... the prevalence of comments from laypeople along the lines of “Who would want to spend all that time being old?”, “Wouldn’t we get terribly bored?” or “How would we pay for all those pensions?” fills many of us with such awe at their breathtaking stupidity that any ardour to persist in a patient explanation of what success in this endeavour would actually mean is rapidly sapped. But this is not a legitimate reaction to such inanity, in my view. To put it simply, it is just not plausible that people are really that dumb. Hence, before we abandon our fellow man to his misconception, we as biogerontologists are duty bound to seek a more satisfactory basis for the persistence of these extraordinarily transparently flawed opinions.But in Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime by Aubrey de Grey:
On doing so we are forced, it seems to me, to acknowledge that one very simple reason fits the facts: denial.
... the prospect of eventually being able to combat aging as well as we can currently combat most infectious diseases—essentially to eliminate aging as a cause of death, in other words—strikes terror into most people: Their immediate (and, I must point out, often high-pitched) reaction is to raise the specter of uncontrollable overpopulation, or of dictators living forever, or of only a wealthy elite benefiting, or any of a dozen other concerns.Previously (2003), Aubrey de Grey said these objections are dumb, inane, and breathtakingly stupid. Later (2007), he says they certainly aren't dumb. These statements contradict. Which is it – and why?
Now, I’m certainly not saying that these objections are dumb—not at all. We should indeed be considering them as dangers that we should work to preempt by appropriately careful forward planning.
Previously he attacked these sorts of objections, but condescendingly defended the speakers as rationalizing not arguing. Rather than address the issues, he focused on ad hominem claims about the psychology of people who disagree with him. But four years later he says the objections are reasonable concerns which should be considered and dealt with by careful planning.
I consider it highly likely that within ten years from now, if the rather modest necessary funding is forthcoming, we will have the ability to take a mouse cohort with a three-year life expectancy, when it is already two years old, and treble its remaining life expectancy (that is, give it a total life expectancy of five years). I also consider it highly likely that the announcement of that degree of control over mouse aging will almost instantly overturn society’s prevailing fatalism concerning any chance of personal benefit from real anti-aging medicine.The objections won't all instantly melt away because they are not just meaningless emotional irrationality. It's so condescending to think there's no real objections. It's going to take patient discussions to create agreement with the many people who currently disagree (and it should not be assumed they are wrong about everything – rational discussions must be approached without assuming the conclusions in advance). It'd be better to begin that process today, rather than expect a shortcut will work.
Improved technology simply won't answer concerns about boredom, dictators or overpopulation. Nor will the objections be addressed by calling them dumb and then commenting negatively about the objectors, rather than discussing the issues to find win/win solutions. Condescendingly calling others irrational is itself an irrational way to deal with intellectual issues.