Longer life, more trouble?
An article in the Times argues that life extension will bring us problems: long-lived people will bankrupt the NHS, pensions would become expensive, the pension age would need to be changed, there would be a pressure for resources and life would become meaningless. It is a surprisingly common criticism that would never be levelled at other attempts of improving the human condition, perhaps because its falsity would be too obvious.
Arguing that longer life should not be pursued because it would mess up pension ages and other current social institutions is like arguing that we should not try to reduce crime – after all, what would the legal system do if there were fewer criminals and victims? The great ills of infirmity, disease and death caused by ageing are significantly greater than the potential social problems their cure would cause. Each of the stated problems can also be overcome if society so wishes – changing the pension system or having to pay a more taxes is a small price to pay for more life and potential happiness.
If the finitude of human life is what makes us happy, how come the generally happiest (as measured by e.g. the World Values Study) countries are the most long-lived? How come countries and populations
with shorter lifespans are not happier? If the actual lifespan does not matter directly, just the finiteness of it, then the Times author can rest easily: no amount of anti-ageing medicine will remove our essential mortality. We are after all finite beings in a random universe, and accidents will eventually get us. But to assume that gives meaning to life is like arguing that the value of love is entirely due to divorce.