Curing aging would be on balance beneficial to society
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Some people think curing aging would be bad for society, due to concerns about overpopulation, wealth disparities and other reasons. If that description fits you or feels like something you could argue well, please accept my debate.
The resolution should read, "radical life extension would be beneficial to society". This assumes that radical life extension would be realistic and similar to what is described in the following debate in my first argument https://www.debateart.com/debates/1719/radical-life-extension-is-more-likely-than-not-in-our-lifetime
It is based on Kurzweil's predictions of what radical life extension would look like. The spirit of the debate should be centered around Kurzweil's views of what radical life extension would look like in the following article https://www.therecord.com/news-story/6552546--radical-life-extension-coming-futurist-says/
The spirit of that article and this following TED talk should be appropriate in determining what the spirit of this debate is about. https://www.ted.com/talks/aubrey_de_grey_a_roadmap_to_end_aging?language=en
I am not looking to debate anything hypothetical, but what radical life extension would look like in the real world.
If whiteflame accepts this debate and feels like I did not argue to this spirit or that I moved the goal posts, he should be declared the winner based solely on his belief that I did not keep to the spirit or that I moved the goal posts.
Most of my argument is going to be defensive. I have the common sense position. In my opinion, opposing radical life extension would be like opposing cures for cancer. Especially when you consider the arguments typical of what I call “Luddites”. For example I once heard a person justify the holocaust by saying if it didn’t happen that it would have created more over population.
I don’t know if my opponent is a Luddite or pro death, or even if this is just arguing devil’s advocate. I just want to say, that whenever you argue the pro death position, you have most of the burden of proof. As a society we have almost without exception decided that life is superior to death and that developing healthcare so more people are healthy and can push back death is a good thing.
So this is my main premise. We prefer life to death. If this were not the case, we would all be dead. Seriously, we would just end it, and many people do. Nobody reading this has ended it, and for good reason.
This debate, like I stated in the comments is about what life extension will look like in the real world. Radical life extension will happen and it is speculative what it will look like, but we have some pretty good ideals. Ray Kurzweil, has been known for his accurate predictions of what technological advancements will look like and when they will be rolled out.
I stated some of those examples in my other debate. I said:
“For example in the 2020, he says 3d printing will be advanced enough to start to replicate human
organs. By the 2030s we will have computers the size of human bloodcells, which can repair cellular damage or deliver drugs. Some companies are already working on this,”
Kurzweil actually goes into more details about what technologies will look like that extend lifespan. He talks about the bridges to immortality. Bridge one is about understanding how the diseases and the body work, so we can aggressively treat things with current technology.Bridge one is mostly about us personally learning about our body and how to make it endure longer. Calorie restriction, use of Metfornin and Rapamycin pulse dosing for example are things we can take advantage of now to extend our lifetime while we wait for bridge 2, to happen
Bridge 2 is the biotechnology progresses we will see, such as the organ replication, and more effective drugs. Bridge 3 is the nanotechnology bridge, where we will see tiny robots we can implan in us much like immunizations. They might make it so that we can repair cellular damage as soon as it occurs, or they can possibly keep the blood flowing, even after our heart stops beating for a short period of time. Nanotechnology brings a lot of possibilities.
Hopefully the debate isn’t too much about what these technologies will look like though. My main interest is in defending whether it is ethical to extend human lifespan beyond it’s natural limitations, which seem to be about 120 years old for a lucky few of us. If my opponent has an ideal of what these advancements would realistically look like, than that is great. I want as realistic picture of the future as possible.
Responses to Common Arguments
The most common arguments against preventing people from dying earlier than necessary is the following;
1. If people die less than there will be overpopulation
For this to be a good argument, you have to assume that people will just stop dying from other ways or that this will always be a problem and never solvable. Hell, even if we took the Logan’s run approach and just killed everybody once they hit 150, it would still be an improvement on the status quo, where most of us are dead by 80.
I certainly would not advocate for the Logan’s run solution. If we take into account the mortality rate, of people from dying of non age related diseases, and do the math the average lifespan would be about 1200 years.  This is assuming that people just don’t feel like they are done at earlier ages like at the 200 or 500 year marker. So we won’t just be filling up the world indefinitely.
