In recent years, a new field in biotechnology has rose: anti-aging. By use of stem cells taken from an embryo, scientists hope to use these self-replicating, multi-purpose cells to repair any degeneration that may occur as humans age. With the Baby Boom generation beginning to reach their time, skincare companies and researchers alike are trying to milk aging individuals fear of, well, aging.
There are ethical concerns in regard to this issue. The matter of using human embryos that are chiefly for reproduction for other causes, and many question the ethics of intervening with one of life’s most natural process.
As the average life expectancy of Americans continues to rise, reaching an average of 78 in 2010, scientists are in a race to find key to the evasive fountain of youth. Yet, above the ethical concerns and implications, the questions still remains: is it really worth it?
Yes, it’s cool to think that one day, the average age of a human being could reach as high as 150 years of age, and the science behind cell regeneration and replacement is, I’ll admit, pretty bitchin’, what good would a thousands of really old people truly contribute to our society? With government healthcare cost projections already at a sky-high of nearly 83 million dollars in the next thirty years, the cost to keep an even larger number of elderly people alive would lead this already unsustainable cost to reach an even further max. With elderly people already expending upwards of 60 percent of Medicare, do we even have enough money to live longer?
Additionally, cultures and societies have already been constructed around the universality of death. Younger generations gradually phase out the older generations, replacing important positions in government and other occupations. How long would older generations continue to work if their lives are extended and remain in perfectly good health for years to come? The extension of life of older generation further inhibits the voice of younger generations to be heard. Besides the potential of a gerontocracy or the smell of old people permeating the air we breathe, what true purpose does the extension of one’s life contribute towards?
The cycle of life has evolved to be that way in order to prevent overpopulation and the exhaustion of resources. Rather than wasting scientific resources on anti-aging technology, research should be furthered to improve people’s current lives. A common argument that scientists that are for anti-aging technology is that it prevents suffering of diseases that occur in old age as immunity levels weaken. However, this can be achieved without extending lives, but rather spending resources on curing diseases, rather than focusing on widening the lifespan of the aging population.
On top of that, anti-aging technology will indubitably elicit a hefty paycheck, with only some of the wealthiest of elderly people being able to afford radical life extension, an idea that is unfair to those who may not be able to spend such a large amount. If the argument of scientists in the field of anti-aging technology is to prevent suffering of old age and disease, then biotechnology companies should be more judicious with how they plan to better society as a whole.
Besides the sociological and scientific implications of radical life extension, cultural and philosophical consequences arise. The race to achieve the scientific breakthrough of radical life extension poses little benefits to society as a whole, and is rather a narcissistic vision that can be equated to wishing for the ability to fly or be invisible. The idea of anti-aging technology clashes directly with the philosophy of most cultures and belief systems and the divinity in nature’s way of giving and taking back life.
There is value to a limited life. In the investment into extending an ultimately finite existence, we run the risk of losing what it means to exist, to be human.
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