IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > Economic > GlobalDemocracySecurity > Vision > Contributors > Khannea Suntzu > FreeThought > Futurism > Technoprogressivism > Innovation > Implants > Disability > Enablement > PostGender
Protected: Making impediments to life extension illegal
Khannea Suntzu   Aug 1, 2013   Ethical Technology  

Whether or not some form of life extension treatment is possible remains to be seen. Even less imminent than extending lifespan is the prospect of some form regenerative therapies (or modifications) that reduce effective lifespan and restore some form of youthfulness. ‘The person on the street’ tends to estimate how close these treatments might be.

 Most laypeople with an opinion biogerontology assume “these treatments will be centuries in the future”, actual specialists with a medical background tend to be more ‘optimistic’ and postulate some for of accessibility of these treatments somewhere later this century.

Let me describe the prospect of these treatments and what are the variables we can all agree on. I’ll abbreviate “Life Extension” as LE and Rejuvenation as RE

Cost: LE/RE treatments may emerge in some form between 2020 and 2100. Early treatments may very well be expensive. High cost of treatments may increase the rate of Defection (see below) and decrease Demand.

Hardship: Hardship is a measure of how painful, uncomfortable or “buggy” treatments would be. If a RE treatments is comparable to the most daunting forms of radio/chemotherapy today then many people will opt not to have them. ‘Hardship’ can cause LE/RE treatments to remain expensive for a long time (decades?) since it takes mass production (mass demand) to reduce costs.

Triage: Triage is a measure of how much society (the state) finds RE/LE treatments acceptable. If treatments become available in certain price classes (say, 500.000 Euro) then the avilability of treatments will cause massive demand and may have very societally destabilizing effects as hundreds of millions of people try to sell their house and properties to get access to these treatments. This may cause “the state” to intervene and ration the treatments to favour certain categories of people (possibly along meritocratic or aristocratic arguments).

Destablization: Destablization would ber the measure in which RE/LE treatments would somehow end up changing society in a disruptive manner. These treatments may have side effects, some bad (treated patients are unable to ‘work’ for a decade, or patients suffer from regenerative amnesia) or very good (treatments increase measure IQ by 25 points, or reduce sleep requirement to 2 hours a day). I speculated on plausible side effects and I conclused this is a distinctive possibility. Note that societal backlash can be categorized as form of destabilization.

Defection: Defection is the rate in which people in certain demographics choose not to consume RE/LE. This may be because of cultural preferances (religion?) but it may also be because treatments are very painful, very uncomfortable, have many negative side effects or maybe treatments are gruesomely expensive.

Against Life
The human that has singlehandedly saved most lives world wide may very well have been Maurice Hilleman. In the late 19th to mid 20th century there was a small number of cynics who insisted that vaccinations (and other treatments intended to make people live longer lives) would contribute to Malthusian overpopulation. It is interesting to realize that many of these objections were based on class-prejudice and racism. People who objected to child vaccinations tended to not like poor people very much, and didn’t want ‘their’ world overrun by the kind of people they took offense to. These sentiments are by no means dead. A very common objection to the mere realization of RE/LE treatments is that “the world would quickly overpopulate”. When quizzed strikingly many people today insist that RE/LE might “have to be declared illegal to avoid an overpopulation disaster”. These people seem to be unable to infer comparisons from earlier Life Extension treatments (clean drinking water, sanitation, healthy diets, environmental protection laws, vaccinations) from which they benefited, and regard Biogerontological Life Extension as something different altogether.

The process of development of actual “biological immortality” is likely to be a long trajectory of dead ends and catastrophes. The beta stage of life extension may come with painful episodes and failures. Early adopters may end up forking out large sums of private capital for treatments that may or may not work. If earliest stage regenerative treatments were to emerge in the 2020s it may be decades before these treatments would end up safe, affordable, comfortable and easy to use. What is worse – such treatments don’t have a convenient fit in the current medical corporate sector. What does a LE or RE treatment actually do? Does it make people less dependant on other medical treatments? If that is the case many established medical conglomerates may very well vehemently object against these treatments, and declare them “snake oil” or “pseudoscience”. It is thus quite likely that on the earliest years of emerging LE/RE many consumers may reject these treatments basing their choices on vicious and deceptive media campaigns.

