Should funding anti-aging technology be a major health initiative

Anti-aging technology is designed to hold off aging on a cellular level. The eventual goal is to have designs that allow a person to live to 500+ years but maintain the body of a 40 year old. This sounds unrealistic, and currently is, but Turtles for example do not develop old age. They reach middle age and then just stay there.

Since most diseases and many expenditures are tied into old age, shouldn’t anti-aging technology be a major health initiative? With no old age, there’d be no retirement. With no retirement, no social security (save 500 billion right there). Medicare would also not exist as the ‘elderly’ would not get sick anymore than those in their 30s. Right now the elderly make up disproportionate amounts of healthcare spending, but with no aging that takes away a huge chunk of the issue of healthcare costs spiraling out of control.

Plus most serious diseases are tied into aging. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, alzheimers. With no aging, most diseases would be cured or cut down drastically. Ending aging to fight disease is kind of like banning the car to cut down on drunk driving accidents.

Plus anti-aging is going to allow us to keep the most educated, wise members of this society. There was a book I saw at the library “You life and learn: Then You Die and Forget It All”. So you spend 60-70 years learning how to lead life intelligently, how to be a good employees, etc and then you die. All that knowledge goes away for the most part and the most educated minds end up leaving us.

I realize anti-aging isn’t feasable now, but perhaps in 100 years it will be. Should we work on it? It seems to be economical and good for saving money as well as fighting disease and human suffering.

On the other hand, a society where no one dies would be a society where new ideas never get a foothold. You need a constant infusion of new minds to rethink old ideas. It’d be hard to convince a 300 year old person born in 1680 that gay marriage or ending racism is ok. However people born into a culture with these ideas are more open to them. So a society with no aging is a society that could stagnate.

I’m not really worried about overpopulation per se, as I feel we’d find ways to deal with that problem as it came.

Yes. Nor do I think it’s quite as difficult as you think.

First, this is one area where incremental advances will help a lot. 20 years of extra life won’t be as good of 500, but they are an extra 20 years. That also allows you the chance to “bootstrap” yourself to even more life; who knows how fast medical technology will advance in those 20 years ?

Second, it looks harder than it is because there’s been little effort until recently; not until the Baby Boom started feeling old, in fact. Back in the 80’s, people who succeeded in life extension experiments with things like fruit flies and rats were driven out of the profession due to pressure from groups like the Catholic Church and the life insurance companies. I’m not joking about the Church; pick up any book from the time on the subject, and there’ll likely be an interview with some priest about the evils of life extension. We really haven’t tried real hard to stop aging; cover it up cosmetically, but not stop the underlying process.

Third, there’s the premature aging seen in many clones; that implies that a lot of aging is not simple decay, but some kind of genetic program; stopping that should be easier than fixing a million-and-one different problems caused by decay.

Finally about your worry about a lack of new ideas without new blood, we really don’t know what will happen. No one knows how much of the reduced mental flexibility of the old is from the mind itself, and how much from the decay of the brain.We really have no way of knowing the mental flexibility of a 100 year old mind in a twenty year old brain.

Look at these charts on gays and the elderly
The charts in the section titled “Public Divided over Gay Adoption” shows an inverse correlation between support for gay rights and age

Support for gay adoption

18-29 - 58%
30-49 - 47%
50-64 - 44%
65+ - 32%

Strong opposition to gay marriage
18-29 - 25%
30-49 - 26%
50-64 - 30%
65+ - 33%

Gays should be allowed to openly serve in the military
18-29 - 72%
30-49 - 62%
50-64 - 59%
65+ - 47%

People who are older and more accustomed to a certain way of life seem to put up more resistance to new ideas and new lifestyles. So this could lead to cultural stagnation. I am 26 and all my life I have been exposed to the idea of gay rights. For someone who has lived 40+ years without seeing any mainstream attempt to promote gay rights their views will be alot more conservative.

Yes, but like I said, we don’t know how much of that is biological. Younger people change their opinions all the time; older people don’t. After all, the real problem isn’t that older folks have out of date ideas; it’s that many simply aren’t convincible.