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Life Extension and American Politics

Posted: Sat, February 23, 2013 | By: Special Guest



by Tom Mooney

When scientists finally unlock the secrets of aging and begin to develop effective treatments for indefinite life extension I sincerely hope that all who choose to participate in this extraordinary event will have the opportunity to do so, before they die or give up hope.

I say this because presently, life extension projects are underway and more needs to be done yet most of the general public is not aware that their lives could be extended, Government funding is nonexistent and too many people know nothing about life extension and they cling to the myth that we all must die and few, if any, elected officials are willing to risk the wrath of their constituents by trying to make it an issue. A member of the House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate would never openly support us out of fear of losing his or her seat. In other words we have a lot of work to do.

by Tom Mooney
by Tom Mooney

We live in a strongly religious country, in which a vast majority of the voters have a belief in a “god” who, in their estimation, will decide each person’s ultimate fate. In this scenario death is inevitable, and expected. Anyone who tries to attack or debunk these long held beliefs is usually ignored or ridiculed. As a result few, if any, elected officials want to lose their job over what they perceive as a peripheral issue at best, and a politically dangerous one at worst. Most politicians are not going to risk their career on a peripheral issue and, also, they are not what one might call, “profiles in courage”.

In other words, we have a long and tortuous path to travel! When presented with the question, “If given the opportunity to extend your life indefinitely, would you do it ?To those in the life extension movement the answer would be a resounding “yes”, but to the ordinary citizen who is unfamiliar with the issue, the response would be a resounding “NO” Quite frankly, we have a huge number of people who need to become acquainted and comfortable with the idea of “life extension”. Too many believe that only evil people such as vampires or monsters have the ability to live an extremely long life. I can assure you that no one has ever lost an election because they underestimated the intelligence of the voters I know that sounds elitist but it is true!

Despite what many think, America is a relatively conservative nation, especially on social and cultural issues. We are a religious nation and issues such as abortion, gay rights, marriage and many others that are similar remain unresolved. Like it or not, indefinite life extension, will be an incredibly divisive issue! It flies directly into the heart of many religious people who believe that “life and death” issues should be left to God. Indefinite life extension will make abortion look like,” a walk in the park! Quite frankly, this is one of the chief reasons why most politicians will attempt to avoid talking about this issue. There are no elected officials who want to lose an election over what they perceive is a “peripheral” issue at best and a dangerous one at worst.

Quite frankly, we have a long arduous path confronting us. Americans appear blinded to the sage words written in the Declaration of Independence which read ,“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

These profound ideals, written in Philadelphia in 1776 have slowly evolved over the years, and now their relevance will be tested. The other two “rights, namely “liberty” and ‘the pursuit of happiness’ become meaningless words unless the right to life is diligently pursued.

Life is the “sine qua non” of the Declaration of Independence and if one reads this founding document he or she will also find that in order to “secure these rights, Governments are instituted…”.

It seems in order to conclude that the Government has an obligation under this founding document to promote and assist in whatever ways possible “life extension” research and to make it available to those who seek it.

Also, in order to fully realize the other two rights, “Liberty and the pursuit of happiness” one must be “alive”, otherwise, the rights of, “liberty and the pursuit of happiness” become greatly diminished.

When the second Continental Congress wrote the Declaration of Independence 225 years ago there was no “hard” evidence” that life extension was possible but that does not diminish the written words of the document. The intention in the document is clear. In America we respect life and are desirous of people living as long as possible. The message is namely, we need to support life extension research and in fact it should be a national priority.

I know this will be a tough battle. There are many issues that people face from taxes to crime to poverty and so on.

But “life” is transcendent! Few have ever heard of a “life extension movement” and we have a massive educational job in front of us and we must begin now! We need to have a vision of a society that cares as much about the quality of its’ communities as the quantity of its’ goods. Life extension can be “socially transformational” and we must make “life extension” available to all who want it. We must stress “inclusiveness” as opposed to making it available only to the rich. We must remember that presently we all die and to exclude those who may not be able to afford it is a type of “social genocide” that cannot be tolerated.

We have a massive scientific, political and social undertaking in front of us and we must begin now.

While the science of life extension research is progressing, the social and political aspect is virtually nonexistent. I am not overly critical of this situation but there will be significant opposition to life extension and we need to be prepared.

Politics is about gaining power and keeping it. For example, a few years ago a “tea party” was a social gathering among mostly older people. Today it is considered a viable, effective, conservative, political force with a great deal of power and influence on the national political stage. How did this happen?