This is nothing new. Condoms can essentially be qualified as a form of Life Extension, yet very large media conglomerates imprint their preferences upon impressionable consumers as to insist that Condom use is somehow undesirable. It can easily be argued that such media campaigns (as for instance – executed by the Catholic Church) have contributed greatly to human suffering and early deaths of millions of human beings. All while thinking these policies are fully aimed at some kind of ephemeral good.

There are powerful entities and sentiments in the world. Some are organized, others are gut-based. These entities and sentiments can make decidedly wrong choices on the best of intentions, and these institutions or people do whatever they can to make themselves inaccessible to dialogue or accountability.

For the first time in human history there is a fleeting possibility that human beings may use emerging technologies (i.e., might use arguable future technologies) to change the human condition. Apparently such possibility is met with quite a bit of denial (“these things will prove impossibe”) or rejection (“these things should not be allowed”).

Let’s look at the possibility that Life Extension might be made illegal. I can only state that the mere possibility of LE/RE will make it emerge. The process of emergence of these treatments may take years, it may take decades and it might even take centuries. But some time in the future, barring a collapse of civilization, people will be able to live substantially longer lives. We have done this before, and it turned out for the best. In the last two centuries average lifespans have all but doubled. Everyone (with the possible exception of madpeople) takes this for granted as an achievement of progress and civilization. We have made considerable strides forward in extending life on this world, and nearly everyone concludes this to be a good thing. Some consequences of so many people living longer lives may have proven undesirable, but the joy of billions of humans living longer, healthier lives has undeniably proved to be a good thing.

This has been discussed before in many forums and books. So let me express what I am deeply concerned about.

I know for a fact that there are impulses in the human spirit that seek to actively curtail any continued progress in the extension of human lives. These impulses will at some point translate in to outright demands, and these demands may very soon translate in to legislation.

I insist to anyone reading this that any law, any implicit or explicit policy that seeks to curtail the emergence or availability of technologies that have the credible capacity to affordably extend lives – even if it just by a few months or years – must not be in any way constrained. I’ll go further. I propose the Transhuman, Singularitarian, Extropian and Progressive communities to fully come to terms with this grizzly possibility of anti-Life Extension legislation or policy.

I suggest we’d do the reverse. I suggest we start to lobby right now as to legislate that any attempt to constrain longevity (implicit or intentional, hidden or public) to be made illegal in every available international law. It is time to proactively ensconse the ambition of human beings to simply live substantially longer (or indefinite) lives – (and to universally encourage these human beings to turn their ambitions in to actions) in to rock solid legal guarantees.

In the next few decades I can easily see negative, cynical, nihilistic elements in international extremist political movements, radicals in government or the corporate sector seeking means to conspire against a range of life extension therapies. I already hear voices of extreme dismissal, if not a clarion call of opposition. Let’s call these voices for what they are – these are people seeking the deaths of other human beings.

There are international treaties that seek to define human rights. I propose we as a technoprogressive community seek to implement laws that declare we as humans have the natural and inalienable right to seek Life Extension, Rejuvenation and “Indefinite Lifespans”, but also we should seek to implement binding laws and treaties that punish whatever entities or groups of people that are found to curtail such ambitions, or to otherwise enact policies or propaganda that advocates constraint of human lifespans. It is time to prosecute these “Death-ist” ambitions for what they are – crimes against humanity.

Photo Credits:

Khannea Suntzu is a politically left leaning futurist and activist in the Netherlands.


The main objection I’ve heard about LE/RE technologies is mentioned in the article: Malthusian.  In other words, there are limited resources, and humans are competing for those, so the more people the greater the poverty.

This argument can be refuted by a basketful of technologies in the pipeline.  I suggest reading the book “Abundance.”  In particular, not mentioned in the book, is a clean, very very cheap ( said it would make energy “too cheap to meter”), and super abundant energy technology called LENR which uses nickel and hydrogen.  It will be emerging onto the market this year in the form of a 1 megawatt generator (because home use would be highly destabilizing and the technology is still “immature”).

To summarize, it is a very safe bet that because technological improvement is exponential (not linear), that we will become a world society and economy of abundance, not scarcity, and Malthusian thought will be invalid.  Rather everyone will be considered an asset, with humanity routinely escaping the gravity well of Earth and setting up exponential production in space.

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Singularity 1 on 1: We Are All Subjected To The Same Natural Law System

Previous entry: Technological Adolescence