In 1968 the book “The Population Bomb”, made similar over crowding predictions as my opponent is likely to make. It predicted mass famine would occur in first world countries, that we would no longer be able to sustain a growing population. It failed to take into account that we would see progress in food production, transportation and in other industries that pushed back those predictions and will continue to do so as technology advances. With advances in global standard of living, we will also see a reduction in reproduction. Industrialized nations see a reduced amount of reproduction. Population Alarmists are misguided.
2. We Would Get bored
I disagree, and life is fun. It would take thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years to run out of novel things to try. I could think of about 200 things I could take an entire year exploring off the top of my head, this excludes things that would be fun that take considerably less or more time to explore
3. Only the Rich would benefit
I think this is silly as well. When a technology first comes out, it is xpensive, like the computer, which got a man to the moon. Now we have the same computer power, within our cellphones.
4. Society would stagnate
This is hard to get behind when you see what people did late in life. Such as Beethoven late in life, or colonel Sanders with his 13 original herbs and spices, or John Glenn's space flight at 77.
I think it is important that anyone who supports radical life extension, also supports euthanasia. I honestly don’t think society can really stop us from committing suicide. Not to be crude, but if life extension technologies aren’t extending how long you live a quality life, there is no way that society could prevent you from ending your life. As far as thinking that normative ethics is an ad populum fallacy, it’s a little silly. Especially considering that my opponent has assumed normative ethics for the most part himself and has appealed to that.
I would personally value quantity of life over quality myself, but in my opinion. Your body, your choice. If you value quality more than quantity than opt out of living. What radical life extension does, is allow you to end it on your terms. If at 200 years old, you decide life is no longer worth living, write your goodbye to the world and exit on your terms, in the way you prefer. A lot of people who die from age related diseases, do have more quality years left in them and unfortunately had to exit the world, not when they wanted to, but when nature just randomly determined they should.
Aging as Disease
It is an oversimplification to call aging a disease. However it is a driver of many diseases. Aging is the process of your body accumulating damage in various ways, and certainly diseases aren’t the only thing s that can be and should be cured. I think con comes close to using the naturalistic fallacy when he says (paraphrasing), “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. If we can figure out how to stop aging by erasing the impacts of aging and saving a ton of lives, which by the way also includes saving the lives of children who die from age related disease, such as those who are unfortunate enough to be born with progeria. It is a very inaccurate portrayal of the disease, but Robin Williams had the disease in his movie “Jack”.
To be honest, some of what my opponent says seems pretty disgusting in my point of view. For example the following was said the previous round.
“Lengthening is also not the same as improving. Living in constant poverty without clean sources of water, sufficient nutrition, or safety from disease means that those same life extending technologies would only extend their suffering.”
Don’t be distracted by what this means. My opponent is saying it is a good thing these people die as early as they do, because their life is pure torture. Many of these people probably enjoy life and want to live as long as possible, I don’t believe that they deserve to be put out of their misery or any other such notion.
Obviously we need to create a better world for people in other ways besides radical life extension. There are problems with extreme forms of involuntary hard living. I don’t think that we just stop improving the world while we pursue curing aging and the diseases that come along with it such as dementia, strokes, cancer and heart disease. We should not stop working on erasing the damage done to us by aging, just because of some misguided ideal that people in 3rd world countries are suffering and should be put out of their misery.
The fact is, the wealthy likely will have more access to bleeding edge advancements in medicine that will prevent aging. I say good for them. Let them take the highest risks of using these new technologies before they are improved and trickle down to the rest of us, for much cheaper prices. As we know technology decreases in price gradually while rich people get the first worse and more expensive versions of it, like with the personal computer.
Assuming that people in very harsh environments won’t have access to technologies that will improve their life, is no reason to deny the rest of us access to them. We don’t with good reason do that in other areas of life. We don’t say that since people in some parts of the world can’t have access to clean drinking water and essential vaccines, that we shouldn’t either.
The more sensible approach is to simultaneously acquire these mechanisms, while trying to improve the rest of the world and bring them these technologies as well.
There is already a market for anti aging, be it wrinkle creams or testosterone injections. This industry is already causing damage. The difference between the current industry and one in which actual working anti aging treatments exist is that in this future one, at least some of the stuff in the market won’t be bullshit that is a waste of money. This is a choice of a market that already exists and provides no solutions, and one that will exist and provide some solutions.
