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Are Lifespans Long Enough?

What if we didn’t have to grow old and die? What are the ethical and social consequences of radically increasing lifespans? Should we accept a “natural” end, or should we find a cure to aging?

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Overview

What if we didn’t have to grow old and die? The average American can expect to live for 78.8 years, an improvement over the days before clean water and vaccines, when life expectancy was closer to 50, but still not long enough for most of us. So, researchers around the world have been working on arresting the process of aging through biotechnology and finding cures to diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. What are the ethical and social consequences of radically increasing lifespans? Should we accept a “natural” end, or should we find a cure to aging? Arguing for the motion is Ian Ground, philosopher and lecturer at the University of Newcastle with Paul Root Wolpe, director at Emory Center for Ethics. Arguing against the motion is Aubrey de Grey, chief science officer and co-founder of SENS Research Foundation with Brian Kennedy, CEO and president of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. John Donvan moderates. This conversation was taped on February 3, 2016.

FOR:
· Radical life extension would lead to overpopulation and depletion of resources.
· Scientific resources are better spent curing known diseases and improving existing quality of life.
· Radical life extension is at odds with the natural and cultural process of life and death.

AGAINST:
· Radical life extension is simply the next step in scientific and medical progress.
· Anti-aging technology prevents the suffering of old age and age-related disease.
· Longer lifespans increase an individual's ability to contribute wealth to society.

About

John Donvan (Host and Moderator): The moderator of Intelligence Squared U.S. debates since 2008, John Donvan is an author and correspondent for ABC News. He has served as ABC’s White House Correspondent, along with postings in Moscow, London, Jerusalem, and Amman. John is the coauthor of In a Different Key: The Story of Autism (Crown, 2016). In addition to premiering his first one-man show, “Lose the Kid,” in 2013 in Washington, D.C., John is a four-time Emmy Award winner and was a National Magazine Award finalist in 2010.

Paul Root Wolpe

INSTITUTION

Emory University

Paul Root Wolpe, PhD (For the Motion), is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics, the Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics, a professor in the departments of medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and sociology, and the director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University. He also serves as the first senior bioethicist for NASA. A futurist interested in social dynamics, Wolpe's work focuses on the impact of technology on the human condition. He is considered one of the founders of the field of neuroethics, and his teaching and publications range across multiple fields of bioethics and sociology, including death and dying. The co-editor of the American Journal of Bioethics (AJOB), Wolpe sits on the editorial boards of over a dozen journals on medicine and ethics. Previously at UPenn for 20 years, he has served as president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities and is a fellow of the Hastings Center.

By This Expert

Ian Ground, PhD (For the Motion), has taught philosophy in a range of roles, including senior lecturer in philosophy, at the universities of Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham and Edinburgh. A specialist in making philosophical ideas accessible to the wider public, and in enabling people to think critically about current ideas and trends, he has been an innovator in the sectors of adult education and lifelong learning. Ground has won awards for Teaching Innovation and the UK's National Award in Lifelong Learning. He has published in the philosophy of mind, especially our understanding of animal minds, in the philosophy of art, and on the thought and life of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. His books include Art or Bunk?, Can We Understand Animal Minds?, and Portraits of Wittgenstein, a comprehensive collection of memoirs. He is currently a member of the executive committee of the British Wittgenstein Society and teaches in the Department of Fine Art at Newcastle University.

By This Expert

Aubrey de Grey, PhD (Against the Motion), a biomedical gerontologist, is the chief science officer of SENS Research Foundation, a charity dedicated to combating the aging process. He is editor-in-chief of Rejuvenation Research, the world's highest-impact peer-reviewed journal focused on intervention in aging. His research interests encompass the characterization of all the accumulating and eventually pathogenic side-effects of metabolism (damage) that constitute mammalian aging and the design of interventions to repair and/or obviate that damage. He has developed a possibly comprehensive plan, termed Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), which breaks aging down into seven major classes of damage and identifies detailed approaches to addressing each one. A key aspect of SENS is that it can potentially extend healthy lifespan without limit. De Grey, a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the American Aging Association, sits on the editorial and scientific advisory boards of numerous journals and organizations.

By This Expert

Brian K. Kennedy, PhD (Against the Motion), is the CEO and president of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. His innovative work in the biology of aging began as a doctoral student at MIT, where he took part in groundbreaking studies under the guidance of Leonard Guarente, PhD. Currently, he studies the pathways that modulate longevity in life forms ranging from yeast to mice, particularly the rapamycin (TOR) pathway. One of his lab's goals is to determine whether such pathways can be regulated to treat the diseases of aging. Previously, he was in the biochemistry department at the University of Washington in Seattle. Since 2006, he has served on the National Institutes of Health Cellular Mechanisms of Aging and Development study section and on the grant review committee for American Federation for Aging Research Grants. He has published more than 60 manuscripts in journals, including Cell, Nature, and Science, is an associate editor for the Journal of Gerontology, and consults for biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

By This Expert

Debate: Are Lifespans Long Enough?

01: Debate: Are Lifespans Long Enough?

What if we didn’t have to grow old and die? What are the ethical and social consequences of radically increasing lifespans? Should we accept a “natural” end, or should we find a cure to aging?

90 min