Is 78.8 Years a Long Enough Life?


You’ve probably read about radical life extension science and the funds that are being poured into finding a “cure” for aging. Several tech giants, including Google, have joined pioneers like Aubrey de Gray in what is often characterized as a search for immortality.

In actuality, much of the research is targeted at increasing what’s being called “healthspan” along with lifespan. If we can harness the power of biotechnology to figure out why we age and how to slow the process, then not only will people live longer, but they’ll be less likely to suffer from diseases of aging such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease. Our lifespans will be longer, and we’ll be healthy and productive into much older age.

At least, that’s the argument in favor of “messing with nature,” as some people characterize life-extension research.

The Debate

With more and more money being funneled into the field, more health data being crunched and chances increasing that scientists will crack the aging code, it’s a good time to examine the arguments. That’s what Intelligence Squared U.S. will be doing in a heavyweight debate between leading life-extension scientists (including de Gray) and ethicists (including Paul Root Wolpe, a founder of neuroethics). Learn about the complete panel here and read what the panelists have written on the topic here.

The debate, at New York’s Kauffman Center, follows a classic format — but as in all Intelligence Squared debates, the audience weighs in ahead of time via an electronic poll and again at the end of the event; the extent to which opinion swings between the two polls determines the winner of the debate.

Weigh In

Non-attendees weigh in, too, by voting in an online poll. At this time, the public poll is showing most people disagreeing with the premise that at an average 78.8 years, lifespans are long enough.

Take the poll and watch the livestream at IntelligenceSquared U.S.

Update February 5: Is our current lifespan long enough? The No vote won handily in the February 3 debate, with a majority of the vote and a larger part of the Undecided slice shifting its way. You can still watch the archived livestream of the debate here and vote in the public poll.  


What do you think about radical life extension? Watch the debate, then share your opinion in the comments below.

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  • Alexander Gross

    From Chapter 53 of my book “The Untold Sixties” (see Amazon…)
    “The unavoidable truth is this: when one disease is cured, another simply moves forward to take its place. None of our much vaunted and highly publicized advances in medical research has truly altered this process, other than raising medical costs astronomically. It’s also certain that none of us would be remotely prepared to live in a world where no one ever dies, a situation creating in its wake desperate problems of unemployment, a never-changing work force, unalterable family relationships, total absence of inheritance, and of course uncontrollable over-population. Ultimate disenchantment over the failure of this dream, along with the others, may also lead to new
    forms of militancy.”

  • Lauren

    Until attitudes about aging change dramatically, all this sounds like is an effort to prolong the time which the ‘over 65’ population is dismissed as marginal. Presently extending lifespans amounts to prolonging decline and suffering and dragging out the dying process. Anyone 75 or older is very lucky indeed when a normal lifespan in many of the countries of the world is considered. And do we really need to burden our planet with the additional population when it’s already ballooned too much? Find a cure for autism, Alzheimer’s and cancer and quit worrying about giving a few lucky people the ability to outlive all their peers.

  • Madison Levine

    This is a really interesting question. I was at a seminar this last week where the speaker announced that 120 would be the new 100, that 100 would be the new 80. The medical advances that could feasibly get us there are happening faster and faster. The most mindblowing point he made was in the ability to use wearable devices, embedded with thousands of sensors (think Fitbit) to measure our vitals, to detect disease and to make emergency calls for us if our bodies go into distress. The exciting development was the possibility of using the ear for all of these sensors, a new iteration of the wearable: the hearable. If you could enjoy the healthspan that you mention in the article, it seems that pretty much everyone would agree that a longer life would be better.

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