It started with a small group of people who were angry and declared they were going to do something about it. They said, “enough is enough” and they wanted smaller government, massive spending cuts and “traditional values”. Many of them had no political experience but they had vision and determination. Now, they have become a major force in American politics, especially in the Republican party.

Quite frankly, we need to become a lot more ourselves. People in the life extension movement, have been, for the most part unwilling or unable to roll up their sleeves and become involved. I am aware that politics can be confrontational, divisive, and raw. Too often American politics is not about the merits of an issue or a candidate or a Platonic search for the truth, instead it is usually a contest to determine whose point of view will prevail.

The Phoenix - believed to be have the ability to be Reborn
The Phoenix - believed to be have the ability to be Reborn

We all know that the issue of “life extension” is a new one that elected officials know little about. I have spoken to many members of Congress and their aides with limited success. The main problem is that they know little about the issue of life extension. In other words we have a lot of work to do! We must begin to educate our elected officials. Some believe indefinite life extension is impossible, others raise religious objections, and, believe it or not, a few even associate it with Frankenstein, or Dracula or someone who has illegally gained immortality and wants to destroy us. Some have religious objections, or population concerns, or scarce resources and the impact on the environment. In other words we have a long way to go before “life extension” becomes a viable issue.

In reality, all of these concerns can be addressed in a sane and rational manner but in reality, too many of them are trying to avoid the substance of an issue that will become one of the most important matters in the history of the world, namely, indefinite life extension!

I am an optimist who always sees the donut and never the hole. Over a reasonable amount of time, “indefinite life extension” will become a reality but the road to success will be difficult!

We must continue organizing at every opportunity that presents itself. I have no intention of becoming statistic on a mortality chart and I hope you feel similarly. We must come together and fight for our lives. Quite frankly, the ultimate fate of life extension is in your hands.

Become involved. People matter in politics. You can bet your life on it



Comments:

“Despite what many think, America is a relatively conservative nation.”

Finally someone has written it. No more Freddie Futurist Jive about Seeing the Progressive In Every Blade of Grass.

“Become involved. People matter in politics. You can bet your life on it.”

Alright. You have written a well-made exhortation. But to get involved, I do it my way and mockingly tell the rubes to bugger off. If some of you want to be easy on them, that is kind of you. But nice IMO is for church, not in the world outside: in business, nice guys finish last- for the business of business is business and Mind your Own business.
Americans only genu-winely respect people who stick up for themselves in the marketplace of ideas and go the Extra Mile to fight for what is Right. Jes’ good plain ordinary down home folks who slop the hogs in the morning and beat the goshdurned Russkies to the Moon the same year the Mets and Broadway Joe both won. What we need is a football player for president and a baseball player for vice president. Amen.

Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch!

 

By Alan Brooks on Feb 23, 2013 at 10:49pm

I do not know of many religious folk who deem it a sin for doctors and nurses to do everything in their power to extend the life of somebody struck down with sickness or accident. In fact, when it comes to the issue of ending life the most vocal oppositions tend to be those beholden to a religion. If medical science were to become more advanced as years go by, enabling lives to be saved that would otherwise surely perish, and extending quality of life where it would otherwise be a grim future of debilitating illness, why should this be more sinful than, say, organ transplant?

It would be interesting to know how many people who replied ‘no’ to the question ‘do you want to live indefinitely?’ would answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘do you want to die tomorrow?’. Not many would be my bet. And yet, the desire not to die ‘tomorrow’ is synonymous with the desire to live indefinitely.

Probably, once SENS is practical medical technology, the vast majority will insist it is their God-given right to have access to it.

By Extropia DaSilva on Feb 24, 2013 at 1:27am

Alongside “population concerns, scarce resources and impact on the environment”, another concern that - unlike the other ones that the author mentions - strikes me as Not Obviously Stupid (NOS) is the very divisiveness and potential for huge social disruption.

More generally, I see a need within the life extension movement for a more serious response to these NOS concerns than I have seen so far. We need to envisage scenarios in which these concerns are addressed in a satisfactory way, without starting from a position that simply dismisses them as nonsensical.

This isn’t to disagree with the author’s general call to arms (and anger), but this is a flanking measure that will be essential for securing the unreserved support of moderate, thinking, sceptical people.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 24, 2013 at 2:54am

..if getting involved means fighting the rubes that rule, then I’m in the game; however if you mean doing something proactive, constructive, for transhumanism, it is for the straights to do—engineers, scientists, doctors, etc. And I don’t want to attend, wearing a suit, a never-ending series of seminars and so forth.
Let the straights do that, as well.

