There are more urgent issues

Somebody think of the children!!!

Sigh.

Before I say anything else, let me say this objection is one of my favourite trump cards (together with the social disparity card), not to mention a well-known logical fallacy going by the name of appeal to worse problems.

That being said, I would like to point out (again) the double standard applied to the importance of people’s health. Saving kids from starvation, or finding a cure for a disease (cure elderly people just won’t react to as effectively as young people) are top priorities. The health of people who happened to have been born a bit too long ago, though, isn’t so important that we’d really want to spend time and effort to properly fix it.

Anyhow, it shoud be clear that the defeat of ageing is a top priority. If there were a disease that slowly made people more and more sick and inevitably led to death, everyone would scream left and right that a cure must be found. The reasons people don’t do it if the disease is ageing are the usual suspects, i.e. people have grown accustomed to thinking ageing is inevitable, it is okay to get sick and die of ageing, plus all sorts of other crazy nonsense listed under the Answers to objections menu.

Regardless, let’s assume for the sake of the argument that curing ageing is not a top priority. It’s easy to see that pausing lower priority activities for the sake of dedicating resources only to the top priorities is a poorly conceived strategy, and for more than a reason. (THANK GOD people in a position of power do not come up with such lousy ideas. Oh, wait—they do. All the time. We’re fucked.)

The first reason is that research in field X can and generally does produce advancements in field Y. If you don’t believe me, you might want to have a look at this page, for example. It’s a list of things used in everyday life or anyway in fields very different from space exploration, and yet they all are products of research originally done for space exploration purposes. The list includes infrared thermometers, LEDs for medical applications, artificial limbs, solar cells, water purification technology, and so on. If we had given up on space exploration to dedicate our resources to more urgent problems, now we wouldn’t have any of those things, or we would have got them only much later than we did.
Do you want another example? When the U.S. Department of Defense funded ARPANET, they probably didn’t know it would open up the way for the Internet of today, whose existence is so extraordinarily important on so many levels that I would be insulting your intelligence by listing them here. Similarly, researching to defeat ageing would surely produce results that would be valuable for medicine and science in general, for example to cure diseases that strike you way before old age. Additionally, imagine the benefits we’d gain from having smart minds living on for centuries rather than just for a handful of decades. (The good news is, we already are researching to end ageing. We just need to do it more.)

The second reason is that if we decide less urgent issues should be postponed to dedicate ourselves to the urgent ones alone, then it stands to reason that anything that is not even an issue should be removed from the agenda until all the issues are dealt with. Do you really want to spend money on making movies, for the mere sake of entertaiment, while the children are starving? Obviously, if we acted according to this way of reasoning (and I use the term loosely), we’d turn our lives into a hell of preoccupations and misery, which in turn would make solving the actual issues way more difficult. Conversely, if we agree to keep carrying on leisure activities, then we can’t neglect any actual issue, however less important than the top priorities it may be.

We need to deal with each issue at the same time. There are plenty of people on the planet, and plenty of them already dedicate themselves to ‘traditional’ problems (starving children, eradicating poverty, the lot of them). It’s time we had some more people really taking care of the elderly, in a way that doesn’t boil down to watching them over in a retirement house. When somebody is sick, ‘taking care of them’ doesn’t just mean helping them blow their nose, but also and mainly getting them back on their feet, healthy as ever.

The third reason is that if you neglect one issue in favour of the allegedly more important other ones, the original issue is likely to go downhill while your back is turned. If we don’t try to actually cure ageing to dedicate ourselves to other priorities and stick to the doomed geriatric approach, we are going to end up a hundred years from now with a population even more seriously plagued by the diseases of old age—not to mention for example the risk to have the pension system collapse because of the exorbitant number of elderly people we are expecting to have in thirty years’ time (as explained here).

To recap: If ageing is a top priority, we should focus on curing it. If it isn’t, we still have compelling reasons to focus on curing it. Bottom line: We need to focus on curing ageing.

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