The point of rebutting objections to rejuvenation

If you’ve hung around here long enough, you probably know I have two pet peeves: ageing and money. If we assume the saying ‘Only two things are certain in life: death and taxes’ is true, then we’re forced to conclude that I advocate for the (indirect) elimination of the only two certainties in life. So, if you came here looking for certainties, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place.

I’m (mostly) not joking. Lately I’ve been working a lot on the Answers to objections section, which together with a few discussions I’ve had on the Internet, got me thinking about the point of rebutting objections to rejuvenation. Generally, when I discuss the subject with somebody who’s not at all sold on the idea of rejuvenating people, I get the feeling they expect me to prove beyond doubt that nothing can possibly go wrong, either along the way between here and an ageless world or once that world has been reached. If my feeling is correct, opposers to rejuvenation may expect that my rebuttals are meant to prove that neither a post-ageing world, nor the journey to it, will present any problems or challenges.

This expectation is utterly unrealistic. It’s actually worse than that—it’s completely wrong. There’s no way in hell I (or anyone else) could guarantee that we won’t have a dictator ruling a nation for six centuries, or that environmental problems won’t be exacerbated, etc. The reason I can’t promise none of the above will happen is the very same reason why rejuvenation opposers can’t promise any of the above will happen: Nobody can actually predict the future.

Arguments against rejuvenation only sound reasonable because they appeal to our fears and to the blame-the-humans attitude of so many people. If you trust only your gut feelings and don’t bother examining facts and data, anti-rejuvenation arguments can easily seem obviously true. Accepting an anti-rejuvenation argument requires far less mental work than understanding why the same argument isn’t as sound as it appears, but that doesn’t make anti-rejuvenation arguments any more ‘obviously true’ than their rebuttals. It is impossible to know for a fact whether or not rejuvenation will cause any given problem before we get there.

Proving that no problems will arise as a consequence of defeating ageing is not the point of rebutting objections to rejuvenation. That’s not what any of my answers does. All they do is showing that objections to rejuvenation rely more often than not on fallacious reasoning, ignorance, fears, misconceptions, and wrong assumptions taken for established fact. In short, what we do when rebutting objections to rejuvenation is showing they aren’t valid reasons to let ageing continue crippling and killing us. At the same time, answers to objections show why all those predictions of doom and gloom aren’t as likely as they may appear. There’s no certainty to be found anywhere, but this doesn’t really matter—had we refrained from doing anything that wasn’t proved to be 100% risk-free throughout history, we’d probably still be living in caves.

Remember: Objections to rejuvenation are about hypothetical future problems that are far from being certain. Ageing and all the suffering and deaths that come with it are a very tangible fact, happening here and now. This alone should be sufficient to forget about objections altogether and focus only on putting an end to ageing. However, rebutting objections has also another purpose: It fuels discussion. Apart from raising awareness of the problem of ageing and the feasibility of its defeat, discussion prepares us to face the new challenges an ageless future might bring. The way to a world without ageing is still long, which gives us all the time we need to prevent eternal dictators, overpopulation, and all sorts of dystopian scenarios from ever materialising.

Update bundle #3

Last update: 20.01.2017.

Happy New Year! Yes, I realise I’m a bit late for that one, but I’ve been quite busy in the last month. I spent good part of my Christmas holidays and of January working on some improvements to Rejuvenaction, and yet others are planned. Let me tell you about them.

The largest change is the new version of the overpopulation objection. I’d been wanting to revise it for some time already, and I added a lot more meat to it in the process. I split it into three separate sections dealing with different aspects of the problem; each of them goes much more into detail than before. Comments and suggestions are welcome, especially if you notice any mistakes that I may have overlooked.

I answered two more objections, namely Rejuvenation will be too expensive to create and Rejuvenation won’t happen within my lifetime.

I also created a page containing all answers in short, whose purpose should be self-explanatory. Each short answer on this page links to the corresponding full answer both on Rejuvenaction and LEAF (if available). More generally, each time you see this icon

leaf

it means the article you’re reading has a counterpart on LEAF which I linked to and you may want to check out.

I also retouched some other articles here and there, and shortened the titles of menu items for the sake of navigability. Should you find any broken links anywhere, please let me know. With all the changes I made, it’s bound to have happened somewhere.

Next, I’m planning to add more content to the section about ageing and SENS, but it’ll take a while before I even begin, so don’t hold your breath.

On an unpleasant note, the crowdfunding campaign for CellAge has only two days left to go and has reached only 29% of the goal. If you can help push that percentage a bit higher, please do.

UPDATE: The CellAge fundraiser has been extended until February 24th, and is currently 30% funded. We’ve got over a month’s time to make it 100%!

New objection answered: Dystopian future

Another common objection to rejuvenation and life extension is that the future isn’t promising: The world is on its way to its ultimate doom; poverty, hunger, discrimination, dictatorships, wars, and a bunch of other catastrophes of your choice are going to happen and make life on Earth horrible, so why bother living longer? The main reason is that none of this is actually true, but there are also other reasons. Find out more in my answer to the dystopian future objection.