As far as the feared self is concerned, all people pretty much have a fear of death that they mask. I prefer actual science based solutions, some people pursue immortality through religion, hoping for heaven. Some do it from having children, and yet others deal with a feared self of death by seeking immortality through their accomplishments, but we all fear our dead self and cope in various ways.
I do agree with my opponent on this point. I consider Andrew Yang the first legitimate transhumanist candidate for president, and I think that a basic minimum income can solve the problems he mentions while also handling the problem of increased automation.
As far as his point about an increase in age related diseases the reverse is true. Curing aging, which means repairing the damage done by aging that causes age related diseases would cause us to see less age related diseases. It makes no sense to say we would see an increase in age related diseases, when the debate is about curing aging, a process that causes us to get age related diseases.
OV1: Quality vs. Quantity
A. Pro drops the burdens debate. He does not defend his “common-sense” standard, so we bear equal burdens in this debate. Yet, Pro has never presented a case in support of his position. His entire case assumes a benefit that he barely supports.
B. Pro concedes the subjectivity of any benefits his case could have. He defaults to a “it’s your choice if you want to extend your life” framework, though he at no point states why that option is beneficial beyond feeding an existing desire. “People want it” is not an impact.
OV2: Aging as Disease
Pro concedes that curing aging and curing disease are distinct. Aging is a contributor to disease, but in conceding that it is not the disease itself, Pro has conceded the only positive impact he has. My position is not in opposition to treating illnesses, including those associated with aging. Improving peoples’ quality of life and addressing disease states is beneficial. But Pro treats aging itself as a disease state, saying that we must treat it to treat these. I beg to differ. We can treat diseases without conflating aging and disease, and at the point that we can “cure aging,” we can most definitely treat these. As such, any benefit that Pro claims to gain by addressing these diseases is non-unique to his case.
A. Pro’s interpretation of this argument is false. At no point have I argued for ending lives early (he has – look to his euthanasia point). I have also not stated that we should not develop new technologies simply because they would not be available to everyone. Do not let Pro’s selective reading color your opinion of it, especially when he can say things like “[d]on’t be distracted by what this means.” My points have meaning, and Pro is distorting them.
B. Pro drops distributive justice. I pointed to several immediate examples of major global inequities involving medicine, water, nutrition and safety. To pursue radical life extension is to take effort and resources away from efforts to reduce this massive inequality, trading them to extending the lives of those who have these necessities. Pro says that we can do both. Two responses. One, time and energy are limited and pursuing both means more people dying at younger ages in developing countries. Eventual solvency is not good enough. Two, pursuing yet another technology that will be out of reach for them for untold amounts of time, creating further inequities and engendering a greater divide that directly marries finances to life expectancy. It’s fitting that Pro mentions “trickle down” when this kind of economic thinking has fostered massive inequality itself.
C. Unlike clean drinking water and vaccines, radical life extensions do not currently exist. Part of the basis for this debate is discussing whether we should develop them because that represents a substantial investment. This is an important distinction: if I said that no one could have vaccines, that would deny people access to essential preventative care now, whereas if I said we are not pursuing this research, there are serious questions as to how (or if) it would pay off at some future date.
2. False Promises
B. Pro drops the issue of clinical trials. These would take decades to run, during which every product on the market is untested and claiming effectiveness. Remember, there are no regulations on claims of anti-aging treatments. At best, Pro’s benefit of having some actual means to combat aging comes in the distant future, while we suffer from a deluge of false claims.
3. Financial Burdens
Pro concedes all the harms. That meas he concedes that people with longer lives will also be on the public dole for longer, as they will retire far earlier in their lifespans.
His only responses are that there might be a universal basic income by then (he can’t guarantee a UBI at any point and certainly not one substantial enough to cover medical costs for decades more) and to argue that curing aging solves age-related diseases. Three problems with that.
First, cross-apply my argument about this being non-unique. Pro provides no reason why we can’t solve age-related diseases without solving aging.
Second, the Pro assumes that stopping or slowing the aging process will resolve every age-related disease. Again, aging and age-related diseases are not the same. Alzheimer’s, despite being associated with age, has established links to genetic, infectious, and environmental factors. Diseases associated with aging can and will persist regardless of whether lifespans are extended, and there are serious questions as to what quality of life people can expect in their extra decades.
