My Case Against Longevity Research: Some Thoughts
I have noticed that a lot of Quantified Self folks and biohackers are interested in longevity research. Personally, I never could understand their fascination with extended life. While I am not completely AGAINST the studies in this area, I regard the whole concept more cautiously and with much less enthusiasm. Lately I have been jotting down some thoughts on this topic, and would like to share them in today’s post. Please note that these are just half-baked thoughts, and I am yet to write a full post (hopefully, sometime in the future).
Here are just some quick thoughts on cons of longevity research, listed here in a rather random order.
Longer does not mean better
In mathematics, we know that the function does not necessarily gain maximum at the extreme points of the argument. In multidimensional space, the optimal point is not necessarily in the “highest” points of the axes. Does longer life means a more happy and better life? I doubt so. Most likely, it is the other way around: the more happy and better is you life, the longer you live. The longevity is just a by-product, but not necessarily an ultimate objective. In other words, it should be about quality of life, not quantity, and you can rarely have both.
Grayness is a Bliss?
This point is related to the previous one. Russian author Boris Akunin has conducted some biographical research on people who lived longer than usual (100 years or more) and concluded that most of them actually lived extremely unremarkable lives. In other words, longer life is not necessarily associated with passion, adventure or major accomplishments.
Personal Resources Have Limits
Yesterday, I stumbled upon this interesting article from PBS: what if you outlive your savings? Most of longevity research focuses on biohacking and health, but almost no one talks about sustainability. Most of those supplements, diets and other “hacks” and health maintenance are expensive. Unless you are self-employed or rich, you can’t support yourself financially forever: in most organizations, you will most likely “get retired” when you reach 70. Last time I checked, fancy supplements and bulletproof coffee are not covered by Medicare. Which brings me to the next point.
It is kind of selfish to talk about longevity, when almost half of the world lives in poverty and even more people are undernourished. The world population continues to grow, depleting already limited natural resources. Artificial extension of human life will lead to even bigger divide between people, creating classes of “humans”, “super-humans” and “gods”. Most likely, only the top 1% will be able to enjoy the truly long life (“gods”). The next 20-30% (“super-humans”), who are lucky enough to have useful talents and skills (scientists, doctors, etc.) will be allowed to live longer so they could serve the top 1%. The remaining 70-80% will live shorter lives, performing mostly manual labor (e.g., growing organic food) while subsisting on cheap synthetic soylent-like substances and extremely limited resources. The movies like “Elysium” and “In Time” immediately come to mind. Those who hope that technology will save us by helping to produce more food, let me remind you that processed and genetically modified foods are the last thing you will see on the menu of biohackers and wanna-be-centenarians.