the realization that every death was preventable. That billions of people have been, in effect, tortured for decades by nature and because we could not change it we described it as beautiful and honorable. The crisis in our collective psyche would be something of unparalleled magnitude. Our species is a master at making virtue of necessity, but what becomes of our virtue when that necessity ceases to be? Does it cease as well?


Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
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COMMENTS


So we tell ourselves curing aging will cause too many problems and that aging has a lot of natural beauty to it and creates a lot of meaning and that all of that is good.

Aging has no natural beauty, but is a ugly and cruel thing. Have these bioluddite idiots ever seen a loved person age?.

There is no “meaning” in aging. It is a disease, a biological accident. At this moment in the history of our species, we are beginning to understand that we will be able to cure it, someday soon.

And cure it we will. Those who find beauty and meaning in aging, should feel free to age. We will feel free not to.





“the benefit must have some sort of epic cost associated”

That’s an excellent point. This is a common trope in fiction whenever the possibility of immortality is brought up.

As far as the “realization that every death was preventable” goes, however, we already accept a variety of historical crimes, from slavery to genocides, as simply being a product of their respective times. The same will likely occur for aging (as well as the needless animal suffering that we humans currently inflict), so I don’t see a “crisis… of unparalled magnitude” approaching.

I also doubt that we’ll lose our virtue of necessity, since existential risks will never reach zero. Death is always a possibility, and thus we’ll always have a need to justify living with that possiblity.





Aubrey de Grey. Yer only man!

Dr. de Grey has a book out (reading it at the moment) and the SENS foundation are working out solution to the 7 causes of aging. It’s worth the read.





I’ve been visiting transhumanist and anti-aging sites for a while now and I keep hearing this sort of question come up, usually with some sense of bafflement on the part of the questioner that anyone would not want to be immortal or at least have a much longer life.

And I’m baffled by the bafflement, because no doubt most people answer this question on a visceral level, rather than thinking it through or asking follow-up questions to find out just what you *mean* by long life.  I know my kneejerk response is “hell no” because the first thing that pops into my head is either lingering on like my grandparents or being stuck pretty much with the life I’m living now.  So I speculate that what’s rare here is the person who wants to be basically what they are now, without change.

If longevity advocates asked different questions I’m sure they’d get much more positive answers.  Questions such as: Would you like to be young and healthy again?  Would you like to have the time and energy to pursue a whole new career or develop a new talent?  Would you like to remake yourself as a new person without giving up your hard-won life of wisdom?

I just think rejuvenation, restoration, remaking self are much more exciting that “oh, maybe I’ll live to 200.”  And I wish transhumanists spent more time on these possibilities than plain old longevity.





In the book, “Religion and the Implications of Radical Life Extension,” by Calvin Mercer,

he quotes an ancient Jewish legend:

“And Abraham became old” (Gen. 24:1). Until Abraham, there was no old age, so that one who wished to
speak with Abraham might mistakenly find himself speaking to Isaac, or one who wished to speak with Isaac
might mistakenly find himself speaking to Abraham. But when Abraham came, he pleaded for old age, saying,
“Master of the universe, You must make a visible distinction between father and son, between a youth and an
old man, so that the old man may be honored by the youth.” God replied, “As you live, I shall begin with you.”
So Abraham went off, passed the night, and arose in the morning. When he arose, he saw that the hair of his
head and of his beard had turned white. He said, “Master of the universe, if You have given me white hair as a
mark of old age, [I do not find it attractive].” “On the contrary,” God replied, “the hoary head is a crown of
glory” (Prov. 16:31).





@Ananda I’ve been writing about anti-aging for a while, there are a lot of good links here on IEET that should help answer some of your questions.

“Had I World Enough And Time”

“Anti-Aging F.A.Q.”





@Ananda Questions such as: Would you like to be young and healthy again? Would you like to have the time and energy to pursue a whole new career or develop a new talent? Would you like to remake yourself as a new person without giving up your hard-won life of wisdom?

Good point. This is what most transhumanists mean by life extension. I don’t want to live 1000 years as a senile brain in a rotting body. I want to live 1000 years as a smart brain in a healthy body. Or even better, as a software being without a biological body.





If you want to have some fun, take a look at the last rant of the bioluddite blogger Carrico, about this article and this comment thread.

Besides the usual insults to people better than him (they are all, of course, pampered privileged sad superficial idiots who are very much on board with the whole transhumanist aging-and-death denialist program, Carrico continues to indulge in his usual strawman “arguments” and does not seem able to understand a word of what we actually think and say.

Until a few months ago I used to reply to Carrico’s crap on his blog. Then he informed me that I was no longer welcome to comment there, and I stopped wasting my time on him. He has now two or three faithful followers who worship him, and of course the rest of the world ignores him.





@ Giulio

There was not much fun to be had at the link you provide, just more personal slating and abuse, (haven’t I commented previously about such negativity?), so I will say no more. As to lengthy and exponentially expanding counter blogs being built upon layers to critique others, it appears we face a growing trend where the points of argument and debate become lost and misdirected leaving us all to ponder if we are all really learning or progressing towards anything or any future at all?

What is more concerning is the final comment by Athena Andreadis, was this person not a fellow at IEET only a short time ago?

It would also be good to maybe see some more blogs from yourself regarding techno-immortality and etc.

As a final point, there are lots of articles and blogs here at IEET, and whilst it is a fine balance between keeping ideas fresh and folks interested, it should be the quality of blogs that count. There are so many here, (in fact I often read through the older archives and comments), that they may well deserve a re-surface. A lot of the arguments presented have been highlighted before and in more detail.





What is more concerning is the final comment by Athena Andreadis, was this person not a fellow at IEET only a short time ago?

She was, and I enjoyed some of her earlier posts here. As far as I can remember, her opinions were always considered with respect, even by those who disagreed with her. Too bad she did not choose to show the same respect. She seems firmly established in Carrico’s PC bioluddite camp now.

It would also be good to maybe see some more blogs from yourself regarding techno-immortality and etc.

Here is a summary of my own opinions on related issues:
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/prisco20091228/

I will try writing more. But since I have to actually work for a living, I don’t have the luxury to dedicate most of my time to slandering others and engaging in flame wars.





This is one of the things that I’ve been working on to some degree, using myself as a guinea pig. So far, I’m having limited success, but the important thing is I am having some success.





Why Can’t More People Just Indulge in Insane Denialism About the Fact of Their Mortality Like the Robot Cultists Do?

http://amormundi.blogspot.com/2010/03/why-cant-more-people-just-indulge-in.html

Ouch! Dale Carrico has eviscerated both Kyle Munkittrick and Giulio Prisco in this Friday, March 05, 2010 blog post! :/





@Cyber-Communist: The gentleman you mention is a logorrhoic, so I will give him a short, concise and clear answer. Here it is:

BS





@Cyber-Communist: Wow Rich, you’re one crafty salesman. First you obviously spam this site promoting your book and then shill for a writer who has an aneurysm every time one of our posts goes up. Maybe they’ll hire you to lecture on marketing at Berkeley! I hear the freshmen will be impressed if you talk really fast and drop names like “Butler” and “Foucault.” Be sure you list every class you’ve ever taught and your undergrad GPA so that they will know how smart you are!





My response to Carrico, for the record:

http://www.poptranshumanism.com/2010/03/a-lesson-in-rhetoric/





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