Rejuvenation won’t happen within my lifetime

Well, with that attitude, it certainly won’t.

Jokes apart, this is what I call a ‘meta-objection’, because it’s not really meant against rejuvenation per se. Rather, this meta-objection is usually raised after a long, drawn-out conversation between a rejuvenation advocate and an opposer. At the end of the debate, when the suspicion that rejuvenation is in fact desirable and may be feasible is starting to creep up into the opponent’s mind, they resort to their final, desperate line of defence, the very last stronghold behind which their cognitive ease can still find shelter.

It’s definitely possible that rejuvenation won’t happen in your lifetime. However, when I said it certainly won’t with this kind of attitude, I was only partly joking. If we all thought like that, no one would do anything to make rejuvenation happen, and consequently it would never happen, in anyone’s lifetime, ever. We can either risk it and do all that is in our power to make rejuvenation happen sooner rather than later, or we can sit about and wait to become old and sick.

Besides, if rejuvenation is worthy goal per se, should you not help pursuing it just because you might not reap the benefits? We hear all the time that we should take good care of the planet for the sake of future generations and be concerned about the kind of world we leave them with. Well, we can try to leave them with a world where ageing has been cured, so that those very future generations we seem to care so deeply about won’t have to go through the plague of age-related diseases. If you have children, this should resonate particularly well with you. Old or young, they’ll always be your children, and you’ll always care for them, right? Without rejuvenation, they too will be condemned to decades of infirmity and suffering, and ultimately to an unnecessary death. Sure, if you die of ageing yourself, you won’t see any of this happening, but it will happen nonetheless. As a parent, your objective should be to spare your children unnecessary suffering, not simply sparing yourself the sight of your suffering children. Rejuvenation might not happen within your lifetime, but it stands much better chances to happen within your children’s lifetimes, if only we all did our part to help.

Having rebutted this meta-objection, I’m now going to explain why and how an opposer of rejuvenation may eventually come up with it.

If rejuvenation could be achievable within the opposer’s lifetime, they would have a glimmer of hope to hang on. And as they say, isn’t it hope that kills us all? If they decided to accept this possibility, it would mean a lot of mental work, of the kind people generally dislike.

First, there’s the risk of disappointment. What if something went wrong, and rejuvenation didn’t come in time for the opposer? They’d have spent a life hoping for something that never came. The thought isn’t particularly nice. Second, there’s a choice to be made between activism and ‘inactivism’. In order for rejuvenation to become real, there’s a lot of work to be done, not only in terms of research but also advocacy. Would the opposer be willing to do their part and spread the word, convince others of the worthiness of the cause, and take action to make it happen sooner? That’s a lot of work, and there’s no guarantee of success. They’d have to endure endless debates with sceptics, which could be quite taxing. Also, they couldn’t just throw themselves into debate—they’d need to be prepared for it and study the subject, otherwise their opponents could easily destroy them. Not to mention the risk to be ridiculed by people who think of rejuvenation as an impossible pipe dream! Is the opposer ready to become an ex-opposer, and take the path of activism and endure all of this? It’s really not as bad as it sounds, but it probably feels better not to have to endure it anyway. Some opposers may become supporters who take the path of ‘inactivism’, hoping that somebody else will do the work and they’ll just enjoy the fruits of it. Still, even in that case, the risk of disappointment could always be around the corner.

This is not all! Accepting the possibility that rejuvenation may become a thing within their own life, and that they may actually want it for themselves, the opposer is forced to seriously question their previous assumptions on ageing. This idea that ageing is bad for you and not desirable is a new thing, one they’re not used to. They’re used to accepting ageing, to think of it as a blessing in disguise that prevents the (imaginary and/or hypothetical) risks of eternal boredom, overpopulation, everliving tyrants, and a series of other sensible-sounding, but ultimately groundless excuses we’ve made up throughout history to cope with the sad truth of the grim descent into frailty, disability, and disease that precedes death. This doesn’t sound as nice as ‘golden years’, does it? It doesn’t quite convey the same emotions as expressions like ‘slowly walking into the sunset’ do. If they challenged their old assumptions on ageing, the opposer would be forced to conclude that ageing is a really bad thing—and what’s worse, that really bad thing is coming for them, and their chances to avoid it are tied to a technology that may or may not come into existence depending not only on the progress of science, but also largely on how willing other opposers will be to challenge their own preconceptions on ageing. It’s almost like one of those game theory problems, is it not, where if only everyone cooperated everything could be fine, but the risk of not enough people cooperating is so high that everyone’s better off defecting. We all get a death sentence that way, but hey—at least we haven’t spent our lives deluding ourselves that it could actually be avoided, right?

This is where our opposer comes to the realisation that he would have to deal with all this trouble only if rejuvenation could happen within their own lifetime. If rejuvenation was so far into the future that the opposer was granted to die before they could ever benefit from it, all of these troubles would just disappear. ‘Yes,’ the opposer would say, ‘maybe defeating ageing is feasible and perhaps even desirable, but it’s not doable within my lifetime. So, there’s no need to concern myself with it.’ It’s so easy, isn’t it? The easiest way of ‘solving’ a problem is pretending it isn’t there to begin with. If a catastrophe is inevitable, why make it worse by worrying about it all the time? You can just accept it, and go back to ignoring it, and in time, maybe even convince yourself again that it isn’t so bad after all. You can keep repeating to yourself all the lies about why ageing would be a good thing, until—as it’s often the case—they start to feel true and make you feel good.

Problem solved—at least until ageing gets you.

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