People often raise the objection of Overpopulation when talking about the effects of treating ageing. More people living longer means bad things for our climate and environment.
The first concern is how overpopulation is framed. The term implies that the problem is people rather than resources, and unfairly demonizes the countries with populations which are growing most rapidly. The argument does uphold that having more people in the world poses a challenge for several environmental factors, even if it’s not people who are to blame.
Even a complete cure for ageing would only result in a 16% increase in population by 20501. A far more feasible roll-out of treatments would lead to a smaller increase still. The significant advantage though is that ageing is the cause of most cancer, most heart attacks, and most dementia and many other medical issues. A small inconvenience and an increased amount of work could help reduce death rates by two third globally, so it’s worth it.
The UN pays close attention to population and the rising average age of their followers. The life expectancy could climb to 80 in all parts of the world, but this is not an eco-disaster.
Is the Treatment Costly?
It is clear that the ultra-rich are interested in slowing ageing. There are three reasons to hope they succeed.
For example, some treatments might be very cheap and metformin and rapamycin are existing drugs that can be used because their patents have expired. Early ant-ageing medicines are likely to cost pennies per pill.
The money spent on medicines by governments and healthcare systems would be offset by the cost of treatments themselves.
Secondly, because there would be a high demand for the economic benefits created by healthy aging, there would be a large incentive to spend a great deal of money on even moderately costly treatments. When dementia is added up with all the other diseases of aging, it totals over $1 trillion worldwide; it could escalate up to $2 trillion by 20305. It is likely that medicines that can alleviate these diseases can save governments and healthcare systems so much money that the cost of the treatment itself will be offset.
There doesn’t seem to be a logical argument for the billionaires taking the pills for themselves, as it doesn’t make sense from a selfish perspective. The best outcome for them and the rest of the people is for longevity treatments to not be costly, but to be cheap enough for people to access them.
Having said all drugs come with side-effects, especially for medicines with a large enough reach, can have sociological, economic and ethical effects. The contraceptive pills have transformed society, especially women. Likewise antibiotics and vaccines have not only saved millions of lives but also fundamentally realigned our millennia-old relationship with infectious disease. Weight Loss medications are already arousing yet another social and medical revolution.
The ethical implications of all new treatments must be discussed, though all medicine have some side effect or the other to deal with. Anti-aging medicines will certainly make the world a better place.
You read a free chapter of Andrew Steele’s book, Ageless, at ageless.link/ethics
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