Life extension as human enhancement

On the heels my recent posting about human enhancement (here), I found an item on the Foresight Institute website about life extension. The poster, Christine Peterson, is responding to an article at The Mark (from their About page) “…  Canada’s daily online forum for news, commentary, and debate.” The article, Nanotechnology and Life Extension; 70, 80, or 90 could be the new 64; but is living longer necessarily a good thing?, is by Kerry Bowman and Alan Warner. From the April 14, 2010 article,

It may sound like science fiction, but with innovations in medical nanotechnology, human beings could be looking at a life extension of years or even decades. Nanotech involves microsystems that work on a microscopic scale to potentially alter our physiology and drastically improve our immune systems through improved diagnostic and surgery techniques, gene therapy, cell repair, and more. In the future, we may even be able to use implanted devices to physiologically monitor our bodies – a breakthrough in disease prevention and treatment.

I find the piece a little problematic since these writers don’t seem to know much about nanotechnology or clinical medicine. As you can see in the excerpt that follows, they seem better versed in history,

Life extension is not new. In ancient Rome, the average lifespan was around 23 years; today, the average global life expectancy is 64 years. Demographers tell us there has been an average gain in life expectancy of about three months a year for the last 160 years and that this is steadily increasing. To date, life extension has not necessarily been intentional, often the by-product of our efforts to improve medicine or quality of the life of the elderly.

As far as I can tell, the writers don’t really need to mention nanotechnology as it’s irrelevant to their main topic, life extension which has been occurring and is continuing to do so for reasons entirely unrelated to nanotechnology. Christine Peterson offers a different perspective in her May 10, 2010 response,

There is a simple answer to this debating. Boomers should stick around, keep working, and help pay off the national debt(s). And while we’re at it, we can help clean up the environment. It’s not fair to leave these tasks as burdens on the next generation.

I applaud the sentiment. I’ve never understood why people so proudly proclaim  the next generation as ‘hope for the future’ and then announce that the newbies will be responsible for fixing the previous generations’ mistakes.

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