Scientists who have always studied the phenomenon of aging are making discoveries upon discoveries. The most important, however, leads to an awareness: the aging process is not inevitable and, by understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms that determine it, we will be able to develop treatments that slow down or even reverse the process.
We can learn enough to allow humans to live for hundreds of years, like some animals? Or find a way to rewind the tape, like a certain jellyfish? Fascinating questions, often followed by another, always the same: would we really want to do this?
The idea of being able to treat aging like any other medical condition raises some big ethical questions. Do we think about it?
We are many, and we are tearing the world to shreds between climate, resource exploitation and pollution. If we lived much longer, we would reach huge numbers: what impact would overpopulation have on the planet?
Let us try to focus on the issue. Talking about "overpopulation" assumes that the problem arises directly from how many we are, and not from how we behave. And I don't think that's true. Just as it is not true that the "blame" would be of the companies with more births, which at the moment are suffering, and certainly not by imposing the environmental damage of a minority (the very industrialized one).
Let's analyze the facts. Looking at the demographic projections of the United Nations, even in the absurd and ridiculous hypothesis that by 2025 a "pill" would reduce death "from old age" by lowering the risks of cancer, heart attacks, dementia and more, there would be just 16% more of the world's population by 2050.
Would you or would you not be happy to put in a little more effort to reduce our carbon footprint in exchange for a drastic reduction in human death and suffering?
With her Altos Labs the founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos he is only the latest billionaire to invest in anti-aging research. The interest of the ultra rich (especially those in the field of technologies) it's obvious. But, if their efforts are successful, will the rest of us be able to afford these treatments?
In spite of the "vulgate", there are three important reasons to hope so.
Some of these treatments may actually be very inexpensive. Some of the more serious candidates for anti-aging drugs, such as metformin and rapamycin, are existing drugs whose patents have already expired and cost a few cents per pill. Even the most advanced therapies, thanks to automation and economy of scale, could contain costs relatively quickly.
These treatments could practically compensate themselves. It is estimated that Alzheimer's syndrome alone (one of the many diseases linked to aging), costs over $ 1.000 trillion worldwide, which will rise to $ 2.000 trillion by 2030. Drugs capable of alleviating the enormous burden of many diseases would save governments and health systems a huge amount of money.
The most cynical reason: even if the billionaires only thought about themselves, imagine that you are one of them. Would you like to be the first person to take an experimental anti-aging drug or the one hundred thousandth after thorough safety and efficacy tests? This time, what is good for billionaires would also be good for us: a thriving "longevity industry", with cheap cures, widespread use and practically infinite earnings.
Life would no longer make sense
This is the objection that makes me think the most. And it is only given to those who research aging: no one would tell an oncologist, for example, if he is concerned about the effect that any cancer treatments would have on the human condition.
Does it need to be reiterated that even if we had to completely cure aging, people would continue to die? There are still (unfortunately) wars, car accidents, infectious diseases, natural disasters. Certainly, a world in which our biological youth was prolonged as much as possible would be a world with fewer deaths. And I'm not so sure it would be a bad thing.
Much of the meaning of our life comes not from the "big ideas" we have, but from the people who fill it. Our children, our friends, our families.
And much of life's pain comes from poor health, theirs or ours. Why wouldn't we want to live any longer if we could do it longer and in good health?
It is very unlikely that we would get bored, just as it is unlikely that we would flatten without evolving. Indeed, the experience would enrich our possibilities, whatever Elon Musk says (I would like to see it, then, to the point).
Finally, even if we get tired of life at 100, 150, 200, wouldn't you rather walk away quickly and painlessly, when you want, rather than having your life take your life away slowly and painfully for decades by the aging process?
Anti aging, they are just drugs
There is no hard evidence that the extra years gained from preventing heart attacks have taken away meaning from modern life. Why would add a few more years without heart attacks, cancer and old age?
All drugs have side effects. They can also be sociological, economic, ethical effects. The contraceptive pill has transformed society, especially for women. Antibiotics and vaccines have not only saved millions of lives, they have completely redefined our millennial relationship with infectious diseases.
Of course, it is always necessary to discuss the ethical implications of new medical treatments. but for me the world would be a far better place if real drugs that eliminate aging were added to this list of new treatments.
Even if someone today, betting that science will fail, they do "the splendid" saying that after all, dying is beautiful.