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A death is bad because of the effect it has on those that remain and
because it removes the possibility for future joy on the part of the
deceased. A world in which we have ended death but are still limited
by the carrying capacity of Earth means the same number of people
living at once as one in which people still die and are born.
Generally, everyone dies. Traditionally we deal with this by accepting a belief in reincarnation or an afterlife, so it doesn't seem so bad. Or, especially more recently, while you belive death is t...
David German's profile photoJeff Kaufman's profile photoTodd Nelling's profile photoDavid Chudzicki's profile photo
Why assume we'll always be limited by the carrying capacity of Earth, though? If that limitation is also eliminated, would your position change?
+Todd Nelling People can reproduce pretty quickly (and some sort of future AIs/emulations could "reproduce" way faster), so I suspect we'll always be limited by some carrying capacity.
What about going the opposite direction- increased reproductive rate and decreased life span?
+Todd Nelling I think it's unlikely that we're in exactly the right place here: either fewer longer lives or more shorter lives would probably be better. I'm just skeptical that there's much gain in optimizing here. I don't think Aubrey de Grey is right that death and aging is "humanity’s single biggest problem".
"Would we become less able to make progress in the world because people have trouble moving on from what they first learned?"

I doubt it. I think that when you see people behave this way, they're either responding to a flawed incentive structure, or suffering the detrimental effects of age itself. Progress against aging is a double win for productivity: it's not just more years of experience, but also higher mental and physical agility at any given level of experience.
+David German You don't think there are any deep-seated, wrong beliefs people would have trouble giving up? Racism, for example. If American slave-owners had never aged/died out, would civil rights have progressed as quickly?
+Todd Nelling That's an interesting point. I was thinking about career skills and innovation, not cultural attitudes. I suppose the difference is that there's a clear, swift, inevitable penalty for letting your job skills become obsolete.

Still, I'd like to think that a slow-aging society would improve its attitudes rapidly when needed. Long experience could help people recognize facts, high acuity could prevent any beliefs from becoming too "deep-seated" to change, and social pressure could be much more effective with the trust that comes from century-scale relationships.
One consideration is that we usually privilege the present over the future due to uncertainty. It makes sense that this would apply to current vs. future people, too. We're also arguably not that close to the point where we need to offset gains in longevity with decreases in birth rate, at least on a global level.
+Lucas Sanders I'm claiming that, to the extent people ossify with age, it's because of the degenerative effects of aging itself, not because of the experience or knowledge that comes with age. If anything, increasing your experience by learning new things combats ossification!

If I'm right, the observation that young people have empirically been more innovative is irrelevant to an anti-aging future. People with 100+ years of professional experience will still have the plasticity, memory, and entrepreneurial creative-destructive drive of eighteen-year-olds.
+David German "100+ years of professional experience + the plasticity, memory, and entrepreneurial creative-destructive drive of eighteen-year-olds"

That's really strong. We may be able to stop or slow aging in many ways without getting much control over the "mental age" of people. It may also be that some the changes we attribute to aging aren't a change in the brain but responding to new information: perhaps a big part of the way younger people approach the world differently is simply that they have less experience? Maybe all people get stuck to some degree in what they first learn, and stopping the physical processes of agin won't change this?
+Lucas Sanders"What do you think “better” means in this context? I think we need to address that question before we can really say whether it's worth trying to optimize the reproductive rate vs longevity tradeoff."

If longer lives lead to more happiness (per year) overall, perhaps because people have more time to get really good at something, that's "better". If shorter lives lead to more happiness (per year) overall, perhaps because we satiate and get less out of additional years, that's "better".
+Jeff Kaufman "perhaps a big part of the way younger people approach the world differently is simply that they have less experience?" It's clearly a big part of the ways in which younger people approach the world ineffectively. My intuition is strongly against it being a big part of the ways in which they approach the world well, but I don't see how to prove anything either way.

"We may be able to stop or slow aging in many ways without getting much control over the "mental age" of people." Again, sure. This is one definite problem with claiming anti-aging is "humanity's highest priority": we haven't the remotest idea how much can actually be accomplished, or at how much cost.
Regardless of what the answer to all of these questions is, it seems unreasonable to tell people that they shouldn't try to extend the lifespans of current people because of the mentioned possible negative effects.
+Todd Nelling Certainly, but on the flip side, it's also unreasonable to declare lifespan extension "humanity's single biggest problem".

EDIT to get the quote right.
+David German I think it would be difficult to make a definitive claim that any particular problem was humanity's highest priority.
+Todd Nelling "it seems unreasonable to tell people that they shouldn't try to extend the lifespans of current people because of the mentioned possible negative effects."

If there was something special about death that made it really bad, or something special about not having to die that made it really good, as Yudkowsky and De Grey seem to believe, then anti-aging would be really important. To the point that it would be in hot competition with GiveWell-style medical interventions and existential risk reduction for the best use of people's improve-the-world dollars.
+Jeff Kaufman You mentioned in another thread that everyone is selfish. From a selfish standpoint, there absolutely is something special about not having to die. That's what I was alluding to in my previous comment. In terms of overall happiness, sure, it might not be a big boost, but to the people who are around to care (all of them!), it's crazy valuable (that can, of course, be offset by considerations of plausibility).
+David German "uncomfortably dictatorial"

I don't think it's dictatorial for De Grey to say that he believes he is working on humanity's biggest problem. I think I may have been unfair pulling that quote out. With somewhat more context:

My life is very far from typical for a career in gerontology! As the global spearhead (and figurehead, I suppose) of the crusade to bring aging under complete medical control, I spend an large amount of my time doing interviews, which most people do none of, and lectures, which most people do not many of and only to other scientists rather than to general audiences. Also, when I’m not doing outreach I mainly spend my time advising and connecting other scientists - I don’t do any bench science myself. I find all of these activities engaging and fulfilling - it’s an immense privilege to have the chance to spend all my time doing the thing I most want to do it the whole world, namely to hasten the solution of humanity’s single biggest problem.

The work of a typical gerontologist - and here I refer to biogerontologists, who study the biology of aging, rather than clinical gerontologists (aka geriatricians) or social gerontologists - is actually not materially different from that of any other bench scientist. You do experiments, you do them again and again until they work, you talk about them, you write them up for publication, you ask the government for money for the next experiment - you get the idea. But of course you also get at least a little of what I get: the satisfaction of knowing that you’re contributing to solving humanity’s worst problem.
+Lucas Sanders Hence "offset by considerations of plausibility".

If we seemed to be close to solving the problem of death, I'd throw all my chips into that pot and worry about the consequences AFTER I'd achieved semi-immortality, at which point I'd have all the time in the world to figure it out.
That's interesting... updating beliefs based on opposing the beliefs of others is not normally what you're supposed to do =P I understand what you're saying, but I'm definitely selfish enough to take the risk, should the opportunity present itself.
Re younger people having less experience-- Don't lots of founders say they're glad they didn't know how hard it would be, because then they never would have tried?
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