I refuse the invitation to my grave

In the September issue of Scientific American, Tom Kirkwood came out with an article about human aging named “Why can’t we live forever?” His disposable soma theory says that the body is mortal because its cells are specialized. He believes the Body makes a choice where to allocate resources: to immortality or reproduction. However, right now people have unlimited resources and evolution is faster as it has switched to a large extent to the intellectual level.

It’s not obvious how the disposable soma theory explains the fact that women live longer on average, although reproduction is much more expensive as compared to men in terms of resources. Another remarkable example is the queen of social insects (bees, termites, ants). Despite devoting a huge portion of resources to reproduction of thousands of offspring, the queen can live hundreds of times longer than sterile female workers that serve to her needs.

I fundamentally disagree with the following idea made by the author: “The goal of gerontology research in humans, however, is always improving health at the end of life, rather than achieving Methuselean life spans.”

This is a traditional stance taken by the hawks of the conservative wing of gerontologists: to oppose the quality of life to longevity. This is the biggest mistake in gerontology. The quality of life and longevity are closely related. If the quality of life is high in the biomedical sense, then why would the person suddenly die? Besides, many experiments on model animals show that the interventions leading to life extension also led to improved reproduction and increased activity. Essentially, an improved quality of life for the animal.

The reasoning behind such statements is based on an “acceptance of one’s own death”, which the author is calling for. Since we cannot radically increase longevity right now, then let’s consider it as ‘unnecessary’.

Fighting for longevity automatically means fighting for an increase of the quality period of life. Human life is the absolute value. Therefore a decrease in viability and declined health cannot serve as consent to die. Just because a man is unable to walk, doesn’t mean he should give up on life. Quite the opposite, our goal should be to find a way to restore living functions.

Denial of the radical life extension idea amounts to intellectual cowardice or fear to be perceived as a ‘black sheep’, and ignoring the advances of modern science. Nematode, drosophila and life spans in mice were significantly increased. Yes, human anatomy / biology is way more complex, but no sensible person would claim that life extension is a simple task. Tom Kirkwood says: “Solutions will not come easily, despite the claims made by the merchants of immortality who assert that caloric restriction or dietary supplements, such as Resveratrol, may allow us to live longer.” One shouldn’t confuse supporters of human immortality with the merchants of curative elixirs.

We, the supporters of radical human life extension, are the first to affirm that solving the problem of aging is an extremely complicated task. Implementation of a complex interdisciplinary research program into aging, significantly enlarging the scope of the field and also increasing public awareness about the goals of biogerontology are urgently needed. We believe that development of regenerative medicine and research into genome regulation can generate impressive results within a relatively short period of time – as soon as the next decade. The pace of this important research is to a large extent dependant on the position, the definition of objectives and overall mutual agreement within the global scientific community that:

«The goal of gerontological research on humans is radical human life extension».



Filed under Immortalism

4 responses to “I refuse the invitation to my grave

  1. Ben

    Hi Maria,

    Agreed. Radical human life extension is both feasible and necessary. Kirkwood’s stated goal is contradictory, as when it comes to human life, quality and quantity go hand in hand.

    However, could I ask you to be more specific about how and why you think significant advances will be possible in the next decade? I’m curious to know what you mean. I hope you’re right!

  2. Jonatas

    I’m also enthusiastic about the possibilities of being young forever, though while significant life extension isn’t possible, and death is still inevitable for those who are very old, I think I can see why improving the quality of life can take precedence over improving the lifespan. This is when, for example, radical, painful and debilitating medical interventions are needed to extend this lifespan, and the alternative is living a much better life for a shorter period.

    People who are not familiar with transhumanism may assume the above scenario as the only possibility, and some of them may come to agree with you when they realize that death could be eventually overcame. In my view, though, I’d rather upgrade or substitute my body for a better one, when the time comes, than maintain it indefinitely. That’s kind of true of evolution, except that the time scale is unbearably long.

  3. The only scientifically proven way to extend life is the CRdiet (www.crdiet.org). A diet 60% of the normal daily adult recommended amount of calories will trigger a gene present in virtually every animal, slowing the metabolism, and delaying senescence. Want to live a longer more productive life – there is one catch, you have to be hungry all the time (not really, but you get the idea).

  4. Pingback: » Blog Archive TransAlchemy Today January 12, 2013 » TransAlchemy

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