By Alan Brooks on Feb 24, 2013 at 4:01am

Back when I was more socially active, I had chance to conduct my own informal survey concerning whether people wanted to live forever. I was (and still am) shocked to find that about 19/20 thought it was good and right that people die. To say the least, I found this very depressing. It was inconceivable to me that anyone (never mind the vast majority!) would hold such beliefs. I suppose in part it’s why I’m not so social anymore. Increasingly (as I aged) the perception that I might just be “in it to save my own hide” became the impenetrable wall people would construct to avoid the subject. So discussing at any length didn’t seem likely to win any converts. It’s funny how one can present hundreds of arguments for something like longevity research for the benefit of ALL mankind, yet people only see your own personal stake in it. Even when I say I would give up my life today if it would mean immortality for everyone else, they figure it’s just a ruse. I guess that’s what infuriated me most of all. I really hate being misunderstood and called a liar.

By Damian Poirier on Feb 24, 2013 at 7:00am

I greatly appreciated the sage comments people made concerning my article and I wanted to offer a few comments that I believe are relevant.
First of all politics is a an ongoing process that can be incredibly frustrating.There are many competing forces and sadly, governing bodies do not sit down and use some type of Platonic dialogue searching for the truth.There are many factors that enter into any discussion of pending legislation and much of it has nothing to do with the merits of the bill.Ultimately though voter support for the idea plays a key role in the bills ultimate fate.Lamentably,most people know nothing about life extension and this is one factor we need to change.We need to begin to   educate people now!Too many believe that life extension is a bunch of zombies wantonly marauding cities and towns.
I know that is an exaggeration but not by much.This sounds elitist but no one ever lost an election by underestimating the intelligence of the average voter.Life extension is an issue that will be far more divisive than"abortion”.We live in a very religious nation and we will be opposed by priests,ministers,rabbis etc.
If life extension is available Heaven and Hell become unecessary.I am sure that some people will remain religious but the majority will opt out..
Regardless of my social concerns though,“life extension"will be delayed unless we become more socially and politically active.Obviously,Federal financing would expedite finding a “cure"for aging,but more importantly we need to build political support now before various and sundry regulations come into play.We will be accused of everything from attacking God to practicing devil worship,or some such ridiculous thing.The rise of life extension would anger “tea party"types more than government spending does.I am not trying to denigrate anyone’s political ideology or beliefs I am merely evaluating the problems we face now and in the future.
Most people do not want to die but they fear profound change..We need to be resolute in the face of the negative onslaught that will occur thwe closer we come to curing the terminal condition we call aging.This will be a monumental social,political,and religious bruhaha that will divide people on social and religious grounds.
We need to begin spreding the word ,organizing as a movement dedicated to life extension and refuse to compromise.
Take my word for it,politics is a blood sport and many people will have their knives out for us.
If anyone would like to discuss this further with me ,I can be reached at,“Director@coalitiontoextendlife.org or by phone at 202-445-4876.
I am in this for the long haul and I hope you are as well!..

By Tom Mooney on Feb 24, 2013 at 11:12am

“We need to envisage scenarios in which these concerns are addressed in a satisfactory way, without starting from a position that simply dismisses them as nonsensical. This isn’t to disagree with the author’s general call to arms (and anger), but this is a flanking measure that will be essential for securing the unreserved support of moderate, thinking, sceptical people.”


The counterpoint, Pete, is we shouldn’t even feint at being everything to everybody. Don’t know Europe, but in America it is absolutely guaranteed you don’t make a future-omelete without breaking some conservative eggs. It is too easy to doubletalk and say we are attempting continuity when we are in actuality not doing so. If you want more on delinking the past from the present to build the future, will perseverate untill you write “enough!...”

