What if human beings didn’t have to grow old and die? That’s how we framed the latest Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, “Lifespans Are Long Enough.”
Life expectancy has increased significantly in the last hundred years thanks to medical advancements, among other sociological changes. As aging and biotechnology research rapidly progresses, new treatments have emerged that some believe can “cure” aging. What are the ethical and sociological implications of increasing human lifespans from 78.8 years to 125 years to even 1,000 years, as our debater Aubrey de Grey has famously claimed is possible?
Let’s jump right into the debate. Transcribed below are the opening remarks with moderator John Donvan, which you can watch in the full video here:
John Donvan: We do a lot of debates that are about things that are right in front of us right now, policy decisions, Obamacare, military, military decisions.
This one is a little bit more, but not entirely, speculative for us. So, talk about your thoughts on this issue of extending lifespan.
Robert Rosenkranz: Well, in a sense it’s not so speculative in terms of my own experience. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Japan lately, and that is a very old country. It’s aging quite rapidly. There are almost — for every hundred people working there are only there are 42 retirees compared to about 22 in the United States. And it’s not working well. Japan has had the slowest growth rate of any large developed economy. It has the worst public finances of any public economy, the biggest debt. It is struggling with the problems of a rapidly aging population.
John Donvan: So, as you listen to tonight’s debate, what is it you want to hear answers to?
Robert Rosenkranz: The thing that I’d be most curious about is whether the progress of science in this field is slowing down the aging process or is it slowing down the dying process? Are we making the best years of our lives extended or are we making the worst years of our lives extended? And I’d really like to hear, personally, the scientific evidence on that dichotomy.
John Donvan: And, you know, we all wish each other long life constantly. We think we want it for ourselves. What about you? If you had a shot at having a hundred years?
Robert Rosenkranz: Well, if it was a hundred years feeling the way I feel now fine, but if it’s a hundred years of slow decline as opposed to 15 years of slow decline, I think I could pass.
Do you agree? Are lifespans long enough, or should we pursue a cure for aging? Vote here.