Life Extension Is Another Form of Freedom
Freedom is a big deal for our society. We want freedom of speech, political freedom, freedom of the press, religious freedom, and freedom of choice over anything that may concern us directly.
The level of personal freedom that is available does depend on what country you live in, and some people complain that freedom is not the same everywhere. What is certain is that most people today enjoy a greater level of freedom than previous generations.
Of course, it is not always easy to act upon the choices we are given, and sometimes people are free to choose in theory but not in practice. However, in general, we have more choices and options than those who came before us would have imagined possible. For example, a Victorian mill worker would likely be astounded by how much freedom and the rights that a worker today has.
Healthcare is a form of freedom
Healthcare is another example of this shift towards more freedom. Back in the 1800s, if you were trying to avoid getting the flu or some other infectious disease, you had no real options to evade them. How infectious diseases spread and the mechanisms by which they made people sick were not understood at all.
This meant that people had no idea what they should or should not do to avoid becoming sick. At the time, sanitation and hygiene were not standard practices, and medicines such as vaccines were few and far between, the first being invented in 1796 by Edward Jenner to treat smallpox.
Of course, there were plenty of quacks and snake oil salesmen around at the time, as there are right now in our field, peddling useless tonics and remedies. However, these bogus medicines at best did nothing and at worst could cause harm. The truth is, if someone was actively trying to prevent getting the flu, which at the time was frequently deadly, there were simply no options.
Thankfully, today is a very different story and there are plenty of options to help you avoid infectious diseases. Hygiene and sanitation are now commonplace throughout the world, which helps a lot, and there are vaccines available too. While you could, of course, choose to live in filth and not get vaccinated, you do have the option to do the opposite too. This is a choice that people living in the 1800s simply could not make.
Of course, access to those things and medical care in general does depend on where you live and affects your ability to choose, but this is a different matter. The option to prevent disease exists in principle, and you may be able to use it, unlike our ancestors, who had no such option.
Therefore, it seems pretty clear that having the option to avoid diseases is a positive thing. In fact, it is hard to imagine that anyone would willingly choose to be sick if there was a choice to not be.
Of course, you could still turn down the option if so inclined, as people are not forced to undergo treatment, except in the case of the few countries where the right to refuse treatment does not exist. Normally, the opposite is true; people want the treatment and could, in theory, take it, but for some reason, there is no access to it.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to avoid disease. There are some diseases that you cannot avoid or choose to cure if you get them, because we lack the means to prevent or treat them effectively. If we had the means, then just like the things we can prevent or cure, people would have the option to use them and thus expand their possibilities and freedom to stay healthy.
The majority of diseases and ailments that we currently cannot prevent or cure are, of course, age-related diseases. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, COPD, type 2 diabetes, fibrosis, arthritis, and sarcopenia are all conditions we cannot effectively prevent or cure. Some of these are hindrances to daily life, some rob a person of dignity and independence, and some are directly fatal.
Giving people freedom from age-related diseases is quite literally what life extension is all about. Ultimately, the goal of life extension is to make chronologically old and chronologically young people, at every physical level, indistinguishable from one another. Healthy longevity would also be a likely pleasant side effect of making an older person biologically younger.
Life extension is another form of freedom
Right now, everyone is sitting on a metaphorical fast train that is speeding towards disability, disease, loss of independence and dignity, suffering for ourselves and our loved ones, and, ultimately, death.
There are a couple of things we can do to potentially modestly slow down the train. Things such as eating a healthy diet, fasting, caloric restriction and exercising may help, but that’s not going to slow down the train very much. Inevitably, it will speed onwards to a place where you’re sick enough to die.
Indirectly, life extension also means having more control over how long you’d like to live, because a longer life is only the logical consequence of being healthier for longer. Only wanting to live to a particular age and no further seems absurd, but it is likely strongly influenced by the knowledge that living decades longer than we do now is not yet possible.
Currently, you can choose to live a shorter time than the maximum human lifespan (how easily, dignifiedly, or pleasantly attainable this may be is a different matter, but the point is the same as before—in principle, you can choose to live a shorter time); but if you wanted to live longer than that, you couldn’t, not even in principle.
However, should life extension technology become possible in the future, at the very least, you would have the option to live longer, and in a best-case scenario, you’d have the option to live in perfect health for as long as you see fit. Right now, you don’t have that option. In this regard, your freedom is severely limited.
This is all that life extension means: the freedom to be healthy and control over how long you want to exist.
The freedom of life extension is being slowed down by distractions
Any discussion of extending healthy human life always descends into debating ethics, delving into the twists and turns of hypothetical dystopian futures with immortal dictators and pondering if extending lifespans is or isn’t natural. People debating whether or not living longer may carry the risk of eternal boredom in the future should remember that people die of age-related diseases at a horrifying average rate of one per second.
It is difficult to say that there are worse problems than aging when in the time it took to say it, two people died of age-related diseases, quite probably after having spent the last ten or twenty years of their lives in increasing misery. No one dies just of “old age”, which is part of why the FDA does not acknowledge aging as an endpoint. Instead, the root causes of aging are responsible for the world’s greatest killers: heart attack, stroke, and cancer.
Letting people die from such diseases, which rejuvenation technology might potentially prevent, is not a valid approach to solving overpopulation any more than mass murder would be. Instead, it makes more sense to focus on more humane, efficient, and ecological measures to reduce the impact of population growth, such as switching to clean energy sources and making lab-grown meat an affordable and widespread reality. Attempting to solve unequal access to rejuvenation technology should not mean giving up on its development; that simply condemns everyone, rich and poor.
We don’t need to convince everyone that longer healthy life is desirable
In general, we cannot expect everyone to join our goal to stop the train or even agree that we should. The good news is that we don’t need everyone to stop the train; we only need enough people. No great revolution ever required a concerted effort of the whole world’s population, and the rejuvenation revolution will hardly be any different in this regard.
However, the relatively few people we’re going to need must first be found and reached out to, which is why advocacy is of the utmost importance. Whether it’s through your website, over the dinner table, or with a public speech, spreading the word to as many people as you can will increase the odds that someone will listen and decide to join, help us pull the train’s brakes, and set a new course to a place where we have the freedom to live as healthily as we like for as long as we like.
Finally, if you want to support our advocacy and educational work, please consider becoming a Lifespan Hero or making a one-off donation. We are a US-based non-profit organization and rely on donations to bring you the latest news and educational content while we continue advocating for research to make age-related diseases a thing of the past.