Third, preventing or reversing the effects of aging does not alter the age of retirement, nor the dependency of those retirees on public funds for their survival. That need lasts decades longer in Pro’s world. Either they will not be covered, or funds must be drawn from other necessities. Particularly in terms of health care, this could mean pulling funding from other programs like Medicaid or removing it from school funds, taking away from the young to facilitate the longer lives of the old.
Con frames this debate as about quantity vs quality of life. What I have stated and the argument he has dropped, is that it doesn’t have to be an either or thing. In fact I don’t think it is an either or thing. It was clearly stated and con dropped that if anyone thinks having a longer lifespan is not increasing the amount of quality of life they have, they should be free to end their life. This freedom to end their life, destroys the point he was making that people would be forced to live a terrible life for a longer amount of time. Clearly anti aging therapies would be completely voluntary, and suicide will always be on the table for people who accept life extension, but who change their mind for whatever reason. He dismisses my point about being able to opt out of life extension, which completely mitigates the point he made about a forced choice of having to extend a life somebody finds dis-pleasurable.
Con has claimed not to advocate for shorter lifespans of people who live in third world countries, and yet used the fact people live in rough conditions as a premise for not extending lifespans by eliminating aging. Even non decisions are decisions. The decision to kill a person at 80 and the decision to not eliminate aging that would increase their life expectancy so they can live past 80, are the exact same decision, if we look at the results, which is the only thing that matters when making a decision.
I know the FDA has considered aging a disease, so they could do metformin drug trials and get it approved to treat aging, but as I said I don’t really consider it a diseasse, and I don’t think whether it is considered a disease or not is at all important. It should certainly be treated like a disease and fought against though, which is all I am advocating for.
The fact my opponent thinks aging would not wipe out all diseases considered age related is beside the point, it would certainly reduce the amount of people treated for age related diseases and cost us a lot less money for healthcare. Most age related diseases if not all of them have a genetic component. Some people are more likely to get Cancer or Alzheimers than others. A lot of these diseases are caused by wear and tear, and certainly age treatments would fix some of the damage that we progressively do to our body over time, Other symptoms of aging include inflammation, which is the biggest contributor to the brain diseases my opponent mentioned.
What my opponent did was assume the old paradigm of extending life and applied it to this debate. The old paradigm was about preventing people from dying prematurely, which certainly meant we would see more people with age related diseases in need of care. I would suggest though that the increase in numbers of people with age related diseases in treatment now are from lifestyle decisions and that this is why it really is a western problem and why people who live to 100 in Okinawa Japan for example don’t experience these diseases.
However, putting a stop to aging, which is a process that causes inflammation, which is the biggest contributor to the brain diseases con mentioned as well as wear and tear, would reduce brain disease. Stopping aging would prevent the damage done by cells multiplying and increasing the amount mistakes made in cell replication which cause cancer. We do a lot of damage to our hearts in the Western world, curing aging would result in reversing the amount of damage done to our arteries and heart, which lead to heart disease.
My opponent asks why we don’t just cure age related diseases, but honestly you cant. The wear and tear on the body is natural, if you live long enough you will die of a heart attack. Our cells replicate and each replication increases our chances of getting cancer. If you live long enough, you will get cancer and die. The mechanisms that would stop cells from making mistakes when dividing and that would reverse the damage we did above the cellular level that cause other age related diseases would cure aging, just as a side effect, so it is pointless to simultaneously argue that we should cure age related diseases instead of aging.
Anyway, I didn’t leave much time to respond to some of con’s new points the way I wanted to. I just think it is a little silly to think that just because there are illegitimate markets and shady people who try to exploit others, such as all the people selling fake cancer cures, that we should avoid making progress , so we can actually help the people they are trying to exploit.
The honest truth is that we can have extended lifespans and not sacrifice quality of life, and just like every solution, new challenges will arise as a result of that solution. Problems never go away, We solve one and not only do we have another but we have all the problems that solution caused. The voters need to look at whether living longer and healthier lives is worth some of the new challenges that will arise as a result of doing so
It is pro-radical life extension. Pro assumes that extension and quality are synonymous with his case. Regardless of the technology, regardless of how good it is at repairing damage, the chief goal Pro aims for is extended quality of life. I grant that qualitative improvements can occur, but those are inherently secondary. The aim of this technology is radical life extension. That values quantity.
