Basics: The Morality of Longevity

I William Wiser (
Tue, 17 Jun 1997 15:38:37 -0700

What does it take to produce productive work towards life extension
and well being?

A belief that it is possible
A belief that it is a good thing
A belief that you are capable of it
A belief that it is a better thing to do than the alternatives
(for people with high need for achievement scores)
A decision to do it
Knowledge and skills
Actual possibility and capability

If significant life extension is not possible it may still be
rewarding, but does not stand out from the many other things
one might do. Possibility is a key issue but is best approached
with an open mind which I think is more likely once the value of
longevity is established. Therefore the first question to tackle
is whether longevity is a good or bad thing.

My own thinking on meta-ethics suggest that values are an evolved
phenomenon. They come about as a result of genetic tendencies,
cultural influences and personal experiences but have no inherent
validity. There may be an inevitable direction to which ethics
are heading but that involves a discussion of fatalism and the
fate of the universe which I do not think is required at this time.

My point is that I think longevity may be a really good thing and
will move on to considering whether or not it is indeed good given
my own values (which you will hopefully find comfortably familiar).
I will follow that (when I can) by a discussion of common values
and how to argue to those values (ethics).

I will make the argument to my own values short. I think itís
really cool. I like an awful lot of things. I am having a lot
of fun in life and there are a ton of things to do. I think the
future is going to be pretty bright and look forward to
participating in it. I canít see how my survival will doom
humanity so I donít even need to weight the relative value of
my survival and theirs. I could conceivably be wrong and the
future may be very grim indeed, but I doubt I will be forced
to stay alive in such a world.

Okay, there is all the justification I need. My argument hinges
primarily on the prospect of a worthwhile future and my
observation that I find life good now.

Now what I want is a relatively sound set of arguments and
techniques that convince other people that my longevity is good
or at least neutral and their longevity is also (thus generating
customers and co-workers while simultaneously being a very helpful
fellow). I also want to see how hard it is to convince people
of the value of longevity before moving on to possibility.

My first quest is to identify peopleís values and the relative
importance of their various values to them. Values vary by
culture and from one individual to another but what sort of
value groups relevant to longevity can I identify?

>From Paul Churchlandís _Engine of Reason, Seat of the Soul_ I
learned that brains function as neural nets doing vector
calculations. From a psychology book (Zimbardo and Gerrig) I
learned, recalled, or inferred the following, people have states
or modes, behavior habitually falls short of expressed morals,
prior beliefs influence perceptions, thinking is a conditioned
behavior, optimism is a good habit, situations have a big
influence on behavior, belief that a therapist can help is a
prime requisite for good therapy, and many people follow the
group and/or authority figure.

I think I would be best to return to my study of marketing
and sales at this point but I would like hear some ideas.

What are the common values about longevity and how do people
group based on their thinking about life extension?

What are the most persuasive ethical arguments that can be
made in favor of longevity keeping values in mind?

What sorts of people would be easiest to convince?
What sorts of people would be most rewarding to convince?
What are some signs that a give person is beyond practical
help for the time being?

I. William Wiser  <>  Longevity Consultant