Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Moral Questions of Philanthropy For Longer Lives

The Washington Post article linked below delves into some interesting aspects of what has been a trend for some time now on the money spent by tech billionaires for increased longevity. Not only could a lot of money spent very quickly to do things with our genetic makeup, or have technology interact with our biology in various fashions, have very serious unintended side effects, the mere fact of people living longer would put new strains on an economic model already snapping connective links to pay for existing social programs, let alone find enough jobs to keep the people we have growing up now employed.

Some ethicists, as well as a few of the philanthropy crowd themselves, are wondering whether a good deal more of this money should be spent on pressing medical, and social needs, of a more immediate nature. And that I think is a very healthy thing indeed to be doing.

One would think, however, that it would finally occur to some of these very smart people that another area of social need should be researched as well. That being, of course, the serious investigation into whether the current economic model is still as viable as the money makers would like to think it is, and, if it isn't, what might be a better alternative, and how would society go about bringing a better way to do things into being.

Certainly there has been an ongoing bit of scholarly effort to criticise the current operating system, but how much of that has been done in an objective effort to determine whether technological change, or whatever other factor, has happened to the point where it simply can't work effectively any more? This as opposed to criticism initiated in an effort to simply reform that operating system. Not very much I think.

This is especially interesting to me precisely because of the fear the ethicists have already indicated that longer lives will adversely impact that operating system; the automatic implication being that technological change has an inherent ability to do it serious damage, if not outright break it.

The ethicists question the longevity money now for reasons of personal hubris in the men and women who have bought their way into a sense of self entitlement; an entitlement that would allow them to think that they have every right to live as long as they damn well please, and to hell with the side effects. You don't have to think very long, however, on why they might not be very incentivised to investigate the very engine that made them rich, and continues to do so. And more is the pity because that bit of self indulgence might be the most important factor in what finally brings this whole house of cards around us down.

Tech titans’ latest project: Defy death

For centuries, explorers have searched the world for the fountain of youth. Today’s billionaires believe they can create it, using technology and data.

 Ariana Eunjung Cha