‘Be nice, be thin, have daughters’

Steven Poole in The Guardian:

Appleyard5There is a silent catastrophe going on all around us. Every day, 100,000 people die of a condition that might be curable. If it were an ordinary disease it would be called a plague, a pandemic, and epic public-health plans would be drawn up. So why aren’t we devoting more of our resources to finding a cure for this one? Because it’s old age.

In his thought-provoking book, Bryan Appleyard has talked to many of the scientists who think something should be done. They are known as the “life-extension” movement, or, more vividly, the promoters of “medical immortality”. There is no reason in principle why our bodies should be allowed to fall apart and stop working. We could be “medically immortal”: still killable by violence or accident, but otherwise going on and on, like a race of those Ariston washing machines from the 1980s. And if such a thing is possible, delay is immoral. Here is Aubrey de Grey, a beer-loving Englishman who takes an engineering approach to pedantic objections: if, for example, clearing out the garbage that builds up in your cells works, we don’t need to know exactly how it works, we should just start doing it right away. Another researcher says: “It would be insane not to hit the ‘save’ key on you and your life.” The dream is a procedure that would take the old you and repair your bodily damage (perhaps using nanobots, rebuilding you from the inside out), thus restoring you to the physical age of 29. Would you take the pill?

More here.