Life extension interviews: Nick Bostrom and the philosopher’s point of view

Nick Bostrom is an nickbostrom analytic philosopher by profession in Oxford, but he has a strong background in science too. He is also the co-founder and current chair of the World Transhumanist Association.

1. What is the story of your life extension commitment?

I did not think much about the topic until I learned about various possible enabling technologies, and concluded that life extension is feasible. I suppose I was “committed” from that point on.

2. Is it a commitment for moderate or maximum life extension?

For whatever is attainable. Ideally, death should be voluntary. I am assuming we’re talking about extension of health span. I am not committed to indefinite extension of life in a very poor state.

3. What is your favourite argument supporting human life extension?

I’m in favor of research into anti-aging medicine for precisely the same reasons that I’m in favor of cancer research, heart disease research, and diabetes research: because it might prevent or cure disease and save lives.

4. What kind of moderate life extension technologies have the chance to become successful, and when?

Moderate life extension technologies? We already have a number of those of course, such as sanitation, medicine, etc. We can make further incremental gains by inventing cures for individual diseases. To make further large gains, we must tackle the aging process. In the short- to medium term, we might get lucky with calorie restriction mimetics, stem cell therapies, and perhaps with what I call “social status mimetics”. The latter would be drugs or other interventions that mimic the effects of having high social status, which seems to lead to longer life even controlling for such factors as better diet, access to better health care, etc. It might be that higher status individuals have lower levels of some kind of especially damaging stress, and we might be able to induce the a similar response pharmacologically.

5. What is the most probable technological draft of maximum life extension, which technology or discipline has the biggest chance to reach it earliest? When?

I can see five possible paths to radical life extension. One is the kind of comprehensive bioengineering program that Aubrey de Grey advocates. Another is through nanomedicine, by developing advanced nanotechnology. Another is by developing the technology to upload our minds into computers through whole brain emulation. Yet another is by developing artificial general intelligence, which could then device a suitable solution. The fifth path is cryonics, which might even give some people who are dying now a shot at radical life extension.

6. What can blogs, wikis and other websites do for LE?

Build support and awareness, which is very important. They can also disseminate information to researchers and help coordinate various activities.

7. What can You do for life extension?

It depends on who You are. If you have money, time, contacts, knowledge, or special skills, you have resources that can you contribute. You can support research directly, help mobilize public opinion or the opinion of funders, or help those who are trying to do these things. If you put your effort into building awareness and support, try not to talk exclusively to other life extension supporters, but also reach out to other audiences. Speak up; don’t let negative attitudes to healthy longevity go unchallenged.

image source