Live longer? Or help us all live better?

Posted: July 8, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Today I heard an interview with one of the founders of the Methuselah Foundation.

I had never heard of this foundation before and was surprised to learn that their interest is in extending human life spans.

It was admittedly interesting to hear that their research has produced mice with lifespans increased by 20 percent and more. However consider that in human terms. With average western lifespans in the region of 72 years (it varies from country to country and by gender) that means an increased lifespan of at least 14 years. Multiply that across an entire population, even one as relatively small as Australia’s (21 million) and you have a recipe for a major disaster.

Think about this for a moment. Is there going to be a corresponding fall in birthrates? Pretty unlikely. Yet with a fall in death rates as a result of across-the-board extension in lifespans, the current world problem of over-population is only going to continue to worsen. That means a huge economic impact on ever increasing number of older people on welfare through aged pensions etc. In a country like Australia with an aging population, this would be economic bad news to put it mildly.

An even greater concern is that of the impact on our environment. Despite all the awareness being raised about the severe impact humanity has had on our world environment, extending lifespans along with the current ever-increasing birthrates of a continually expanding means a disastrous increased demand on not just scarce resources but reducing resources.

Bear in mind, we are not talking about research to combat disease but simply to straight out extend lifespans beyond what we currently enjoy.

Now let us consider the practicalities of such a research outcome. Are the results going to be readily available to those in poorer and less-developed countries? Or is it the more affluent countries that are going to be able to reap the benefits? I think it rather obvious that it will be the latter thus driving that gap between affluence and poverty even wider.

Is there anything really wrong with accepting that eventually all of us come to the end of the road? Why not instead devote that research effort to solving the problems of health, environment, over-population and poverty?

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