Diagnosis: Aging. Treating age as disease to increase our healthspan
Aging and death has been an unfortunate reality for all of history. The Science Party doesn’t accept that this should be the case. That’s why we’ve added a section to our Health Policy that commits us to treating aging as a disease.
Scientific and technological advancements have doubled our life expectancy and improved our quality of life by eliminating or overcoming many diseases and disorders. Biomedical research continues to advance more and more rapidly, and it should only be expected that our lifespans and health (healthspan) will be further and further extended.
The notion that a person is born, lives for a time and then dies leaving a legacy is poetic, but it has been constructed around a biological reality that has so far been inescapable. It is undeniably better for individuals and society to extend our healthy lives for as long as possible so that our connections, abilities, knowledge and wisdom are not lost to the world.
The thought of humans living indefinitely, however, raises questions around justice, sustainability and under-valuation of human life.
Extending life is altruistic
Concerns around justice are based on the current reality of differing life expectancies around the world, warning of widening the health, wealth and power gap between groups who can access the best medical care and technology, and those who can’t. Inequality is an important and urgent issue, but it is a separate one from life extension and not a reason to stifle the advancement of medical discovery for the good of humankind.
Longevity is a move towards sustainability
Many social conditions affect people’s decisions to have children; for instance, low infant mortality and education of girls and women is linked strongly with lower birth rates. An extended healthspan is likely to have an effect in the same direction, as people will have more freedom to choose if and when to have children, with less concern about becoming too old to do so.
Fears that longer lifespans will lead to a greater burden on the earth’s natural resources fail to take into account one of the driving factors that extended our lives in the first place: self-interest. Even though life on Earth has been driven for several billions of years by the desire to pass on our genes, humans are notorious for short-term thinking. Individuals will have a longer-term outlook and greater interest in sustainability if they expect to live—with the consequences of their actions—for several centuries, rather than less than one.
Longer lives are more valuable
Life will not automatically be valued less if lifespans become indefinite—in fact, the reverse seems more likely. When aging has been overcome, the death of a single person will be a rare tragedy, and the birth of a single person will be a special cause for celebration.
It is precisely because human life is so precious that the Science Party believes that rather than resigning ourselves to aging and death, these conditions can and should be overcome with science and technology.
UPDATE 11/7/2016: Humans have been trying to evade death for as long as they've understood the concept, whether through trying to ensure their continued existence in an assumed afterlife, life extension, or putting their bodies on ice: http://waitbutwhy.com/2016/03/cryonics.html.
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