Friday, January 09, 2015

Life Extension - Dementia Chapter

Some people who are smarter than I am are strongly in favor of seeking technology for life extension.  The argument in favor seems to be some sort of double-reverse: No, the people against it are imagining life extension as if you are a 90-year-old living on in a miserable existence for another 30 years.  We're not talking about that at all.  We're talking about active years, good years, where 50 is 30 and 100 is 60.

So, because you think some people are making a bad argument against you, therefore you're right? That's kind of where most pointless theological discussions keep going, isn't it?

I'm pretty sure that's not what I'm imagining.  I don't have anything against anyone pursuing all the life extension they want.  But I am completely unconvinced it is an unquestionable good.  I can imagine it as a fun ride - but so what? I think the extension advocates are discounting possible negatives with a wave of the hand, of things that can be worked out with just a little more effort.

My strongest argument is that we will not learn to extend all life-systems at equal rates.  If we can keep hearts and knees going but digestions and hearing lag, is that a net plus?  Most important of all is cognition.  I do not want my body persevering when my brain is gone.

My complaint is not entirely theoretical.  It is in fact already happening.  And it's going to get worse. There is currently no treatment for dementia, and there is nothing on the immediate horizon that looks encouraging. We might be on the verge of early detection. That does not impress me. Consider one of the statistics in the article.  Of the people over 70 who came into their clinic, 90% had some cognitive deficit. That is not the same as 90% of 70-year-olds, no.  But it's still a very big number. We have already extended the life of the body without extending the life of the brain.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Forget not that thy assumptions may and some will definitely be wrong. Perhaps in Ivory Soap numbers.