LEAF’s new website is up and running

I’m happy to announce that the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation, or LEAF, has launched their new website. Perhaps I should say ‘our new website’, as I have the privilege of being part of the team. Among the many resources available on the website, there’s a rich FAQ section, explaining the biology of ageing, the technologies we can use to defeat age-related diseases, and answers to objections to and concerns about rejuvenation. Check it out, and while you’re at it, have a look at our latest crowdfunding campaign for CellAge, currently 7% funded.

Crowdfunding against senescent cells on Lifespan.io

Today, Lifespan.io has launched a new crowdfunding campaign: CellAge: Targeting Senescent Cells With Synthetic Biology. As you may know, senescent cells are a major driver of a number of age-related diseases, and therefore a prime target for any respectable rejuvenation biotech platform. CellAge, a biotech company based in Edinburgh, aims to design synthetic promoters for safe and precise targeting of senescent cells, with the goal of developing senolytic gene therapies to remove them. Please, consider helping them with a donation—big or small, every dollar counts—and by spreading the word!

New objection answered: The Tithonus error

I’ve just added a new answer for the objection commonly known as the Tithonus error, i.e. that living for a longer time/indefinitely in a decrepit body would be bad. If you’re already familiar with rejuvenation, you know that this is not what rejuvenation is about, but some people do misunderstand, so I decided it would be a good idea to illustrate why this undesirable scenario isn’t going to happen.

Enjoy!

Diseases don’t give you super powers

Yesterday I read a Facebook post that I deeply agreed with. The post lamented the attitude of some people who seem to almost glorify horrible diseases, infirmities, and disabilities, crediting them for achievements and accomplishments, and subtly downplaying their symptoms and all the distress they cause to patients.

This attitude is not uncommon. We all have seen titles along the lines of ‘How blindness changed my life for the better’, or ‘My disability made me achieve more than ever before’. Sure enough, at least some of these titles are meant to be clickbaits, but I don’t like attributing everything to malice.

Sometimes, when you’re ridden with an incurable disease, a certain way of downplaying your condition can help you cope, which is good. If your disease has taken the ability to walk from you and there’s no hope of getting it back, there’s little to be gained from wallowing in despair and focusing on your symptoms and on what you’ve lost. Focusing on what you haven’t lost and on what still is under your control, though, may help you make the best of a really bad situation. (This doesn’t apply to disabilities only, but to life in general.) Some people manage to do this very well and they end up achieving a lot despite their disability, and that’s awesome, but I think it’s wrong to attribute their successes to the disease.

Say you lost your sight. Suddenly, a ton of things you used to do with ease become very difficult or even impossible to do on your own or at all. You could throw in the towel, or you could muster up all of your inner strength and make the best of the situation. I’m not saying this is easy: I’m lucky enough not have any first-hand experience of it, but I’m sure it’s not easy at all. However, if you do manage to not give up, you might resolve that, although you can’t see any more, you still can hear, so fuck it, you’re going to become a musician. Maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t.

Say it does work out, and you become a great musician. Whose merit is it? Blindness’? Certainly not. Sure, maybe the thought of becoming a musician would never have crossed your mind if you hadn’t lost your sight, but you didn’t magically turn into Beethoven when the lights went off. You must well have put some effort into it to become a great musician, and it was that effort—not your disease—that took you where you are now. The merit is yours, not your disease’s. Couldn’t you become a great musician all the same, even without going blind first, had you put in the same effort? It certainly doesn’t take blindness to be a great musician, and not all people who go blind become great musicians. No disease is a default motivation for anything. It is up to you to find motivation to do anything. (Now don’t think I’m saying that in every situation you can find a plus side and it’s your fault if you can’t find any; I’m not. It may well depend on circumstances beyond your control.)

Give to Caesar what is due to Caesar: Diseases suck. They limit your independence, they make you feel like crap, and sometimes they even kill you. They’re not good, they’re not a blessing, they don’t give you super powers, they don’t make you wiser and they don’t hold the secret meaning of life. Whatever you may be able to accomplish despite your disease is your merit, not your disease’s. That’s why we have words like ‘despite’ in the first place.

People struck by diseases aren’t the only ones who may sugarcoat their condition. As said, article writers and the media in general do this fairly often. My guess would be that, perhaps, they’re trying to give a positive view and encourage people who suffer from debilitating conditions. Maybe they’re trying to show them that all’s not lost. I commend that, but there’s way and way of doing it. Don’t frame it as if the disease was the cause of somebody’s achievements. Don’t depict it as a blessing in disguise. That is disrespectful of the suffering of countless people, not to mention an outrageous lie. Instead, try to show how we can succeed even against all odds, if we put our minds to it. If you want to give people hope, remind them that science is working day and night to cure all diseases, and one day we will get there. Remind patients that, even as we speak, someone somewhere is working to understand their disease and find a cure to it.

I may have gone off at a tangent this time around, but only slightly. Remember that age-related diseases are as horrible, crippling, and lethal as some non-age-related diseases, and the reason not everyone realises this isn’t any different from the attitude I’ve described here. Calling old age the ‘golden years’, with all the many plagues that inevitably come with it, is the same as calling a spinal cord injury a blessing; attributing to ageing one’s wisdom and accomplishments is equally cheap and misguided. Biological ageing is no more, no less, than a vast set of diseases, and as such, there’s only one thing to do about it: Bring it under comprehensive medical control.