Next, what does it mean to pursue this technology? It means a huge investment: of time, energy, brainpower, equipment, and money. Throughout this debate, Pro keeps asserting that we can improve both quantity and quality of life. He’s correct. However, none of these invested resources are infinite, and any of them that are dedicated to radical life extension are not dedicated to other issues, so putting them towards one shortchanges the other.
With this context, let’s get into the cases proper. Pro's case lacks offense. He spent R1 responding to arguments that never came and providing some background on what the tech might look like. He then spent the remaining 2 rounds on the defensive. At no point in this debate has he explained why having a longer lifespan is beneficial beyond asserting that some people want it. He has no meaningful impacts in support of the central tenet of his case.
The only real impact he keeps trying to win has nothing to do with longer lifespan, but rather with addressing disease. He talks about the damage done to cells, dysfunctions in genes, and organ failure. What do all of these have in common? These are all problems that can be resolved or addressed without addressing aging directly. We can target specific parts of the body with anti-inflammatories, fix genetic mutations that cause cancer, repair damaged arteries and the heart; none of these require a cure for aging, and pro concedes that treatments will become a reality. As such, any benefit he claims to get by resolving these issues is non-unique. Whether we pursue life extending technologies or not, medical advances will resolve these problems.
This means that the biggest impact Pro has is public desire. What is he up against?
This is the fatal flaw in Pro’s case. Here’s the story:
a) There are massive inequities in the world when it comes to quality of life. The vast majority of people in the world live truncated lifespans and they will gain no benefit from a technology that focuses on addressing the effects of aging.
b) The longer we let those inequities persist, the more people suffer and die. As I said last round, eventual solvency is not good enough.
c) Pro’s supports continued long-term efforts to generate and improve upon technologies that radically expand life spans, stripping those resources from other pursuits like resolving these inequities.
d) In generating these technologies, Pro also creates yet another discrepancy between these poor populations and those above them on the economic scale. This difference solely benefits those who already have quality lives, compounding their advantages and turning life span itself into a commodity bought and paid for by those advantages.
Pro’s only response is to argue that people can still end their lives early. This is a non-sequitur: it nothing to do with this or any other argument I’ve made because I have never assumed Pro’s case included a mandate. This point is about distributive justice, a topic Pro has refused to address since I brought it up in R1. Pro gives no reason to prefer longer lifespans to improved access to necessities they could be getting right now.
If you agree that resources are better spent improving the lives of untold numbers of people instead of expanding the lives of the very rich, vote Con.
2. False Promises
Not only are life extending technologies going to be a needle in a haystack for those pursuing them (diminishing Pro’s solvency), but these technologies will fuel the anti-aging market to build those haystacks higher, bilking more and more people out of funds based on false promises. Pro doesn't contest this. Instead, he takes the stance bad people doing bad things is not a reason to stop scientific progress. Three responses.
First, saying that we should focus our attention elsewhere furthers scientific progress in those areas as well. Scientists will continue to advancing important science regardless.
Second, it is never acceptable to perpetuate a terrible harm, especially one that we know already exists and will get worse.
Third, these harms outweigh Pro's benefits. At best, he's providing rich people the means to extend their lifespans and perpetuate their wealth and doing so at the cost of countless others who drain their savings in search of the fountain of youth. At worst, he’s ballooning the fake “aging cures” market to the point that any actual scientific successes will be drowned out, reducing every actual advance to a footnote in history and relegating us to a continuous cycle of fear motivating purchase after purchase of false promises.
If you agree that society should own and address these problems rather than propagating them, vote Con.
3. Financial Burdens
Pro outright concedes this. He concedes that many diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s, will remain problems regardless of how well we “cure” aging. By expanding lifespans, he’s also expanding the period over which many will suffer from these diseases. Pro drops that retiring that much earlier in one’s lifespan, whether from burnout or physical debilitation, will devastate economies worldwide by pushing social programs past their breaking point. These people will be left with no means to support themselves, which further reinforces that the only people who can do this are the rich. Everyone else is either going to be left without options or forced to work well past burnout or debilitation, dramatically reducing their quality of life.
If you agree that the creation of a massive financial crisis for people who spent decades working to build a better life is a problem, vote Con.