By Alan Brooks on Feb 24, 2013 at 10:17pm

I am heartened to read the exchange between Peter Wicks and Alan Brooks because they understand the inevitable bruhaha caused by the onset of effective life extension treatments.There are many issues that will be used by opponents,ranging from overpopulation to scarce resources and beyond.but they can be handled.Perhaps I read too much Toynbee in college but I believe we can arrive at a proper response to the obvious challenges I mentioned.
As far as I am concerned the the most difficult issue will be the impact of life extension on religion. One need only look at the controversy over abortion,gay rights,and other social issues to comprehend the opposition which will be raised.
Let’s be honest.Indefinite life extension makes religion essentially superfluous. Who needs God and Heaven if a person will live indefinitely? I am sure that strong religious opposition,especially in the area of Government funding will be organized and our opponents will pull out"all the stops” to prevent life extension research as we come closer to developing treatments..I sincerely believe that “life extension"will become one of the most contested issues in the history of American politics!
Alan,s comments that"We can’t dismiss our opponents"is absolutely correct as is Peter when he refers to “huge social disruption”.Indefinite life extension” is an incredibly controversial topic that will divide this country more so than any other issue since the Civil War.We must be prepared!
Slowly but surely more people are becoming involved but so much more needs to be done.WE WILL PREVAIL but it will not be easy!
I sincerely hope that all of us can work together to defeat death in our lifetime!!!

By Tom Mooney on Feb 25, 2013 at 8:55am

Hi Alan,

I agree we should not try to be everything to everyone, but this is why I draw a distinction between what I call NOS concerns and those that ARE obviously stupid. The fact is that - as the author notes - people come out with all sorts of rubbish when the subject of radical life extension comes up. How polite one wants to be in such cases is a matter of communication strategy (and personal style). What I’m taking about is the legitimate reasons why people might want to be cautious.

The world is not divided into those who are for radical life extension and those who are opposed. There are also many who haven’t yet made up their minds, and want to see some evidence that those of us who are in favour have properly thought through the consequences.

By Peter Wicks on Feb 25, 2013 at 9:05am

Peter,
    You hit the nail on the proverbial head.Sadly,as you indicate,most people have not made up their mind.They know nothing about this issue.Some people think of zombies or vampires when you mention life extension and we clearly need a strong educational effort among the general public or we will never obtain government funding or legislative initiatives supporting us.
America is a very religious country and we will inevitably have negative comments in many sermons given in churches all over the country.We have a loy of work to do and I hope that all of us in the movement can hang together,or otherwise, we will hang separately!

By Tom Mooney on Feb 25, 2013 at 10:45am

“How polite one wants to be in such cases is a matter of communication strategy (and personal style). What I’m taking about is the legitimate reasons why people might want to be cautious.The world is not divided into those who are for radical life extension and those who are opposed. There are also many who haven’t yet made up their minds, and want to see some evidence that those of us who are in favour have properly thought through the consequences.”

Tom is right, you hit the nail on the head, Pete, but (and there’s always a ‘but’); experience in the Midwest and elsewhere—not that much difference in locations—indicates the two clauses above are related. Here is a public that usually doesn’t even know how the filament of a lightbulb works, who might think God created filaments, and you end up talking in circles with them. Which is the reason ‘bots are important to me: to have beings to communicate with in the Now, not beings whose cognition is stuck in the remote past.
The legitimate reasons why people might want to be cautious makes it virtually impossible to communicate with rubes unless one is aggressive in communicating. If you attempt to calmly explain to a rube, the shorthand ‘rube’ not necessarily referencing an unsophisticate (because their gadgets are state of art though all else may be in the distant past.. even 18th century) the possibilities of radical life extension they wont listen, however if you provoke them with a diatribe on how the Republicans are “progressing nowhere without their precious Gipper” plus perhaps “the God of the Bush dynasty was their dynasty itself” then they listen, Then they don’t tune out the 21st communication.
Or, more cynically, if you appeal to their authoritarian racism and tell them they as whites can live longer than “Mud People”, then they pay attention. Yet such is not an encouraging thing to write, to say the least.

By Alan Brooks on Feb 25, 2013 at 9:34pm

I am glad to read the sage comments about my recent article.I always believed that debate is the “sine qua non"for finding the truth .I deeply appreciated all of the comments the readers made.
I am glad we can disagree without being disagreeable.
                                                    Pax Tibi,
                                                  Tom Mooney
                                              Exec.Director C.E.L.

By Tom Mooney on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:10pm

I was happy to read everyone’s comments concerning my recent article.We need to openly discuss these issues because as we come closer to viable life extension treatments,the criticism will only become more vitriolic
I am convinced we will ultimately win but it will be a struggle of epic proportions..
  Thank you for your point of view and cogent comments.
                                                Tom .Mooney
                                        Executive Director C.E.L.

By Tom Mooney on Feb 28, 2013 at 12:11pm


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